John Stuart Mills Harm Principle

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Similarly, in an early essay in 1973 entitled Moral Enforcement and the Harm Principle--an essay which would sketch the contours of his later four-volume treatise on The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law--Professor Joel Feinberg rehearsed Mill's harm principle and he, too, pared the principle down to its original, simple formulation


If we count mere hurt, offence, annoyance, and mental distress as harms, the principle will countenance political interference with nearly every activity, and liberty will amount to naught. On the other hand, if we count only physical damage to persons as harm, most every activity will be permitted and there will be little scope for the political protection of persons. (Kernohan, 1993, 2-5) Certain harms, however, had an interesting structure which straddles these extremes; sometimes activities which, individually, are merely annoying, innocuous, or even beneficial add up to doing physical damage or severe harm. Following Feinberg, R.V Brown call these "accumulative harms," and argue that, even on a stringent conception of harm. Mill's harm principle should be interpreted as requiring political interference to prevent them.
There is a related ambiguity in the interpretation of the harm principle. Should the principle offer protection against harms or only against harmful conduct Harmful conduct is activity done either maliciously or recklessly that causes harm to others. ...
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