Jörg Scheller, what is moral imagination?

One typical reaction to the (omni)present crises, whether virtual-financial or tangible-warlike, is the retreat to apparent certainities and seemingly proven concepts: the nation state, religion, tradition, authority. Now, there are no objections per se to conservatism. Its best, more thoughtful forms thwart the overexcited hustle and bustle of an increasingly neurotic consumerism. And yet many of the successful populist-conservative movements, whether in Warsaw, Berlin or Ankara, are not in fact conservative, but regressive and aggressive. Confronted with the complexity of a globalised, hybrid world, they lack one thing above all: moral imagination. They cannot or refuse to imagine the long-term consequences of their regressive and ignorant hullaballoo. But they could very well let themselves be inspired by conservative thinkers. The philosopher Günther Anders, who isn’t exactly the epitome of a tattooed vegan sporting a hipster beard and holding a degree in queer studies, understands moral imagination as the extension of “the volume of our imagination and feeling.” To achieve this expansion, he appeals for unconventional practices like “moral stretching exercises” and “hyperextensions of accustomed imaginative and emotional styles of performance.” Let’s hope that conservatives will rediscover Anders as their personal trainer.

Dr. Jörg Scheller (joerg.scheller@zhdk.ch) is an art researcher and head of theory in the Bachelor of Arts in Art & Media at Zurich University of the Arts.
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