How Many Harms?
September 30, 2008 — 8:19

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 35
Mars and Harm

Imagine that you become very angry with Smith and sever three of his fingers, harming him severely. After a hospital stay and surgery, Smith decides to take a trip to Mars. We no longer use spaceships for this long trip. Instead, Smith hops in a teletransporter (TT). If Smith presses the red button, he will lose consciousness momentarily, the (TT) will then record the exact states of all of Smith’s cells while destroying them. The information is transmitted to a Replicator on Mars which then creates, out of new matter, a brain and body exactly like Smith’s. Typically, all of Smith’s memories, psychological states, dispositions, and bodily states would be preserved. This time, it does not happen. The Replicator does not replicate the memories of Smith, but produces a completely different set of memories, psychological dispositions, tastes, desires, and so on. But the Replicator does preserve all other bodily states, including Smith’s missing fingers.
On every contemporary view, the personal identity of Smith is not preserved in Smith*. Smith* is a numercially different person.
How many people did you harm? Did you harm Smith and Smith*? I think the answer is no. Compare Mars Harm Two.

Mars Harm Two

Everything is the same as in Mars Harm, except that Smith never decides to go to Mars. He never enters the teletransporter, he is never replicated, his cells are never destroyed. You impose the same number of harms in Mars Harm Two, viz., severing his three fingers, as you do in Mars Harm. Are you morally worse in Mars Harm than you are in Mars Harm Two? I say no. You are not morally worse in Mar’s Harm than you are in Mars Harm Two. You caused the same number and severity of harms in each case.

Making a Moral Monster

Suppose that for each replication of Smith, we add yet another harm that Jones caused. It is easy to see how to create a moral monster. Take the harm and replciate it indefinitely. For each replication, Jones is the cause. Jones can easily go from inflicting a serious harm on Smith to a great moral monster. All we need is replication. But it seems clear that replication does not make a moral monster of Jones.
I offer Mars Harm and Mars Harm Two as instructive about the number of harms caused in cases where a mother causes three fingers of her fetus to become detached, the fetus is “teletransported” into the child who is left with three fingers missing.

Comments:
  • Christian Lee

    Mike,
    How many people did you harm? Did you harm Smith and Smith*? I think the answer is no.
    I still think the answer is yes. But notice that one can say yes without also saying that when Smith* comes into existence there is a greater amount of harm. For the number of harmed people can change, without the number of harms changing. You seem to admit this much in “Mars Harm Two”. You say:
    You caused the same number and severity of harms in each case.
    But then you go on to say:
    Suppose that for each replication of Smith, we add yet another harm that Jones caused. It is easy to see how to create a moral monster. Take the harm and replciate it indefinitely. For each replication, Jones is the cause. Jones can easily go from inflicting a serious harm on Smith to a great moral monster. All we need is replication. But it seems clear that replication does not make a moral monster of Jones.
    I don’t know what I am to be supposing. I agree that replication does not make a moral monster out of Jones, for replication does not increase the amount of harm that Jones causes. Replication increases only the number of persons to which the harm is directed. And Jones is not responsible for that.
    Your moral:
    I offer Mars Harm and Mars Harm Two as instructive about the number of harms caused in cases where a mother causes three fingers of her fetus to become detached, the fetus is “teletransported” into the child who is left with three fingers missing.
    I’m not sure I understand the moral, but it’s worth noticing that the Mars cases are different from the fetus case. For in the fetus case we have an individual, a fetus, that is not harmed since it is not a person, and a child that is harmed and it is a person. And so we can agree that there is no greater amount of harm done when the fetus becomes a child, but that is because all of the harm there is in the case arises when the child, and later, the adult, has lost the ability to use its fingers.

    September 30, 2008 — 15:38
  • John Alexander

    Hi Mike
    I suppose you knew that this was coming.
    t seems to me that there are a number of metaphysical/epistemological factors that need to be brought out in order to make you case. I grant that Smith and Smith* are two distinct persons. So what? You need to show that the body is not a factor in determining personal identity. If you are assuming that it is not, then your argument works. I see no reason for the assumption. The question arises as to how, in your scenario, Smith* accounts for his missing fingers if he has no memories of how they were lost. But, part of his memories is that he is missing three fingers. What other memories does he have concerning them? Smith* may not hold you responsible because he does not know (and cannot know) that you removed the three fingers from Smith. But what about those who know what you did to Smith?
    Counter-example: Imagine that you know that if you transfer a certain gene to your child that her children will be missing three fingers. If you have the gene removed there will be no harm to your grandchildren. You do not have the gene removed and low and beyond your grandchildren are missing three fingers. They know that had you had the gene removed they would have all their fingers. Are you not the cause of your grandchildren not having three fingers? Is it not the case that they can blame you for not having the gene removed?
    Last question (for now) am I the same John Alexander as the one who has discussed this issue with you in earlier posts or am I distinct beings each time I post?

    September 30, 2008 — 16:01
  • Mike Almeida

    But notice that one can say yes without also saying that when Smith* comes into existence there is a greater amount of harm. For the number of harmed people can change, without the number of harms changing.
    I can’t follow that as applied to this particular case (actually I can’t follow it at all). There is the harm to Smith, yes? And then there is the harm to Smith*, right? These by my count are two distinct people each of whom has a distinct harm. Suppose I ask who I should compensate for the harm I caused. Since I caused both, by your count, I should compensate both. Since the harms are equally bad, my compensation to each should be equal. This is unlike the case with Harm Two. In Harm Two I owe half as much compensation, since I caused half as much harm.
    I don’t know what I am to be supposing.
    You are supposed to be supposing that, for each replicated version Smithn of Smith, there is a harm to Smithn that I caused. Since I caused the harm to Smithn, I owe compensation to Smithn for the harm I caused. I then owe much more compensation in Making a Moral Monster than I do in Harm Two.
    Of course, you might want to say that I don’t cause any harm to Smith*. Or you might want to say that I cause harm to Smith* but I don’t owe compensation for the harm I cause. But I’d be a bit surprised ot hear you say either of these.
    For in the fetus case we have an individual, a fetus, that is not harmed since it is not a person
    This begs the question at issue. But let’s settle the other two issues first.

    September 30, 2008 — 16:02
  • John Alexander

    Let us look at an example from manufacturing. Let us imagine that an engineer has made a die and in the die is a defect that will be replicated in each casting made from the die. He knows that the defect is in the die but also knows that the defect will not adversely affect the performance of the castings. In fact, no one will ever see it. So he puts the die into production. Did the engineer cause the defect in each casting?

    September 30, 2008 — 22:58
  • John Alexander

    Add an adendum to my last comment
    Imagine that as time goes on the defect increse to the point were a casting fails causign the machine the casting is part of to fail athereb killing the operator. The Engineer could have calculatd that the castings would begin to fail, but did not do the calculation. Did the engineer cause the death of the operator?

    September 30, 2008 — 23:43
  • John Alexander

    This is a corrected copy of my last comment. Sorry for all the errors in the original.
    Add an addendum to my last comment
    Imagine that as time goes on the defect increases to the point were a casting fails causing the machine the casting is part of to fail thereby killing the operator. The Engineer could have calculated that the castings would begin to fail, but did not do the calculation. Did the engineer cause the death of the operator?

    September 30, 2008 — 23:48
  • Christian Lee

    I may not have the cases clearly in mind. I was assuming that “other things were being held equal” in each case. That is, I was assuming that the total amount of life lived, and it’s quality, was the same in the first case as the second. I was assuming that in the first case quality and quantity of life was distributed between two distinct persons, Smith and Smith*, whereas quality and quantity of life was distributed only amongst one person in the second case. Is that not right?
    If it is right, then here is a quick argument that shows that there can be distinct numbers of harms with the same amount. I shock Smith** for five seconds and Smith***, a different Smith, for five seconds. I then shock Smith** years later, in the exact same way as I did before, but for 10 seconds. The amount of harm in the first case is identical to the amount of harm in the second case, though there is a greater number of harms in the first. My claim was about amount, not number (though I certainly could have been more clear).
    So I agree there are more harms in the first case, but is has the same amount of harm as there is in the second.
    So I ask: In the moral monster case, is everything else being held equal? If it is, then I deny that one could make a moral monster that way. But not for the reason you are suggesting. For one is not increasing the amount of harm in the world (and so no greater amount of compensation would be owed). If other things are not being held constant, I’d need to know which changes you are assuming before I can get any intuition about the case.
    This begs the question at issue. But let’s settle the other two issues first.
    That could accurately be claimed of any decent counterargument.

