Published on 20.04.2023


As a philosopher and ethicist, Prof. Dr. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer is a welcome guest in public debates, precisely because he deals primarily with challenges related to the environment. In the fourth part of the Alma & Georges series on the freedom of speech of scientists, he explains how far he goes to bring his personal views into the general discourse.

Generally speaking, is any truth worth speaking?
That depends on the context. For strategic reasons, it sometimes makes more sense to be friendly than to accuse someone of not understanding the subject matter to their face. Sometimes, however, it is essential to state something unequivocally if you want to achieve your goals. Such strategic reasons are one thing, moral reasons are another. Sometimes, out of respect for a person or a thing, it is better to tell the untruth than to harp on the facts. But for equally moral reasons, it can also be the opposite. One must tell the truth in order to counteract a disregard for important values. In cases of obvious discrimination, it is essential to hold the culprits accountable. Showing appropriate respect to an equal interlocutor sometimes requires ignoring trivial inaccuracies, but sometimes it requires the exact opposite.

What is your field of expertise? What do you research?
I am trained as a philosopher and ethicist dealing with applied issues in the field of environmental challenges. I specialise in questions of democracy and justice theory. I think it is crucial that in the context of environmental challenges, not only the question of our duty to take environmental and climate protection measures is addressed, but also the fair distribution of burdens in the implementation of corresponding measures.

Read the interview (in German) at