Workshop 2C environment

Corné J.Rademaker – Towards an Intervention Ethics for International Agricultural Development Cooperation

In their report on development cooperation Less pretention, more ambition (‘Minder pretentie, meer ambitie’), the Dutch Scientific Council for Governmental Policy (‘Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid’) concluded that policy on international development cooperation lacks an explicit and adequate intervention ethics. What the Council means is: “the question when or when not to intervene, in the light of the effects aid interventions have on the aid receivers, has not sufficiently been thought trough”.

The normative ethical theories consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics provide three entry points for the pursued intervention ethics. By focusing on the case of international agricultural development cooperation, we argue that a strictly consequentialist outlook will justify agricultural development interventions by weighing the aggregated benefits, most importantly increases in food production and household income, against the aggregated costs, most importantly as reflected in natural and financial resource use. From a strictly deontologist perspective, however, agricultural development interventions are justified when the interventions respect human dignity and fundamental freedoms of people as expressed, for instance, in the right to food, access to basic human needs and respect for personal choices. Finally, from a strictly virtue ethics position, agricultural interventions are justified when those involved in the interventions demonstrate the relevant virtues in particular situations and the interventions contribute to the formation of both personal and communal moral character of the actors involved in the agricultural intervention projects.

Considering that the Council focuses on the effects on the recipients of development aid, rather than the actors executing agricultural interventions, it is concluded that the virtue ethical outlook is off the radar of the Council. However, even more problematic is that the broader ‘high managerialist’ development cooperation sector tends to limit itself to consequentialist and deontologist evaluations  of development interventions, because those normative ethical theories can be used in a procedural manner – an ethics rendered technical (Li) – which prevents and hides the hard moral questions. This is problematic for at least three reasons. First because it reflects an ‘othering’ perspective that diverts the attention from the conditions and problems of the ‘developers’ themselves. Second and inversely because it excludes the moral sources of particular cultural traditions to enter into dialogue with those of the ‘developers’. And third because the complexity of development cooperation, which prevents a clear apprehension of to be expected effects of the development interventions on the presupposed recipients, is overlooked (Ramalingam). Hence, it will be argued, the emphasis of virtue ethics on practical wisdom(phronèsis), reflected in character, moral discernment, an awareness of responsibility and the ability to be held accountable, is needed as well to make ethically justifiable decisions. It is concluded that therefore a focus on normative practices within (agricultural) development cooperation is called for.

Key bibliographic sources:

Jochemsen, Henk. 2006. “Normative Practices as an Intermediate between Theoretical Ethics and Morality.” Philosophia Reformata 71: 96–112.

Li, Tania Murray. 2007. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.

Ramalingam, B. 2013. Aid on the Edge of Chaos. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, Paul B. 2008. The Ethics of Intensification: Agricultural Development and Cultural Change. The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics 16. Dordrecht: Springer Science + Business Media B.V.

Van Asselt, M.B.A., H.P.M. Knapen, P.A.H. Van Lieshout, H.M. Prast, J.E.J. Prins, G.H. De Vries, and P. Winsemius. 2010. “Minder Pretentie, Meer Ambitie. Ontwikkelingshulp Die Het Verschil Maakt.” WRR-rapport 84. Den Haag / Amsterdam: Wetenschappelijk Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid / Amsterdam University Press.

Van Ufford, Philip Quarles, and Ananta Kumar Giri, eds. 2003. A Moral Critique of Development: In Search of Global Responsibilities. London and New York: Routledge.

Dr. Jason W. Alvis – In Praise of Waste: Patocka and a Philosophy of Christian Sacrifice

