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Maheshwari, K.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

The Morality of Risk-Impositions:

An Analysis of the Freedom-Based Approach

What is the moral status of imposing risks onto other agent(s)? Is risk-imposition as such morally significant? To answer these questions, recent theorizing in the morality of risks has focused on risk’s non-material impact. In my thesis, I focus on one set of theories that focus on impacts on an agent’s socio-political freedom. Ferretti (2015) has developed a freedom-based approach to risk-impositions that I call the Overall-Freedom-Reducing View (henceforth OF-Reducing View). She adopts an empirical or non-evaluative conception of overall-freedom, as theorized by Ian Carter (1999), to explain the relationship between risks and freedom. On the OF-Reducing View, Ferretti (2015) argues for two claims: one, that all risk-impositions are external constraints that diminish an agent’s overall-freedom at the moment the risk is imposed and two, that focusing on the negative impact of risk on an agent’s overall-freedom explains the moral significance of risk-impositions, irrespective of whether or not the risk ever actually materializes.

In my thesis, I investigate the prospects of the freedom-based approach by assessing the OF-Reducing View along two lines of inquiry: one, a theoretical inquiry for assessing whether it can capture and explain our intuitive cases of risk-imposition as freedom-affecting and two, a normative inquiry for assessing whether the it can successfully trace what it is that we generally find morally significant and problematic about risk-imposition itself. For both these inquiries, my findings are negative. I argue that the OF-Reducing View is too narrow, and fails as an account of the moral significance of risk-impositions. I go on to show that this is due to the theoretical commitments of the empirical overall-freedom account adopted by Ferretti (2015). In light of this, I propose that we can build a positive case for the freedom-based approach towards risk-impositions by adopting an evaluative freedom-based account that avoids the problems faced by the OF-Reducing View.

Last modified:12 October 2017 2.15 p.m.