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Accepted Contribution:

The future of climate ethics: STS tools for assessing the emergence of moral thinking  
Jonathan Wald (Concordia University)

Long abstract:

From the perspective of many philosophers, ethical and moral questions should be considered a priori. To do otherwise, as philosophers in the Kantian tradition have argued, would be to collapse morality into mundane pragmatism. The a priori status of morality poses a challenge to empirical scholars in the social sciences interested in ethical questions. If morality must be abstract, then all STS can offer are reflections on the application of ethical principles rather than the principles themselves. This presentation challenges this position through empirical observation of climate scientists. I argue that STS and other empirical sciences can directly address moral and ethical questions at the moments when norms and values are thrown into question. Focusing on the self-reflective practices of Brazilian climate scientists facing both the climate crisis and the 2018 election of Jair Bolsonaro, I examine how the values of scientific expertise, democratic participation, and effective governance were not just reinvigorated, but fundamentally transformed. This work provides both a glimpse into the ongoing transformation of ethical thinking in the climate crisis as well as a demonstration of the capacity of STS to fully engage in moral thinking.

Combined Format Open Panel P164
STS & ethics: encounters on common ground
  Session 2