The Notion of Power in Hans Jonas’ Das Prinzip Verantwortung (The Imperative of Responsibility)

Piotr Rosół


The questions concerning control over the environment are becoming increasingly more significant. From ecology to medicine, from bioethics to transhumanism, there are many different issues reflected and acted upon, which have an important common element, namely underlying premises about the relationship between the natural biosphere and humans. Hans Jonas, in his book The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search for an Ethics for the Technological Age, first published over 40 years ago in German as Das Prinzip Verantwortung: Versuch einer Ethik für die technologische Zivilisation, proposed philosophical and ethical foundations for understanding this relationship. One of the underestimated Hans Jonas’ reflections concerns the characteristic of power. The paper analyzes the concept of power presented along with the imperative of responsibility, as well as three different degrees of power characteristic for Jonas’ approach to the notion of power. The paper presents this structure of power and the underlying philosophical considerations that constitute a basis for it. It also provides an argument that these considerations may be used as a framework for understanding many contemporary challenges and ethical responsibility in the technological age.


Hans Jonas. Power. Technology. Ethics of Responsibility. Philosophy of Technology.

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