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Natural Law Judaism? the Genesis of Bioethics in Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss, And Leon Kass.

The Hastings Center Report 2006, May-June, 36, 3

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The University of Chicago's Leon Kass is the most important bioethicist writing out of the work of Hans Jonas today and, as immediate past chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, the most politically powerful. Although Jonas has a Jewish theology that supplements his ontological vision of nature, his ethics do not depend on revelation. For Kass, on the other hand, a satisfactory account of human dignity must go beyond what "unaided reason" can tell us about human nature. He offers an interpretation of sexuality and reproduction based on Genesis to "correct" Jonas's philosophy of nature. And given what Genesis teaches him about living "worthily in God's image," Kass adopts a far more sweeping conservatism than Jonas officially held. Kass's appropriation of Jonas is deeply influenced by the work of another Jewish thinker of University of Chicago fame, Leo Strauss. One gets a glimmer of this in Kass's critique of "the postmoral ambience" of modern liberal democracies and his remark that because conservative moral views rooted in "natural hierarchy" will never be popular with more than a few, "we should put our trust neither in nature nor in philosophy but in our religious traditions." (1) For his part, Jonas did not want religious argument to be used in the service of public ethical debates. In any case, it is not clear that Jewish sources should be read as justifying the sort of "hierarchy" that Kass apparently thinks they do when he defends "patriarchy" as "the primary innovation of the new Israelite way." (2)

Natural Law Judaism? the Genesis of Bioethics in Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss, And Leon Kass.
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  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: 01 May 2006
  • Publisher: Hastings Center
  • Print Length: 41 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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