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.

11 July 2020

What narrative for a pandemic?

Countless accounts of the reality of COVID-19 have been made since the beginning of its outbreak. The political response itself has varied over time and from one country to another, from disregarding the virus as a “distant foreign health issue” to declaring war on an “invisible enemy”. This reinforced a feeling of distrust in the received information, political discourses and containment measures among some populations, driving certain persons to alternative narratives which include problematic conspiracy theories. This article proposes to review how these stories  provide a legitimization to uncooperative attitudes such as anti-lockdown protests by fashioning them “movements of resistance”. Its main argumentation is based on the premise that human actions can be understood by apprehending the narrative by which people live. It also recalls the function of narration in order to question and better define our current approach to narratives and reality.


23 June 2020

Sustainability Policy Theses

The period of the Covid pandemic was also a time of reflection on what reforms are overdue and should be in the near future. This may seem as if the virus is just a way of warming up a political soup. However, if the reasons that led to certain reform agendas before the pandemic are now proving to be valid a fortiori, the exceptional situation caused by Covid can be used as a legitimate opportunity to update an overdue agenda in the hope that it will now find a hearing and resonance.


09 June 2020

Science in the Corona Pandemic: Between Demand and Reality

For weeks, scientific experts have been interviewed in all media with regard to their research and knowledge about the corona virus. They are also expected to give their opinions on how to act - with clear recommendations for political decisions, but also for the actions of us citizens. My interest in this paper is not primarily ethical, but rather science theoretical - I consider the role of science as practice, i.e. in action and decision contexts of our society.


26 May 2020

Harry Potter in Corona times

Chancellor Angela Merkel repeatedly urges caution in her handling of the Corona crisis. She was also only cautiously optimistic when announcing significant relaxation of the corona protection measures ( May 6). The background to this is a debate that has been going on intensively for some time: Does the protection of life come before all other valuable goods, above all freedom or dignity?


19 May 2020

What we talk about

- and what (or with whom) we should talk. "Children's summits instead of car summits" is the pointed demand of the German politician Dietmar Bartsch. Because children are, besides women and families, the "losers of the crisis". Since a few days the schools have opened their doors again. At least for the graduating classes, lessons should be made possible again - after all, exams are imminent or have already begun in some federal states. In many kindergartens, emergency care has also been slightly expanded and even playgrounds are now being reopened. In short: Children are, apart from the new start of the national football leagues, the focus of the social corona discussion. On closer inspection, however, this does not seem to be quite the case. The negotiation of needs that are diverse among children, not only because of different age groups, is given little consideration in the opening debate.


12 May 2020

Children as or in danger?

The anti-corona measures have shaken our coexistence, sense of security and social norms of behaviour. This is particularly unsettling and stressful for children and young people. This article critically reflects on the possible effects of social distancing, school closures and ascriptions of danger on children's development and understanding of values and draws attention to a hitherto blind spot in the debate.


14 September 2020

Continuation of the ethics blog

The question of good and right practice is one of the core issues of human life - and the subject of reflection and justification in ethics. This concerns far-reaching socio-political decisions as well as very concrete challenges that individuals face in their everyday lives. Because values, like people, are diverse and there is - beyond basic human rights, it should also be mentioned explicitly - rarely a simple "right" or "wrong", it is important for every society to offer a space for the definition of concrete goals and the negotiation of conflicts between norms and values. Such a space enables the critical and productive reflection of social action from an ethical perspective.


03 July 2020

Racism concerns us all

Crises can be like a magnifying glass for social grievances and structural injustice in societies. This is also the case with COVID-19: Racism towards people read as Asian increased, in Brazil, Great Britain and the USA the COVID-19 induced endangerment and death rate of PoC and black people is disproportionately high, and also the conditions under which foreign workers work in the German food production, especially meat production, must be read through a racism-sensitive lens. And these are only three well-known examples. We have to talk about racism - not once again, but again and again. After the assassination of George Floyd during a police operation and the numerous protests of the Black Lives Matter movement far beyond the borders of the USA, the debate about anti-black racism is also increasing in Germany. Here are some thoughts on this.


20 June 2020

About inner conflict

Whether it's when I look at the pictures of crowded Baltic beaches, when I think about visiting friends and family or in the course of the worldwide demonstrations against racism, the current wave of loosening up and the behaviour of people in Germany trigger a feeling of inner conflict in me. This conflict is not least of all a moral conflict, because my own claim to act responsibly and not to endanger others is confronted with a reality in which I lack the knowledge to judge precisely this. The following article gives an insight into my examination of the issue of responsible trade in the context of a dying pandemic. I cannot avoid the fact that it is this very same disruption that currently accompanies every attempt I make to make contact. This article represents my personal examination of the issue and is deliberately a little more pointed at one point or another.


02 June 2020 

The end of the small parties?

Germany offers voters a wide range of different parties. In order to be eligible to stand in elections, however, a party must either already be represented in German parliaments or collect enough signatures from supporters. The latter has become practically impossible due to the pandemic. Is there a threat of a loss of heterogeneity and diversity in our democracy?


28 May 2020

Global crisis(s): Covid-19 and the human-animal relationship

The current pandemic raises many questions of interpersonal ethics. Beyond that, however, it also highlights an existing human-animal relationship, which - as the following remarks show - is problematic in many respects and requires a different, 'interspecies ethics'.


20 May 2020

On political action

Politicians are in a dilemma due to the corona pandemic. It has to take effective measures without having all the information available and without knowing exactly what the consequences will be. At the same time, there is a lot of resentment from parts of the population against the decisions that have been taken. Perhaps the current situation also offers the chance to make politics more transparent and thus to counteract the trend of alienation that has existed since before Corona.


14 May 2020

Traumatic memories

In the current situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, dealing with the effects of the restrictions is omnipresent, both in private conversations and in the media. But what memories of this period will remain for us after the crisis, and what influence will these memories have on our future lives? Are parts of society experiencing a potential collective trauma precisely because of this exceptional situation that we will have to remember and process for years to come?


07 May 2020

Triaging Discrimination?

While ethical questions about the fairness of triage situations have surfaced during the Coronavirus pandemic, an important aspect is often overlooked: Historical inequalities and structural discrimination have left some groups significantly under-resourced to tackle the health crisis, and, in many instances, they are more likely to contract and fall seriously ill from the virus. As a result, some of those groups have a higher likelihood to be subjected to triage decisions. This raises the question whether the triage rules are “compounding” (Hellman 2018) prior injustices – and thereby may be fair but unjust