    October 1, 2008 — 0:04
  • John Alexander

    Mike:
    I reread my 1st comment and apologize for the snarky tone with the ‘so what.” That was uncalled for.

    October 1, 2008 — 7:36
  • Mike Almeida

    You need to show that the body is not a factor in determining personal identity. If you are assuming that it is not, then your argument works. I see no reason for the assumption.
    But again my argument does not depend on any assumptions about personal identity. I’m not making such assumptions, others are making them. Others are claiming that the child is not identical to the fetus or not sufficiently closely related to the fetus for F and C to be a single continuant. None of these are my assumptions. So, clearly, I do not have to defend them.

    October 1, 2008 — 8:23
  • Mike Almeida

    So I agree there are more harms in the first case, but is has the same amount of harm as there is in the second.
    The harms that I impose in Mars Harm and Mars Harm Two do not have a temporal dimension. The harm is causing someone to lose his fingers. In the first case I cause (on your view) two people to lose their fingers. In the second case I cause one person to lose his fingers. That particular harm does not worsen or improve depending on the length of lives lived. For the sake of this discussion, the harm can be viewed as a loss of some extremely valuable property. It is at least that, but more.
    In Mars Harm, I cause Smith to lose valuable property and (on your view) I cause Smith* to lose equally valuable property. I should compensate both, if that’s true.
    In Making a Moral Monster, (again on your view) I cause indefinitely many people to lose valuable property via replication. I should compensate them all. I take this to be a reductio for the reasons cited.

    October 1, 2008 — 8:39
  • Well, my own intuition is that how good you morally are is completely independent of what harms you in fact cause. In Case 1 you cause more harm than in Case 2. But you are not morally any worse in Case 1 than in Case 2. Consider:
    Case 4: You sever three of Smith’s fingers. But you didn’t notice that Smith had eight fingers on that hand, which was very inconvenient for him (hard to find a spacesuit that fits, say), and he was on his way to a surgeon to get three of the eight fingers amputated. The ones you amputated were the very ones he wanted the surgeon to amputate.
    In Case 4, you’ve restored Smith’s hand to the normal five-finger state, and caused him no harm. But you are morally no better in Case 4 than in Cases 1 and 2.
    Of course here I am assuming a denial of a certain form of moral luck. I am taking it for granted that you are no morally worse for being a murderer than for being an attempted murderer, and so on. This is, of course, controversial.
    Suppose you disagree with me on moral luck, and you think that in Case 4 you are morally better than in Case 1. Fine. But if you believe that your moral goodness depends on the actual outcome of your actions, then you might have no discomfort in saying that you’re morally worse in Case 1 than in Case 2. (Though even that is unclear. Here is why. You might think it is no worse to cause person 1 to lack three fingers for two years, and person 2 to lack three fingers for 28 years, than it is to cause person 1 to lack three fingers for 30 years. If so, then if the cumulative finger-loss time is the same in Cases 1 and 2, there is no difference in total harm.)

