Lumer, Christoph 1956–

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Lumer, Christoph 1956–

PERSONAL: Born February 24, 1956, in Ratingen, West Germany (now Germany); son of Hans and Ruth (Steingen) Lumer; married Eleonore Frantzen (a dermatologist); children: Eleonore, Lukas. Education: University of Munster, M.A., 1980, Ph.D., 1986.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Philosophy, University of Siena, Via Roma 47, 1-53100 Siena, Italy. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Osnabriick, Osnabriick, Germany, assistant professor, 1987–93, associate professor, 1993–99, leading researcher, 2000–02; University of Siena, Siena, Italy, contract professor, 1999–2002, associate professor of philosophy, 2002–.


Practical Theory of Argumentation: Theoretical Foundations, Practical Justification, and Rules of Some Important Types of Arguments (in German), Vieweg, 1990.

Rational Altruism: A Prudential Theory of Rationality and Altruisms (in German), Universitätsverlag Rasch, 2000.

The Greenhouse: A Welfare Assessment and Some Morals, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 2003.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Research on philosophy of action, and on theory of practical rationality and desirability.

SIDELIGHTS: Christoph Lumer told CA: "I am an analytical philosopher mainly researching in practical philosophy: ethics; applied ethics, in particular environmental ethics and ethics of economics; theory of practical rationality; theories of the good life; action theory. Apart from this I have done some research in theoretical philosophy, first of all theory of argumentation.

"The starting point and motivation of my writing is practical, even political, though, namely to contribute to a morally better and happier world; that is, to improving the world's social, political, and cultural situation, in particular that of the poor and the miserable. But the standards of moral improvement, as well as what is required to fulfill them, are by no means clear. As a student, for example, having strong inclinations toward egalitarianism, I was very impressed by John Rawls's idea that egalitarian societies might not be the best option even for the people now worst off; that is, that some nonegalitarian system might be better for everybody than an egalitarian system. To find and justify the respective standards and solutions is a very demanding and methodologically unclear task.

"These considerations led to my first book, Practical Theory of Argumentation: Theoretical Foundations, Practical Justification, and Rules of Some Important Types of Arguments. In the book I developed an epistemological theory of argumentation: a theory providing general and more specific standards for valid and sound arguments that are designed in such a way as to guide the addressee to know (and not only to believe in) the truth or acceptability of the argument's thesis. In many papers I enlarged the theory expounded in the book, in particular adding a theory of practical justification.

"This theory of argumentation and justification was the methodological basis for my second book, Rational Altruism: A Prudential Theory of Rationality and Al-truisms, with which I returned to my original project. The ultimate aim of this book is to develop and justify a (welfarist) criterion of moral desirablity. But the foundational claims in this book are taken very seriously. So the—internalist—justification of that moral criterion is based on a prudential theory of rationality, which for its part is based on an empirical theory of action. Rational Altruism contains three major theories: an empirical theory of action, a theory of rational or prudential desirability, and a theory of moral desirability. The final moral criterion in the end is developed from the empirical features of our sympathetic motivation. I have called the resulting moral criterion 'utilex' because it is a synthesis of utilitarianism and leximin. It is a version of prioritarianism.

"My third book, The Greenhouse: A Welfare Assessment and Some Morals, is a first application of my moral criterion utilex, namely to climate change. Climate change may turn out to be the biggest environmental problem of this century, but many of its grave future consequences for mankind, at the time of the writing of the book, are not even seen at all by the general public and often underrated even by scientists working in the field. In the book, these consequences and some greenhouse gas abatement options are assessed from the point of view of several ethical criteria. The strongest abatement option is found to be morally optimal with great unanimity. With the help of a general theory of moral obligation the book, finally, pleads for raising the standards of greenhouse gas abatement as much as politically feasible.

"My book Rational Altruism is only a rough drawing (therefore I hesitated to publish it for eight years), though a rich and voluminous one. Having shown in the greenhouse book that the moral theory sketched in Rational Altruism does work in principle and can be applied with great profit to concrete problems, I am now taking up the work to refine the theory. The next step then will be a further application, this time to the more fundamental problem of what would be a just economic and political order."