The Constitutive Element of Probabilistic Agency in Risk

A Semantic Analysis of Risk, Danger, Chance, and Hazard

Henrik Merkelsen

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Defining central concepts with accuracy is crucial to any scientific discipline. A recent debate over risk definitions in this journal illustrates the far reaching consequences of divergent definitions. Aven and Renn define risk as a social construct while Rosa defines risk as an ontological fact. Both claim that their definition reflects the common usage of the word risk. Through a semantic analysis this paper points to a constitutive element of what is termed probabilistic agency in the risk concept. In this respect, risk is distinct from danger, and because Rosa’s main argument is based on the apparent synonymy between risk and danger, the premises for his risk ontology are not valid. The paper furthermore argues that Aven and Renn’s attempt to bridge between epistemology and ontology is based on a distinction between a conceptual level of risk and its practical application which is impossible to uphold if a risk definition is to be in accordance with the ordinary usage of the word. The paper concludes by arguing that risks are only real within a subjective ontology.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Risk Research
    Volume14
    Issue number7
    Pages (from-to)881-897
    ISSN1366-9877
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Keywords

    • Risk Definition
    • Risk Perception
    • Uncertainty
    • Probability
    • Ontology
    • Epistemology

    Cite this

    @article{ec6bf2713e95479bb18aeb1a7cd34da9,
    title = "The Constitutive Element of Probabilistic Agency in Risk: A Semantic Analysis of Risk, Danger, Chance, and Hazard",
    abstract = "Defining central concepts with accuracy is crucial to any scientific discipline. A recent debate over risk definitions in this journal illustrates the far reaching consequences of divergent definitions. Aven and Renn define risk as a social construct while Rosa defines risk as an ontological fact. Both claim that their definition reflects the common usage of the word risk. Through a semantic analysis this paper points to a constitutive element of what is termed probabilistic agency in the risk concept. In this respect, risk is distinct from danger, and because Rosa’s main argument is based on the apparent synonymy between risk and danger, the premises for his risk ontology are not valid. The paper furthermore argues that Aven and Renn’s attempt to bridge between epistemology and ontology is based on a distinction between a conceptual level of risk and its practical application which is impossible to uphold if a risk definition is to be in accordance with the ordinary usage of the word. The paper concludes by arguing that risks are only real within a subjective ontology.",
    keywords = "Risk Definition, Risk Perception, Uncertainty, Probability, Ontology, Epistemology",
    author = "Henrik Merkelsen",
    year = "2011",
    doi = "10.1080/13669877.2011.571781",
    language = "English",
    volume = "14",
    pages = "881--897",
    journal = "Journal of Risk Research",
    issn = "1366-9877",
    publisher = "Routledge",
    number = "7",

    }

    The Constitutive Element of Probabilistic Agency in Risk : A Semantic Analysis of Risk, Danger, Chance, and Hazard. / Merkelsen, Henrik.

    In: Journal of Risk Research, Vol. 14, No. 7, 2011, p. 881-897.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - The Constitutive Element of Probabilistic Agency in Risk

    T2 - A Semantic Analysis of Risk, Danger, Chance, and Hazard

    AU - Merkelsen, Henrik

    PY - 2011

    Y1 - 2011

    N2 - Defining central concepts with accuracy is crucial to any scientific discipline. A recent debate over risk definitions in this journal illustrates the far reaching consequences of divergent definitions. Aven and Renn define risk as a social construct while Rosa defines risk as an ontological fact. Both claim that their definition reflects the common usage of the word risk. Through a semantic analysis this paper points to a constitutive element of what is termed probabilistic agency in the risk concept. In this respect, risk is distinct from danger, and because Rosa’s main argument is based on the apparent synonymy between risk and danger, the premises for his risk ontology are not valid. The paper furthermore argues that Aven and Renn’s attempt to bridge between epistemology and ontology is based on a distinction between a conceptual level of risk and its practical application which is impossible to uphold if a risk definition is to be in accordance with the ordinary usage of the word. The paper concludes by arguing that risks are only real within a subjective ontology.

    AB - Defining central concepts with accuracy is crucial to any scientific discipline. A recent debate over risk definitions in this journal illustrates the far reaching consequences of divergent definitions. Aven and Renn define risk as a social construct while Rosa defines risk as an ontological fact. Both claim that their definition reflects the common usage of the word risk. Through a semantic analysis this paper points to a constitutive element of what is termed probabilistic agency in the risk concept. In this respect, risk is distinct from danger, and because Rosa’s main argument is based on the apparent synonymy between risk and danger, the premises for his risk ontology are not valid. The paper furthermore argues that Aven and Renn’s attempt to bridge between epistemology and ontology is based on a distinction between a conceptual level of risk and its practical application which is impossible to uphold if a risk definition is to be in accordance with the ordinary usage of the word. The paper concludes by arguing that risks are only real within a subjective ontology.

    KW - Risk Definition

    KW - Risk Perception

    KW - Uncertainty

    KW - Probability

    KW - Ontology

    KW - Epistemology

    U2 - 10.1080/13669877.2011.571781

    DO - 10.1080/13669877.2011.571781

    M3 - Journal article

    VL - 14

    SP - 881

    EP - 897

    JO - Journal of Risk Research

    JF - Journal of Risk Research

    SN - 1366-9877

    IS - 7

    ER -