On the issue of "harm"

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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Jack18
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On the issue of "harm"

Post by Jack18 » Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:13 am

I'm curious about the nature of "harm." As I understand it, it often requires measurable damage of some sort to the other party. But does that mean then, as long as the party is ignorant of the act then no harm is done?

For example, X act is both illegal and immoral (in most cultures and in this particular culture). If X act was done to an aware being, it would cause some form of measurable harm (such as psychological, mental, social). To be clear, the measurable harm done would require knowledge of act X. But if that same being were completely unaware of X act occurring to them, it would seem they would never notice the existence of X act and without awareness of X act, there could be no harm.

So then can it be said that X act isn't an act of harm? That because it may not result in harm (if the other party is not aware of act X) in all instances, the most that could be said about it is that despite it being illegal and immoral 100% of the time, it isn't an act of harm itself, it can only result in harm under certain conditions. Is this accurate?

The confusion lies in the idea of "harm" being an affront to another, regardless of consequences or measurable harm. If the other party is devalued in some way, regardless if they acknowledge it or feel effects from it, by devaluing a human being it can still be said to be harming them. Is there any philosophy that describes or argues for harm in that way? Or is it always required to have at least some "measurable" harm?

Impenitent
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Impenitent » Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:45 pm

decapitate the unaware... no harm

-Imp

Jack18
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Jack18 » Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:40 pm

OK, so in the following scenarios there is no harm:

1) Bob creates a virus that steals .004 cents (4/10 of 1 penny) from every bank account in the world. Because this is merely 4/10 of 1 penny, no one knows it is even taken. This is called "penny shaving" and is the scam seen in the movie Office Space. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

2) Bob creates a business that asks people for donations to help the homeless. 100% of all donations go to Bob so he can have fun traveling the world and live an extravagant lifestyle he's always wanted. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

3) Bob slips a "Mickey" to a woman he meets at a bar. This drug puts her to sleep. Bob is able to take her back to her home. While she is unconscious, Bob has sex with the woman. There is no STD transmission, the woman won't get pregnant. She wakes up safely. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

4) Bob inappropriately (sexually) touches a sleeping 4-year-old child. The child never awakes while Bob is touching. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

So in all 4 scenarios above, no harm was done to any entity, in any sense of the word. Is that accurate?

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SpheresOfBalance
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by SpheresOfBalance » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:05 pm

Jack18 wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:40 pm
OK, so in the following scenarios there is no harm:

1) Bob creates a virus that steals .004 cents (4/10 of 1 penny) from every bank account in the world. Because this is merely 4/10 of 1 penny, no one knows it is even taken. This is called "penny shaving" and is the scam seen in the movie Office Space. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

2) Bob creates a business that asks people for donations to help the homeless. 100% of all donations go to Bob so he can have fun traveling the world and live an extravagant lifestyle he's always wanted. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

3) Bob slips a "Mickey" to a woman he meets at a bar. This drug puts her to sleep. Bob is able to take her back to her home. While she is unconscious, Bob has sex with the woman. There is no STD transmission, the woman won't get pregnant. She wakes up safely. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

4) Bob inappropriately (sexually) touches a sleeping 4-year-old child. The child never awakes while Bob is touching. In this scenario, no one becomes aware.

So in all 4 scenarios above, no harm was done to any entity, in any sense of the word. Is that accurate?
Firstly, I think that you'd have to ask yourself if you'd consider it harm if those things were done to you in the same way as you describe.
Secondly, if you'd think it was no harm done to you, in order to eliminate the chance that you'd think so, simply so you could do it to another, you'd have to ask many people what they'd think in such a case that it was done to them, to understand the most common response. If the majority believed it was considered harm, then that would be your answer. If it went the other way, which I surely doubt, then again you'd have an answer.

Personally, I don't believe that knowledge of harm is a prerequisite for harm being done. Harm is anything that any particular entity would not want done to them, regardless of their knowledge. There is no necessary single answer that address' what everyone would consider harm.

My question for you would be, "why are you interested in such a question, and what do your examples mean for you?"

Jack18
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Jack18 » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:02 am

SpheresOfBalance wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:05 pm
Firstly, I think that you'd have to ask yourself if you'd consider it harm if those things were done to you in the same way as you describe.
That could be relative though, so regardless of what I might answer, it would really address the nature of harm. Someone could believe that as long as there was no effect of the act, no awareness of the act, then no harm to them occurred. Others might argue that even though they may not ever be aware of it, such acts reduced the victim's intrinsic value as a human being and thus, harm was done.
Secondly, if you'd think it was no harm done to you, in order to eliminate the chance that you'd think so, simply so you could do it to another, you'd have to ask many people what they'd think in such a case that it was done to them, to understand the most common response. If the majority believed it was considered harm, then that would be your answer. If it went the other way, which I surely doubt, then again you'd have an answer.
That would just be "ad populem." Just because most believe may believe X is true doesn't make X true.
Personally, I don't believe that knowledge of harm is a prerequisite for harm being done. Harm is anything that any particular entity would not want done to them, regardless of their knowledge. There is no necessary single answer that address' what everyone would consider harm.
It's understandable that there would be different ideas about the nature of harm itself and what requirements there must be for an act to be harmful. The same is true of many complex issues (eg morality, existence, knowledge, etc.). I'm trying to come up with a way to describe the nature of harm itself in a digestible, easy to understand definition that either frames itself in a "minimal conception" (one that at least everyone would agree with on some level) or one in which is most practical.
My question for you would be, "why are you interested in such a question, and what do your examples mean for you?"
I'm in a discussion with another person about the nature of harm. I don't want to pull out deep philosophical theories from Mill, debates about “consequentialism” or “nonconsequentialism” etc. I want to formulate the idea in layman's terms, and to do that, I would like to explore the concept of "harm" itself as well as what it means "to harm."

Most philosophers seem to argue that it requires some form of measurable, negative impact on the well-being of others. But what happens if we take away that measurable quality? Is harm no longer possible? Is the individual causing harm not harming himself? Is harm done to society even if the victim is unaware, perhaps from increased odds of Bob committing these acts again? Can it be said that an act can still be an act of harm regardless if the victim knows about it or experiences negative effects?

I'm of the position that it is harmful regardless of awareness. It devalues the human being as nothing more than an object of self-gratification or personal gain. But then, how can that be framed in a way that makes sense and most rational people might accept?

I'm ignoring for the moment that it is possible that entities other than humans can be harmed. We can of course, harm animals and even inanimate structures. And they can harm us, just as natural events can. But that adds another layer of complexity on the already challenging issue I think. So I'm trying to focus on the nature of "acts by humans to humans" and whether or not there is a meaningful way to determine if said act is "harmful."

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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by thedoc » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:19 pm

If the other persons were unaware of the act, then they were also not aware of the potential harm. The question then becomes did the persons committing the act harm themselves. In the example above you used the name Bob and that suits, so does Bob by committing act X harm himself? That is the question that now needs to be addressed assuming that the other people remain unaware of the act and the potential harm. In the example #3. there is the possibility that the woman realizes that she was drugged and is distressed by that even though she is unaware of the events that took place while she was unconscious, that is still one sticking point.

Jack18
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Jack18 » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:41 pm

In #3, and the other scenarios, it's intentionally set up to remove all possible awareness of the act being done to the victim(s). The reason why is to explore the possibility of the existence of harm regardless of their awareness of it.

I agree that while the act may not be obviously harmful to the victim, that it might somehow harm others (society as a whole or even the perpetrator somehow). But I'm trying to explore the idea of the victim being harmed even if they are unaware of the harm and there being no measurable (or at least, obvious measurable harm).

Can it be said for example, that to reduce another human being's intrinsic value is an act of harm? That whether they know it or not, they are being devalued for the purpose of another's entertainment?

