A Panorama of the Philosophy of Risk

  • Sven Ove Hansson


The role of philosophy in the development of the risk sciences has been rather limited. This is unfortunate since there are many problems in the analysis and management of risk that philosophers can contribute to solving. Several of the central terms, including “risk” itself, are still in need of terminological clarification. Much of the argumentation in risk issues is unclear and in need of argumentation analysis. There is also still a need to uncover implicit or “hidden” values in allegedly value-free risk assessments. Eight philosophical perspectives in risk theory are outlined: From the viewpoint of epistemology, risk issues have brought forth problems of trust in expertise and division of epistemological labor. In decision theory, the decision-maker’s degree of control over risks is often problematic and difficult to model. In the philosophy of probability, posterior revisions of risk estimates (in so-called hindsight bias) pose a challenge to the standard model of probabilistic reasoning. In the philosophy of science, issues of risk give us reason to investigate what influence the practical uses of knowledge can legitimately have on the scientific process. In the philosophy of technology, the nature of safety engineering principles and their relationship to risk assessment need to be investigated. In ethics, the most pressing problem is how standard ethical theories can be extended or adjusted to cope with the ethics of risk taking. In the philosophy of economics, the comparison and aggregation of risks falling to different persons give rise to new foundational problems for the theory of welfare. In political philosophy, issues such as trust and consent that have been discussed in connection with risk give us reason to reconsider central issues in the theory of democracy.


Safety Factor Moral Theory Precautionary Principle Contract Theory Safety Engineering 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of PhilosophyRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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