Txetxu Ausín


Professor Ausín is a Tenured Scientist at the Institute of Philosophy, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) where he belongs to the Legal and Logical Research Group (JuriLog) and coordinates the Unit of Applied Ethics. He is also a researcher at Globernance. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and he has taught in several universities. His research focuses are applied ethics (bioethics, ethics of communication, and public ethics), human rights, and deontic logic. Txetxu’s current research project deals with the scope and limits of Precautionary Principle. He is the Editor in Chief of DILEMATA, a web and an electronic journal on applied ethics, and Vice- President (Research) of the Spanish chapter of ASAP (Academics Stand Against Poverty).

Regarding the aims of this workshop, Professor Ausín asks: “How could enactive and distributed approaches to linguistics contribute to the realm of applied ethics?

Presentation Title: “Conflicts, Deliberation, and the Culture of Fear”

Abstract: Issues in Applied Ethics, as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research, enhancement, animal rights, climate change, etc., involve hard disagreements in society and, indeed, conflicts, among experts too. They are a clear example of complexity and, thus, they need public and informed deliberation, stakeholder participation, and interdisciplinarity. However, there are strong challenges to that governance process: the focus on the worst-case scenarios, the neglect of probability, and a culture of fear (the most contagious and powerful emotion). On the one hand, apparently representative anecdotes and gripping examples move rapidly from one person to another (cascades). On the other hand, an initial predisposition toward fear is likely to be aggravated after collective deliberations; within groups, a tendency toward fear breeds its own amplification and when people deliberate with one another, they typically end up accepting a more extreme version of the views with which they began (group polarization). In both cases, the availavility and salience of examples (that have social and cultural foundations, too), are widespread by mass media since many perceived “epidemics” are in reality no such thing, but instead a product of media coverage of gripping, unrepresentative incidents. At this point, it is outstanding the role of mass media as “manufacturers” of fear. A case example of this issue is the use and abuse of the Precautionary Principle, one of the most popular and widespread regulatory ideas both in ethics as in law and public policy. At least, some forms of the Precautionary Principle, are defined by a strong presumption of damage, by the reversal of the burden of proof, and by a very high standard of proof.

Professor Ausín can be contacted here: txetxu.ausin@cchs.csic.es