Christian Ethics of responsibility for the technological age : A critical look at the contributions of Hans Jonas and William Schweiker

AUTHOR : George Kotei Neequaye
ISSUE: June 2019 Volume 1 Number 2 Article 7
PAGES : 57 – 77
DOI : 10.32051/06241907



Technology has several advantages, but the growing fear is that the power of human beings over nature through technology is growing in an alarming rate so that, if not checked with a new ethics of responsibility, we may be heading to the destruction of nature and the annihilation of humanity. In response to this fear, Hans Jonas set a whole new debate into motion, both in Germany and America, and ultimately in Europe and South Africa, when he argues (in his book entitled, The imperative of responsibility: In search of ethics for the technological age,1984) that the existing approaches to philosophical ethics, including theological ethics, are inadequate since they do not tackle the serious issues produced by the rapid expansion of modern technology. He then asserts that we must make a concerted effort to develop a theory of responsibility so that humanity may be salvaged from future extinction. In Jonas’s view, the first requirement for a theory of responsibility is “the heuristic of fear.” The heuristic of fear is that fear which encourages us to act ethically for the future wellbeing of mankind.The second requirement is a “… nonreciprocal responsibility and duty.” This is a responsibility and duty which enables one to think about the future wellbeing of his/her children without expecting a reward. In order for humanity to exist in the future, there must be an accountability for one’s self and the needs of others and the biosphere.  Whereas Jonas denies that religion could form the basis of a universal ethics of responsibility for the technological age, Schweiker strives to prove him wrong by producing a Christian version of an ethics of responsibility for the technological age from that of Jonas. The conclusion of this author is that Schweiker was not able to prove Jonas wrong that theological ethics may not be formulated universally.


Author Biodata:GEORGE KOTEI NEEQUAYE PhD, is the Vice President of the Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon-Ghana and teaches Christian Ethics, Philosophy, African Philosophy and Religion.