Most discussions of risk are developed in broadly consequentialist terms, focusing on the outcomes of risks as such. This paper will provide an alternative account of risk from a virtue ethical perspective, shifting the focus to the decision to take the risk. Making ethical decisions about risk is, we will argue, not fundamentally about the actual chain of events that the decision sets in process, but about the reasonableness of the decision to take the risk in the first place. A virtue ethical account of risk is needed because the notion of the ‘reasonableness’ of the decision to take the risk is affected by the complexity of the moral status of particular instances of risk-taking and the risk-taker’s responsiveness to these contextual features. The very idea of ‘reasonable risk’ welcomes judgments about the nature of the risk itself, raises questions about complicity, culpability and responsibility, while at its heart, involves a judgement about the justification of risk which unavoidably focuses our attention on the character of the individuals involved in risk making decisions.
Keywords: Risk; ethics; morality; responsibility; virtue; choice; reasons