The Erosion of our Value Spheres: The Ways in which Society Copes with Scientific, Moral and Ethical Uncertainty

The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 3:197-218 (2007)
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Abstract

In the following, I will discuss the current social reaction to the ecological crisis and the ways in which society reacts to technological risks, which can be understood primarily as a reaction to scientific and moral or ethical uncertainty. In the first section, I will clarify what is meant by scientific and moral or ethical uncertainty. In the second section, I will contrast Max Weber's differentiation of science, law [Recht) and morality in the modern world with the process of de-differentiation of these value spheres, a trend which can be observed in the present-day context of the ecological crisis and technological risks. We shall see that social contradictions emerge in the functional relationships between these value spheres, and that such contradictions go hand in hand with these value spheres or contexts of discourse either losing their original function or becoming transformed. Science forfeits its role as a functional authority and becomes a strategic resource for politics. Law becomes a basic constituent of an amoral form of negotiation, which can no longer be properly grasped in terms of legal categories. Morality is transformed into fear, and economics yields unprofitable practices. In the third section, I will in attempt to open up the moral and ethical dimension of how to deal with uncertainty with the help of discourse theory, as well as outline a possible solution.

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Rene Von Schomberg
Aachen University of Technology

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