In this article, we defend two claims about the precautionary principle. The first is that there is no ‘core’ precautionary principle that unifies all its different versions. It is more plausible to think of the different versions as being related to each other by way of family resemblances. So although precautionary principle x may have much in common with precautionary principle y, and y with z, there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions that unify all versions of the (...) principle. Our second claim is that it is sometimes appropriate to think of the precautionary principle as a midlevel principle in the sense proposed by Beauchamp and Childress in their Principles of Biomedical Ethics, i.e. as a non-rigid moral principle. We argue that if the precautionary principle is conceived as a non-rigid principle that needs to be balanced against other principles before a moral verdict can be reached, then this enables us to address some standard objections to the principle. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework that will help in understanding and evaluating, along social and ethical lines, the issue of killing day-old male chicks and two alternative directions of responsible innovations to solve this issue. The following research questions are addressed: Why is the killing of day-old chicks morally problematic? Are the proposed alternatives morally sound? To what extent do the alternatives lead to responsible innovation? The conceptual framework demonstrates clearly that there is a (...) moral “lock-in”, and why the killing of day-old chicks is indeed an issue. Furthermore, it is shown that both alternative directions address some important objections with regard to the killing of day-old chicks, but that they also raise new dilemmas. It also becomes clear that the framework enables and secures anticipation, reflection, deliberation with and responsiveness to stakeholders, the four dimensions of responsible innovation, in a structured way. (shrink)
The precautionary principle is frequently invoked in environmental law and policy, and the debate around the principle indicates that there is little agreement on what 'taking precautions' means. The purpose of the present paper is to provide an improved conceptual foundation for this debate in the form of an explication of the concept of precaution. Distinctions between precaution and two related concepts, prevention and pessimism, are briefly discussed. The concept of precaution is analysed in terms of precautionary actions. It is (...) argued that precautionary actions are implicitly assumed to be precautionary with respect to something, and that this assumption should be made explicit. A definition of a precautionary action involving three necessary and jointly sufficient conditions (intentionality, uncertainty and reasonableness) is proposed, and the implications of this analysis for the debate on the precautionary principle are discussed. (shrink)
The problem we face today is that there is a huge gap between our ethical judgments about the ecological crisis on the one hand and our ethical behavior according to these judgments on the other. In this article, we ask to what extent a phenomenology of the ecological crisis enables us to bridge this gap and display more ethical or pro-environmental behavior. To answer this question, our point of departure is the affordance theory of the American psychologist and founding father (...) of ecological psychology, James Gibson. There are two reasons for taking this approach. First of all, an ontological reading of Gibson’s affordance theory provides a concept of nature which is non-dualistic, non-anthropocentric and eco-centric, but is not seen as an ‘intrinsic value’ or product of ‘human valuation’. Secondly, the affordance ontology provides us with a concept of nature which in itself calls for certain action and behavior. If we indeed face a gap between ethical judgment and ethical behavior with regard to the current ecological crisis, an affordance of nature could bridge this gap. Based on our ontological reading of Gibson’s affordance theory, we open a radically new perspective on the current ecological crisis and the responsibility of mankind with regard to this crisis. (shrink)
This article reviews suggestions for how ethical tools are to be evaluated and argues that the concept of ethical soundness as presented by Kaiser et al. is unhelpful. Instead, it suggests that the quality of an ethical tool is determined by how well it achieves its assigned purpose. Those are different for different tools, and the article suggests a categorization of such tools into three groups. For all ethical tools, it identifies comprehensiveness and user-friendliness as crucial. For tools that have (...) reaching a decision in a democratic context as a main purpose, it identifies transparency, guiding users toward a decision and justification of the decision-supporting mechanism. For tools that aim to engage the public, it identifies procedural fairness as essential. It also notes that the scope of use for ethical tools is limited to the same moral community, and that this feature is frequently overlooked. (shrink)
