Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Seana Valentine Shiffrin (a1)

Standard, familiar models portray harms and benefits as symmetrical. Usually, harm is portrayed as involving a worsening of one's situation, and benefits as involving an improvement. Yet morally, the aversion, prevention, and relief of harms seem, at least presumptively, to matter more than the provision, protection, and maintenance of comparable and often greater benefits. Standard models of harms and benefits have difficulty acknowledging this priority, much less explaining it. They also fail to identify harm accurately and reliably. In this paper, I develop these problems, argue that we should reconsider our commitment to the standard models, and then merely gesture at the direction in which we might locate a superior approach, one that better accounts for the moral significance of harm and its relation to autonomy rights.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Matthew Hanser , The Metaphysics of Harm, 77 Phil. & Phenomenological Res. 421 (2008)

Matthew Hanser, Harming and Procreating, inHarming Future Persons 179 ( Melinda A. Roberts & David T. Wasserman eds., 2009)

Matthew Hanser , Still More on the Metaphysics of Harm, 82 Phil. & Phenomenological Res. 459 (2011)

Judith Jarvis Thomson , More on the Metaphysics of Harm, 82 Phil. & Phenomenological Res. 436 (2011)

James Griffin , Is Unhappiness Morally More Important Than Happiness?, 29 Phil. Q. 47 (1979)

Jeff McMahan , Cognitive Disability, Misfortune, and Justice, 25 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 3 (1996)

Thomas Scanlon , Preference and Urgency, 72 J. Phil. 655 (1975)

Matthew Hanser , Why Are Killing and Letting Die Wrong?, 24 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 175 (1995)

Matthew Hanser , A Puzzle about Beneficence, 58 Analysis 159166 (1998)

Elizabeth Harman , Can We Harm and Benefit in Creating?, 18 Phil. Persp. 89 (2004), at 96–97

J. David Velleman , Persons in Prospect: Parts 1, II, and III, 36 Philosophy & Public Affairs 221288 (2008)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Legal Theory
  • ISSN: 1352-3252
  • EISSN: 1469-8048
  • URL: /core/journals/legal-theory
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 66 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 319 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.