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IDENTIFYING HARMS

Authors


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared

Dr. Shlomit Harrosh, University of Oxford – Philosophy, University College Oxford OX1 4BH, United Kingdom. Tel: 02032399102, Email: shlomit.harrosh@univ.ox.ac.uk or sh741975@gmail.com

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.

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