On the concept of a morally relevant harm

Utilitas 20 (4):409-423 (2008)

David Lefkowitz
University of Richmond
The author argues that only when the two harms are morally relevant to one another may an agent take into account the number of people he can save. He defends an orbital conception of morally relevant harm, according to which harms that fall within the of a given harm are relevant to it, while all other harms are not. The possibility of preventing a harm provides both a first-order reason to prevent that harm, and a second-order reason not to consider preventing irrelevant harms. This understanding of a morally relevant harm avoids two objections to such a concept recently raised by Alastair Norcross: identifying a point along a continuous scale of harms at which the divide between relevant and irrelevant harms occurs, and the entailment that the mere possibility of preventing harm that one is morally forbidden from preventing can determine which of two other actions morality requires
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DOI 10.1017/s0953820808003245
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Justifiability to Each Person.Derek Parfit - 2003 - Ratio 16 (4):368–390.
Contractualism and Aggregation.Norcross Alastair - 2002 - Social Theory and Practice 28 (2):303-314.

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