When the Risk of Harm Harms

Law and Philosophy 36 (1):77-100 (2017)
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This essay answers two questions that continue to drive debate in moral and legal philosophy; namely, ‘Is a risk of harm a wrong?’ and ‘Is a risk of harm a harm?’. The essay’s central claim is that to risk harm can be both to wrong and to harm. This stands in contrast to the respective positions of Heidi Hurd and Stephen Perry, whose views represent prominent extremes in this debate about risks. The essay shows that there is at least one category of risks – intentional impositions of risk on unconsenting agents – which can be both wrongful and harmful. The wrongfulness of these risks can be established when, on the balance of reasons, one ought not to impose them. The harmfulness of these risks can be established when the risks are shown to set back legitimate interests. In those cases where risks constitute a denial of the moral status of agents, risks set back agents’ interest in dignity. In these ways, the essay shows that there are instances when a risk can constitute both a wrong and a harm.

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Adriana Placani
Universidade Nova de Lisboa


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