Convenors: Matthew Rendall & Dominic Roser

Many discussions in moral and political philosophy proceed as if we had certain knowledge about the consequences and other features of our actions and policies. However, there are difficult questions to answer about how to act under conditions of risk and uncertainty. In this workshop, we are particularly interested in topics such as:

  • What are alternatives to the decision-theoretic approach to risk and uncertainty? (How can libertarians, sufficientarians, contractualists, etc. deal with risk and uncertainty?)
  • What are philosophically satisfactory specifications of the precautionary principle, if any exist at all?
  • Do we need specific principles for very particular kinds of risks, such as potentially catastrophic climate change?
  • Leading theories of justice entail the problem of decision under risk and uncertainty (e.g., Rawls) and the ethics of risk imposition (e.g., Nozick). What can we learn for political philosophy from an examination of such decisions?
  • Can we justifiably impose risks when we know that some people will inevitably die, but we don’t yet know who? Can foreseeable deaths be outweighed by aggregate benefits to society?
  • Are some risks—such as particle accelerators destroying the earth—so small that we can ignore them, however catastrophic they may be?

Such questions have engaged the interest of a wide range of contemporary theorists.

The themes of this workshop are likely to be of interest to participants in the workshop on Green Political Theory, and vice versa.