Riscophrenia and "animal spirits": clarifying the notions of risk and uncertainty in environmental problems

Vol. 12 • Scientiae Studia

Autor: Helena Mateus Jerónimo


This article seeks to clarify the concepts of risk and uncertainty, restricting its focus to environmental problems and to three strands of reflection. Firstly, I suggest that we should apply the label riscophrenia to the tendency to envisage most environmental problems excessively in terms of probabilistic risk, erecting the concept to a core dogma of certainty based on the image it offers of (alleged) safety and control of the random. Looking at the most serious environmental problems of the twenty-first century through the prism of "animal spirits" is above all an exercise which shows that unpredictability and uncertainties are constituent elements of human existence and social life. Secondly, I argue that the assessment of uncertainty has political and normative implications. I hold that uncertainty may make it possible to invoke precautionary, not just preventive, measures, and that alternative "contextualised" research strategies, open to a variety of points of view, are possible. Lastly, I claim that the language of risk and its excessive application is generally laden with a type of ambiguity which tends not to emphasize society's current problems, and so facilitates the continuation rather than the questioning of our society's dominant technocratic and technological model.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1678-31662014000400004

Texto Completo: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1678-31662014000500004&lng=pt&nrm=iso&tlng=en

Palavras-Chave: Risk,Riscophrenia,Uncertainties, "Animal spir

Scientiae Studia

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