Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 H - Harm


Harm: What hurts, pains, damages, apart from personal ideals or beliefs.

The two main reasons why people feel hurt are because their values or interests are opposed or because their natural needs are not satisfied. Somebody may feel very unhappy because his religious or political leaders or ideals are opposed, and somebody may feel very unhappy because he has not enough to eat or is tortured. The difference between these two kinds of causes for human unhappiness is that the second kind of reasons applies to all human beings, and the first will hold only for those who share religious or political ideals.

It makes sense to consider ethical and moral questions especially in terms of harm, and the harm again in physical terms: damage to person or property. That is, a minimalistic - perhaps somewhat legalistic, but also more realistic than e.g. theological approaches - good is not to harm others (except in self-defense).

One needs not love one's neighbour (or not as much as oneself), while doing a passive and minimalistic good to him, and to the social peace, by not harming him. Or somewhat more idealistically, but in the same vein:

Enjoy and give pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to anyone else - that, I think, is the whole of morality.


See also: Ethics, Golden Rule, Morals



 Original: Sep 24, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top