Risk Emotions and Risk Judgments: Passive Bodily Experience and Active Moral Reasoning in Judgmental Constellations.

Mark Coeckelbergh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Experts typically accuse lay people of “emotional” responses to technological risk as opposed to their own “rational” judgment. This attitude is in tune with risk perception research that qualifies lay people’s responses in terms of bias. By contrast, cognitivists argue that emotions are judgments or that they are assessable as rational or irrational. But this does not account for the “raw”, bodily and passive aspect of emotional experience. A Jamesian view of emotions as bodily changes may deliver that, but at the cost of downplaying the role of practical rationality. In this paper I develop an account that neither conflates emotions with judgment nor separates them entirely. I argue that emotions can be at the same time passive and overwhelming and rationally connected to our beliefs, concerns, and commitments within a judgmental constellation. This view takes seriously people’s so-called “gut reactions” to technological risk as being potentially rationally related to, but not identical to, judgmental elements. It recognizes the possibility of actively changing our attitude to risk if we judge that there are good reasons to do so, but appreciates that if sometimes technological risk strikes us with fear and horror, that experience teaches us much about what we judge to be important.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotions and Risky Technologies.
EditorsSabine Roeser
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)978-481-8646-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameThe international library of ethics, law and technology
ISSN (Print)1875-0044


  • METIS-269282
  • IR-76142

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