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Coercion

(357 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] (Lat. coercitio) takes place when a certain type of behavior is forcibly imposed upon a person against his/her declared will. “Means of coercion” are the embodiment of all instruments that are available for this purpose. The availability of such means is indispensable for the state if it is to fulfill its fundamental task of maintaining the peace. The latter requires it to enforce compliance with the legal order, especially on the part of t…

Self-control

(369 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] (Gk σωϕροσύvη/ sōphrosýnē, ἐγκράτεια/ enkráteia; Lat. temperantia, moderatio, continentia, imperium in semetipsum; Ger. Selbstbeherrschung; Fr. maitrise de soi) means mastery (Dominion) over oneself, exercised by the self. As in outward relationships between persons, rule or dominion means the effective control of an inferior will by a superior will within an individual’s personhood. With variations in terminology, self-control has been a theme of the theory of virtues in philosophy and theology, …

State

(4,704 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] I. Terminology The word state with its various cognates came into use in the Romance languages in the 16th century and was used in German ( Staat) by the end of the 18th. It expresses the notion of the socio-historical “state” or “condition” of a body politic – more specifically the state of physical security ensured for this body by the authority effective and recognized within a “national population” living in its “national territory” (Georg Jellinek [1851–1911], Allgemeine Staatslehre, 1900). Domestically the authority reliably governs the outward relati…

Self-interest

(343 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] The concept of “interest” in its civil and economic sense is rooted in Roman law (indemnification, benefit, advantage, value). Extended to include political action and its goals, in the 16th century it became a general designation of the motives governing the actions of competing individuals or collectives pursuing the goal of their own advantage. Finally (since T. Hobbes) it became the designation of the natural motivation of all possible action, with the goal of the actant’s self-preservation. Late Scholasticism and Christian moral philosophy questioned…

Restriction

(349 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] Restrictions are those ongoing or momentary conditions imposed on human action that are given prior to a particular action and cannot be evaded in the choice of ends and actions but must be taken into account by any rational choice. Ongoing conditions consist in the total relational structure of personhood in the world (i.e. in the unity of the relationship of the author of an action to the world, to himself, and to the source of the relationship between relation to the world and relation to oneself). The ongoing and fu…

Damage

(460 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] refers to the essence of all the effects of natural or social events that, in contrast to benefit, do not maintain or increase the possibilities of human life, but diminish them. The subject of ethical consideration cannot be damage caused by nature (IV), but only damage as the consequence of human action. The deliberate production of damage b…

Dogma

(2,847 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] is not an expression of faith or of ecclesial doctrine, but of theological reflection on these (as also e.g. “revelation”); the term is borrowed from the educated vocabulary of Hellenism. Its pre-Christian meanings are: (a) “opinion,” (b) “individual judgment,” “decision” or “resolution,” within a legal context also an “ordinance,” “edict,…

Public Choice

(438 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] The expression public choice denotes the central theme of a debate concerning social ethics – or, more precisely, the ethics of government action. This debate has been carried on the United States since the late 1950s and has also reached Europe: What ethically grounded constitutional principles provide a criterion for the scope and nature of governmental legal decisions (formal and operative) in questions of justice? Nozick recommends a purely negative policy: government decisions should be limited on principle to the reliable prevention of private use of force among citizens; ultimately, all substantial problems of justice must be solved “anarchically,” i.e. through free agreement without government interference. This position contrasts with the recommendation of constitutional principles that foresee a positive contribution of governmental decisions to justice. The constitutional principle proposed by J. Rawls foresees a substantial contribution of governmental action to justice (VI) extending to all areas of social coexistence, claiming universal formal validity because it follows from agreed conditions recognized as fair by all rational individuals. Walzer challenges the possibility of such a formally and universally accepted criterion of justice substantially applicable to governmental action in all areas of social coexistence. He distinguishes different spheres of justice and associates each with a variety of traditional criteria of justice; the outcome of the process of reaching agreement among them provides the basis for governmental decisions. For Buchanan, in every case the constitutional principle should be to maximize individual rights and minimize governmental restrictions; that ratio can attract realistic historical consensus when it is Pareto-optimal. Unlike Nozick, Buchanan sees some subjection to government regulations as necessary in any Pareto-optimal situation; they make a positive contribution to justice. Also unlike Nozick, F.A. v. Hayek argues that government action on behalf of justice is indispensible; in contrast to Rawls, Walzer, and Buchanan, however, he simply supports whatever scope of such action contributes positively to cultural evolution: it is justified by its contribution to the group’s evolutionary survival. (Hayek does not discuss…

