Doing and Allowing Harm

ISBN : 9780198822769

Fiona Woollard
256 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Apr 2019
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Doing harm seems much harder to justify than merely allowing harm. If a boulder is rushing towards Bob, you may refuse to save Bob's life by driving your car into the path of the boulder if doing so would cost you your own life. You may not push the boulder towards Bob to save your own life. This principle-the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing-requires defence. Does the distinction between doing and allowing fall apart under scrutiny? When lives are at stake, how can it matter whether harm is done or allowed? Drawing on detailed analysis of the distinction between doing and allowing, Fiona Woollard argues that the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing is best understood as a principle that protects us from harmful imposition. Such protection against imposition is necessary for morality to recognize anything as genuinely belonging to a person, even that person's own body. As morality must recognize each person's body as belonging to her, the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing should be accepted. Woollard defends a moderate account of our obligations to aid, tackling arguments by Peter Singer and Peter Unger that we must give most of our money away and arguments from Robert Nozick that obligations to aid are incompatible with self-ownership.


1 Introduction
2 The Distinction between Doing and Allowing
3 Substantial Facts
4 Removing Barriers
5 Counterexamples and Objections
6 Doing, Allowing, and Imposing
7 Saving Strangers: Analysis of Intuitions
8 Saving Strangers: Duties to Prevent Harm
9 Contractualism, Rule Consequentialism, and Doing and Allowing
10 Final Thoughts
Appendix: A Measure on the Behaviour Space

About the author: 

Fiona Woollard has been a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Southampton since September 2010. She was born and raised in Scotland. She studied Philosophy and Mathematics at Magdalen College, Oxford, before returning to Scotland to do an M.Litt in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. She completed her PhD at the University of Reading in 2008 and then held a temporary lectureship at the University of Sheffield for two years. She has research interests in normative ethics, applied ethics, and the philosophy of sex and pregnancy, and has published on topics including the distinction between doing and allowing harm, climate change and the non-identity problem, the moral significance of numbers, pornography, and the norm of monogamy.

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