Acceptable risk to future generations
London : Earthscan
Risk, society and policy series
InThe ethics of technological risk, pp. 77-91
Part of book or chapter of book
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Leerstoel Wijsgerige ethiek en politieke filosofie
The ethics of technological risk
Faced with incomplete and often contradictory information, people perceive the world through fundamentally different ‘risk filters’, which influences the way issues are defined and preferences as to how they should be handled. Therefore, scientific or objective arguments alone cannot settle disputes about the acceptability of the risks we impose on our fellow human beings. This relativistic view on acceptable risk to others is often also extended to encompass risk to future generations, with widely diverging views on such risks deemed equally valid. In this article, however, it is argued that acceptable risk to future generations cannot be interpreted as widely as acceptable risk to our contemporaries. Although people may differ widely in their attitudes towards risk, society has already institutionalized a certain general standard of conduct as being acceptable for handling risks to others, for example in tort law. Although this general standard of conduct may differ from society to society and from time to time, intergenerational justice requires future generations to be treated according to these same standards.
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