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.

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 January 2020

Letting children have their say

2021: A wet, shiny morning in wintry Düsseldorf. Schoolchildren stand in small groups in front of advertising posters at the tram stop. Glasses at a special price, New Year's discounts for the gym. The tram pulls in. The children are crowded into the tram, all wearing masks to cover their mouths and noses; a man with a hat hastily takes a drag from his cigarette, stubs it out on the floor and gets on. He is not wearing a mask.


24 November 2020

They are not our enemies!

In his first speech as "president-elect" on November 7, 2020, Joe Biden called on both sides of a seemingly irreconcilable political landscape in the USA to change their attitude towards each other. "We have to stop treating our opponent as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They're Americans." He is referring to the supporters of the Democratic parties and President Trump's Republican Party, which have been increasingly irreconcilable for years. Biden's request may seem naive when President Trump accuses the Democrats of fraudulent elections, a serious crime after all, on the same day, or when one of his sons asks Trump on Twitter to go to "total war" for the election.


28 October 2020

Technology and discrimination

The wave of protest in the wake of the assassination of George Floyd in the USA has not yet faded away. Activists of the Black Lives Matter movement and police and the National Guard still meet on the streets of America, such as in the city of Portland, Oregon. The anti-racism protests draw attention to the continuing discrimination and violent oppression of black people in the USA. But there is also racism in Germany, which persistently perpetuates prejudices against non-white Germans.


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.