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Hans Jonas

Born: 10-May-1903
Birthplace: Monchengladbach, Germany
Died: 5-Feb-1993
Location of death: New Rochelle, NY
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Philosopher

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Gnostic philosopher

Military service: British Army (1940-44)

Ethicist, philosopher, and theologian Hans Jonas was one of the first philosophers to write at length about the emerging questions of ethics in advanced biomedical practice. He sought a comprehensive philosophical interpretation of Gnosticism, and maintained that abortion is wrong, since the mother-to-be "carries a human trust"[1]. Jonas grew up in Germany and studied under Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl, then fled the Nazis and fought in the British Army against Germany in World War II. He later came to Canada and finally Manhattan, where he taught for two decades at the New School for Social Research. He made headlines when he was invited to a theological seminar to discuss Heidegger's teachings and its relation to Christianity, and from the podium decried his mentor's pro-Hitler stance during the Nazi era as at odds with the Biblical imperative to "do justice, and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God."

[1] Quoted in Time magazine, 1972: "A mother-to-be is more than her individual self. She carries a human trust, and we should not make abortion merely a matter of her own private wish." This conflicts with William R. LaFleur, Peripheralized in America: Hans Jonas as Philosopher and Bioethicist, presented at the University of Kyoto in 2009: "Jonas himself, as told to me by his wife, was no opponent of legalized abortion and he in fact publicly criticized the Vatican for its stand against contraception."

Father: Gustav Jonas
Mother: Rosa Horowitz Jonas (d. at Auschwitz)
Wife: Eleanore Weiner Jonas (m. 1943, three children)
Daughter: Ayalah Jonas Sorkin
Daughter: Gabrielle Jonas
Son: John Jonas

    University: BS Philosophy, University of Freiburg (1925)
    University: PhD Philosophy, University of Marburg (1928)
    Teacher: Philosophy, Hebrew University (1948-50)
    Teacher: Philosophy, Carleton University (1950-55)
    Teacher: Philosophy, New School for Social Research (1955-57)
    Professor: Philosophy, New School for Social Research (1957-76)

    Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 1987
    American Philosophical Association
    Naturalized US Citizen
    German Ancestry

Author of books:
The Gnostic Religion (1958)
The Phenomenon of Life (1966)
Philosophical Essays (1974)
The Imperative of Responsibility (1979)
Mortality and Morality: A Search for the Good after Auschwitz (1996, posthumous)
Memoirs (2008, posthumous)

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