Risk Taking

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Risk Taking

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...