Seminar Philosophical perspectives for the Anthropocene 2023

Organized by Vincent Lam and Georg Brun

Mondays, 16:15-18:00, Room F-121, Unitobler, Lerchenweg 36 (in-person only)

Program (PDF)

2023-09-25 Introductory meeting

2023-10-02 Keith Smith (ETHZ): Operationalising complexity of societal tipping processes towards sustainability: Criticality and critical agency


Rapid societal transformations are necessary to mitigate risky anthropogenic climate change and maintain human systems within Earth’s planetary boundaries for continued sustainable development. Recently, societal tipping processes have received increasing focus as a potential transformation mechanism. Yet, generalisable solutions towards intentionally transforming societal systems remain elusive. We argue for shifted focus away from individual social tipping points and interventions and towards uncovering the systemic conditions enabling tipping from a complex adaptive systems perspective. In this perspective, we introduce two concepts to advance the emerging field of social tipping points research: criticality, the likelihood that a system will experience tipping processes, and critical agency, human capacity to intentionally arrange conditions towards shifting systemic criticality. Criticality is a necessary condition for societal transformation, and can serve as a crucial compass for policy makers, entrepreneurs, and activists, illuminating how critical agency can be used to instigate desired ‘positive’ societal tipping.

2023-10-09 Julia Steinberger (UNIL): Living Well Within Planetary Limits, and Preparing Post-Growth Economies


The Living Well Within Limits project investigates the energy requirements of well-being, from quantitative, participatory and provisioning systems perspectives. In this presentation, I will communicate individual and cross-cutting findings from the project, and their implications. In particular, I will share our most recent results on the international distribution of energy footprints by country, consumption category, and income classes, as well as modelling the minimum energy demand that would provide decent living standards for everyone on earth by 2050. I will show that achieving low-carbon well-being, both from the beneficiary (“consumer”) and supply-chain (producer) sides, involves strong distributional and political elements. Political economy research is thus necessary to diagnose reasons for poor outcomes, and identify the most promising avenues for positive change. I thus argue for the active (as in activist) engagement of the research community.

2023-11-20 Kari De Pryck (UNIGE): The global science-diplomacy interface as trading zones. The case of the IPCC AR6

2023-11-27 Christian Arnsperger (UNIL): The Existentialist Anthropocene: Looking at Climate Change Blindness through the Lens of the Fear of Finitude, Fragility and Mortality

2023-12-04 Alexandre le Tiec (CNRS, Paris): Questioning Modernity in the Anthropocene

2023-12-11 Anne van Valkengoed (Groningen): Climate Anxiety: Mental Health Threat or an Outbreak of Sanity?