THE MORAL STATUS OF ENABLING HARM

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Abstract

According to the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing, it is more difficult to justify doing harm than it is to justify allowing harm. Enabling harm consists in withdrawing an obstacle that would, if left in place, prevent a pre-existing causal sequence from leading to foreseen harm. There has been a lively debate concerning the moral status of enabling harm. According to some (e.g. McMahan, Vihvelin and Tomkow), many cases of enabling harm are morally indistinguishable from doing harm. Others (e.g. Foot, Hanser) support the Equivalence Hypothesis, according to which enabling harm is morally equivalent to allowing harm. Here I argue that there is every reason to embrace, and no reason to reject, the Equivalence Hypothesis.

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