Jonas’s claim is that modern hostility to immortality is to our own detriment, especially in times of ethical crisis. His way in is, again, through feeling. “And yet, we feel that temporality cannot be the whole story,” because it is man’s “self-surpassing quality, of which the very fact and fumbling of our idea of eternity is a cryptic signal,” he writes. For Kierkegaard, we also feel the weight of eternity yet, it represents an eternal force touching down in the temporal. This generates anxiety as the paradox of the God-man cannot be comprehended by reason. Yet, in Jonas’s estimation, eternity transforms moments of extreme decision where “we feel as if [we are] acting under the eyes of eternity.” Unlike Kierkegaard, these moments under the eyes of eternity revive a sense of agency in individual human deeds rather than a destabilizing angst. Jonas’s moment is one of affirmation where “the moment places the responsible agent between time and eternity.”
This odd feature of our temporal existence where two irreconcilable domains meet reveals that we are active, not passive recipients such that we are “wholly subject and in no way object.” In this way, the moment shares more affinity with Heidegger’s resolute decision. To be sure, Jonas does not fall for the same trap that Heidegger sets for himself—that is, the inability to make temporal discriminations in light of ethical responsibility. That is to say, the only standard by which a decision can be made under Heidegger’s temporality is a Dasein’s attitude towards death. Heidegger then lacks the tools with which to separate ontological and ontic happenings. Because he cannot say precisely what it means for Dasein to own his own death and face it resolutely (for that can only be answered by a particular Dasein) nor can he make a judgment about the content of a historical decision, he is forced to render historical happenings ethically neutral.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor