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Available Future? Peace Ethics Reflections from the Perspective of Just Peace and Prudence. By Franz-Josef Overbeck

In his essay, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck examines the extent to which the methods of strategic foresight can be made to serve a worthwhile vision of the future, namely a “just peace”. He starts out by presenting the essential elements of modern foresight tools, which are a “systematic way of dealing with uncertainty”: the determination of driving forces, the revealing of latent structures and entrenched attitudes, the illustration of various possible developments, taking breaks and discontinuities into consideration, and the identification of scope for action and influence. Nevertheless, the author argues, strategic foresight is ethically neutral, since it can serve any goal.

This “shortcoming” of foresight raises a fundamental problem: is it at all compatible with the concept of just peace, which is committed to non-violence and the prevention of violence, and which calls for a comprehensive political crisis management system that is guided by these criteria?

Bishop Overbeck finds the solution in the concept of prudence (prudentia) from the Aristotelian and Christian ethics of virtue. To act prudently in this sense is to consider aspects which also feature in foresight processes – such as thinking in terms of various options, and including principles of all different kinds, including contrary ones. But in its orientation to “what is useful [...] in the long term” and to the standard of the good, prudentia at the same time implies something more than this: it is prudentia which enables an ethically desirable application of foresight tools and measures derived from them. In the context of successful crisis prevention, the author translates this into three concrete demands: that we should consider the history of conflicts, focus on the people concerned – especially their religious background – and show tolerance and respect toward their traditions.

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