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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 s…

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 certain vocations or professions; and this only to the extent that for such groups the general public still has certain basic expectations of behavior and performance, whose fulfillment is directly linked to the provision of professional services – for example, in the case of clergy, doctors and caregivers, admi…

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 Lut…

Brandström, Elsa

(93 words)

Author(s): Herms Eilert
[German Version] (Mar 26, 1888, daughter of the Swedish ambassador in St. Petersburg – Mar 4, 1948, Cambridge, MA) served in Siberia during World War I as a Red Cross delegate for German and Austrian prisoners of war. She worked there during the typhoid epidemic, organizing help efforts. After the war she founded sanatoria for former prisoners of war (Marienborn, Schreibermühle) and a home for war orphans (Neusorge/Mittweida) with American aid. Eilert Herms Bibliography E. Brandström, Unter Kriegsgefangenen in Rußland und Sibirien, 1921 E. Juhl et al., Elsa Brandström, 1962.

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 in founding Danmarks Retsforbund (Justice Party/Single-Tax Party), a party backing social reform. Influenced by S. Kierkegaard, he espoused an ethics of the individual conscience bound by…

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 relationsh…

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 has achieved in the course of his personal formation as a self, guided and motivated a particular self-image, endowed with certain faculties of experience, processing of experience, and action, against demands for change made in the course of his development from the dimension of his relationship to the environment, his self, and the wor…

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 all aspects of a rule-complying and thus relatively stabilized form of interaction that is founded on motivating and guiding certainties (or convictions) and, accordingly, on affective pursuits and interests with the fundamental decisions resulting therefrom. As such, it is equivalent to “ethos” (though emphasis on the individual may be stronger than in the social focus of “ethos”); there is a corresponding equivalence between “moral philosophy” and “e…

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, from them until 1962 (wh…

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…

Metaethics

(628 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] The triumph of the sensualistic restriction of the recognizable and real to what exists in sensory perception – which was not hindered but actually encouraged by I. Kant's transcendental philosophy (contrary to its intention) owing to the fact that the latter also viewed sensory perception as a necessary prerequisite for many different types of true knowledge and thereby also excluded itself (i.e. its theory of the theoretical as well as its theory of practical reasoning, includin…

Ethics of Responsibility

(483 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] To the degree that any ethics reflects responsible action in the context of an ¶ ethos, it is an ethics of responsibility and can thus deal with various aspects of being responsible (Responsibility). First, its constitutive requirements. Here, it is a matter of whether responsibility is created through the experience of the other or is already presumed in it and …

Action, Types of

(496 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert
[German Version] In his Philosophical Ethics, F.D.E. Schleiermacher distinguished between “symbolizing action” and “organizing action”; in his Christliche Sitte, he further distinguished “representative” and “effective” action, as well as “purgative” and “broadening action.” Habermas, in his recent Theory of Communicative Action, uses analogous language to indicate the difference between teleological, strategic, norm-based, dramaturgical, and communicative action. Both authors po…
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