The Divine Stakes of Human Freedom

Jonas in Dialogue with Schelling


  • Ian Alexander Moore Loyola Marymount University


In a recent article, Lore Hühn calls for a comprehensive study of the parallels between Schelling’s critique of the will, on the one hand, and the philosophies of nature and technology developed in the twentieth century by students of Heidegger such as Hannah Arendt, Günther Anders, and Hans Jonas, on the other. Hühn notes, in particular, that:

essential moments of Jonas’s ethics of responsibility, with its critique of classical metaphysics’ neglect of the body and nature, cannot be understood without the background of Schelling; this holds as well for Jonas’s speculative figure of the self-retraction of God and for his theory of responsibility for the totality of beings.

In this article, I intend to contribute a small piece to that larger study by bringing Jonas’s speculative theology into dialogue with Schelling’s theodicy as outlined in the latter’s 1809 Freedom Essay. While there have been other studies on the Jonas–Schelling connection, they have mainly centered on points of convergence in their philosophies of life and have largely neglected the Freedom Essay, which is the only text by Schelling that Jonas demonstrably knew well. There is, nevertheless, a connection between Jonas’s philosophical biology, his theory of human freedom, and his theology that warrants methodological comparison with Schelling but that I can at the outset only mention here. Whereas Schelling attempts to understand how God and the world must be constituted if human freedom, as the ability to do good and evil, is to be real, Jonas attempts to understand how God and the world must be constituted if the phenomenon of life, broadly speaking, is to be saved as purposive and as, to various degrees, free. My focus will be on the theological significance of the advent of human freedom in the cosmos.