The aim of this dissertation is to develop a well-founded methodology for dealing with conflicts arising in the attempt to define semantic criteria of sustainability, namely those criteria which derive from the general concept of sustainability and are supposed to illustrate its meaning in a more concrete way. This dilemma, which also has been treated by Dusseldorp and coined as “trade-offs in sustainability”. Due to inevitable epistemical and normative uncertainties, a relativistic approach seems to be the only way to deal with this dilemma. Instead, however, I want to argue for a well-founded and acceptable practice. As this dissertation is written in the framework of the German Copernicus-project “Enavi”, the energy transformation in Germany is of peculiar interest.
This dissertation will attempt to answer the following question: How can be dealt successfully with conflicts of sustainability in a nonarbitrary way, despite a pluralism of values and insecurities about one’s own actions characteristic of modern society, without giving up the gratifications of modern technology and without surrendering to instrumental reason?
Proceeding from the Aristotelian-based “inclusive-end theory of happiness” and René Descartes’ provisional moral code, I will investigate the possibility of a proper handling of sustainability conflicts on the basis of both, consequential and deontological lines of argumentation. A respective basis of argumentation can be found in Chistoph Hubig’s “applied ethics”. Considering the latter, it should be possible to overcome the respective one-sidedness of the pertinent justification strategies and in accordance with Hegel’s dialectics to preserve central elements of these strategies in a new conceptualization.
In 1979, Hans Jonas published his main work “Das Prinzip Verantwortung” (The Responsibility Principle), in which he developed his future ethics with respect to the growing power of human beings through technology. In 1985, this work was followed by the more practical sequel “Technik, Medizin und Ethik” (Technology, Medicine, and Ethics). Inspired by this attempt to take a step from the general to the specific and from theory towards practice, I also want to conclude my preceding reflections with a practical section.