Journal of Risk Research 19 (2):164-180 (2016)

Patrik Baard
University of Oslo
Social decision-making involving risks ideally results in obligations to avoid expected harms or keep them within acceptable limits. Ambitious goals aimed at avoiding or greatly reducing risks might not be feasible, forcing the acceptance of higher degrees of risk (i.e. unrealistic levels of risk reduction are revised to comport with beliefs regarding abilities). In this paper, the philosophical princi- ple ‘ought implies can’ is applied to the management of complex risks, exempli- fied by the risks associated with climate change. In its common interpretation, the principle states that we cannot expect an agent to perform something that lies beyond his or her abilities. However, it is here argued that this principle requires setting thresholds for legitimate claims of inabilities that justify the waiving of normative demands. This paper discuss three claims: (1) that caution is required before revising a risk-reducing goal that is perhaps exceedingly ambitious; (2) that claims on abilities are not only descriptive, but also value-laden; and (3) that the function of a goal has to be clarified before risk-reducing goals are revised. Risk-reducing goals that initially seem unrealistic arguably serve performance- enhancing purposes in risk management. Neglecting such goals could lead to choosing less desirable, but certainly feasible, risk-reducing goals.
Keywords ethics of risk  climate change
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,214
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Stakeholder Risk as Experienced by Non-Shareholder Stakeholders.Whitney Davis & Harry J. van Buren Iii - 2007 - Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 18:431-436.
Superintelligence as a Cause or Cure for Risks of Astronomical Suffering.Kaj Sotala & Lukas Gloor - 2017 - Informatica: An International Journal of Computing and Informatics 41 (4):389-400.
Existential Risks: Exploring a Robust Risk Reduction Strategy.Karim Jebari - 2015 - Science and Engineering Ethics 21 (3):541-554.
Risk in Science Instruction.Julia Hansen & Marcus Hammann - 2017 - Science & Education 26 (7-9):749-775.
On Bivariate Risk Premia.Christophe Courbage - 2001 - Theory and Decision 50 (1):29-34.
When the Risk of Harm Harms.Adriana Placani - 2017 - Law and Philosophy 36 (1):77-100.
Naturalness and de Minimis Risk.Per Sandin - 2005 - Environmental Ethics 27 (2):191-200.


Added to PP index

Total views
16 ( #665,863 of 2,507,595 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,871 of 2,507,595 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes