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Osimani, Barbara (2013): An Epistemic Analysis of the Precautionary Principle. In: Dilemata: International Journal of Applied Ethics, Vol. 11: pp. 149-167




The paper addresses charges of risk and loss aversion as well as of irrationality directed against the precautionary principle (PP), by providing an epistemic analysis of its specific role in the safety law system. In particular, I contend that: 1) risk aversion is not a form of irrational or biased behaviour; 2) both risk and loss aversion regard the form of the utility function, whereas PP rather regards the information on which to base the decision; 3) thus PP has formally nothing to do with risk or loss aversion but rather with risk awareness; 4) PP removes a fictional construct in the legal system, according to which any hazard should be ignored and denied until it is scientifically proven; 5) the quandary originates in the tension between current methods of evidence evaluation, and the logic underlying PP which demands for a probabilistic epistemology.