In 1927, Fritz Jahr, a Protestant pastor, philosopher, and educator in Halle an der Saale, published an article entitled “Bio-Ethics: A Review of the Ethical Relationships of Humans to Animals and Plants” and proposed a “Bioethical Imperative,” extending Kant’s moral imperative to all forms of life. Reviewing new physiological knowledge of his times and moral challenges associated with the development of secular and pluralistic societies, Jahr redefines moral obligations towards human and nonhuman forms of life, outlining the concept of bioethics as an academic discipline, principle, and virtue. Although he had no immediate long-lasting influence during politically and morally turbulent times, his argument that new science and technology requires new ethical and philosophical reflection and resolve may contribute toward clarification of terminology and of normative and practical visions of bioethics, including understanding of the geoethical dimensions of bioethics.
The academic and every-day life of bioethics as a word is only 90 years old since Fritz Jahr coined the term in 1926. But the bios of respect for life and the roots of Jahr’s Bioethical Imperative ‘Respect every living being as an end in itself and treat it, if possible, as such!’ can be found in all cultures around the globe. Here, scholars from around the world review the origins, the foundations, and the applications of the concept and the mission of integrated bioethics for the 21th century.
Hans-Martin Sass is a professor of philosophy expert in European continental philosophy. He also developed cross-cultural perspectives in the major fields of bioethics based on concepts of personal and professional responsibility.
Christian Byk is a judge of the Court of appeal (Paris) and has been involved in the development of international biolaw, contributing to the European Convention on Bioethics and Human Rights as well as UNESCO universal declarations. He is vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee.