An emotional deliberation approach to risk

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Emotions are often met with suspicion in political debates about risky technologies, because they are seen as contrary to rational decision making. However, recent emotion research rejects such a dichotomous view of reason and emotion, by seeing emotions as an important source of moral insight. Moral emotions such as compassion and feelings of responsibility and justice can play an important role in judging ethical aspects of technological risks, such as justice, fairness, and autonomy. This article discusses how this idea can be integrated into approaches for political decision making about risk. The article starts with an analysis of the dichotomous view of reason and emotion in risk theory, in approaches to participatory risk assessment as well as in relevant approaches to political philosophy. This article then presents alternative approaches in political philosophy and political theory that do explicitly endorse the importance of emotions. Based on these insights, a procedural approach for policy making is presented, in which emotional responses to technological risks, and the ethical concerns that lie behind them, are taken seriously. This approach allows for morally better political decisions about risky technologies and a better understanding between experts and laypeople.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-297
Number of pages24
JournalScience, Technology & Human Values
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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