SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Disjunctive View of Harm: Problems in Combination
(Ethics, English)

How should we understand the nature of harm? The standard, comparative, view is that an event E harms a subject is she is made worse off by E. This view is simple and intuitive, but also associated with serious problems -- among them the famous Non-Identity problem and the preemption problem (Bradley, 2012; Parfit, 1984). To avoid such problems, an alternative, non-comparative, tradition has grown in the debate. According to such views a subject can, for instance, be considered harmed if she is in an intrinsically bad state. These views avoid the issues just mentioned, but they have other serious problems. They seem unable to explain "the greatest harm of all", namely the harm of death -- since deprivation of life cannot be captured in non-comparative terms.

Recently, there is an increased interest in the idea that to avoid serious problems with strict views we should combine a comparative and a non-comparative condition (McMahan, 2013; Meyer, 2016; Woollard, 2012). The most promising type of combinatory view is the disjunctive view, since it can explain the harm in non-identity cases by reference to the non-comparative condition. Similarly, the disjunctivist can explain the harm of death using its comparative component.

However, this paper argues that adopting a disjunctive view in order to account for the problem cases is unsuccessful, due to "problems in combination". That is, as long as one of the conditions fails to accommodate a certain type of case (for example, preemption) and the other condition cannot capture the harm of another type of cases (death, for example), then it cannot capture the harm in cases where these aspects are combined (such as "deadly preemption"). This paper shows that this issue applies to different versions of the disjunctive view and concerns most combinations of the aspects that are problematic for views that are strictly comparative or non-comparative.

Chair: Sebastian Schmidt
Time: 12:00-12:30, 13 September 2018 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.007

Anna Folland 
(Uppsala University, Sweden)

I am a PhD candidate in practical philosophy at Uppsala University since January 2018. My main interests lie within value theory, metaethics and normative ethics. My research focuses on questions about the concept of harm and its normative relevance.

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