Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2020)

Authors
Tanja Rechnitzer
Universität Hannover
Abstract
The basic idea underlying a precautionary principle is often summarized as “better safe than sorry.” Even if it is uncertain whether an activity will lead to harm, for example, to the environment or to human health, measures should be taken to prevent harm. This demand is partly motivated by the consequences of regulatory practices of the past. Often, chances of harm were disregarded because there was no scientific proof of a causal connection between an activity or substance and chances of harm, for example, between asbestos and lung diseases. When this connection was finally established, it was often too late to prevent severe damage. However, it is highly controversial how the vague intuition behind “better safe than sorry” should be understood as a principle. As a consequence, we find a multitude of interpretations ranging from decision rules over epistemic principles to procedural frameworks. To acknowledge this diversity, it makes sense to speak of precautionary principles (PPs) in the plural. PPs are not without critices. For example, it has been argued that they are paralyzing, unscientific, or promote a culture of irrational fear. This article systematizes the different interpretations of PPs according to their functions, gives an overview about the main lines of argument in favor of PPs, and outlines the most frequent and important objections made to them.
Keywords Precaution  Decisions under uncertainty  Rational choice  Ethics of Risk  Decision rules
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
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: 65,636
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

Is the Precautionary Principle a Midlevel Principle?Per Sandin & Martin Peterson - 2019 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 22 (1):34-48.
Toward Understanding Aspects of the Precautionary Principle.Carl F. Cranor - 2004 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (3):259 – 279.
The Precautionary Principle and the Concept of Precaution.Per Sandin - 2004 - Environmental Values 13 (4):461 - 475.
Extrapolation, Uncertainty Factors, and the Precautionary Principle.Daniel Steel - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (3):356-364.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2020-03-26

Total views
22 ( #500,349 of 2,462,267 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
9 ( #78,486 of 2,462,267 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes