Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):893-908 (2019)

Authors
Molly Gardner
University of Florida
Abstract
The problem of justified harm is the problem of explaining why it is permissible to inflict harm for the sake of future benefits in some cases but not in others. In this paper I first motivate the problem by comparing a case in which a lifeguard breaks a swimmer’s arm in order to save her life to a case in which Nazis imprison a man who later grows wiser as a result of the experience. I consider other philosophers’ attempts to explain why the lifeguard’s action was permissible but the Nazis’ action was not. After arguing that principles having to do with consent, expected utility, and the types of harms and benefits at issue do not fully solve the problem, I argue for a causal solution to the problem. The causal solution includes both a causal account of harming and a distinction between causes and mere conditions. It then distinguishes between the lifeguard and Nazi cases with following principle: A harmful action that causes greater benefits can sometimes be justified by those benefits, but a harmful action that does not cause greater benefits cannot be justified by any subsequent benefits that the action, itself, does not cause.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-017-9840-z
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
Well-Being and Death.Ben Bradley - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Causation.D. Lewis - 1973 - In Philosophical Papers Ii. Oxford University Press. pp. 159-213.

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Citations of this work BETA

A Simple Analysis of Harm.Jens Johansson & Olle Risberg - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
Causal Accounts of Harming.Erik Carlson, Jens Johansson & Olle Risberg - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
The Problem of Justified Harm: A Reply to Gardner.Jens Johansson & Olle Risberg - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):735-742.
Harm Issue Editorial.Ben Bramble - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):793-794.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

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