The Counterfactual Comparative Account of Harm and Reasons for Action and Preference: Reply to Carlson

  • Justin KlocksiemEmail author


In the recent literature on the nature of harm, the counterfactual comparative account has emerged as a main contender. But in a recent article in this journal, Erik Carlson raises an objection to this account, based on its connections to reasons for performing certain actions and for preferring certain outcomes. In what follows, I will state the counterfactual comparative account, state and explain Carlson’s objections, and attempt to show how they can be overcome.

According to the counterfactual comparative account of harm, whether an event constitutes a harm for a person depends on a comparison between her well-being in possible worlds in which the event occurs with her well-being in the nearest accessible worlds in which it does not:

Counterfactual Comparative Account of Harm (CCA): a possible event, e (or action, a), would harm (benefit) S if and only if S is worse (better) off in the nearest relevant possible world in which e occurs (or a is performed), We (Wa),...



  1. Bradley B (2012) Doing away with harm. Philos Phenomenol Res 85:390–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Carlson E (Forthcoming) More problems for the counterfactual comparative account of harm and benefit. Ethical Theory Moral PractGoogle Scholar
  3. Klocksiem J (2012) A defense of the counterfactual comparative account of harm. Am Philos Q 49:285–300Google Scholar

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

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