International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Breathing Time – An ethics blog

The IZEW is concerned with the whole range of application-related ethical questions. While in the past the focus was solely on aspects of the pandemic, in the future the blog will shed light on the entire diversity of ethically relevant social developments and challenges. In addition to fundamental questions of ethics in the sciences and humanities, the spectrum ranges from ethics and education to social value questions of culture and technological change to questions of effective natural conditions and sustainable development. The blog sees itself as a source of inspiration for a broad social discussion on the multifaceted question of justice and the good life. In this sense, the aim is to give a concise and comprehensible look at ethical questions from current research or new challenges arising from social developments and thus provide an insight into what it means to deal with normative and value conflicts. In doing so, the inter- and transdisciplinarity of ethics in the sciences and humanities will continue to be both the starting point and the goal, so that the ethically relevant questions that arise for scientific and other social contexts find a place here.

Regina Ammicht Quinn and Thomas Potthast

This blog is intended to stimulate discourses, in this sense we welcome suggestions, criticism and letters from readers. You can use the contact form for this purpose.

Responsible for the publication of the articles are the editorial staff: Cora Bieß, Friedrich Gabel, Marcel Vondermaßen, Vanessa Weihgold and Katharina Wezel.

10 January 2022

Robots in care

The cultural attribution of meaning to technologies is also centrally fed by fictional areas. A current social example is the portrayal of robots in care or health promotion. The uncritical adoption of representational strategies from robot films leads to ethical problems, which are the focus of the following article.


30 November 2021

When care makes you sick

The concept of resilience has experienced a remarkable boom in recent years. Not only has the number of scientific publications on the subject increased exponentially. Resilience" is also storming the bestseller lists in non-academic literature - whether in the context of one's own professional success or as a parenting guide to arm one's offspring for life. What is to be promoted as resilient is - first of all in general terms - the psychological or emotional resistance to life crises and the stresses of personal and professional life.


17 November 2021

Inequality in education

Statistically, I exist only as a very low probability. I grew up in the Bavarian province, i.e. with a Catholic majority, in the educationally deprived household of a single parent; in the meantime, I have a doctorate and am about to complete my habilitation. In inequality in education, different axes of discrimination - gender, class, race, but also religious affiliation and place of residence - intertwine, amplify the likelihood of discrimination, and create a specific form of discrimination. In the following, I would like to discuss in particular the entanglement of gender and class with regard to the German education and science system.


19 October 2021

Activism as a form of therapy?

The global climate change and associated degradation of the natural environment contribute to the deterioration of socio-economic and geopolitical affairs in numerous world regions. This means that not only are we facing a global and local rise of average temperatures, extreme heatwaves, floods, and droughts. We are also dealing with resulting bankruptcies in agriculture, mass migration and civil conflicts due to the shortage of water resources etc. Thus, the climate crisis consists of an entanglement of the facts of nature and of human affairs.


07 October 2021

As far as the reasons bear

Many proactive proponents of the energy transition rely on the "climate change argument". In short, it says: Because of climate change, renewable energies should be massively expanded. This general formulation has long enjoyed a high level of approval among the population as a whole.1 However, in recent years there has been an increasing tendency to use this argumentation to justify projects across the board in every context. However, this misunderstands the argumentation practice of technical-practical closure.


09 September 2021

Pleasures and Pains of Empathy

Empathy has a mixed reputation in moral philosophy. Some scholars think empathy is a pro-social phenomenon that connects people through an invisible bond. Others believe empathy leads to parochialism and unfairness. Such contradictory assessments of empathy are not surprising if we consider our own experiences with empathy.


03 August 2021

Seeing the flood disaster

For several days in July 2021, coverage of the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia dominated the German media landscape. Images were a central part of these reports. On various news portals and social media platforms, it was possible to follow the disaster practically in a visual livestream. A picture is worth a thousand words - this platitude seems to apply here and at the same time raises the question of what exactly a picture says, or can say.


