Research Summary

Brief summary of my research over the last years

My research during the past few years has focused on  1) various topics in bioethics, 2) questions around climate ethics and new technologies, 3) the philosophy of human dignity and human rights, and 4) the concept of human practical self-understanding and philosophical anthropology.

In Bioethics, I published a synthesising monograph with a comprehensive overview on the field with special attention to methodological questions (German Metzler 2008, English: Routledge 2011, Chinese 2018). I published articles and edited two volumes on the basis of an ESF-project about the relevance of concepts of life, nature, and culture for bioethical debates. I was responsible for the ethical reports in two projects of the 7th framework-programme, one about animal-human-chimeras, the other about the social perception of new life science technologies, especially about the relationship between social science and bioethics. Together with Deryck Beyleveld (Durham University) and Roger Brownsword (King’s College, London) I am planning a handbook on bioethics and law (under contract with Edward Elgar).

Climate Ethics/Ethics of Technology: Methodological debates in applied ethics have been investigated in an NWO-project about evaluation of new technologies, and have resulted in a volume about that topic. I directed an international network on Rights to a Green Future, financed by the European Science Foundation. This network investigated the impact of climate change for basic moral and political concepts, especially its impact on the human rights framework. As follow up I shaped (together with Anthonie Meijers) a research cooperation on Fair Energy Transition.

Human Dignity/Human Rights: In 2007/2008 I was responsible for a series of workshops and one international conference of the International Union of Academies, ESF, UNESCO and others under the broad umbrella ‚Pathways to Human Dignity‘. In the course of this project, scholars from the whole world investigated historical traditions, philosophical conceptualisation and contexts of application concerning human dignity. This project resulted in the Cambridge Handbook on Human Dignity (Cambridge University Press 2011) where I acted as Editor in Chief. In 2009/2010 I was invited to participate as a fellow in the project Human Dignity and Image of the Human in Medical Technology of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (Bielefeld) that has resulted in a German Handbook on Human Dignity in Medicine with two contributions from me. During 2011-2016, I directed a large  NWO-project on Human Dignity as the Foundation of Human rights. Related to this project,  I directed a cooperation with various Chinese universities about a comparison between Chinese and Western perspectives on human dignity (book publication with Cambridge University Press under contract).

Practical Self-understanding/Philosophical Anthropology: During 2011-2016 I organised a large NOW project together with Annemarie Kalis and a variety of colleagues a large NOW project What Can the Humanities Contribute to Our Practical Self-Understanding?‘ This project aimed to develop a perspective on the role of the humanities from a hermeneutic perspective; a continuation of my PhD-thesis in the 1990s on the ethical and anthropological relevance of aesthetic experience. This project resulted in various publications from the consortium. I have Also just completed a book co-authored with Deryck Beyleveld on Kant’s moral philosophy as a theory of practical self-understanding, entitled The Sole Fact of Pure Reason (publication by De Gruyter 2020 in the series Supplements to Kant-Studien). I also serve in the board of the Helmuth-Plessner-Society (since 2017). Anthropological aspects will also be central in a big Gravitation project among Dutch Universities about the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (10 years, 27 Million Euros grant).