Vigilance as a habit of watching: An Aristotelean view on impact assessment

Activiteit: Talk or presentation at a conference


A turn to anticipation in governance, including in the law, manifests itself inter alia in resorting to many evaluation tools. Among them, impact assessment (IA) has been progressively practiced worldwide, in numerous domains – privacy, environment, technology, etc., as a systematic process to evaluate potential impacts of an initiative in order to minimise negative ones and maximise positive ones. The use of IA has found support not only because the law might require so (e.g. Art 35 GDPR), but also because of its ethical significance. Ethics appears many times in the process of IA and especially as the reasoning for performing it, which has been, so far, rather of a substantive nature. In other words, IA should be undertaken because the stakes of a given initiative are high.
This contribution aims to offer a complementary view on ethics and IA. It will argue for considering also a procedural ethical justification. Specifically, it will look at virtue ethics to elaborate on the virtuous character of IA. By drawing an analogy between the Aristotelian virtue as a habit, IA will be described as a tool for vigilance.
In this sense, IA will be framed as a practice of ‘watching’, i.e. continuously engaging to plan (e.g. whether to deploy an initiative and, if so, under what conditions), warn (e.g. elaborating a set of recommendations) and report (e.g. documenting the process). A method for IA that encourages vigilance so conceived will be outlined, not with the claim of being any final, but precisely as a tool of being constantly receptive – learning by experience – in line with Aristotelian virtues.
In conclusion, it will offer another viewpoint on the motivation to undertake an IA, turning from a substantive to a procedural justification, with the help of the concept of vigilance intended as a trained habit of watchfulness.
Periode10 mei 2019
EvenementstitelACCA Conference 2019: Law as a tool for risk management, a call for vigilance?
LocatieNamur, Belgium
Mate van erkenningNational