Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Hans Jonas tackles one of the most troublesome problems in all of philosophy: establishing an objective ground for ethics. He contends that ethics is based on value that is contained in nature itself. Jonas draws on a sparse number of what he believes to be fertile truths, which serve as the seed and ground of most, if not all, of what he writes in the essays collected in Mortality and Morality. These truths are that philosophy has lapsed into a study of one part of reality, the study of mind, at the expense of the other part, the philosophy of nature. German idealism in the forms of neo-Kantianism, phenomenology, and existentialism neglects the organic basis of mind and therefore distorts what it means to be a human being. This idealism descends from French philosopher René Descartes’s metaphysical dualism, which took the form of a bifurcation of the mental and the material. According to Jonas, the living organism with its indissoluble inwardness and outwardness is the undeniable evidence against dualism, and it serves as the starting point for the development of a uniform theory of being.