Tradition & Critical Thinking On the Value of the Past in Hans Jonas’s Critique of the Modern Mind




Hans Jonas, Tradition, Critical Thinking, Ethics of Technology.


The purpose of this essay is to attempt an interpretation of Hans Jonas’s philosophical approach to tradition in terms of an exercise in critical thinking. Although several modern authors have seen in tradition a normalizing and conservative force that either constrains the powers of human reason or prevents new disruptive ideas from thriving, other philosophers have contested this accusation and concurred to sketch the general guidelines of a theory of the critical value of tradition. Commenting on both published and unpublished material, I claim that Jonas’s meditation on the history of western culture belongs to this latter stance. Moving from this thesis, I then analyse some passages of Jonas’s oeuvre where his position concerning the critical potential of tradition is theorised or directly put into practice. In particular, I focus on the essay The Practical Uses of Theoryand on an unedited transcription of the 1967 conference Contemporary Problems in Science and Ethics. A Jewish Comment.

Author Biography

Fabio Fossa, Università di Pisa

Department of Computer Science