Intended Uncertainty - Moral and Institutional Issues

Wolfgang Seibel, Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz / Permanent Fellow Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg, Konstanz / Academic Committee Member, Martin Buber Society, Jerusalem

Intended uncertainty is a common phenomenon. One example are birthday parties and the uncertainty about guests and gifts. Another example is the unwillingness to learn about bad news. Moreover, intended uncertainty may not be just morally acceptable but even welcome and desirable. Sometimes, the suspense of “what happens next” is the nature of the game in both a metaphorical and a literal sense. Games institutionalize uncertainty. Usually, however, institutions are designed to do the opposite which is to reduce uncertainty. To what extent that is true, what potential or real exceptions are and what the moral consequences of institutionalized uncertainty might be is subject of the talk. There are clear-cut cases of uncertainty by design that are morally unacceptable. Forced disappearance enacted by governmental agencies is a prominent example. However, one inevitable source of uncertainty is the tension between institutional integration and institutional integrity. On the one hand, institutions need to be adaptable as far as their stake-holder environment and changing values are concerned. On the other hand, institutions need to be rigid and reliable while doing justice to their purpose and mission. How to handle the latent and manifest uncertainty connected to this ambivalence is a question of both moral and professional awareness and responsibility whose discussion is part of the talk. 

28. Juni 2018

Links: Zukunftskolleg Universität Konstanz