A Greater Freedom: Biotechnology, Love, and Human Destiny (In Dialogue with Hans Jonas and Jürgen Habermas)

By Stephan Kampowski

A study in theological ethics, analysing the promises of biotechnology and the risks that it poses to a proper understanding of human freedom and destiny.

ISBN: 9780718893194


How does biotechnology touch on human destiny? What are its promises and challenges? In search for an answer, this book turns to the thought of Hans Jonas, one of the pioneers and founding fathers of bioethics. The continued relevance of his ideas is exemplified by the way Jürgen Habermas applies them to the current debate. The chief promise of biotechnology is to increase our freedom by overcoming the limits of the human condition. The main risk of biotechnology, as both Jonas and Habermas see it, is to diminish or outright abolish our capacity for responsibility and morality. It is argued that the greater freedom is not simply freedom from constraints but freedom for our destiny: the freedom to be the benevolent, responsible, and spontaneous authors of our lives, capable of communion and love. The touchstone for evaluating any biotechnological procedure has to be this greater freedom.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 204

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Stephan Kampowski is Associate Professor of Philosophical Anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. He is the author of Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St Augustine (2008).


Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas
     Freedom, Technology, and Destiny
     The Context and Procedure of Our Study

1. Hans Jonas’ Philosophy of the Organism
     Toward an Ontology of Life
       Idealism and Materialism
       Jonas’ Attempt at a Solution

     The Fundamental Characteristics of the Organism
       Metabolism and Freedom
       Natural Teleology

     An Appreciation of The Phenomenon of Life
       Maintaining the Specific Difference between Humans and Animals
       The Possibility of the Soul’s Survival after Death
       The Ontology of Life and the Problem of Death
       The Organism and Love

2. Jonas’ Philosophy of Responsibility
     Analysis of the Modern Predicament and Justification for the Need of a New Ethics
     The New Categorical Imperative and Its Foundation
       Logical Coherence?
       An “Ontological” Argument
       Being, Purpose, and Value

     Some Practical Principles of the Ethics of Responsibility
       The Recognition of Ignorance
       The Exclusion of the Va-banque Game
       A Heuristics of Fear

     Jonas’ Critique of Utopianism
       The Identification of the Utopian Ideal
       The Feasibility or Practical Achievability of the Utopian Ideal
       The Desirability of the Utopian Ideal
       Concluding Remarks on Utopia: The “True Human Being” Is Always There Already

     An Appreciation of The Imperative of Responsibility
       The Relation between the Sheer Existence and the Good Existence of Humanity
       The Notion of Responsibility

3. Jürgen Habermas and Genetic Enhancement: Jonas’ Contribution to the Contemporary Debate
     Habermas’ Life and Thought
     The Basic Argument of The Future of Human Nature
       Some Presuppositions
       The Distinction between Therapy and Enhancement
       Habermas and Jonas: The Question of Domination
       Genetic Determinism?
       Habermas and Jonas: Genetic Engineering vs. Education
       Dependence as Part of the Human Condition

     Excursus: The Question of Artificial Procreation
     Habermas’ Response to Objections
     Concluding Remarks

Conclusion: A Greater Freedom


Endorsements and Reviews

A Greater Freedom is an excellent and timely introduction to the thought of two eminent philosophers and their work on biophilosophy, bioethics, and biotechnology: Hans Jonas and Jürgen Habermas. Stephan Kampowski enters into an astute dialogue enriched by other important interlocutors (Spaemann, Arendt, Kass) and is deeply guided by the theology of love. A most instructive and rewarding reading for those who want to grasp the boon and bane of biotechnology.
Reinhard Hütter, Professor of Theology, Duke University Divinity School

Kampowski shows the enduring relevance of Jonas’s thought for engaging the thorny challenges facing humanity today. Overall, the book provides the English-speaking bioethicist with an effective introduction to the German conversation. … Kampowski’s engagement with Jonas offers a promising way forward for addressing biotechnology.
Ian Clausen, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 24, Issue 4