Wednesday 16:00 pm - 17:15 pm FIT Seminarraum

livMatS Colloquium | Prof. Thomas Potthast (Universität Tübingen) | Sustainable Development, Medicine and Ethics: Topoi of health in individual, collective and planetary constellations, and their implications

Health issues have played a central role in the debate on Sustainable Development ever since the foundational UN report "Our Common Future" in 1987, right up to the current Goal 3 "Good Health and Well-Being" of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to combating poverty, promoting and safeguarding health is one of the conditions of possibility for humans to fulfil their needs. In this respect, health and the conservation of natural resources and the environment are not mutually exclusive but form common elements of a just and safe future. In this talk, the underlying conceptual interrelationships will be systematically analysed: On the one hand, topoi of human health have long influenced ideas on the state of ecosystems (e.g., "ecosystem health") and meanwhile these have been explicitly extended to the connection between humans, husbandry and the environment under the "One Health" approach promoted by WHO and even through ideas of "Planetary Health" with reference to climate change. On the other hand, approaches from ecology have been incorporated into medicine, most recently where health is described in the context of the human microbiome with ecological balance concepts and humans themselves become species-rich ecosystems. These fundamental conceptual links are linked to ethical questions: Are health-promoting and environment-promoting measures conflicting goals in concrete action or/and are resource-conserving approaches also required precisely in terms of medical and health ethics? While duly recognising possible conflicts of objectives in detail as well as the priority of human health in medicine, an integrative view is argued for, which does not get lost in factually incorrect alternatives between 'man (and his health) versus environmental (protection)', but rather works out the link in the sense of Sustainable Development and the development of possible hybrid biotechnologies.

Brief Bio

Thomas Potthast is Full Professor for Ethics, Theory and History of the Life Sciences, and Director of the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen. He also is leading the universities’ Advisory Board and Competence Centre for Sustainable Development. Thomas studied biology and philosophy at the University of Freiburg and did his PhD in 1998 on evolution, ecology, and environmental ethics at Tübingen. 1998-2001 he worked as postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Berlin and 2002 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation. Back in Tübingen, he was managing director of the Ethics Centre and completed his habilitation in 2010. His special expertise is in bio-philosophy, interdisciplinary ethics, and (education for) sustainable development. He co-directed several international projects, from science and technology of agriculture, fisheries and food production to biodiversity, environment, and climate. He has experience in conceptual and practical questions of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects.