Harm as Negative Prudential Value: A Non-Comparative Account of Harm

SATS 21 (1):21-38 (2020)
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In recent attempts to define ‘harm’, the most promising approach has often been thought to be the counterfactual comparative account of harm. Nevertheless, this account faces serious difficulties. Moreover, it has been argued that ‘harm’ cannot be defined without reference to a substantive theory of well-being, which is itself a fraught issue. This has led to the call for the concept to simply be dropped from the moral lexicon altogether. I reject this call, arguing that the non-comparative approach to defining harm has not been sufficiently explored. I then develop such an account that avoids the difficulties faced by comparative accounts whilst not presupposing a substantive theory of well-being. I conclude that this definition renders a concept of harm that can be meaningfully employed in our moral discourse.

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Tanya de Villiers-Botha
University of Stellenbosch


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