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The Human Animal and All Other Animals – Dominion or Duty?

Authored by: Tony Bayfield

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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Louis Jacobs, in an analysis of Genesis 1:28, is clear that human dominion over the natural world means power. It is a power that must be exercised responsibly. However, the most remarkable and creative contribution that Judaism has made to this topic in recent decades has been made by a German-born Jew, Hans Jonas. Jonas was radically affected by World War Two and the Shoah. Working in New York, he published “The Imperative of Responsibility” in the 1980s. He argued that technology has created a new situation which demands a new ethic. Human beings now have the power to destroy the Globe and themselves. He formulates an ethic rooted in biology which imposes upon humanity an absolute responsibility to ensure that all forms of life continue in the future. This avoids sterile discussions about the inferiority/superiority of different forms of life and about whether forms of life other than human beings have rights. We have a responsibility to use our power in such a way that the life of humanity and the globe continues for future generations.

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