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Risk, Language, and Terrorism

The use of the words "risk" and "uncertainty" in vernacular English leaves the relationship between the words imprecise.

That is, if I were to ask you, dear reader, what is the difference between risk and uncertainty, there would be no univocal "right" answer, though the words clearly are not synonyms. In general, we think of risk as a less-than-certain loss, so uncertainty figures into it, but uncertainty figures into a lot of other words too (such as "hope," which we think of as a less-than-certain gain).

In finance, and in other areas as well, there has been some movement toward using the two words in a rigorously paired way, such that, to borrow a formulation from the George W. administration, "risk" represents the known unknowns of a situation, "uncertainty" represents the unknown unknowns.

Here's a straightforward example: I know that a certain stock is interest-rate sensitive. I know that the Federal Reserve is m…
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Market's Inflationary Expectations

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Philosophy Publishing: Not So Sedate?

An odd controversy has popped up in what one might imagine is the sedate world of academic philosophy publishing. In March Hypatia, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal of feminist philosophy, published an article by Prof. Rebecca Tuvel, "In Defense of Trans-Racialism." The gist of it was this: when someone changes his/her mind about racial self-identification, as seems to have been the case with Rachel Dolezal, then she is generally perceived by the public as a fraud. But when the change of self identification is about sexual identity, as with Kaitlyn Jenner, there has been at least some movement of late toward recognition of and respect for that decision. Why the difference? If both sorts of classification are socially constructed, that is if biology is not destiny in either case, then the search for a pertinent principled distinction is not an easy one.
So far so good. Philosophy is about pressing questions. The real controversy arose after the editors of Hypatia (or a majorit…