Knowing and acting: The precautionary and proactionary principles in relation to policy making, J. Britt Holbrook and Adam Briggle

This is a preprint of a paper I’m working on with my colleague Adam Briggle. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

Author Information: J. Britt Holbrook, Britt.Holbrook@unt.edu, and Adam Briggle, Adam.Briggle@unt.edu, University of North Texas

Holbrook, J. Britt and Adam Briggle. 2013. “Knowing and acting: The precautionary and proactionary principles in relation to policy making.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (5): 15-37.

The PDF of the pre-print gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-KQ


This essay explores the relationship between knowledge (in the form of scientific risk assessment) and action (in the form of technological innovation) as they come together in policy, which itself is both a kind of knowing and acting. It first illustrates the dilemma of timely action in the face of uncertain unintended consequences. It then introduces the precautionary and proactionary principles as different alignments of knowledge and action within the policymaking process. The essay next considers a cynical and a hopeful reading of the role of these principles in public policy debates. We argue…

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