Theoretical and Applied Ethics 2 (1):115-119 (2013)

William E. Stempsey
College of the Holy Cross
Hans Jonas argued that death is both a blessing and a burden, basing his argument on an evolutionary viewpoint. He highlighted the paradox that life carries the burden of death within itself. Daniel Callahan responded that Jonas’s failure to fully appreciate the value of life shows the deficiency of using evolution to explain how death could be a blessing for individuals. Jazmine Gabriel now convincingly defends Jonas against Callahan’s charges, showing that Jonas’s commitment to fight against the Nazis, his attack against nihilism, and his rejection of the metaphysical dualism that opposes valuing, purpose-seeking humans against a value-free, purposeless world all demonstrate Jonas’s commitment to honoring individual lives. This paper affirms Gabriel’s response and advances the dialectic by considering a further paradox. As life carries within itself death, so does the blessing of death carry within itself the burden of death and the burden of death carry within itself the blessing of death.
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