Is It Harmful? A Thomistic Perspective on Risk Science in Social Welfare

J Relig Health. 2022 Aug;61(4):3302-3316. doi: 10.1007/s10943-021-01452-x. Epub 2021 Nov 8.


Probabilistic information is used increasingly, from medical research to weather forecasting. The relationship between probability and causality requires an acceptable philosophical account. Social work, which contributes to healthy wellbeing, increasingly uses language of probabilistic causal relationships between harms and subsequent limitations to healthy functioning. This paper explores causal understandings of probabilistic knowledge using concepts of the theologian, Thomas Aquinas. Social welfare terminology regarding risk (such as factors that are 'causative of' child abuse) is explored using epistemological concepts from scholastic philosophy. Aquinas' anthropological concepts related to modern 'risk science' and his concepts of rationality, harm and prudence are applied to contemporary social welfare.

Keywords: Epistemology; Probability; Risk; Scholastic philosophy; Social work.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Philosophy*
  • Social Welfare