With COVID-19 comes a heightened sense of everyday risk. How should a society manage, distribute, and conceive of it?
As we cope with the lengthening effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, considerations of everyday risk have been more pressing, and inescapable. In the past, everyone engaged in some degree of risky behaviour, from mundane realities like taking a shower or getting into a car to purposely thrill-seeking activities like rock-climbing or BASE jumping. Many activities that seemed high-risk, such as flying, were claimed basically safe. But risk was, and always has been, a fact of life. With new focus on the risks of even leaving the safety of our homes, it’s time for a deeper consideration of risk itself. How do we manage and distribute risks? How do we predict uncertain outcomes? If risk can never be completely eliminated, can it perhaps be controlled? At the heart of these questions—which govern everything from waking up each day to the abstract mathematics of actuarial science—lie philosophical issues of life, death, and danger. Mortality is the event-horizon of daily risk. How should we conceive of it?
About the author
Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of eleven books of political and cultural theory, including most recently, Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City (2008) and Opening Gambits: Essays on Art and Philosophy (2008). He is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism.
Patrick Turmel is an assistant professor of philosophy at Université Laval. His main research interests are in moral and political philosophy. He has published articles in ethics and on issues pertaining to cities and justice. He is also co-editor of Penser les institutions (Presses de l’Université Laval).
Praise for On Risk
"Kingwell offers a slender, thoughtful, sometimes meandering disquisition on risk that “is inflected (or infected) by the virus, but not precisely about the virus—except as it grants new urgency to old questions of risk and politics. A host of cultural allusions—from Shakespeare to the Simpsons, Isaiah Berlin to Irving Berlin, Voltaire, Pascal, and Derrida—along with salient academic studies inspire Kingwell to examine the many contradictory ways that humans handle risk ... An entertaining gloss on an enduring conundrum."—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Mark Kingwell
“Kingwell is dauntingly well-read … a gifted noticer … a lively writer [who] cites The Simpsons as often as Immanuel Kant. [Readers] are rewarded with neat, unexpected insights.” —Globe & Mail
“[Kingwell] has grown into a pretty clever jack-of-almost-everything.”—National Post
“Mark Kingwell is a beautiful writer, a lucid thinker and a patient teacher … His insights are intellectual anchors in a fast-changing world.”—Naomi Klein
Other titles by Mark Kingwell
Robots, Rights, and the Politics of Posthumanism
The Adventurer's Glossary
The Ethics of Architecture
Wish I Were Here
Boredom and the Interface
The Best Canadian Essays 2018
Why Baseball Matters
Measure Yourself Against the Earth
The Man with Six Senses
Essays on Democracy, Civility and the Human Imagination