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The Precautionary Principle and Expert Disagreement

Elkin, Lee (2021) The Precautionary Principle and Expert Disagreement. Erkenntnis. ISSN 0165-0106

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Abstract

The Precautionary Principle is typically construed as a conservative decision rule aimed at preventing harm. But Martin Peterson (JME 33: 5–10, 2007; The ethics of technology: A geometric analysis of five moral principles, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017) has argued that the principle is better understood as an epistemic rule, guiding decision-makers in forming beliefs rather than choosing among possible acts. On the epistemic view, he claims there is a principle concerning expert disagreement underlying precautionary-based reasoning called the ecumenical principle: all expert views should be considered in a precautionary appraisal, not just those that are the most prominent or influential. In articulating the doxastic commitments of decision-makers under this constraint, Peterson precludes any probabilistic rule that might result in combining expert opinions. For combined or consensus prob- abilities are likely to provide decision-makers with information that is more precise than warranted. Contra Peterson, I argue that upon adopting a broader conception of probability, there is a probabilistic rule, under which expert opinions are combined, that is immune to his criticism and better represents the ecumenical principle.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Elkin, Leeljelkin3@gmail.com
Keywords: precautionary principle, expert disagreement, imprecise probability
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Depositing User: Dr. Lee Elkin
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2021 03:06
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2021 03:06
Item ID: 19603
Journal or Publication Title: Erkenntnis
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-021-00457-y
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Date: September 2021
ISSN: 0165-0106
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19603

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