That reminds me of the Truman Show with Jim Carrey. Let's say at the end, he never found out that his entire life was scripted and being aired to the world, and all of his known friends and family were just actors. Was he harmed by being exploited and manipulated even though he did not know it? Even though that there does not appear to be any measurable harm done? His value as an autonomous human being seems to be reduced to nothing more than an object of entertainment or self-gain. Yet, he would never know that. So could that be said to be harm?

prof
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by prof » Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:58 am

You already nailed it when you wrote: "an act can still be an act of harm regardless if the victim knows about it or experiences negative effects... it is harmful regardless of awareness. It devalues the human being as nothing more than an object of self-gratification or personal gain."

Most people will not question what you mean by "harm". They have felt it. They are familiar with it.

I like your position, and will use it when I philosophize. So, I thank you.

Good work!

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SpheresOfBalance
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by SpheresOfBalance » Sat Mar 10, 2018 4:44 am

Jack18 wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:02 am
SpheresOfBalance wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:05 pm
Firstly, I think that you'd have to ask yourself if you'd consider it harm if those things were done to you in the same way as you describe.
That could be relative though, so regardless of what I might answer, it would really address the nature of harm. Someone could believe that as long as there was no effect of the act, no awareness of the act, then no harm to them occurred. Others might argue that even though they may not ever be aware of it, such acts reduced the victim's intrinsic value as a human being and thus, harm was done.
Secondly, if you'd think it was no harm done to you, in order to eliminate the chance that you'd think so, simply so you could do it to another, you'd have to ask many people what they'd think in such a case that it was done to them, to understand the most common response. If the majority believed it was considered harm, then that would be your answer. If it went the other way, which I surely doubt, then again you'd have an answer.
That would just be "ad populem." Just because most believe may believe X is true doesn't make X true.
Personally, I don't believe that knowledge of harm is a prerequisite for harm being done. Harm is anything that any particular entity would not want done to them, regardless of their knowledge. There is no necessary single answer that address' what everyone would consider harm.
It's understandable that there would be different ideas about the nature of harm itself and what requirements there must be for an act to be harmful. The same is true of many complex issues (eg morality, existence, knowledge, etc.). I'm trying to come up with a way to describe the nature of harm itself in a digestible, easy to understand definition that either frames itself in a "minimal conception" (one that at least everyone would agree with on some level) or one in which is most practical.
My question for you would be, "why are you interested in such a question, and what do your examples mean for you?"
I'm in a discussion with another person about the nature of harm. I don't want to pull out deep philosophical theories from Mill, debates about “consequentialism” or “nonconsequentialism” etc. I want to formulate the idea in layman's terms, and to do that, I would like to explore the concept of "harm" itself as well as what it means "to harm."

Most philosophers seem to argue that it requires some form of measurable, negative impact on the well-being of others. But what happens if we take away that measurable quality? Is harm no longer possible? Is the individual causing harm not harming himself? Is harm done to society even if the victim is unaware, perhaps from increased odds of Bob committing these acts again? Can it be said that an act can still be an act of harm regardless if the victim knows about it or experiences negative effects?

I'm of the position that it is harmful regardless of awareness. It devalues the human being as nothing more than an object of self-gratification or personal gain. But then, how can that be framed in a way that makes sense and most rational people might accept?

I'm ignoring for the moment that it is possible that entities other than humans can be harmed. We can of course, harm animals and even inanimate structures. And they can harm us, just as natural events can. But that adds another layer of complexity on the already challenging issue I think. So I'm trying to focus on the nature of "acts by humans to humans" and whether or not there is a meaningful way to determine if said act is "harmful."
You're playing within the arena of time, specifically before the act, as if to be able to read ones mind, of what they'll decide, after the fact, which isn't possible. So my original points stand. If it's about a guessing game about what something might be to another in the future, then statistical analysis is all you have, to answer your question, like I originally pointed out.

