Th e importance of Charles Darwin‘s theory for Fritz Jahr‘s conception of bioethics


  • Eve-Marie Engels


Fritz Jahr is a pioneer of bioethics. In this article I will present and outline Jahr’s bioethical

programme with a special emphasis on Charles Darwin’s role in Jahr’s ethics. According to

Jahr, useful and effi cient animal protection can only be practised well if we have enough

knowledge of nature. Jahr refers to Darwin who revolutionised our view of life and of the

relationship between the human being and the rest of living nature. In the fi rst introductory

section I will shortly present Jahr’s overall perspective and his bioethical imperative. I will also

give a very short sketch of today’s bioethics. In the second and third section I will outline Darwin’s

revolutionary theory and its application to the human being. I will also present some of

the reactions of his contemporaries which refl ect Darwin’s achievement for our understanding

of living nature. In the fourth section I will go back to Fritz Jahr and will present and discuss

diff erent aspects of his approach in more detail. A fi nal quotation from Hans Jonas about the

dialectical character of Darwinism will trenchantly highlight Darwin’s importance for Fritz

Jahr’s ethics.