Prof. Marc Davidson, endowed professor of the philosophy of sustainable development, will give his inaugural speech from a humanistic perspective.

An environmentally conscious life, we really don’t feel like it...

‘Our excessive individualism is at the root of the unwillingness to solve environmental problems. Scientific insights and technical ingenuity are no longer limiting factors. The essential impediment to sustainable development is mainly a lack of identification with future generations.’ So states Prof. Marc Davidson in his inaugural speech, in which he will accept his appointment as endowed professor of the philosophy of sustainable development from a humanistic perspective.

Sustainable development requires a connection to future generations. Not only because they too have a right to a decent life, but mainly because what gives meaning to our lives — that which we experience as the most meaningful — are the projects, activities and traditions that we want to be continued by future generations. These range from family life to our own business, from science to our football club. That something of value remains beyond our individual involvement with it is, however, an idea that is at odds with modern individualism. This is an individualism which most highly values autonomy, self-determination, personal growth and individual gratification. A broader perspective is thus desperately needed. The question is how we can regain a partnership between the generations. Marc Davidson will focus on that question in his new position.

Prof. Davidson notes that both our economic and political systems reinforce this individualism. The free market is hailed because market incentives best fit the motives of man. At least, when one reduces man to homo economicus: the man who acts from rational self-interest. The homo economicus, however, appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The free market encourages people to see others as competitors rather than partners in shared projects and thus hampers true participation in practices that people experience as the most worthwhile.

Furthermore, Davidson argues for a humanism that focuses less on the development of the individual person than of the human being, the human project as such. For that is a sustainable development that is particularly essential. And in this way our motivation to want to work toward a better environment could be nurtured.

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