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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 11, Issue 2, Fall 2014

Andrew Tyler Johnson
Pages 253-277

Is Organic Life “Existential”?
Reflections on the Biophenomenologies of Hans Jonas and Early Heidegger

In this paper I outline Hans Jonas’s thesis of the “existential” character of biological life and compare it with statements made by the early Heidegger concerning the essential enworldedness of all living beings. I then critically examine this thesis in the light of Heidegger’s own later refutation of his views and consequent reversal of his former position on life. I argue that while both thinkers are correct to attribute a radical openness to organic life as such, Heidegger is correct is restricting the existential dimension to specifically human life given certain logical constraints built into the concept of existence itself.