Moral Emotions and Risk Politics

August 20, 2012 - August 22, 2012
Department of Philosophy, Delft University of Technology


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Sven Ove Hansson
Stockholm University
Rebecca Kukla
Georgetown University
George Marcus
Williams College
Jesse Prinz
City University of New York
Marjolein van Asselt
University of Maastricht


Sabine Roeser
Delft University of Technology

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Risks arising from technologies raise important ethical issues for people living in the 21st century. Although technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, ICT, and nuclear energy can improve human well-being, they may also convey risks for our well-being due to, for example, accidents and pollution. As a consequence of such side-effects, technologies can trigger emotions, including fear and indignation, which often leads to conflicts between experts and laypeople. How should we deal with such emotions in political decision making about risky technologies? Emotions have often been met with suspicion in political debates about risky technologies, because they are seen as contrary to rational decision making. Indeed emotions can cloud our understanding of quantitative information about risks. However, moral emotions such as compassion and feelings of responsibility can play an important role in order to judge ethical aspects of technological risks, such as justice, fairness and autonomy. This conference will explore the role that moral emotions can and should play in risk politics.

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