On the Harm of Imposing Risk of Harm

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (4):965-980 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


What is wrong with imposing pure risks, that is, risks that don’t materialize into harm? According to a popular response, imposing pure risks is pro tanto wrong, when and because risk itself is harmful. Call this the Harm View. Defenders of this view make one of the following two claims. On the Constitutive Claim, pure risk imposition is pro tanto wrong when and because risk constitutes diminishing one’s well-being viz. preference-frustration or setting-back their legitimate interest in autonomy. On the Contingent Claim, pure risk imposition is pro tanto wrong when and because risk has harmful consequences for the risk-bearers, such as psychological distress. This paper argues that the Harm View is plausible only on the Contingent Claim, but fails on the Constitutive Claim. In discussing the latter, I argue that both the preference and autonomy account fail to show that risk itself is constitutively harmful and thereby wrong. In discussing the former, I argue that risk itself is contingently harmful and thereby wrong but only in a narrow range of cases. I conclude that while the Harm View can sometimes explain the wrong of imposing risk when risk itself is contingently harmful, it is unsuccessful as a general, exhaustive account of what makes pure imposition wrong.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,873

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

When the Risk of Harm Harms.Adriana Placani - 2017 - Law and Philosophy 36 (1):77-100.
What’s wrong with risk?Tom Parr & Adam Slavny - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):76-85.
Risking Civilian Lives to Avoid Harm to Cultural Heritage?William Bülow - 2020 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 18 (3).
Rights, explanation, and risks.David McCarthy - 1997 - Ethics 107 (2):205-225.
Rights Against High-Level Risk Impositions.Fei Song - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (3):763-778.
The moral significance of risking.John Oberdiek - 2012 - Legal Theory 18 (3):339-356.
Understanding Harm and its Moral Significance.Matthew Hanser - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):853-870.
The moral limits of the criminal law.Joel Feinberg - 1984 - New York: Oxford University Press.


Added to PP

87 (#198,709)

6 months
19 (#145,073)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kritika Maheshwari
Delft University of Technology

Citations of this work

Dominating Risk Impositions.Kritika Maheshwari & Sven Nyholm - 2022 - The Journal of Ethics 26 (4):613-637.
Chance, consent, and COVID-19.Ryan Doody - 2023 - In Evandro Barbosa (ed.), Moral Challenges in a Pandemic Age. Routledge. pp. 204-224.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The theory of probability.Hans Reichenbach - 1949 - Berkeley,: University of California Press.
The morality of freedom.J. Raz - 1988 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (1):108-109.
Disadvantage.Jonathan Wolff & Avner de-Shalit - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Desire satisfactionism and hedonism.Chris Heathwood - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 128 (3):539-563.

View all 23 references / Add more references