Stephen Gardiner

Rawls and Climate Change: Does Rawlsian Political Philosophy Pass the Global Test?

Torsdag 4. desember, kl. 15.15-17.00 (NB! Merk tiden)
Sted: Auditorium 3, Sophus Bugges Hus


"However concerned they are in practice, at the level of theory most political philosophers remain unperturbed by global environmental change in general, and climate change in particular. For some, this is because they believe that these are just normal political problems, perplexing in their scale perhaps, but not of a new, or fundamentally different kind that requires special treatment. For others, it is because they hold that, to the extent that global environmental woes are distinctive, some version of the dominant political philosophy of the day – the Rawlsian approach – will inevitably emerge to deal with them. Elsewhere I have tried to address the first attitude, arguing that it is guilty of a worrying theoretical complacency. In this paper, I consider whether the Rawlsian approach is vulnerable to the same objection. I begin by briefly describing why climate change constitutes a significant challenge to contemporary political philosophy, and so why the threat of complacency emerges. Then, I critically examine a variety of previous attempts to deal with environmental problems from within Rawls’ theory, and argue that they do not succeed. Next, I suggest that the most promising avenues open to Rawlsians lie in areas that have not yet been explored, but where his thought is very underdeveloped. This already implies that complacency is unwarranted, since a successful development would be a major task, with significant practical implications. However, I go on to claim that advancement in these areas is likely to push us beyond the boundaries of Rawls’ own approach into new theoretical realms. If this is correct, attempts to deal with problems like climate change are likely to be transformative, going beyond mere “extensions” of the original theory in Rawls’ sense, to major augmentations to, or even a replacement of, his approach. Given this, Rawlsians have extra reason to reject theoretical complacency, and rise to the challenge posed by serious environmental problems."

Stephen Gardiner (University of Washington, Seattle) har skrevet en rekke artikler om etikk og klimaendringer, om plikter overfor fremtidige generasjoner, så vel som om dydsetikk.