Harming as making worse off

Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2629-2656 (2019)
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A powerful argument against the counterfactual comparative account of harm is that it cannot distinguish harming from failing to benefit. In reply to this problem, I suggest a new account of harm. The account is a counterfactual comparative one, but it counts as harms only those events that make a person occupy his level of well-being at the world at which the event occurs. This account distinguishes harming from failing to benefit in a way that accommodates our intuitions about the standard problem cases. In laying the groundwork for this account, I also demonstrate that rival accounts of harm are able to distinguish harming from failing to benefit only if, and because, they also appeal to the distinction between making upshots happen and allowing upshots to happen. One important implication of my discussion is that preserving the moral asymmetry between harming and failing to benefit requires a commitment to the existence of a metaphysical and moral distinction between making and allowing.
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Archival date: 2018-09-06
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