12 July 2021

Loneliness and digitalization

The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted how quickly taken-for-granted social practices can no longer be taken quite so much for granted: In the wake of social distancing, many groups of people have been isolated from their previous social networks and contacts, and the question arises: does digitization have an impact on the rise of feelings of loneliness, and what does this mean for the shaping of technologies to overcome loneliness?


17 May 2021

Democracy, authorities and AI

Algorithmic systems can reproduce and cement historical disadvantage and discrimination. Using the example of structural racism and norm deviations of transgender people, Laura Schelenz and Regina Ammicht Quinn already presented this in this blog. In my contribution, I would now like to explicitly address the use of artificial intelligence - by which I mean complex rule-based systems as well as those based on machine learning - on the part of state authorities.


19 April 2021

Post-Corona Perspective

Social peace and social cohesion require, on the one hand, fair structures and, on the other hand, basal prosocial attitudes between members of society. These can be theoretically summarized in the concept of compassion. The effects of the Corona pandemic exacerbate concomitant social divisions, which become apparent in political interaction. The following article is devoted to the question of how compassion fits into this field of tension, and how its consideration gives us impulses to build peaceful post-Corona structures that reduce 'against each other' and promote 'for each other'.


29 March 2021

Supplement to International Women's Day

"Trümmerfrauen" (rubble women), the collective legend in Germany, selflessly and optimistically cleared away the rubble of war in German cities with their bare hands and made the cities habitable again. As in almost every legend, there are pieces of factuality here. Clearing rubble, however, was by no means a job done by women alone (there were (more) men and machines), nor was it often a voluntary job.


08 Febuary 2021

Covideo Parties and Zoom Fatigue

The Corona pandemic has profoundly changed lives around the globe. In addition to the immediate health dangers of the pandemic, physical distancing also poses challenges to psychological and social well-being. The long-term psycho-social consequences are impossible to predict. In these problematic times, solutions based on digital technologies play a central role. For example, digital platforms offer manifold opportunities to improve emotional stability, for example by connecting and sharing with others during periods of lockdowns. They also play a central role in enabling new forms of platform-based remote working. They enable the creation of a space that is literally virus-free and thus seemingly completely unproblematic in terms of health, in which daily work routines can also be maintained from home.


13 December 2021

Leadership - Ethics - Teaching

Imagine: An employee from your own team suddenly has a long-term care case in the family and can no longer fully fulfill his professional duties. Part-time work is not an option for him because the care case increases his own financial burden. What do you do as a manager? Are the colleagues morally obligated to help the co-worker get through this difficult time? Does the company have to step in? In extreme cases, does the employee have to leave of his or her own accord because he or she can no longer fulfill his or her professional duties?


20 November 2021

Children's Rights Day

November 20 is Children's Rights Day. This goes back to the birthday of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The UN's most widely ratified human rights convention, which is binding under international law, guarantees adolescents equal rights of protection, participation and empowerment. This year, these rights were explicitly extended to digital worlds in the course of a General Comment. Currently, however, there are increasing reports of growing security risks for children in the digital sphere. A recently launched BMBF project led by the Ethics Center at the University of Tübingen addresses the associated need for research.


04 November 2021

Ethics in 4X Gaming

The second half of 2021 has been a moment in the sun for the 4X genre. The normally very niche genre recently had a couple of high-profile releases in Old World and Humankind and it's always exciting to see new games in the genre. Unfortunately though, new games don't always mean new perspectives and the colonial underpinnings of the genre remain untouched. Therefore, I built Nikhil Murthy's Syphilisation to try to bring a post-colonial viewpoint to the genre and in doing so hopefully demonstrate the truths that the genre tends to overlook and to show the space in it still left unexplored.

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22 September 2021

Talk to everyone?

The Tübingen artist Nina Nielebock calls for social cohesion and dialogue in times of division with her art action „Goldbrücke“, presented and promoted by INDUSTRIETEMPEL. During an interactive art action from 22 August to 3 September 2021, the handrail of the railing of Mannheim's heavily frequented Kurpfalz Bridge was painted with golden restoration paint, thus emphasising and refining the bridge as the symbol of connection and exchange in the cityscape.


