Serendipity, Luck and Collective Responsibility in Medical Innovation: The History of Vaccination

M. Sand, Luca Chiapperino

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific

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Martin Sand and Luca Chiapperino find in the concept of serendipity a versatile umbrella term to reassess their previous work on moral luck and collective responsibility. Moral luck supposedly occurs when someone receives praise or blame for things beyond control. Given the ubiquity of luck, this seems to be a seriously disquieting aspect of ordinary morality. The rewards and recognition for serendipitous discoveries fall into exactly this category. That is: more than the intentions, actions, and characters of scientists matters for discoveries to obtain, just as in cases of moral luck, something beyond morality affects our moral judgments. Even if a theoretical way of resolving the conceptual ambiguities that underlie this debate were found, there remain practical questions of how to perform stratification in science and innovation in ways that both hinge on, and yet refrain from, considerations of desert and achievement. With the example of Edward Jenner’s luck- and serendipity-infused discovery of vaccination, the authors attempt to better understand the intricate value trade-offs that underlie stratification policies in science, which have to be constantly re-negotiated to maintain their legitimacy. Thereby, Sand and Ciapperino aim to strike a bold step towards understanding the ethics of serendipity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSerendipity Science: An Emerging Field and its Methods
PublisherSpringer Nature
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-33528-0
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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