While in vitro animal meat is not yet commercially available, the public has already begun to form opinions of IVM as a result of news stories and events drawing attention to its development. As such, we can discern public perceptions of the ethics of IVM before its commercial release. This affords advocates of environmentally sustainable, healthy, and just diets with a unique opportunity to reflect on the social desirability of the development of IVM. This work draws upon an analysis of (...) ethical perceptions of IVM in 814 US news blog comments related to the August 2013 tasting of the world’s first IVM hamburger. Specifically, I address three primary questions: How does the public perceive the ethics of IVM development? How acceptable is IVM to the public relative to alternative approaches to reducing animal meat consumption? and What should all of this mean for the ongoing development and promotion of IVM? Ultimately, it is argued that there is a strong need for facilitation of public dialogue around IVM, as well as further research comparing the acceptability of IVM to other alternatives. (shrink)
The ethics of corporate crisis management is a seriously underdeveloped field. Among recent proposals in the area, two contributions stand out: Seeger and Ulmer’s (2001) virtue ethics approach to crisis management ethics and Simola’s (2003) ethics of care. In the first part of the paper, I argue that both contributions are problematic: Seeger and Ulmer focus on top management and propose virtues that lack substance and are in need of further development. Simola’s proposal is also fraught with difficulty, since it (...) seems to conceive of ethics of care as a course of action that can be chosen in a crisis, something which runs contrary to the idea of caring. In the second part of the paper, I argue that Simola and Seeger and Ulmer are nevertheless on the right track, and I propose some directions for further development of the ethics of corporate crisis management. I argue that the value of codes of conduct is limited. Furthermore, I propose a way of identifying relevant virtues for corporate crisis management and discuss a problem that is prevalent in crisis management ethics (the temptation of ad hoc utilitarianism). (shrink)
Anthropocentrism—the idea that humans are the most important beings there are—comes in many guises. One version of anthropocentrism states that only humans have full moral status. Those who argue for such a position usually refer to some trait that confers moral status and that only humans have. Suggestions include linguistic ability, self-awareness or rationality. However, regardless of what trait one picks it will not track the line between Homo sapiens and other species. You will always be able to find some (...) non-human animal that possesses the trait to a greater degree than some human does— even potentially. Koplin and Wilkinson1 adopt a broadly sentientist position: moral status is conferred by some mental or cognitive function. They discuss two sources of moral uncertainty related to this. In cases of moral uncertainty of the first type, it is uncertain whether Property X confers moral status. In cases of uncertainty of the second type, we assume it to be true that moral status is conferred by X, but it is uncertain whether a particular entity possesses the property. There are reasons to believe …. (shrink)
The precautionary principle is frequently referred to in various momentous decisions affecting human health and the environment. It has been invoked in contexts as diverse as chemicals regulation, regulation of genetically modified organisms, and research into life-extending therapies. Precaution is not an unknown concept in medical contexts. One author even cites the Hippocratic Oath as a parallel to the precautionary principle.
This paper discusses the application of the supreme emergency doctrine from just-war theory to non-antagonistic threats. Two versions of the doctrine are considered: Michael Walzer’s communitarian version and Brian Orend’s prudential one. I investigate first whether the doctrines are applicable to non-antagonistic threats, and second whether they are defensible. I argue that a version of Walzer’s doctrine seems to be applicable to non-antagonistic threats, but that it is very doubtful whether the doctrine is defensible. I also argue that Orend’s version (...) of the doctrine is applicable to non-antagonistic threats, but that his account is not defensible, regardless of whether the threats are antagonistic or not. (shrink)
The philosophical method of conceptual analysis has been criticised on the grounds that empirical psychological research has cast severe doubt on whether concepts exist in the form traditionally assumed, and that conceptual analysis therefore is doomed. This objection may be termed the Charge from Psychology. After a brief characterisation of conceptual analysis, I discuss the Charge from Psychology and argue that it is misdirected.
