Collective Responsibility towards Nature and Future Generations
The EU-funded ReNa project reinvestigates the concept of collective responsibility towards nature and future generations, from the perspective of the understanding of nature developed by 19th century German Idealism and the theory of responsibility advanced by Hans Jonas in the 20th century. The project first focuses on the rational foundation of collective proactive responsibility towards our world, which is the duty to protect it. This concept relies on viewing human beings as rational and responsible agents. Secondly, ReNa investigates the role of human motivation and the consequences of human action as an essential segment of any theory of responsibility, thus bridging the formal foundation of the concept and its application.
This research aims at rethinking a collective and proactive concept of responsibility towards nature and future generations, on the basis of the understanding of nature developed by German Idealism in the early 19th century and the theory of responsibility first advanced by Hans Jonas in the 20th century. This research articulates into two steps, which aim at two objectives: 1) the rational foundation of collective proactive responsibility towards the world, that is the duty to take care of it. This is the “objective side” of the research, in the sense that it grounds on a consideration of human beings as rational and responsible agents in themselves, in a Kantian sense. To reach this first objective (which is the most challenging one), a further step is needed: the elaboration of a concept of nature and its relation to human being able to take into account (1.1) the ontological continuity between nature and human being and with this the value of nature and life in themselves; (1.2) the primary responsibility of humans. All this will be possible analyzing and revitalizing the concept of nature in German Idealism and studying its ethical implications. 2) Second, the role of human motivation, the context and the consequences of human action as essential part of any theory of responsibility. This is the “subjective side” of the research, that aims at providing the “bridge” between the formal foundation of the concept of collective responsibility and its application. In this part, the research deals with the key concepts of “respect”, “care” towards vulnerable nature and future human beings, and “fear” of a collapse of nature and future lives. The concept of collective responsibility generated by this project might show its fertility also with reference to contemporary debates (like those related to environmental issues).