Neither Acceptable Nor Certain - Cold War Antics for 21st Century Precautionary Culture
37 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2009
Date Written: November 2, 2009
Precaution is regarded as the paradigmatic approach to uncertainty. Either proposed as a form of radical prevention or, as put forward recently, as an innovative normative procedure to handle uncertainties in advancing human activities, it nevertheless finds its source in Cold War research dealing with the uncertainties of a potential nuclear war. The work of Herman Kahn and the Club of Rome in its first report The Limits to Growth are shown to be exemplary in understanding the present 21st century discussion on precaution. Two themes specifically emerge in the discussion about precaution, which includes two examples: the shift from the scientific aim of securing objective knowledge (which we will specify in due course) towards acceptability and the exigency to manage uncertainty. Both themes are closely related. In the final analysis we will see that neither acceptability nor the management of uncertainty, respectively, is acceptable or attainable. Precaution will render nothing within the confines within which it is regarded to function.
Keywords: precautionary principle, risk management, cold war
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