Speaker: Fei Song (University of Hong Kong)
Title: High Risks, Rights and Permissibility
Abstract: We normally think that some risky actions are too severe to be permitted. For example, it is normally impermissible to expose someone into certain level of ionising radiation. In contrast, we may also think that some actions are permissible although they run some probability of serious harm. For example, driving a vehicle on the street without speeding is normally permissible. Morality should be able to make sense of our moral thinking regarding risk impositions. I propose and defend a prima facie right-based account of risk. The whole account is called High-risk Thesis, which contains two major claims. First, we have prima facie rights against being exposed to high-risk of harm. Second, the permissibility of a high-risky activity is governed by three principles: 1) consent principle; 2) reciprocity principle and 3) prevent disaster principle. In the presentation, I will briefly present two arguments for High-risk Thesis. First, I argue that High Risk Thesis is a better alternative to Risk Thesis, which claims that 1) we have rights against any risk impositions; and 2) it is permissible to infringe such rights if and only if the violation of right would give rise to greater benefit, which outweighs the burdens associated with the practice. Second, I will provide a rule utilitarianism defence of High-risk Thesis. The rule utilitarianism defence lies in the idea that rights against high-risk impositions can give rise to higher social expectations and incentives and thereby create greater sum of social utility. I will also very briefly clarify three principles, which govern the permissibility of highly risky activities. I argue that a highly risky action is permissible when the person who is bearing the risk consents to that risk (Consent Principle). Or it is permissible to impose high risk of harm on others if doing so is expected to prevent disasters (Prevent Disaster Principle). Or it is permissible for someone to impose high risk of harm on others if others are also allowed to impose the same risk of harm on her (Reciprocity Principle).
Postgraduates work in progress
Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD