Internationales Zentrum für Ethik in den Wissenschaften (IZEW)



“Knowledge and morals concerning environmental systems – Epistemic-moral hybrids in the light of the biodiversity crisis”

Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Thomas Potthast, 6. November 2019, Institut für Umweltsystemforschung Osnabrück

The loss of biodiversity has been documented for many decades and the necessary system knowledge about the causes as well as well-founded remedies seem to be available for some time, as well. But why protect biodiversity at all? Although this question may appear somewhat odd in times of crisis, it is necessary to be able to provide solid answers. This talk will first provide an overview on different approaches of environmental ethics, with a special focus on different value dimensions of biodiversity following the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Then, new ethical approaches around the Intergovernmental Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) like “nature’s contributions to people” will be critically discussed. In the last part, I will suggest the notion of “epistemic-moral hybrids” as a conceptual tool for a better understanding and a more apt treatment of ethical aspects in the environmental sciences. “Biodiversity” can be seen as a paradigm case for an epistemic-moral hybrid. My overall thesis is that getting the facts straight already implies getting (at least some) values straight – and vice versa. Acknowledging the presence of moral issues also within “the world of facts” will make them communicable – and open to deliberation. Safeguarding biodiversity is part of a comprehensive idea of sustainable development and thus a socio-political task. Closing considerations will address ecological, ethical and political aspects of a necessary system transformation.

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