Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 231–244 | Cite as

The Luckless and the Doomed. Contractualism on Justified Risk-Imposition

  • Sune Holm


Several authors have argued that contractualism faces a dilemma when it comes to justifying risks generated by socially valuable activities. At the heart of the matter is the question of whether contractualists should adopt an ex post or an ex ante perspective when assessing whether an action or policy is justifiable to each person. In this paper I argue for the modest conclusion that ex post contractualism is a live option notwithstanding recent criticisms raised by proponents of the ex ante perspective. I then consider how an ex post contractualist can best respond to the problem that it seems to prohibit a range of intuitively permissible and socially valuable activities.


Risk Moral theory Contractualism Ex ante Ex post 



I am grateful to the members of the Research Seminar in Practical Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen for valuable discussion of the initial draft of this paper. In particular I want to thank Andreas Christiansen for his valuable comments on a written draft. Work for this paper was funded by the University of Copenhagen’s Excellence Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Section, Department of Media, Cognition, and CommunicationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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