9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Open Session III Building I, 2E4

The axioms of Precaution: Precautionary Logic and our Relation to Nature

In my paper I wish to examine the presuppositions implied in arguments to justify precautionary politics in the field of environmental regulation, life style choices and crime. Precautionary politics is based on the idea that taking preventative measures is necessary, even when there is no scientific evidence of harm.

In order to convince others of the merits of this point of view, arguments are used. Arguments have a certain structure which would render the argument true and hence the participant should be convinced with the argument if he or she is rational. The science dealing with the form of arguments is called formal logic. The classic example of a logical structure of an argument is the syllogism. It is already documented by Aristotle. The syllogism has a certain structure which allows us to deduce a true conclusion from its premises. However in order to reach true conclusions, the premises must be true as well. In medieval times the science that dealt with finding true premises was called material logic.

In this presentation I put forward the thesis that precautionary logic is a type of material logic. This means it is based on premises or presuppositions which are presumed true and are not themselves questioned. By analyzing various arguments used by proponents of precaution, I aim to unearth these presuppositions upon which precautionary arguments rest. In doing so I hope to show that an eschatological worldview often lies behind the call for precaution.