Heuristic of Fear

With his “heuristic of fear” Hans Jonas speaks out in favour of the position that, as regards certain experiments and innovations in the fields of genetic and atomic technology, the possibility of things going wrong must be taken very seriously and the implementation of the new discoveries and inventions therefore often deliberately forgone. But why does Jonas not apply this “heuristic of fear” there where it is most eminently a question of Man himself: namely, in the question of human beings’ bringing forth of other human beings? In view of the fact that the human being who is thereby begotten might potentially be deeply unhappy or may suffer in his life some catastrophe the “heuristic of fear” would appear to require that further human procreations be forgone and that the >Experimentum mundi be broken off. Instead of recommending this, however, Jonas chooses to hold, with his “principle of responsibility” – within the larger context of which his “heuristic of fear” is developed – in a manner which runs precisely contrary to this “heuristic of fear” to the notion that Man must go on existing at any price, thus proving himself to be an irresponsible pronatalist after all.

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