Technological Ethics

(252 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] is the branch of ethics that examines the advantages and disadvantages of technological development and applications of technology. Its central themes are: compatibility of the application of certain technologies with human dignity, the preferability of competing possibilities of technological development, questions of justice in the distribution of benefits and burdens generated by a technology, compatibility with the common good, especially in the long term, and the preferabilit…

Professional Ethics

(247 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] the fformer theoretical concern with the ethos of individual classes or estates (nobility, officialdom, citizenry, clergy; estate cf. Ger. Standesethik) has given way to concern the ethos of certa…

Two Kingdoms Doctrine

(2,873 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] I. Dogmatics A discussion of the two kingdoms doctrine that wants to avoid mistakes must note two things. ¶ 1. The expression two kingdoms doctrine – like the doctrine of justification – is a product of reflection on the later designation of complexes of theological doctrine that were unavoidable even before this name was given them, because they deal with elements of the certainty of faith that are inescapable in any coherent explication of faith. The label two kingdoms doctrine, however, is not a product of the 16th century but of the debates in German Lutheran theology between the wars (Birkner). From there it spread internationally. As a consequence, there have been debates about the “two kingdoms doctrine” only since the second third of the 20th century, with their focus in Germany.…

Brandström, Elsa

(93 words)

Author(s): Herms Eilert

Geismar, Eduard

(204 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] (Feb 12, 1871, Randers, Denmark – May 14, 1939, Copenhagen) served as a pastor in Copenhagen from 1899 until 1921, when he became professor of systematic theology. Sensitized by the Student Christian Movement and the Church's Urban Office for Social and Political Questions, he took an active part…

Ethos

(716 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] The word ethos combines the meanings of Gk ἔϑος/ éthos (“custom”) and ἦϑος/ ḗthos (“natural stopping place, what is usual there, inner nature, character”); it always denotes a specific way in which individual living creatures deal regularly with others of their species and the challenges of their environment. The authority of the rules governing this behavior is somehow fixed in the internal milieu …

Dignity

(409 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] renders the Latin dignitas and, like it, refers to a relationship, the unity of the being of “a” for “b” and the determination of “b” by “a,” that is: the being of the one who has dignity for his addressee and, at the same time, the latter's being as determined by the being of the one who has dignity for him. Three elements of this relationship persist throughout all its possible…

Self-assertion

(415 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] Self-assertion can involve (1) individuals and (2) groups. 1. Self-assertion of an individual person is his or her effort to maintain the constitution he…

Interim Ethics

(403 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] If there are objective or subjective reasons to regard a life-orienting certainty concerning the nature (essence), origin and destiny of the world and humanity and the rules of action derived from it as valid for only a limited time, one speaks of an interim ¶ ethics. More properly, it should be referred to as an interim ethos or an interim morality. Examples include (a) the ethos of Jesus and (b) the “provisional morality” of R. Descartes ( Discours de la méthode, 1637; ET: Discourse on Method, 1960). a. A. Schweitzer first described Jesus' ethos as an “interim eth…

Morals

(937 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] The term “morals” designates …

Briefs, Goetz Anton

(240 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] (Jan 1, 1889, Eschweiler– May 16, 1974, Rome) was a sociologist and economist. Beginning in 1913, he taught at the Universities of Freiburg and Würzburg, beginning in 1926, at the Technical University of Berlin. He emigrated to the USA in 1934, was guest professor at the Catholic University in Washington DC until 1937, fr…

Ethics of Goods

(568 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] I. can refer to a sub-discipline of ethics: reflection on consequences, on interaction within an ethos and its contribution to the bonum commune/proprium. This task is indispensable because actions have consequences (Consequence/Inherent consequences of actions), which – depending on knowledge and ability – can be foreseen, intended and brought about with varying degrees of certainty so t…
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