    October 1, 2008 — 11:13
  • John Alexander

    I did not claim that you were making that assumption. I was claiming that you need to make it for your argument to work in the Mars Harm Case (MHC). My reason for this is your assertion that “On every contemporary view, the personal identity of Smith is not preserved in Smith*. Smith* is a numercially different person.” I do think that you do need to defend your idea of what constitutes personal identity (PI) in your thought experiment(s) in so far as you are making certain claims regarding ‘harm,’ ’cause,’ ‘responsibility, ‘distinctness,’ etc. as they pertain to your claims regarding harming C if F = C or -(F = C). If I understand your argument correctly, you are claiming that even though F is harmed that C is not harmed regardless of the identity claim regarding F and C. I am arguing that C is harmed regardless of the identity claim.
    As I indicated in an earlier comment on an earlier post, how we are to understand ‘cause’ seems to be important in assigning harm. You did not respond to that, but I would like to know how you are using that term. It is relevant. In the Engineering Case (EC), does the engineer cause the defect in the castings? In on sense he does not, the die causes it. In another sense he does because he established the conditions under which the die would cause the defect. The same issue arises in the Grandparent/Grandchild Case (GGC). In the MHC it seems that the harm (defect) is replicated (like castings from a die) in Smith and Smith* regardless of whether Smith and Smith* have the same memories, or bodies for that matter. (I think I was in error in my earlier comment on this post regarding bodies and PI, but I am not sure). The Grandfather did not cause the harm in the grandchild; the defective gene in the parent of the child did. But the Grandfather did harm the grandchild by establishing the conditions under which the gene was allowed to be transferred to the parent and then the grandchild.
    I would be interested in your response to these two cases as they pertain to MHC.

    October 1, 2008 — 11:46
  • Mike Almeida

    In Case 4, you’ve restored Smith’s hand to the normal five-finger state, and caused him no harm. But you are morally no better in Case 4 than in Cases 1 and 2.
    Alex,
    I don’t disagree that there are addtional conditions on blame and responsibility for harms that I’ve simply assumed hold. You’d agree, I assume, that keeping those conditions the same (e.g. assuming the harms are intentional, malicious, freely performed, etc.) then you are worse when you commit more harms (conditions met) than when you commit fewer (conditions met).

    October 1, 2008 — 12:29
  • Mike Almeida

    I was claiming that you need to make it for your argument to work in the Mars Harm Case (MHC).
    Again, I’ve got to disagree. I’m not assuming anything for the argument. I’m conceding that one or the other of the two dominant contemporary views of personal identity is correct for the sake of argument. The people to whom I am responding do assume that one or the other of those views is correct. I don’t know how else to put this. If you have an objection to those views, take it up with them. I have reservations about those views, but for the sake of argument I’m willing to concede that one or the other is correct.

    October 1, 2008 — 12:43
  • Christian Lee

    The harms that I impose in Mars Harm and Mars Harm Two do not have a temporal dimension. The harm is causing someone to lose his fingers.
    I wasn’t talking about this harm, I was talking about the harm of, something like, being unable to use one’s 10 fingers. I’m interested in harms that do have temporal dimension. But, be that as it may, I do agree with you. There will be certain harms that do not survive replication. The one you point out, causing one to lose fingers will be one of those. For one has to have fingers to lose them, and the replicated never have the relevant fingers to lose. Going back:
    I offer Mars Harm and Mars Harm Two as instructive about the number of harms caused in cases where a mother causes three fingers of her fetus to become detached, the fetus is “teletransported” into the child who is left with three fingers missing.
    If by ‘number of harms’ you were to mean number of causings of some finger loss, then I agree with you. This number doesn’t go up when a fetus becomes a child. But, again, my point was that the number and amount of harm, in another and more natural and important sense, does go up. For the child is caused to have a temporally extended harm, that of being fingerless and all that this implies. This harm survives replication. It is significant. It makes the detachment of the fingers of the fetus wrong. And, as far as I can tell, it is still an open question whether detaching the fingers of the fetus harm the fetus.

    October 1, 2008 — 13:35
  • John Alexander

    I agree that you are not assuming anything. I am in error. But how does this address my concerns regarding Smith and Smith*?
    “How many people did you harm? Did you harm Smith and Smith*? I think the answer is no.”
    I think the answer is yes, for reasons stated above regarding EC and GGC. Why am I wrong? Please explain this to me because I do not think that I do understand what you are trying to demonstrate and I do want to understand it.

