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The Life and Thought of Hans Jonas
Jewish Dimensions
Christian Wiese

The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry

2007 • 294 pp. 4 b & w illus. 6 x 9"
Philosophy / Jewish Studies

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"A little known 20th century Jewish philosopher, Hans Jonas, is the subject of this fine attempt to combine Jonas's life story with his philosophical thinking." —Jewish Journal

An analysis of the Jewish background of an eminent philosopher

Hans Jonas (1903–1993) is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Born in a German Jewish community in the Rhineland, Jonas’s mentors included Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Rudolf Bultmann. The committed Zionist fled Germany in 1933 for Jerusalem, fought in the British Army against Hitler, and then left Israel for North America in 1949. Much of Jonas’s philosophy responds to contemporary historical and political challenges: mass society, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, “nuclearism,” environmental devastation (Chernobyl), and, later, the risks of genetic engineering.

Wiese’s study examines how Jonas’s Jewish background influenced his intellectual development. Wiese shows how philosophical ethics and Jewish identity were two inseparable aspects of his thinking, with the fight against Nihilism as the most important link. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and exploring momentous encounters with major figures of 20th century life and letters like Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt, Wiese demonstrates how Jonas combined religious and philosophical elements in his thought, and offers new insights into the work of this eminent thinker.

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Reviews / Endorsements

"Wiese clearly and persuasively examines how Hans Jonas . . . strove to manage the inevitable tension between his religious, faith-based identity as a German Jew and a professional philosopher." —Choice

"Wiese... searches for underlying Jewish elements within Jonas's philosophical scheme without reducing it to 'Jewish philosophy' or insinuating its religious character."—New Testament Abstracts

"How did Jonas's Jewishness shape his life and his work? This is the question that Christian Wiese seeks to answer in his lucid, beautifully written, extremely perceptive, and deeply moving study . . . he eminently succeeds in making Jonas come alive for us and in portraying the vicissitudes of the terrible drama of German-Jewish life in the darkest times of twentieth century. A splendid achievement!"—Shofar

CHRISTIAN WIESE is Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and Professor at the History Department at Sussex University, Great Britain. He is the editor of Memoirs: Hans Jonas, also available from Brandeis University Press.

Mon, 30 Jul 2018 15:51:57 -0500