Harming Future Persons

Volume 35 of the series International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine pp 137-154

Harming as Causing Harm

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This paper argues that non-identity actions are wrong because they cause harm to people. While non-identity actions also typically benefit people, failure to act would similarly benefit someone, so considerations of benefit are ineligible to justify the harm. However, in some non-identity cases, failure to act would not benefit anyone: cases where one is choosing whether to procreate at all. These are the hard non-identity cases. Not all “different-number” cases are hard. In some cases, we don’t know whether acting would result in more or fewer people; this paper argues that this epistemological factor makes acting in these cases wrong.


Creation Harm Benefit Justification Threshold Procreation Nonidentity