    October 1, 2008 — 15:27
  • Mike Almeida

    You’re asking what I have in mind by a cause. I am denying that every case of counterfactual dependence is a case of causal dependence. In the F and H case, we have counterfactual dependence that is not causal. Similarly in the most recent cases. Why do I deny that it is causal? One of reasons is that (granting that all other relevant conditions are met) if I cause harm H, then I am blameworthy for harm H. But it is evident that I am not blameworthy for all of the harm in Making a Moral Monster. But then I cannot be the cause of those harms.

    October 1, 2008 — 18:21
  • John Alexander

    Mike
    How this clear? “But it seems clear that replication does not make a moral monster of Jones.”
    If Jones is replicating a harm numerous times, this is different the M causing harm to F once. I agree that there is only one harm even if F becomes C. But in the MMC there is a larger population then one experiencing the harm coming from a single source. If Jones has a choice between harming 1 and harming 100 and chooses to harm 100 would we not consider him a moral monster? If not, what is a moral monster? Consider that the engineer in EC had a choice between not making any castings from the defective die or making as many as the die is capable of making. At some point the defect in the die increases to a point where the defect in the resulting castings will cause them to fail resulting in harm to the operators of the machines the casting is part of. I think the engineer (Jones) is the cause of these harms in so far as they would not have occurred had he not made castings from the die and that it was his choice to proceed to production. I think he is responsible for the resulting harms and that he can be blamed for them occurring.
    Now, I think there is an ambiguity in the phrasing “number of harms caused.” In one sense it is true that one harm is caused, say death, or the lose of three fingers, or the defect in the die. But I think it also means the resulting amount of cumulative instances of this one harm spread over that population that has it. If you mean to restrict the meaning to the former, I fail to see the significance of this claim. It would seem to have some strange normative consequences about how we assign responsibility and blame (or praise).

    October 2, 2008 — 0:16
  • Mike Almeida

    If Jones is replicating a harm numerous times, this is different the M causing harm to F once. I agree that there is only one harm even if F becomes C. But in the MMC there is a larger population then one experiencing the harm coming from a single source.
    The replication takes place as in the original case. I harm Smith, he enters a replicator that destroys all of his cells while recording their states. Another being Smith* is created out of new matter in another place. Smith* is now alive, Smith is not. Now Smith* enters a replciator. All of Smith*’s cells are destroyed while copied. A replicator creates out of new matter Smith**. Smith* is not alive, Smith** is.
    For each replicated beings S, I am told, my action is the cause of a harm to S. I do not deny that I harmed Smith. I do deny that I harmed anyone who was replicated.

    October 2, 2008 — 7:41
  • John Alexander

    “I do deny that I harmed anyone who was replicated.”
    I agree that this is your position. What I find problematic is that you have not demonstrated (from my perspective) that it is the correct one to have. Smith** is missing three fingers the same as Smith* and Smith. Smith was harmed and he thinks he was harmed. Does Smith** consider not having three fingers harm? Under your analysis he should not. If he found out that it was the result of what happened to Smith and being replicated from Smith* who was replicated from Smith why would he be wrong in thinking that he was harmed and that the person doing the replication was the cause of the harm. Why not fix the replicator? Under your analysis I can see no reason why the person doing the replication has an obligation to fix it. I would argue that if he can fix the replicator and chooses not to then he is doing something wrong. Why? Because not fixing it harms the new replications. How would you handle liability cases such as the one that would result in the Engineering Case? Where would you place the blame? Or is there no blame?
    I hope you are enjoying this exchange as much as I am.

    October 2, 2008 — 8:25
  • Mike Almeida

    Maybe it will help to observe that I do not bring Smith** into existence. He comes into existence as a result of replication. It is true that I might have acted in such a way that Smith** life would have been better, but failing to act in such a way that a person’s life would have been better is not harming them. I mean, unless I am harming millions of people every day!

