How the Source, Inevitability and Means of Bringing About Harm Interact in Folk-Moral Judgments

Mind and Language 26 (2):210-233 (2011)
Means-based harms are frequently seen as forbidden, even when they lead to a greater good. But, are there mitigating factors? Results from five experiments show that judgments about means-based harms are modulated by: 1) Pareto considerations (was the harmed person made worse off?), 2) the directness of physical contact, and 3) the source of the threat (e.g. mechanical, human, or natural). Pareto harms are more permissible than non-Pareto harms, Pareto harms requiring direct physical contact are less permissible than those that do not, and harming someone who faces a mechanical threat is less permissible than harming someone who faces a non-mechanical threat. These results provide insight into the rich representational structure underlying folk-moral computations, including both the independent and interacting roles of the inevitability, directness and source of harm
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2011.01416.x
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Immanuel Kant (2007). Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell Pub. Ltd.

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