030078 Hans Jonas’ (1966) Phenomenon of Life: a contemporary reappraisal (Radomski)

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The central theme of this seminar revolves around the biophilosophy of Hans Jonas as outlined in his 1966 seminal work, "The Phenomenon of Life." Jonas proposed interpreting biological facts, such as life and mind existing in a “lifeless” universe, through the prism of existentialist philosophy. Jonas's philosophy criticized a nihilistic view of life as being devoid of intrinsic value, indifferent to its own existence, and not worth caring for. He saw the root of nihilism in a divide proclaimed by contemporary philosophy and science between a concernful human, isolated and alone, and an indifferent universe. Jonas attempted to show that, instead of a divide, there is an uninterrupted continuity between matter, life, and mind, and that all the aspects that existentialists assume to be unique to humans are already rooted in organic existence. Jonas’ views on life-mind continuity have had a major impact on generations of philosophers, finding their most clear expression in the enactive approach in the philosophy of mind. In the last few years, Jonas’ biophilosophy has drawn renewed interest, and various elements of his work are being reappraised. In this seminar, we will familiarize ourselves with Jonas’ analysis of metabolism, as well as contemporary interpretations, to better understand the role of the life-mind continuity thesis and its various versions in the philosophy of mind.