InDebate: Should Elderly Former Nazis Be Prosecuted For Their Crimes?

Goldberg Foto

Zachary J. Goldberg

Recent headlines have focused on elderly former Nazis being charged over allegations concerning their actions during the Holocaust. In May 2015, Oskar Groening, the so-called Accountant of Auschwitz, was charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. Groening collected and counted the money and other valuables stolen from the prisoners arriving at the camp, and sent the money to his Nazi superiors in Berlin.[1] In July 2016 he was sentenced to four years in prison.[2] In September 2015, an elderly woman who worked as a telegraph operator at Auschwitz was charged with 260,000 counts of complicity to murder.[3] This year alone has already seen the suspended trial of Hubert Zafke, accused of 3,681 counts of murder while he was a medical attendant at Auschwitz, and the trial of Reinhold Hanning, a former camp guard at Auschwitz accused of being an accessory to 170,000 counts of murder.[4] Weiterlesen

InDebate: Soziale Ungleichheit

Vossenkuhl Foto

Wilhelm Vossenkuhl

Nach Marx hat es keinen ernst zu nehmenden Versuch mehr gegeben, um der Gleichheit willen die soziale Ungleichheit wenigstens in der Theorie abzuschaffen. Selbst der an der Idee der gleichen Gerechtigkeit orientierte John Rawls geht nicht nur vom Faktum der Ungleichheit aus, sondern will sie mit seiner Theorie der Gerechtigkeit als Fairness nur lindern, aber nicht abschaffen. Er hat sich wie die meisten Theoretiker damit abgefunden, dass es die soziale Ungleichheit gibt. Es kommt aber gewiss darauf an, wie groß sie ist, und ob sie wächst. Kürzlich ließ Oxfam verlauten, dass 99% des Reichtums weltweit lediglich einem Prozent der Menschheit gehörten. Dagegen argumentierten dann rasch einige Ökonomen – beschwichtigend –, diese Zahlen seien der Geldschwemme zu verdanken, die von einigen Notenbanken verursacht wurde, sie seien künstlich und nicht ernst zu nehmen. Weiterlesen

Schwerpunktbeitrag: Toward a New Approach in Discourse Theory of Justice and Law[1]

09. Foto Ekardt

Felix Ekardt


This article describes a new approach toward discourse ethics, defined as a discourse theory of justice or the right law respectively. It is significantly different from the classic discourse theory of Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas, to some extent also from Robert Alexy. Those differences concern (1) many aspects of demonstrating why objective or universal norms can exist at all and (2) the content of those norms, particularly of the principle of freedom including its intergenerational and global, i.e., sustainability oriented, extension. Altogether, it still seems true that discourse theory is the most promising approach toward a modern universalism and a modern law of reason. In any case, the controversy about theories of discourse rationality should bring about much clearer arguments than the conventional debate about “positivism or law of nature” (the very notion seems misleading), in favor of and against universalism. At the same time, the article criticizes some aspects of economic theories of efficiency – to be distinguished from effectiveness – which actually do not concern “another aspect besides justice” but rather describe a (wrong) ethics.

1. Terminology: Justice, Action, Normative Reason, Instrumental Reason

Under what circumstances can we call social life “just”, or the law “right”? This is the ultimate question of all thinking about politics, morals, and the law. Conceptually, the term justice is concerned with the normative validity of a society’s basic order. Thus, a normative theory of justice (or morality) answers the question: How shall humans behave or what shall the founding order look like? This must strictly be distinguished from the question of how humans factually do act and what the factual reasons for this action are (and what humans factually “deem right”) – this is a question of the descriptive action theory (or anthropology or the doctrine of the idea of man[2] – or theory of society). A link between the theory of justice and the action theory is the equally empirical governance theory or control theory, i.e., the doctrine of the choice of means to effectively and factually enforce previously defined normative aims (e.g., the right to freedom from impairments to life and health), possibly after a normative balancing with other conflicting objectives (e.g., economic freedom). Such means or instruments could be for instance taxes, voluntary commitments, regulatory law, or competition. Weiterlesen