This book investigates the possibility of a contemporary ethics of compassion based upon the experience of human mortality. During an age in which the traditional metaphysical guarantors of order, transcendent sources of meaning, and appeals to human rationality are becoming historical phenomena, it is important to investigate whether an alternative source of measure for human conduct can be discovered through phenomenological analysis.
Marx shows how a confrontation with one's mortality, as a basic condition of human existence which is ignored or actively avoided for the most part, can transform a person's attitude from one of indifference to one of active concern for other human beings; how it can heighten one's awareness of the social nature of human existence; and how it can serve as an integrative force in the various spheres of human life.
The transformation Marx outlines depends, not upon deliberation and conscious decision, or upon a demand to conform to formal rules or maxims, but rather, upon a change in one's emotional attunement toward others, out of which a more compassionate conduct emerges almost automatically. He shows how the awareness of one's limitations and dependencies as a mortal can raise sociality to an important and pervasive factor in human existence instead of a merely unpleasant or indifferent fact.
Marx also shows how the development of the notion of "world" as a sphere of human concerns has been accompanied by a deterioration of the traditional idea of the world as a seamless unity or an integrated whole, and he points out that a transformed ethical awareness of others as fellow mortals helps provide a unifying meaning to the disparate worlds in which we all live.
Werner Marx is Professor Emeritus and Director of the Husserl Archives in Freiburg. He is the author of The Meaning of Aristotle's Ontology; Heidegger and the Tradition; Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit; Introduction to Aristotle's Theory of Being; Reason and World; The Philosophy of F. W. J. Schelling; and Is There a Measure on Earth?.