Results of studies that cast doubt on the safety of genetically modified crops have been published since the first GM crop approval for commercial release. These ‘alarming studies’ challenge the dominant view about the adequacy of current risk assessment practice for genetically modified organisms. Subsequent debates follow a similar and recurring pattern, in which those involved cannot agree on the significance of the results and the attached consequences. The standard response from the government—a reassessment by scientific advisory bodies—seems insufficient to (...) bring the debate to a satisfactory closure. The recurrence of the same debate every time an alarming study is published shows that science alone cannot solve the problem. We believe that further analysis is needed to investigate if and how we can prevent this repetitive cycle that creates frustration amongst all stakeholders. In this paper, we analyse the dynamics behind discussions which occur following alarming studies. We will use a selection of representative alarming GMO case studies to underpin our claim that it is likely that there will be a permanent difference in view of opinion that cannot be solved with more data or new facts. The current strategy of more research is a pitfall that is unlikely to solve this issue. Instead, the focus of the GM crop discussion should shift towards managing permanent different viewpoints and providing a platform for a broader conversation on agriculture and food production. (shrink)
Opposition against greenhouse gas emissions reductions is strong among some conservative Christian groups, especially in the United States. In this paper, we identify five scripture-based arguments against greenhouse gas mitigation put forward by a core group of Christian conservatives : the anti-paganism argument, the enrichment argument, the omnipotence argument, the lack of moral relevance argument and the cost-benefit argument. We evaluate to what extent the arguments express positions that can be characterised as climate science denialist and to what degree they (...) are consistent with support for climate adaptation. Using Stefan Rahmstorf's taxonomy of climate science denial, we conclude that the Cornwallists could be labelled climate change deniers. However, their opposition is not only based on denial of climate science but often rests on premises that render the science irrelevant, a position we term 'relevance denialism'. (shrink)
Social entrepreneurship, individual activities with a social objective, is used in this study as a conceptual tool for empirically examining farmers’ participation in alternative food networks. This study verifies whether their participation is driven by the social entrepreneurship dimension to satisfy social and environmental needs. We develop a more inclusive view of how social entrepreneurship is present among farmers participating in AFNs by using a behavioural approach based on three main psychological constructs: attitude, objective, and behaviour. The empirical results show (...) that two types of farmers participate in AFNs. One type is closer to commercial entrepreneurs; the main attitudes and objectives affecting their behaviour are oriented toward profit maximization and farm progress. The second type is closer to social entrepreneurial activity; the main objectives affecting their behaviour are oriented towards satisfying social and environmental needs. The study’s results offer implications and suggest recommendations concerning social entrepreneurial practices and the motivations of the farmers who participate in AFNs. (shrink)
The ethics of firefighting is a seriously underexplored field. This is unfortunate, since firefighting raises issues of great social importance and has the potential to inform moral theorizing. In the first part of this paper, I explore possible reasons why firefighting ethics has received so little academic attention and argue that it warrants study in its own right. I do so primarily by comparing firefighting ethics to medical ethics, demonstrating their close relationship yet pointing out important differences: firefighting is less (...) professionalized than medicine, the caregiver-patient relationship is not central in firefighting, firefighters need to concern themselves with other values than life and limb, they face greater and qualitatively different risks than medical personnel, and they have to make almost every operative decision under conditions of temporal stress. In the second part of the paper, I argue that some elements from medical ethics may be adapted for use in firefighting ethics. I illustrate this by applying four mid-level principles from mainstream medical ethics to firefighting – the principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice. I argue that they are indeed applicable in firefighting ethics, but that they need modification and their relative weight is different. Respect for autonomy is of limited importance in firefighting. Non-maleficence is important, and beneficence is central. The special principle of beneficence for firefighters is best thought of as grounded in firefighters’ contractual obligations rather than in a general principle that one should help someone in peril. As regards the principle of justice, there is a case for applying a utilitarian principle of justice on the operative level and a principle of a decent minimum aid on the policy level. The latter can be brought about by comparatively simple and low-cost means, such as a volunteer fire service and subsidized fire equipment. (shrink)
The purpose of the present thesis is to apply philosophical methods to the ongoing debate of the precautionary principle, in order to illuminate this debate. The thesis consists of an Introduction and five papers. Paper I con-cerns an objection to the method of conceptual analysis, the Charge from Psychology. After a brief characterisation of conceptual analysis, I argue that the Charge from Psychology is misdirected. In Paper II, the method of conceptual analysis is applied to the concept of precaution which (...) is ana-lysed in terms of precautionary actions. The purpose is explicatory. A definition involving three necessary and jointly sufficient conditions is proposed, and the implications of this analysis for the debate on the pre-cautionary principle are discussed. Paper III attempts to provide an ana-lytical apparatus which may be used for finding improved formulations of the precautionary principle. The approach is lexicographical. Several exist-ing and possible formulations of the precautionary principle