Risk, Responsibility, and Aggregate Effects


Frick, Johann. “Risk, Responsibility, and Aggregate Effects”. (Working Papers). Print.


This paper begins to explore some of the normative implications that emerge from the causal contribution model of chancy causation defended in “Chancy Causation and the Problem of Aggregate Events”. The paper focuses on one particularly interesting causal phenomenon, which I dub the “Salient Fact about Aggregate Effects”. Roughly put, this refers to the fact that in certain cases an action or event c can make a major causal contribution to the occurrence of some aggregate event E, while only making a very minor causal contribution to the occurrence of any of the constituent events e1, e2, … en which together make up E. I argue that the Salient Fact about Aggregate Effects has important implications for our thinking about many issues in ethics and public policy. My discussion focuses on three of them: (i) questions of moral responsibility and compensation for risky harms, as they arise, for instance in tort law; (ii) questions about structural injustices and individual culpability, which feature prominently in contemporary social justice discourse; (iii) questions about social responsibility for health inequalities between socioeconomic groups, as they are studied by bioethicists and epidemiologists.

Last updated on 08/12/2019