Doing, Allowing, and Precaution

Environmental Ethics 29 (4):339-358 (2007)
Abstract
Many environmental policies seem to rest on an implicit distinction between doing and allowing. For example, it is generally thought worse to drive a speciesto extinction than to fail to save a species that is declining through no fault of our own, and worse to pollute the air with chemicals that trigger asthma attacks thanto fail to remove naturally occurring allergens such as pollen and mold. The distinction between doing and allowing seems to underlie certain versions of the precautionary principle, and insofar as the precautionary principle rests on this distinction, it diverges from direct consequentialist approaches to risk management.There are two ways in which such reliance on the doing/allowing distinction may be defended: by appeal to indirect consequentialist considerations, and by appeal to deontological considerations. Neither approach is unproblematic; however, retention of a distinction between doing and allowing in environmentalpolicy is consistent with the widespread intuition that there is something prima facie valuable about the world as we find it
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Fiona Woollard (2008). Doing and Allowing, Threats and Sequences. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2):261–277.
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