Ethical theory and the philosophy of risk: first thoughts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Contemporary psychological research has shown that if we are judged by the standards of classical models of rationality our decision-making abilities can be seriously questioned. We are more or less irrational. The article investigates how this 'fact of irrationality' affects the way normative ethical theories should be formulated and the extent to which currently dominant ethical theories can be taken seriously as normative ideals of actual human decision-making. It is argued that these theories tend to presuppose a too unified and rationalistic account of human agency and that there is reason to turn attention instead to a level of ethical theorizing that lies between traditional ethical theory and applied ethics. It is also argued that given such an approach, matters of risk and uncertainty should be more directly integrated into basic ethical theorizing than what is traditionally the case.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Medical Ethics


  • uncertainty, risk, decision-making, irrationality, ethics, middle theory
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-161
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch