In Michael Almeida (ed.), Imperceptible Harms and Benefits. Dordrecht: Kluwer. pp. 9-42 (2000)

Garrett Cullity
Australian National University
There can be situations in which, if I contribute to a pool of resources for helping a large number of people, the difference that my contribution makes to any of the people helped from the pool will be imperceptible at best, and maybe even non-existent. And this can be the case where it is also true that giving the same amount directly to one of the intended beneficiaries of the pool would have made a very large difference to her. Can non-contribution to the pool be morally justified on this ground? I argue that it cannot. For, first, this line of thought leaves unaffected any reasons for holding that failing to perform the direct action of benefiting someone greatly would be wrong. But the pooling system of helping people is often better than a system separating the help which is given — better because of the perceptible difference it makes to its beneficiaries. If so, failing to contribute to the pool will be at least as wrong as failing to have helped directly would have been. The paper clarifies and defends an argument of this form, showing how it can be formulated in a way that avoids apparent counterexamples, and identifying the assumptions on which it rests.
Keywords imperceptible harms  aggregation  contribution
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Whether and Where to Give.Theron Pummer - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):77-95.
How You Can Help, Without Making a Difference.Julia Nefsky - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2743-2767.
My Emissions Make No Difference.Joakim Sandberg - 2011 - Environmental Ethics 33 (3):229-48.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Ethics Briefings.M. Davies, S. Brannan, E. Chrispin, S. Mason, R. Mussell, J. Sheather & A. Sommerville - 2010 - Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (7):447-449.
Dignity Promotion and Beneficence.Diego S. Silva - 2010 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 7 (4):365-372.
Negative Beneficence and Positive Beneficence.Herbert Spencer - 1893 - Philosophical Review 2 (6):720-724.
Beneficence, Rights and Citizenship.Garrett Cullity - 2006 - Australian Journal of Human Rights 9:85-105.
Imperfect Duties, Group Obligations, and Beneficence.S. Andrew Schroeder - 2014 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (5):557-584.
Aggregation, Partiality, and the Strong Beneficence Principle.Dale Dorsey - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (1):139 - 157.
Beneficence and Procreation.Molly Gardner - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (2):321-336.
In Defence of Procreative Beneficence.J. Savulescu - 2007 - Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (5):284-288.
Harmful Beneficence.Lisa Rivera - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (2):197-222.
Beneficence, Justice, and Health Care.J. Paul Kelleher - 2014 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 24 (1):27-49.
Autonomy and Beneficence in an Information Age.Robert M. Sade - 2001 - Health Care Analysis 9 (3):247-254.
Beneficence.Garrett Cullity - 2007 - In Richard Ashcroft Angus Dawson & Heather Draper John McMillan (eds.), Principles of Health Care Ethics. London: Wiley. pp. 19-26.
Kantian Beneficence and the Problem of Obligatory Aid.Karen Stohr - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (1):45-67.


Added to PP index

Total views
110 ( #94,648 of 2,438,584 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
17 ( #40,980 of 2,438,584 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes