David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Ratio 23 (2):199-216 (2010)
Attempts to defend the moral significance of the distinction between doing and allowing harm directly have left many unconvinced. I give an indirect defence of the moral significance of the distinction between doing and allowing, focusing on the agent's duty to reason in a way that is responsive to possible harmful effects of their behaviour. Due to our cognitive limitations, we cannot be expected to take all harmful consequences of our behaviour into account. We are required to be responsive to harmful consequences that have some feature that makes it easy for us to become aware of them. I show that, under Jonathan Bennett's analysis of the doing/allowing distinction, harm that is incidentally done has such a feature, which is not shared by harm that is incidentally allowed. Any plausible analysis of the doing/allowing distinction will entail a similar asymmetry. It follows that, prima facie, an agent who incidentally does harm has violated a moral requirement (the deliberative requirement) which an agent who incidentally allows harm has not violated. 1.
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