What is right about our society today

Basic political values

In many social debates it is not only about individual political questions, but ultimately the question of the image of people that provides ethical orientation is in the background. Talking about the image of man includes, on the one hand, descriptive aspects of the "constitution" of man (human condition), but also implies normative aspects for the "determination of people", [1] that is, for their future and goal orientation.

The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant expressed this when he asked the three big questions "What can I know? What should I do? What can I hope?" to the fourth, last question "What is man?" ran. Accordingly, if one wants to speak appropriately of him, statements about people as knowing, acting and religious beings play a decisive role.

Two current difficulties in speaking of the image of man and in the use of the term should be mentioned here in advance. The first difficulty revolves around the question of whether we are still talking about a person todaypicture is possible, because for some it sounds like arrogance to "assess everyone according to an 'idea', mostly negatively" from a supposedly objective position. [2] At the same time, one also fears "the dictatorship of the abstract ought - 'This is how man should be!' - about the concrete 'is' of each individual ". [3] "The crown of creation, the pig, the human being" - the tension and ambiguity of human beings can hardly be formulated more clearly than with Gottfried Benn. The image of man, the argument goes acutely, cannot be defined by the person himself, the suspicion of projection is in the room. The second difficulty calls into question the possibility per se, in view of individualization, pluralization and globalization still of one To speak the image of man. Under the conditions of contemporary culture, the image of man is no longer available in the singular, but only in the plural.

Currently influential images of people

The economist image of man originated in the early days of a modern market economy, in which humans were only seen as a factor of production. Even if the regulatory and ethical idea of ​​the social market economy has been able to do a lot to pacify society and provide social security for the individual, the current conditions of globalization have led to renewed and exacerbated the problem of the exclusive functionalization of people, who are above all as "economic" people in the calculation and whose value is mainly measured by economic success. Logically, in this kind of thinking, social policy and the welfare state only have the task of making people "marketable". [4] The dispute over current family policy reveals exactly this problem: Is it about enabling actual freedom of choice with regard to the compatibility of family and gainful employment or about the quickest possible return of both parents to their work place?

The socio-technicalist image of man assumes that political goals can be achieved through state and institutional measures without individuals acting in free personal decision-making and taking responsibility for the consequences. The debate about reform of the welfare state, which has been going on for more than a decade, makes it clear that politics, under the heading of "incentives", is struggling to optimize processes and procedures in the search for the most refined adjustment screws possible. Financial incentives such as the "scrapping bonus" from 2009 are both economically controversial and ethically deficient. The latter in particular because they can ultimately lead to the fading out of ethical considerations for pragmatic, profit-oriented reasons.

The autonomist image of man As it is articulated in the debate about modern genetic engineering, the stem cell discussion and cloning, suggests to human self-confidence that even with all the setbacks that occur again and again, humans are on the verge of their own self-produced perfection: No longer dependent on a creator god or evolution, he creates himself. Scientific skill grows, and the global market opens the way to the new "design" people. The market for the new person is geographically boundless and morally unrelated.

Person and human dignity

To classify these excerpts ethically is complex. Of course, childcare issues are urgent, and the professional competence of parents is also very important. Nevertheless, the one-sided economic orientation of the debate appears to be ethically deficient. Certainly, incentives for desired behavior are politically helpful, but an exclusive focus on this behavior ultimately eliminates human freedom. It goes without saying that research in the service of people is indispensable. If, however, this objective is out of sight, the human being becomes a threat to his fellow human beings and to society. Ultimately, such images of man endanger the human substance of our society. The question of what holds society together and at the same time can serve as an ethical orientation for discourse and action must be more fundamental.

Following Kant's initial anthropological questions, the human being as a whole, with all its dimensions, is to be taken into account. This image of the human being is also meant in the secular justification of the human image, which Kant presented in his foundation for the metaphysics of morals with the derivation of the self-purpose formula of his categorical imperative: "Act in such a way that you humanity both in your person and in that You use each other's person at all times as an end, never just as a means. "

Since Kant, the distinction between two forms of value has also been relevant in this regard: "In the realm of ends, everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price, something else, as an equivalent, can be placed in its place; is exalted to all prices and therefore has no equivalent, has a dignity. "[5] It is consequently the human being who has no price, no equivalent, but a dignity that demands unconditional recognition and respect.

In this perspective, the Christian-social-ethical character of our (political) culture also plays a decisive role in determining a sustainable image of man. If, for example, the Catholic social doctrine formulates that man is the "carrier, creator and goal of all social institutions", then it carries out on an institutional level what Kant propagated with an unconditional claim to validity for the individual. [6]