Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research

Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research

The transdisciplinary research approach of the institute features the following three central aspects:

  • a consequent concentration on challenges and problems that are relevant for sustainability
  • a theoretically and methodologically sound access to these challenges; as well as
  • the design of collaborative learning processes with an intensive mutual exchange between scientists of different disciplines and actors from politics, economics, and civil society.

Along these aspects, transdisciplinary sustainability research becomes an interplay between concrete transdisciplinary research projects (case studies) with the goal of making a contribution to dealing with relevant questions in sustainability and of the reflection of these projects with regards to the (further) development of theories and methods as well as goal-oriented process design.

In the center of transdisciplinary sustainability research lies the design and the enhancement of different interfaces, among others, the ones between human, nature, and technical sciences; between science and society; between qualitative and quantitative research, as well as between different human and environmental systems.

Sustainability Ethics

Also part of the institute’s transdisciplinary approach is ethics as a discipline. In this context, ethics is understood as a science that assists on the way rather than shows the way. This means that the ethicist gets familiar with thinking in the respective discipline of reference (economics, politics, human sciences, medical, and biological science) whilst trying to give an answer to Kant’s fundamental question: “What ought I to do?” Thereby he reaches a level that allows him the evaluation of oftenly formulated “practical constraints” within the scope of ethical dilemmas.


Yet, the function of ethics must not be to propagate „better“ ways of governing, curing, or managing businesses. Ethical dilemmas distinguish themselves by mostly not fitting into a description scheme of simple black and white contrasts, they are rather part of the gray area. A major concern that the institute’s research and teaching activities of ethics are dedicated to is to structure ethical questions and to consider moral action in the age of globalization. A special focus of this discipline lies on working on the definition of sustainability and on the question of how to find a proper way of using this key term of civil society of the 21st century.