‘Doing vs Allowing Harm’

“Is there a moral difference between doing harm and merely allowing harm? If not, there should be no moral objection to active euthanasia in circumstances where passive euthanasia is permissible; and there should be no objection to bombing innocent civilians where doing so will minimize the overall number of deaths in war. There should, however, be an objection – indeed, an outcry – at our failure to prevent the deaths of millions of children in the third world from malnutrition, dehydration, and measles. Moreover, it seems that the question is pertinent to whether consequentialism is true, as consequentialists believe that doing harm is no worse than merely allowing harm while anti-consequentialists, almost universally, disagree …” (more)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. First published Tue May 14, 2002; substantive revision Wed Jul 7, 2021.

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