    October 2, 2008 — 14:06
  • John Alexander

    “I mean, unless I am harming millions of people every day!”
    This doesn’t have to be the condition for blame. If I am not aleviating the harm of one person that I could aleviate then I am harming that person. This seems to follow from the second meaning of ’cause.’ You seem tcontent to rest with the 1st meaning, but that does not show that the 2nd meaning is not also warranted. I think that is Singer’s position: we are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we can prevent.

    October 2, 2008 — 15:48
  • Mike Almeida

    If I am not aleviating the harm of one person that I could aleviate then I am harming that person.
    As far as I can tell, this just misunderstands what it is to harm someone. I am not harming them in the case described: I do nothing to them. Instead I don’t add to whatever benefits they have. It’s a conceptual confusion to think that I am committing all of these harms simply by failing to bestow benefits on all of these people. It gets the concept of a harm wrong. If we disagree at this point, there’s really not much left to say. In any event, I don’t have much to say.

    October 2, 2008 — 17:12
  • Christian Lee

    If I may Mike and John,
    John, I completely agree with what appears to be your argument. Allowing a child to drown in a pond is not simply failing to bestow a benefit upon him. That’s a true description of the omission, but so is this: allowing a child to drown in a pond is not eating fish and chips. So what? It’s wronging him nonetheless, and it is disgusting. Call it ‘harm’ or not, it’s still wrong. It grounds moral condemnation. Though, and let me be clear, I agree with Mike that it is not harming him by causing him to lose fingers. But this is completely irrelevant. For allowing someone to suffer without a good reason is wrong, and that is the crucial point. I don’t know if Mike accepts this or not, but it seems clear that one can accept that one does not harm Smith* or the fingerless child (in our case) but still accept that one allows something needless and bad to happen to it, and that is wrong. One can accept, that is, that causing something bad to happen to the child is wrong, without claiming that what this bad thing is, is losing fingers.

    October 3, 2008 — 0:54
  • Mike Almeida

    I don’t know if Mike accepts this or not, but it seems clear that one can accept that one does not harm Smith* or the fingerless child (in our case) but still accept that one allows something needless and bad to happen to it, and that is wrong.
    I’d definitely disagree that, in any case in which I allow something needless and bad to happen, I have done something wrong. But, that aside, I’d deny that I let something bad to happen to Smith** who was nothing more than a possible being at the time of my action to Smith*. I neither caused that bad thing to happen nor allowed anything or anyone else to cause it. Of course I knew it was possible for Smith* to replicate, and I knew the result of replication would be someone missing three fingers, but I did not therefore allow something bad to happen to Smith**.
    If Smith has a child while knowing that, it is possible that that child grows to be a mass murdered M, and that possible beings B1-Bn are killed by M, does Smith allow something bad to happen to B1-Bn by having a child that might be a murderer? Obviously not.

    October 3, 2008 — 7:52
  • Christian Lee

    If Smith has a child while knowing that, it is possible that that child grows to be a mass murdered M, and that possible beings B1-Bn are killed by M, does Smith allow something bad to happen to B1-Bn by having a child that might be a murderer? Obviously not.
    I agree with you, of course. And if the child grew up to be such a murderer, it still wouldn’t be true that Smith allowed those murderings to happen. Consider this case:
    POND: Smith has a child that wanders into a pond, and he watches the child’s head go under, he can easily walk over and pick up the child, but this will soil his new shoes. So he doesn’t and the child drowns.
    Does Smith allow something bad to happen by watching the child’s head go under the water and intentionally refraining from walking over to help him? Obviously yes.
    BOMB: I come across a bomb that I know will go off in 200 years (in a crowded city) if it isn’t deactivated. Instead of telling the proper authorities, I ignore it and chuckle. 200 years later it goes off and kills lots of people.
    Do I allow something bad to happen by ignoring the bomb and intentionally refraining from telling the proper authorities. Obviously yes.
    I take it that these cases show that ‘allowing’ and ‘refraining’ need to be interpreted intentionally, so that one allows F only if one knows that F will, or will likely occur unless one does a certain thing. This is why Smith’s not refraining from having the murderous child is not an allowing of something bad to happen. So I can accept your case. Yet allowing something bad to happen to a fetus will, in many cases, count as allowing something bad to happen to the child it turns into. For we know that if we allow a fetus’ fingers to be detached, this will likely affect the child’s ability to hold things in his hand.

