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Theory of Sustainability

Lecture 8 - The Art of Longterm Thinking

Lecture 8 - The Art of Longterm Thinking

Set of flashcards Details

Flashcards 12
Language English
Category Social
Level University
Created / Updated 17.01.2022 / 17.01.2022
Licencing Not defined    (Leipzig University)
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3 Key Normative Aspects of Sustainability 

1. Rawls (Theory of Justice): addresses the problem of distributive justice (the socially just distribution of goods in a society)

2. Sen/Nussbaum (Capacity approach): Capabilities are the real freedoms that people have to achieve their potential doings and beings (e.g., HDI)

3. Hans Jonas (Responsibility for the future): We must ensure that the effects of our actions do not destroy future means to protect the future humanity’s autonomy, dignity, integrity and vulnerability.

5 Key Deficits in Scientific Discussions

  • dealing with uncertainty and ignorance
  • including practical knowledge into decision making
  • grasping long term effects
  • meeting a claim of a holistic perspective
  • dealing with complexity 

What is Utilitarianism? 

Utilitarian: moral value of an action is measured by its contribution to increase welfare, utility, happiness etc.

Underlying Principle: Consequentialism, i.e. those alternatives are best, whose consequences are most desirable. 

What is a rational decision? What is a gut-feeling? 

rational = one is able to give good reasons for his/her decision

while gut feelings are intuitive decisions / where the intellect is not involved


Describe Science-Based Politics. 

  • Science-based politics ideally justifies its decisions and measures without gaps

  • A good policy is applied science

  • Policy advice is done by following “recipes” that are applied mechanically

Describe an intuitive concept of politics. 


  • Good politicians act instinctively and intuitively – following their gut feelings

  • Politics is improvisation

A good politician needs both: scientific reasoning and intuition

What is judgment?

Kant "Critique of Pure Reason": judgment is...distinguishing whether this / that does or does not stand under a given rule

  • ability of a person

  • enables the person to bridge between a specific situation and general aspects/rules

  • practical knowledge: necessary for decision making, for advising

3 Features

1. Bottom-up Approach: Example of diagnosis: the doctors understands medical ailments and the doctor subsumes the symptoms under a certain disease.

(vs. Top-down Approach: a therapist who applies general rules to heal a patient)

2. Heuristic: Judgement uses heuristics – i.e., rules and bridging principles that provide orientation when searching. When judging, a human presumes that the world is structured in a comprehensible way. That is, why it makes sense to search for rules and laws. 

3. One needs feelings, but feelings are capable of both truth and error. Therefore we must abstract from our inclinations, interests and personal sentiments (Aristotle) AND it is helpful to judge from the point of view of an impartial observer (common sense). 

Conditions for Good Judgment (vs. relying on gut feelings)

  • Refrain from personal inclinations, interests and ideology

  • Objectiveness: Understand and act for the sake of the concern

  • Openness for dialogue: Try to understand others

Scientific Knowledge vs. Practical Knowledge and the power of judgment 

Scientific Knowledge

  • Well-defined, abstract question

  • Solution / demonstrable 

  • Logical method / coherence

  • Theory, Model, facts (certain/precise)

  • Can be taught/learnt in books

  • non-personal

Practical Knowledge/Judgment

  • Concrete/diffuse situations
  • Decisions / non demonstrable
  • Heuristic method 
  • Gaps in argumentation
  • Narratives / examples / reality / knowhow
  • Uncertain / imprecise
  • Not teachable / has to be exercised / Personal

Power of Judgment

  • Distinguish important from irrelevant
  • Make fair evaluations
  • Make good decisions