Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Technological Risk and Small Probabilities

Kristin Shrader-Frechette
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 4, No. 6 (Dec., 1985), pp. 431-445
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25071532
Page Count: 15
  • Download ($43.95)
  • Cite this Item
If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Technological Risk and Small Probabilities
Preview not available

Abstract

Many scientists, businessmen, and government regulators believe that the criteria for acceptable societal risk are too stringent. Those who subscribe to this belief often accept the view which I call "the probability-threshold position." Proponents of this stance maintain that society ought to ignore very small risks, i.e., those causing an average annual probability of fatality of less than $10^{-6}$. After examining the three major views in the risk-evaluation debate, viz., the probability-threshold position, the zero-risk position, and the weighted-risk position, I focus on the arguments for the first of these views, since it is the position which currently undergirds most public policy (especially in the U.S.) regarding acceptable risk. After analyzing Arrow's argument from decision theory, Comar's and Gibson's argument from ontology, and Starr's and Whipple's argument from epistemology, I conclude that these defenses of the probability-threshold position err in a variety of ways. Most commonly, they fail because they tacitly accept the assumption that magnitude of probability, alone, provides a sufficient condition for judging the acceptability of a given risk. In the light of these errors, I suggest that it might be more desirable for risk assessors, decision theorists, and policymakers to weight various risk-cost-benefit parameters according to alternative ethical criteria, rather than to evaluate risks solely in terms of mathematical considerations.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[431]
    [431]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
432
    432
  • Thumbnail: Page 
433
    433
  • Thumbnail: Page 
434
    434
  • Thumbnail: Page 
435
    435
  • Thumbnail: Page 
436
    436
  • Thumbnail: Page 
437
    437
  • Thumbnail: Page 
438
    438
  • Thumbnail: Page 
439
    439
  • Thumbnail: Page 
440
    440
  • Thumbnail: Page 
441
    441
  • Thumbnail: Page 
442
    442
  • Thumbnail: Page 
443
    443
  • Thumbnail: Page 
444
    444
  • Thumbnail: Page 
445
    445