The Harm Principle and Global Ethics

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52 Citations (SciVal)


Various international legal conventions create the obligation not to cause 'serious bodily or mental harm' to members of one's society or to other social groups. The existence of these obligations raises the question of whether widespread aversion to pain and suffering provides the best foundation for 'moral progress' in world politics. Support for a global version of the harm principle is evident in various liberal moral and political writings, but these are vulnerable to two lines of criticism. Some critics have argued that the concept of harm is more complex and elusive than liberals suggest; others that the liberal version of the harm principle is inadequate because it privileges the negative obligation to avoid injury over positive obligations of rescue. Having reviewed these debates, this paper argues for a global version of the harm principle which defends negative and related positive obligations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-343
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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