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Analysing safety: epistemic uncertainty and the limits of objective safety
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.
2005 (English)In: Safety and Security Engineering / [ed] Brebbia, CA; Bucciarelli, T; Garzia, F; Guarascio, M, 2005, Vol. 82, 63-72 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Much research has been devoted to studies of safety, but the concept of safety is in itself under-theorised. Often, safety is indirectly defined through processes and classifications vital for practical safety engineering. However, without a substantial understanding of the concept, the subject matter of risk and safety research remains fuzzy. The aim of this paper is to provide a framework for such a substantial understanding, capturing what experts in risk and safety research as well as ordinary laypersons should include in the concept of safety. When safety is directly defined, it is traditionally defined as the inverse of risk: the lower the risk, the higher the safety. I argue that such a definition of safety is inadequate, since it leaves out the crucial aspect of deficiencies in knowledge. In socio-technical contexts, every evaluation of risk is an estimation, and therefore involves a certain amount of epistemic uncertainty. An analysis of safety must consider that complication. Epistemic uncertainty points to the epistemic primacy of safety. It is concluded that, strictly speaking, an objective safety concept is not attainable. Instead, an epistemic, intersubjective concept is proposed that brings us as close as possible to the ideal of an objective concept.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 82, 63-72 p.
Keyword [en]
conceptual analysis, safety, risk, uncertainty, objectivity, intersubjectivity
National Category
Civil Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43183ISI: 000232028700007ISBN: 1-84564-019-5OAI: diva2:448081
1st International Conference on Safety and Security Engineering. Rome, ITALY. JUN 13-15, 2005
QC 20111014Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-13 Last updated: 2011-10-14Bibliographically approved

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