IDENTIFYING HARMS

Author: HARROSH, SHLOMIT

Source: Bioethics, Volume 26, Number 9, 1 November 2012 , pp. 493-498(6)

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT

Moral disagreements often revolve around the issue of harm to others. Identifying harms, however, is a contested enterprise. This paper provides a conceptual toolbox for identifying harms, and so possible wrongdoing, by drawing several distinctions. First, I distinguish between four modes of human vulnerability, forming four ways in which one can be in a harmed state. Second, I argue for the intrinsic disvalue of harm and so distinguish the presence of harm from the fact that it is instrumental to or constitutive of a valued act, practice or way of life. Finally, I distinguish between harm and wrongdoing, arguing that while harm is a normative concept requiring justification, not all harmed states are automatically unjustified. The advantage of this view is that it refocuses the moral debate on the normative issues involved while establishing a common basis to which both sides can agree: the presence of harm to others.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01889.x

Affiliations: University of Oxford

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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