Risk, Death and Well-Being Workshop

Duke’s Center for Law, Economics, and Public Policy will be hosting a conference on Friday, September 9, 2022.

Duke Law School
The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University


Matthew D. Adler’s book, Risk, Death, and Well-Being: The Ethical Foundations of Fatality Risk Regulation, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press (as part of the series on “Population-Level Bioethics”). This is a workshop to discuss a draft manuscript of the book.

One of the major purposes of a wide range of governmental regulation is to reduce individuals’ fatality risks. This is true, for example, of regulatory programs addressing air and water pollution, food-borne toxins and pathogens, automobile accidents, consumer product safety, workplace chemicals and accidents, transportation infrastructure, building construction, and air travel. In the U.S. government, which employs cost-benefit analysis to evaluate proposed regulations, the benefits of fatality risk reduction are by far the largest component of quantified benefits of all programs. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic impelled governments to enact many different policies designed to reduce the risk of dying from this disease.

Risk, Death, and Well-Being provides a systematic normative treatment of fatality risk regulation. In doing so, it draws upon both moral philosophy and welfare economics. The book  works within the framework of “welfarism” (welfare consequentialism)—a family of ethical views that analyze the ethical status of choices (in particular, governmental policy choices) in terms of the sum total and distribution of individual well-being. Welfarism includes utilitarianism, but is a broader category. For example, “prioritarianism,” which departs from utilitarianism by giving extra weight to the well-being of the worse off, also falls within the family of welfarist ethical views.

Much has been written about the ethics of fatality risk regulation from various non-consequentialist perspectives (e.g., deontology or contractarianism). But there does not yet exist a full philosophical analysis of this important topic from a welfarist viewpoint. Risk, Death and Well-Being aims to fill this gap.

The book manuscript workshop is open to faculty and graduate students at Duke and other universities. Participants are welcome to attend the entire workshop or individual sessions. The workshop will be held in person at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, West Duke Building on East Campus, Room 101 (Ahmadieh Family Room) and via Zoom. Both in-person and Zoom participants should register with Leanna Doty.

The preliminary schedule is available [here].

The book’s table of contents is [here].

The draft manuscript will be posted [here] for workshop participants when available. Please contact Leanna Doty for the password.

For more information about the conference, or to register, please contact Leanna Doty (leanna.doty@law.duke.edu).