The Worse than Nothing Account of Harm and the Preemption Problem

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Daniel Immerman TEKSystems (Google Contractor), United States,

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Because harm is an important notion in ethics, it’s worth investigating what it amounts to. The counterfactual comparative account of harm, commonly thought to be the most promising account of harm, analyzes harm by comparing what actually happened with what would have happened in some counterfactual situation. But it faces the preemption problem, a problem so serious that it has driven some to suggest we abandon the counterfactual comparative account and maybe even abandon the notion of harm altogether. This paper defends a version of the counterfactual comparative account that solves the preemption problem, a version called the “worse than nothing account.” It says that you harm someone just in case you leave them worse off than if you’d done nothing at all.

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