are examined, and four common elements and a common structure of the precautionary principle are identified. It is suggested that the analytical apparatus pre-sented can be used in negotiations of the precautionary principle. Paper IV questions the soundness of some arguments against the precautionary prin-ciple. Five common arguments are discussed and rejected. In Paper V, two of these arguments are further discussed. I argue that an attempt at rejec-tion of the precautionary principle delivered by John Harris and Søren Holm is unwarranted, because their arguments against it are based on in-terpretations of the precautionary principle that ignore context. Paper VI deals with the idea of de minimis risk. After a discussion of the distinction between disregarding a risk and accepting it, I examine one way of deter-mining how small a risk ought to be in order to be disregarded, namely the use of natural risk levels as benchmarks. I argue that this approach fails, even if the distinction between what is natural and what is not natural can be upheld. (shrink)
This paper argues for the following four claims: the terms “natural” and “unnatural” are ambiguous. Genetically modified food is unnatural in some senses of the term “unnatural”. Natural food should be favored over unnatural food in some senses of the terms “natural” and “unnatural”. Genetically modified food is not necessarily unnatural in a sense that would offer a good reason for favoring food that is not genetically modified. The claims are defended by distinguishing four different senses of the terms “natural” (...) and “unnatural”. Each sense is analyzed with respect to its moral relevance for food choice. (shrink)
In risk management, de minimis risk is the idea that risks that are sufficiently small, in terms of probabilities, ought to be disregarded. In the context of the distinction between disregarding a risk and accepting it, this paper examines one suggested way of determining how small risks ought to be disregarded, specifically, the natural-occurrence view of de minimis, which has been proposed by Alvin M. Weinberg, among others. It is based on the idea that “natural” background levels of risk should (...) be used as benchmarks and de minimis levels should be derived from those levels. This approach fails even if the doubtful distinction between what is natural and what is not can be upheld. (shrink)
In this article the predominant, purely theoretical perspectives on animal ethics are questioned and two important sources for empirical data in the context of animal ethics are discussed: methods of the social and methods of the natural sciences. Including these methods can lead to an empirical animal ethics approach that is far more adapted to the needs of humans and nonhuman animals and more appropriate in different circumstances than a purely theoretical concept solely premised on rational arguments. However, the potential (...) tension between lay people’s moral judgements and ethical theory must be handled with care. The thorough analysis of qualitative data can lead to a deep insight into e.g. ethical problems with the application of laws and guidelines, practicality issues with ethical theories, personal ambivalence, and cognitive biases. The interaction between animal ethics theory and empirical findings can lead to both a more context-sensitive and applicable ethical theory and a less arbitrary folk moral system. Findings from the natural sciences can also contribute valuable information to animal ethics theory—the more we know about the properties and preferences of nonhuman animals the better we can respect them. Here, however, it is vital not to justify invasive procedures for the sake of “ethical progress”. It might be ethically required to forego some scientific findings about nonhuman animals if it is not clear how much a procedure would harm them. Only with robust empirical methods will light ultimately be shed on the nature of our moral relationship with animals. (shrink)
It is commonly believed that people become selfish and turn to looting, price gouging, and other immoral behaviour in emergencies. This has been the basis for an argument justifying extraordinary measures in emergencies. It states that if emergencies are not curtailed, breakdown of moral norms threaten (‘the moral black hole’). Using the example of natural disasters, we argue that the validity of this argument in non-antagonistic situations, i.e. situations other than war and armed conflict, is highly questionable. Available evidence suggests (...) that people in such emergencies typically do not display panic reactions or exaggerated selfishness, and that phenomena such as looting and price gouging are rare. Furthermore, a version of the moral-black-hole argument based on the mere possibility of a moral black hole occurring runs into problems similar to those of Pascal’s Wager. We conclude that we should be wary against applying the moral-black-hole argument to non-antagonistic cases. (shrink)
Citizen science (CS) has been presented as a novel form of research relevant for social concerns and global challenges. CS transforms the roles of participants to being actively involved at various stages of research processes, CS projects are dynamic, and pluralism arises when many non-professional researchers take an active involvement in research. Some argue that these elements all make existing research ethical principles and regulations ill-suited for guiding responsible CS conduct. However, while many have sought to highlight such challenges from (...) CS, few have discussed principles per se providing the foundation for regulations. In this article we will investigate the possibilities of midlevel principlism in guiding responsible CS conduct. Principlism has the potential of accommodating many of the concerns taken to reduce the relevance of existing principles. (shrink)
This essay examines the public debate about the agricultural biotechnologies known as genetically modified organisms, as that debate is being carried out in its most dichotomizing forms in the United States. It attempts to reveal the power of sharply dichotomous thinking, as well as its limits. The essay draws on the work of Michel Serres, who uses the concept of the parasite to reconstruct or reframe fundamental dichotomies in western philosophy; it attempts a similar reframing of the public debates about (...) GMOs. The purpose of such a reframing is to create possibilities for dialogue among participants that will move beyond the polarization that characterizes much of the current debate in the U.S. (shrink)
