The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 17, Issue 1–2, pp 37–49

Asymmetries in Benefiting, Harming and Creating


DOI: 10.1007/s10892-012-9134-6

Cite this article as:
Bradley, B. J Ethics (2013) 17: 37. doi:10.1007/s10892-012-9134-6


It is often said that while we have a strong reason not to create someone who will be badly off, we have no strong reason for creating someone who will be well off. In this paper I argue that this asymmetry is incompatible with a plausible principle of independence of irrelevant alternatives, and that a more general asymmetry between harming and benefiting is difficult to defend. I then argue that, contrary to what many have claimed, it is possible to harm or benefit someone by bringing her into existence.


Asymmetry Creation Existence Harm Independence of irrelevant alternatives Well-being 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Syracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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