Emotions & Technological Risks; Emotions as a Normative Guide in Judging the Moral Acceptability of Technological Risks

This project will argue that we need emotions in order to make a rational decision as to the moral acceptability of technological risks.

The issue of technological risks directly gives rise to ethical issues. Risky technological projects might affect the wellbeing of others. When is it justified to impose dangers on others? And how should we judge whether a risk is morally acceptable or not?

Empirical research has shown that people rely on emotions in making judgments concerning risks (Slovic 1999, Finucane et.al. 2000). Examples of technological risks that spark heated and emotional debates are cloning, GM-foods, and nuclear energy. Many people are afraid of the possible unwanted consequences of such technologies. However, this does not as yet answer the following normative question and the main question of this project: do we need emotions in order to be able to judge whether a risk is morally acceptable? This question has direct practical implications: should engineers, scientists and policy makers involved in developing risk regulation take the emotions of the public seriously or not?

In answer to these questions, rationalist philosophers would argue that the emotions of the public should be ignored because they are irrational. On the other hand, Humeans would argue that even though emotions are irrational, they should be a part of the decision making process. In contrast to both of these approaches, this project will start from a cognitive theory of emotions according to which emotions are necessary to make a rational practical decision (cf. Damasio 1994). This project will argue that emotions are an indispensable normative guide in judging the moral acceptability of technological risks.

More information

Funding

VENI-grant for innovational research (nr. 275-20-007) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

Related Scientific publications (selection)

forthcoming

  • Roeser, S. (2010), "Intuïties, emoties en onderbuikgevoelens: naar een andere interpretatie van neuroethiek", Tijdschrift voor toegepaste Arbowetenschap.
  • Roeser, S., "Emotional Engineers: Toward Morally Responsible Engineering", Journal of Science and Engineering Ethics (forthcoming) available online

2012

  • Taebi, B., S. Roeser and I. Van de Poel. 2012. The ethics of nuclear power: social experiments, intergenerational justice, and emotions. Energy Policy (51): 202-206. available online

2011

  • Nihlen Fahlquist, J. and Roeser, S. 2011. Ethical Problems with Information on Infant Feeding in Developed Countries Public Health Ethics 4(2). DOI: 10.1093/phe/phr019.

2010

  • Roeser, S. (2010), "Morele emoties en risico-politiek" ("Moral Emotions and Risk Politics"), Wijsgerig Perspectief 50
  • Roeser, S. (2010), "Introduction", Roeser, S. (ed.) (2009), Emotions and Risky Technologies, Springer
  • Roeser, S. (2010), De rol van emoties in politieke deliberatie en communicatie over risico's(The role of emotions in political deliberation and communication about risks), Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 2, 137-147
  • Roeser, Sabine. (2010), ‘Emotional Reflection about Risks’, Roeser, S. (ed.) (2010), Emotions and Risky Technologies, Springer
  • Roeser, Sabine. (2010), ‘Introduction: Thomas Reid’s Moral Philosophy’, in S. Roeser (ed.), Reid on Ethics, Series Philosophers in Depth, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-22
  • Roeser, Sabine. (2010), Intuitions, Emotions and Gut Feelings in Decisions about Risks: Towards a Different Interpretation of Neuroethics, The Journal of Risk Research 13, pp. 175 -190 available online
  • Roeser, Sabine. (ed.) (2010), Emotions and Risky Technologies, Springer
  • Roeser, Sabine. (ed.) (2010), Reid on Ethics, Series Philosophers in Depth, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

2009

  • Asveld, L. and Roeser, S. 2009. The Ethics of Technological Risk. London: Earthscan available online
  • Doorn, N. 2009. "Lotte Asveld and Sabine Roeser (Eds), the Ethics of Technological Risk." Science and Engineering Ethics 15/2: 259-261. available online
  • Roeser, Sabine, and Lotte Asveld. 2009. The Ethics of Technological Risk: Introduction and Overview. In The Ethics of Technological Risk, edited by L. Asveld and S. Roeser. London: Earthscan.
  • Roeser, Sabine. (2009), "Esthetisch duurzame architectuur: esthetica als "risicofactor" en emoties als gids", ArchitectuurNL 8-2009, pp. 12-14
  • Roeser, Sabine. 2009. Emotionele reflectie over risico's in de kennissamenleving. In Gevoel voor kennis; Jaarboek Kennissamenleving, edited by W. Pieters, M. Popkema, B. Broekhans, A. Dijkstra, K. Boersma and G. Alberts. Amsterdam: Aksant: 121-138.
  • Roeser, Sabine. 2009. Reid and Moral Emotions. Journal of Scottish Philosophy, 7:177-192. available online
  • Roeser, Sabine. 2009. Roeser reageert. (Reply to Igor Mayer et al). In Gevoel voor kennis; Jaarboek Kennissamenleving, edited by W. Pieters, M. Popkema, B. Broekhans, A. Dijkstra, K. Boersma and G. Alberts. Amsterdam: Aksant.
  • Roeser, Sabine. 2009. The Relation between Cognition and Affect in Moral Judgments about Risk. In The Ethics of Technological Risk, edited by L. Asveld and S. Roeser. London: Earthscan.

2007

  • Roeser, S. 2007. Ethical Intuitions About Risks. Safety Science Monitor 11 (3):1-13. click to open pdf

2006

  • Roeser, S. 2006. The Role of Emotions in Judging the Moral Acceptability of Risks. Safety Science Monitor 44 (8):689-700.

2005

  • Roeser, S. 2005. Emoties, Rationaliteit en Risico's. Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte, 146-153.
  • Roeser, S. 2005. Risk and Emotion. In Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics, edited by C. Mitcham. New York: Macmillan Reference. available online

Related Professional/Popular publications

2009

  • Roeser, Sabine. 2009. Technologische risico’s, ethiek en emoties. NPT Procestechnologie, June 2009, 26-27.

2007

  • Roeser, S. 2007. De Relatie tussen Cognitie en Affect in Morele Oordelen over Risico’s. Tijdschrift voor Toegepaste Arbowetenschappen, 27-37.
  • Roeser, S. 2007. Morele Intuïties over Risico’s. Tijdschrift voor Veiligheid, 35-50.

2006

  • Roeser, S. 2006. De Rol van Ethiek en Emoties in de Techniek. In Gedenkboek Op Herhaling. Delft: Technische Universiteit Delft.

Status

  • Past project

Researchers

Research Theme

Research Area