For several years, the official European method for deciding whether or not shellfish were fit for human consumption was the mouse bioassay, which was eventually replaced by chemical testing. In this paper, we examine the process of this change, looking at how devices of social, technical, and organisational risk management were re-negotiated locally, nationally, and across the continent. We also show how the political decision to replace a precautionary standard with a management-vigilance device was the result of various dynamics. These (...) included unpredictable events, enhanced scientific knowledge, collective mobilisations, and multi-level statutory, commercial, and ethical orders. (shrink)
This paper begins by describing recent controversies over cross-contamination of crops in the United States and European Union. The EU and US are both applying the principle of freedom of cropping to resolve these conflicts, which is based on an individualistic philosophy. However, despite the EU and the US starting with the principle of freedom of cropping they have very dissimilar regulatory regimes for coexistence. These contradictory policies based upon the same principle are creating different sets of winners and losers. (...) In the US the organic industry claims the system of coexistence is unfair and in the EU the biotech industry claims the system is unfair. It seems that states, despites claims to neutrality and freedom of choice, are prejudicing one system of agriculture over another in resolutions to the conflict over cross contamination. In this paper I will argue that if states cannot remain neutral in coexistence policies, there are conditional reasons for favoring the organic industry over the biotech industry in coexistence policies based in communitarian moral philosophy. (shrink)
Food is sometimes labeled as ‘100% natural’ or as containing ‘all natural ingredients’. There is however controversy on how to justify, design and implement such labelling. This paper argues that since naturalness is not one single concept, but several ones, and those concepts typically allow degrees, so that things can be more or less natural, thus, this complexity should be reflected in labelling of foods. There is no obvious way of presenting an aggregate measure of a particular food item’s naturalness, (...) and therefore a graphical representation that contains several axes, with the degree of naturalness represented on each axis, is considered. Such a mode of representation might however be too complex to be practical, and a possible compromise would be to settle for a small number of labels that represent some common combinations of degrees of naturalness along the axes. (shrink)
The public can influence animal welfare law and regulation. However what constitutes ‘the public’ is not a straightforward matter. A variety of different publics have an interest in animal use and this has implications for the governance of animal welfare. This article presents an ethnographic content analysis of how the concept of a public is mobilized in animal welfare journals from 2003 to 2012. The study was undertaken to explore how experts in the discipline define and regard the role of (...) the public in determining animal welfare standards. Analysis indicates that experts in animal welfare constitute different types of citizen and consumer publics around specific types of animal use, framed by different theories of value. These results suggest a need for greater clarity about the roles and responsibilities of experts and publics in animal welfare reform processes. Clearly citizens and consumers can both contribute to promoting higher welfare standards, but an over-reliance on market mechanisms and consumer behaviour to assign value is beset by moral hazards, foremost being the risk of disarticulating the concept of animal welfare from the public good. (shrink)
Technology, in particular large-scale applications of it, offers enormous benefits. However, it also poses considerable, sometimes potentially catastrophic risks. For complex technical systems, the risks are not always reliably predictable.
In terms of output in the form of published work and attraction of resources, bioethics seems to be a more vibrant field than environmental ethics. In this commentary it is argued that bioethics is, in some respect, less humanistic than environmental ethics and that two factors––bioethics’ strong connection to a profession, and its access to an intellectual ‘killer app’––offer ways in which environmental ethicists might learn from the ‘success story’ of bioethics.
Good agricultural practices certification schemes have been promoted to enhance agricultural sustainability. This study seeks to explain the adoption of GAP certification schemes through an analysis of the role of personal values in guiding such choice. It is a departure from approaches taken in previous studies in the area. Through the laddering interview technique of means-end chain analysis, a hierarchical value map was systematically schematized to illustrate the relationship between adoption of GAP, outcomes, and personal values driving the choice. The (...) personal values identified in this study cluster under the headings of “better life”, “religious responsibility”, “healthy life”, and “responsible farmer”. Amongst these, the main evidence pointed to the desire to have “better life” through the enhanced financial position that is perceived to arise as a consequence of GAP adoption as being of primary importance. These findings suggest that, while profit is not the sole end driver of adoptive behavior, GAP certification schemes have to be seen as lucrative and to enhance the goals of achieving core personal values. Other empirical information in this study also has significant policy implications. It is a key finding of this paper that effective promotions of GAP should be tailored and targeted at specific segments of the farmer population. (shrink)
The most common argument against child pornography is that children are harmed in the process of producing it. This is the argument from abusive production. However, it does not apply to ‘virtual’ child pornography, i.e. child pornography produced using computer technology without involving real children. Autilitarian who wishes to condemn virtual child pornography cannot appeal to the argument from abusive production. I discuss three possible ways out of this: abandoning the intuition that virtual child pornography is wrong, abandoning utilitarianism, or (...) circumventing the problem. I propose a version of the third way out. (shrink)