Natural-Law Judaism?: The Genesis of Bioethics in Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss and Leon Kass

Lawrence A. Vogel, Hastings Center Report 36:3 (2006).

The University of Chicago’s Leon Kass is the most important bioethicist writing out of the work of Hans Jonas today and, as Chairman of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, the most politically powerful. Though Jonas has a Jewish theology that supplements his ontological vision of nature, his ethic does not depend on revelation. For Kass, on the other hand, a satisfactory account of human dignity must go beyond what “unaided reason” can tell us about human nature. He offers an interpretation of sexuality and reproduction based on Genesis to “correct” Jonas’s philosophy of nature. And given what Genesis teaches him about living “worthily in God’s image,” Kass adopts a far more broad-sweeping conservatism than the stance Jonas officially held.

Connecticut College [pdf]