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Hans Jonas: Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Task of Ethics

Read the article "Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Task of Ethics" by Hans Jonas, printed in Philosophical Essays, 1974, Prentice-Hall. Identify what you consider the most important or interesting (or controversial, or wrong-headed) concept, assertion, argument, or conclusion in Jonas' text.
(a) What is the item that you selected?
(b) What is the context of Jonas's discussion of this item -- what purposes was Jonas's discussion of it supposed to achieve?
(c) What are the crucial passages in the text where Jonas discusses your item with the most clarity or depth?
(d) What are the most important claims that Jonas makes about your item?

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From Jonas:

"The cumulative self-propagation of technological change of the world thus constantly overtakes the conditions of its contributing acts and moves through none but unprecedented situations for which the lessons of experience are powerless" (Jonas, 125).

We can summarize the issues like this:

1. Mankind has reached a point where technology has not changed quantitatively, but qualitatively. This means that modern technology represents a rupture with the technology of previous ages.

2. This rupture is the ability of "man" to radically alter his environment and exercise a dominion over nature that brings the very concept of "nature" into question.

3. Nature is not a "given" anymore, but something that has been rendered malleable by technological advance. Man controls nature and can alter it radically. This is the new reality of technology that never existed prior to the 20th century.

4. This also means that technology is increasingly "Utopian" since it promises to improve human existence to an extent that ...

Solution Summary

The reflections on the New Task Ethics are examined. The context of Jonas's discussion of its items are given.