Energy Ethics


Course Description

This seminar will focus on the ethical implications of our sociotechnical energy systems and especially of the current energy transitions from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable sources. The structural transformations of large and complex sociotechnical energy systems require a joint effort across the disciplines as well as a shared commitment among politics, societies, and individuals. The energy transition is currently witnessing an increasing exchange of knowledge and competences through so-called interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. Besides the fundamental work of natural scientists, engineers and policymakers, there is a growing awareness that these transformations deal also with fundamental ethical questions concerning, for instance, issues of justice, fairness and responsibility. These ethical issues, currently covered by perspectives that are primarily descriptive and empirical, call for additional normative points of views. At least in academia, moral philosophy is one of the main disciplines that deal with normative questions and argumentation. In the course of the seminar, we will explore key issues that could or should define the emerging field of such a normative energy ethics. We will read texts that might be regarded as foundational writings for this emerging field and watch films / documentaries with the general aim of providing ethical analyzes and stimulating moral reflections. Work in groups and active participation through class discussions will be encouraged. 

Expectations (required coursework)

For 1 ECTS, attendance of classes, active participation

For 2 ECTS, the previous plus small assignments (e.g., answer questions, brief reflection)

For 3 ECTS, in addition, writing a short but solid research paper/reflection a topic of your choice that relates to the content of the seminar


Good proficiency in the English language is advisable.

Required Materials (literature list):

All texts and content material will be provided by the instructor through the KIT-ILIAS platform and / or email throughout the term.

Learning Goals

At the end of the seminar, you will

-   get a general understanding of philosophical research especially regarding applied ethics

-   gain an overview of different approaches in normative energy ethics

-   be able to read, analyze, and understand philosophical texts

-   be able to discuss philosophical texts with peers and partake in enriching and reflective collective deliberation


Dr. Giovanni Frigo is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Philosophy of Engineering, Technology Assessment & Science (PhilETAS) Research Group at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Born and raised in the Italian Alps, he studied at the University of Verona, Italy, and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. In 2018 he received his PhD in environmental ethics from the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, TX, USA. His interdisciplinary research focuses on the fundamental links between ethics and energy.

Language of instructionEnglish
Organisational issues

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