PHM 2204 Lecture 15

PHM 2204 Lecture 15 - PHM 2204 David Copp THE HARM...

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PHM 2204 Fall, 2007 David Copp THE HARM PRINCIPLE: PROBLEMS AND ISSUES 1. Problems and Issues with the Harm Principle * Mill’s basic idea can be stated as follows: The Harm Principle : any adult has a right not to have her choices or actions be interfered with, either by law or public opinion, unless such interference is necessary in order to prevent harm to others. * the HP sets a threshold that must be crossed before interfering is permitted – before “society has jurisdiction” -- but even if interference would prevent harm, it might be unjustified: “the question [then becomes] whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering.’ (BW, 78) * interfering by law or public opinion has costs that must be weighed. PROBLEMS: (a) What counts as “interfering”? Suppose we won’t associate with you because we don’t like your taste in clothing or your religion or we think you are a bad person? Are we interfering in a relevant way? (b) What counts as “preventing harm”? Suppose that I refuse to pay taxes? Suppose I run a red light on a deserted road at midnight? Suppose I can’t pay my debts because I am a drunk? (c) Suppose that it is known that doing such-and-such is bad for anyone.
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PHM 2204 Lecture 15 - PHM 2204 David Copp THE HARM...

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