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Risk Taking Essay

895 words - 4 pages

     In our lives, it is important to exercise self-command. However,

we should not be so concerned with the future that we stifle the present.

The question becomes what balance should we strike between self-command

and risks? What kinds of risks are acceptable or unacceptable? In this

essay, we will use two examples of risks to show the distinction between

the two and arrive at a conclusion as to the balance one should have

between risk and self command. The first example we will use is of a

person who spends his life savings on a lottery ticket and does not win

the lottery. The second is of a person who spends his life savings on a

hunch regarding a cure for AIDS, a hunch that is false. Before we make

this distinction, however, it is necessary to define the terms acceptable

and unacceptable risks.

Acceptable and Unacceptable Risks


     There are several ways in which one could define which risks are

acceptable. One could say, for example, that the only acceptable risk is

one for which the odds of success are greater than the odds of failure.

Another definition of acceptable risk might be a risk that does not harm

one's future. We might also say that the only acceptable risk is one

where the aggregate happiness is increased, thus increasing the moral good

of the risk, an idea which is based on John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.

Finally, we might define a morally good risk in a Kantian way by saying

that the only acceptable risk is one which is rationally thought out

(Thomas, lecture).

     Now that we have several definitions of acceptable risks, we may

ask how these definitions, which seem piecemeal and unrelated, can all

combine to form one definition of acceptable risk. The best way to do

this is to examine the two cases that lie before us and relate the

definitions to them. In the process of doing so, we will determine which

risk is acceptable and which is not.

Risks in the example: the lottery and the AIDS cure

     If the average person on the street were presented with the case

of spending one's life savings on a lottery ticket and losing or spending

the same sum on a false hunch regarding an AIDS cure, he or she would

probably come up with several answers. For the most part though, all the

answers would be consistent with one idea: the AIDS cure is simply

"worth" more and thus is a more acceptable risk. There might be several

reasons for this. One could assume, for example, that the only person who

would attempt to cure AIDS would be a doctor with sufficient experience in

the field. It would follow, then, that the odds of finding a cure for

AIDS would be much greater than the odds of winning the lottery. To win

the lottery, one...

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