Starting in 2025, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will undergo a 5-year renewal and renegotiation process. Towards that end, the question of the nature of what constitutes the “human” in human development and, by extension, what “human flourishing” is requires a renewed inquiry inclusive of non-materialist philosophies and non-western cultures.
In contemporary politics, modern scientism has emerged as the dominant scientific doctrine informing policy frameworks of human flourishing. This perspective focuses on the material conditions of survival and its ontology and methodology has informed the design and formulation of the SDGs. This perspective on the human condition and its role and place in nature, however, hardly captures the complexity of human experience across the world and in different cultures.
Alternative conceptions, such as Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, the modern idealist turn in the sciences, or conceptions of a New Enlightenment, signal a change in the contemporary scientific world view. This shift posits a transition towards an ontology that is more inclusive of different cultures and philosophical world views as well as one that is more attuned to a holistic view of human nature as a subset of nature itself.
The program on the Human Condition in the 21st Century brings together a diverse team to develop a non-materialist and inter-cultural conception of human flourishing that can inform the policy agenda of the reformulation of the SDGs starting in 2025. The team will work on sub-questions such as (but not exclusive to):
- What are enduring and cross-culturally shared non-materialist conceptions of human flourishing across cultures?
- How do the reductively materialist conceptions that have so far informed the SDGs limit human flourishing?
- How to reformulate the overarching concept of human flourishing as well as the individual SDGs considering an inter-cultural, non-materialist conception of human flourishing?