“Waste” is what is refused by merit of its being deemed to have no value.  “To waste” is to use something carelessly, or to “use it up” without a directive, intentional purpose.  For a thing to “be wasted” is for it to be extravagant, excessive, or superfluous; “to waste away” is a temporal means of placating boredom in times of leisure. A “wasteland” is spatially regarded as a barren place, lacking in vitality; much like a devastated “ruin” that has been ravaged or neglected, after having once been the center of a civilization or culture.  “Wastes” are refuse and garbage (the remainders of carcasses for example) that are deemed worthless, to the point of being emotionally offensive to even discuss, therefore exacting a powerful affective reaction upon us.  All of these meanings of “waste” can be traced back to their Latin origination, which is two-pronged: Vastus can refer to the uncultivated, “unoccupied,” or “barren;” or the “excess” of a thing in its stupefying immensity and potentially extensive effects.  In both cases, waste is presumed to be understood, is refused or rejected by merit of its going undesired for its lack of being worthy of cultivation or acculturation, and is contrary to “the cultured,” although irreducible to “nature.” One thing seems certain after reflecting on waste” what we reject or what is wasted tells us infinitely more about our values and lives than what we affirm or claim to value. As Freud’s conception of Verneinung or “denial” has taught us: what we reject the most has, paradoxically, the most power over us.

There are, ordinarily, two responses we have to waste, and both of which share many of the same economically-oriented features.  We may attempt to cut down on waste by limiting, for example, in an environmentally friendly way, the depletion of natural resources as it is uncivilized, and leads to catastrophic ecological problems. Or, one might dismiss waste by attempting to make economic commodities more efficient.  For example, a self-described Capitalist despises waste, and runs businesses in order to produce the least amount of economic friction as possible in order to maximize profit.  In both cases, waste is determined to have very little significance or impact upon us, and we strangely end up indirectly worshiping it by merit of its exacting a subsidiary power upon us.  Perhaps even, it could be suggested that waste has become a “substitute images of the divine” to recycle the politico-theological term of Adorno.

One way of addressing this question of waste is through the topic of sacrifice. Waste, in the form of Divine Sacrifice, is indeed at the heart of Christian faith.  Although modern thought has sought to conceive a harmonious, calculatory balance of Jesus’ salvific acts on the cross in economical terms (e.g. Jesus “paid the debt”; God the father has “forgiven my charges”), waste has been an overlooked aspect of Christian sacrifice.  Phenomenologist, Jan Patocka reflected on sacrifice beyond economy, and at the end of his Varna Lectures, claimed that “An understanding of sacrifice might basically be considered that in which Christianity differs from those religions which conceived of the divine always as a power and a force, and of a sacrifice as the activity which places this power under an obligation. Christianity, as we might perhaps think, placed at the center a radical sacrifice …and rested its cause on the maturity of the human being.” (p. 339).[1]  Sacrifice is, at its core, incalculable and therefore bewildering.  As Patocka pointed out, there is a reformational power of sacrifice (which we might suggest to entail an inherent “wasting”), which when enacted properly can act as a protest against our “technical understandings” of everyday life, and how it might teach us today how, in “our outwardly rich yet essentially impoverished age[,] to face itself.”

Thus understood, and in regards to the conference theme/focus of how “Christianity can contribute to the well-being and flourishing of our societies…” today, this paper seeks to demonstrate how it is precisely by and through the topic of waste and expenditure that Christianity can make such a social “contribution.” With its singular and an economic principle of waste found in a radical interpretation of Christ’s crucifixion, it is precisely what does not fall under the contemporary economic model of evaluation, and therefore provides a polemical, yet positively challenging means of addressing moral life today. A renewed understanding of Christian sacrifice beyond our technical and economically appropriated understandings, might provide one means of significance for our societies today.

[1]Jan Patočka, “The Dangers of Technicization in Science according to E. Husserl and the Essence of Technology as Danger according to M. Heidegger,” in Jan Patočka, Philosophy and Selected Writings, ed. and transl. E. Kohák (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 336-338.

For Patocka, today we flee from sacrifice and “into a technical understanding of being which promises to exclude this experience and for which there exists nothing like a sacrifice, only utilization of resources” (337) and “Thus sacrifice represent a persistent presence of something that does not appear in the calculations of the technological world.”

On 338, Patocka suggests that  “Those who thus sacrifice themselves do not avoid finitude, nor do they seek admiaration on that account.” i.e., they do not seek economical pay back. Patocka continues: “they have another focus. In giving themselves for something, they dedicate themselves to that of which it cannot be said that it ‘is’ something, or something objective. The sacrifice becomes meaningful as the making explicit of the authentic relation between the essential core of man and the ground of understanding which makes him human and which is radically finite, that is, which is no reason for being, no cause, no force.”