16 August 2021

Images of the media and images of the people

Images are not only perceived but also actively shaped, especially by the media. "... Whose suffering is seen? Who remains invisible? Images, as the flood disaster has once again shown, are political. They shape our perception of climate change and at the same time are already an expression of this perception," writes Katharina Krause. The flood disaster in Germany has occupied the media for weeks. However, there are also devastating floods in other parts of the world.


19 July 2021

(Only) collateral damage?

In discussions about COVID-19, we have very likely more than once either put collateral damage on the scale ourselves or taken note of it. Such indications support a wide range of different conclusions, drawn by quite different actors from medicine, public health, psychology and other fields, or the so-called lateral thinking movement. But what can such indications achieve?


18 June 2021

For an anti-racist stance

Through social movements like "Black lives Matter" (BLM), or the discussion around the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's death in France, decolonization issues are increasingly heard in political discourse. Discriminatory and racist structures shape social interactions that are built on power asymmetries and result in certain groups of people having privileges over others who experience discrimination and disadvantage.


03 May 2021

Children as danger or in danger?

On May 12, 2020, an article entitled "Children as danger or in danger?" appeared on the IZEW's Breathing Time blog, critically examining the possible consequences of Corona measures on child development and understanding of values. Since then, almost a year has passed. Some things have changed, many things have remained the same. Time for a new evaluation, two waves later.


06 April 2021

Ethics and Artificial Intelligence

Is technology ruling our lives? Yes and no - technology in general allows us to live longer, makes our lives easier and is part of our nature, as people depend very much on the creation of a civilization to stay alive. We have no fur, so we need heating; we cannot communicate with everyone in a modern society and therefore need the media to enable democratic deliberations; we are not good at seeing into the future and need a data-driven foresight; and so on.


22 February 2020

Can emotions be ecological?

In the English-speaking world, "ecological emotions" have become a keyword for the study of emotional and psychological reactions to climate change and environmental degradation. Media all over the world report about people suffering from Eco-Anxiety, Climate Depression or Ecological Grief (e.g. taz, Le Monde or Time USA). What exactly is behind this and what ethical implications this can have for educational contexts against a background of rational societies will be explained in more detail in this paper.


25 January 2021

Show division?!

The contribution " Sleeping Sheep and Covidiots" by Luzia Sievi and Marcel Vondermaßen represents a good starting point for the discussion of moralizations in the social debate around the Corona measures. In the following, I will use this contribution as an example to discuss the difficulty of how scholarly engagement with moralized topics can be done in a way that is appropriate to the subject matter without ultimately only claiming a superior moral position for itself again.


21 December 2020

What kind of food do we want?

What can a future-oriented food system look like? How can we, as citizens, help shape it? In many cities around the world, food councils have emerged to encourage dialogue between stakeholders along the urban-rural value chain and to facilitate greater participation in food policy at the local level. In essence, this is about basic questions of public supply and food justice.


12 November 2020 

Do deepfakes (really) harm democracy?

Deepfakes are synthetic audio-visual media (i.e. images, videos, and audio files), often created using artificial intelligence (AI). Many concerns are associated with the use of deepfakes, in particular that they could undermine democratic processes and institutions as a new and more dangerous form of fake news. These concerns are definitely justified. At the same time, the debate neglects two important aspects: firstly, deepfakes may be causing greater damage in a different context, that of pornography, and secondly, the technology has many legitimate and even pro-democratic applications.


15 October 2020

Sleeping sheep and covidiots

The tone between the critics* and supporters* of the Corona measures is sometimes rough. Brave and docile "sleeping sheep" are said to be those who follow health advice and governmental regulations. On the other hand, the critics are called "covidiots" and "aluminium hat wearers". While both sides verbally address each other, there is an accusation that is mainly raised loudly by opponents of corona measures: Moralization.