Now if you're a time traveller then you could do something to someone, see if after the fact they considered it harm, then wind the clock backwards and not do it to them, but that's impossible.

What is or is not harm has to be a projection of self, and further, statistical analysis, to even come close to what it's seen as, after the fact. That, I'm afraid, is the best possible answer, as an animal stuck in linear time.

It's like the problem philosophers found with the golden rule. Everything that might be considered "un" to any particular individual, can be determined, if by no other means, shared communication. But the only thing that can never be accounted for is time.

Dalek Prime
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Dalek Prime » Sat Mar 10, 2018 4:33 pm

Jack18 wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:13 am
I'm curious about the nature of "harm." As I understand it, it often requires measurable damage of some sort to the other party. But does that mean then, as long as the party is ignorant of the act then no harm is done?

For example, X act is both illegal and immoral (in most cultures and in this particular culture). If X act was done to an aware being, it would cause some form of measurable harm (such as psychological, mental, social). To be clear, the measurable harm done would require knowledge of act X. But if that same being were completely unaware of X act occurring to them, it would seem they would never notice the existence of X act and without awareness of X act, there could be no harm.

So then can it be said that X act isn't an act of harm? That because it may not result in harm (if the other party is not aware of act X) in all instances, the most that could be said about it is that despite it being illegal and immoral 100% of the time, it isn't an act of harm itself, it can only result in harm under certain conditions. Is this accurate?

The confusion lies in the idea of "harm" being an affront to another, regardless of consequences or measurable harm. If the other party is devalued in some way, regardless if they acknowledge it or feel effects from it, by devaluing a human being it can still be said to be harming them. Is there any philosophy that describes or argues for harm in that way? Or is it always required to have at least some "measurable" harm?
Antinatalism and antifrustrationism.

wisdomlover
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by wisdomlover » Sat Mar 10, 2018 11:35 pm

An interesting subset of unrecognized harm is when the harmed person agrees with it.
Examples:
- A girl who lives in a culture where it is customary and expected to mutilate female genitals.
- A person picked out to be sacrificed to some group's god who submits to it voluntarily.
- Supposedly Uncle Remus picked up a rifle and shot at the Union soldiers coming to liberate him. Was he "harmed" by slavery or by liberation?

My first pass at this would be to distinguish between whether one views justice as objective or subjective.
It doesn't feel right to say that to be injured/harmed/a victim of injustice is to feel harmed.
Sometimes a legal proceeding is brought against person X, who has harmed person Y, in the form of "People versus X". The underlying theory must be that to harm Y is also to harm "the people".

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SpheresOfBalance
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by SpheresOfBalance » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:24 pm

prof wrote:
Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:58 am
You already nailed it when you wrote: "an act can still be an act of harm regardless if the victim knows about it or experiences negative effects... it is harmful regardless of awareness. It devalues the human being as nothing more than an object of self-gratification or personal gain."

Most people will not question what you mean by "harm". They have felt it. They are familiar with it.

I like your position, and will use it when I philosophize. So, I thank you.

Good work!
I agree with prof, that his quote of yours above, is a very good analysis indeed, except one thing. It assumes that one can necessarily know what harm is, in the mind of another. Unfortunately that's an impossibility, if one wishes to know harm with 100% accuracy. Believe it or not there are masochists out there, so from their perspective what you consider harm might be a treat, and vice versa. So the definition of harm can be subjective.

Harm [hahrm]
noun
1. physical injury or mental damage; hurt: to do him bodily harm.
2. moral injury; evil; wrong.
verb (used with object)
3. to do or cause harm to; injure; damage; hurt: to harm one's reputation. --dictionary.com--

Beauty
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Re: On the issue of "harm"

Post by Beauty » Thu May 03, 2018 7:57 am

I didn't quite understand your opening post entirely, but from what I understood, my thinking is that -
Measurable or not can be felt in our hearts as to what is the right thing to do.
Our conscience or God keeps a record of all our acts no matter how small or big.
So justice will be done.
No worries!

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