Southwest Philosophy Review

Volume 30, Issue 1, January 2014

Duncan Purves
Pages 243-250

A Counterexample to Two Accounts of Harm

Two alternative accounts have emerged as viable competitors to the forerunning counterfactual comparative account in the recent debate concerning the nature of harm. These are the “non-comparative statebased account of harm” defended by Elizabeth Harman, the “event-based account of harm” defended by Matthew Hanser. I raise one simple but serious counterexample involving “non-regrettable disabilities” that applies to both of these alternative accounts but that is avoided by the counterfactual comparative account. I point out that my counterexample is one instance of a broader problem for alternatives to the counterfactual comparative account. The problem is that each of them divorces the concept of harm from the intuitive idea that we have moral and prudential reasons to avoid it.

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