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Grant number like: FB-50221-04

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Michael J. Zimmerman
University of North Carolina, Greensboro (Greensboro, NC 27412-5068)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2004 – 4/30/2005

The Morality of Risk

Consider taking a minor risk that is unfortunately realized or a grave risk that is fortunately unrealized. Should moral right and wrong be said to turn on whether the risk is taken or whether it is realized? Both answers are popular; however, the latter is unacceptable and the former, as usually elaborated, leads to paradox. The proposed project will examine why this is so and provide a version of the former answer that avoids paradox. With this account in place, the relevance of risk to moral rights, moral responsibility, and legal liability will be investigated in detail. Issues to be addressed include: how risk is to be understood; how rights, obligations, and responsibility are related, and to what extent and in what ways they are objective or subjective; under what circumstances legal liability for taking risks should be imposed; whether punishment for completed crimes should be more severe than that for attempted crimes; whether preventive detention can be morally justified. The role and relevance of luck to these issues will be closely scrutinized. Much that passes for received wisdom on these matters will be rejected and replaced.