    October 3, 2008 — 12:58
  • John Alexander

    Mike
    From your argument over the past few posts, you have to also conclude that the principle that ‘a moral agent will not eliminate evil whenever and wherever possible, all else being equal’ is false as it applies to allowing evil to exist. I can see from this discussion that there is no problem of evil (in at least one of its formulations) for you. God can allow evil to exist because allowing it to exist is not doing anything wrong even if He can come to the aid of those experiencing evil and decides not to. He does not cause moral evil to exist because that evil is the result of human free-will and He is not he cause of us deciding one way or another.
    It seems to me that your entire discussion comes down to accepting the distinction between ‘doing’ and ‘allowing’ such that if I do x, and doing x results in harm, then I did something wrong because I caused x, but if I allow x to happen I did nothing wrong because I did not cause x. I think you need to present a stronger argument then you have to date for that conclusion. You also need to present an argument, other then the idea of a ‘conceptual confusion” (that can work both ways), that demonstrates that allowing x to happen is not causing x to happen.

    October 3, 2008 — 14:40
  • Mike Almeida

    I can see from this discussion that there is no problem of evil (in at least one of its formulations) for you.
    Nothing I’ve said has anything to do with what an essentially perfectly good being with essentially inexhaustible resources should do.
    I think you need to present a stronger argument then you have to date for that conclusion.
    Well, if just we’re expressing what we think, I think the argument is already strong enough.

    October 3, 2008 — 16:11
  • Mike Almeida

    Yet allowing something bad to happen to a fetus will, in many cases, count as allowing something bad to happen to the child it turns into. For we know that if we allow a fetus’ fingers to be detached, this will likely affect the child’s ability to hold things in his hand.
    But you deny that I let something bad happen to the fetus. So I do nothing wrong to the fetus, and so it has no grievance against me. The caseof F and C is more complicated than the Smith case. In the F and C case, I do some action A which constitutes no wrongdoing. Later, another possible being C is actualized such that ~(F = C) and A allegedly wrongs C. My position has been that if A is a wrong to C then it is a wrong to F. Your position has been that A is a wrong to C but not to F.
    Counterexample: Assume psychological connectedness is necessary and suffcient for identity (if not identity, then suffcient to make two stages, S and S’, stages of the same continuant). Assumption: S fissions in to S1 and S2. S is sufficiently psychologically connected to S1 that (S = S1). S is not sufficiently connected to S2, and so ~(S = S2). S does not suffer a wrong, though I remove three of S’s fingers. S1 is fortunate enough to have his digits grow back. S is identical to S1, and neither S nor S1 have any grounds to complain they’ve been wronged. S2 is missing three fingers and claims that I wronged him. But that’s false. My actions did not even causally affect S2. My actions causally affected S (=S1).
    This is the central difference between the POND cases and the case I’m discussing. In POND my failing to help does causally affect the person in the pond. Similarly for BOMB. But in the case I am discussiing. my actions do not causally affect S2 (or C). My actions causally affect S and S1.

    October 3, 2008 — 16:47
  • Christian Lee

    But you deny that I let something bad happen to the fetus.
    Well, no. I deny that anything in your argument establishes that the fetus is harmed, or that something bad happens to it. I’d like to remain neutral. It’s unclear to me whether a fetus can feel pain, if it can, and if the detachment is a painful thing, then I’d say it has been harmed. But I think such a harm is no worse, in itself, than harming a chicken by detaching three of its toes.
    My position has been that if A is a wrong to C then it is a wrong to F.
    This is what I say the argument has not established. For it hasn’t established that a fetus can be harmed or wronged. Moreover, I gave cases where one could accept that C has been wronged by being deprived of something important, through an allowing of a certain kind, while F has not been harmed by an allowing of that same kind.
    Your position has been that A is a wrong to C but not to F.
    Yes, I think cutting the fingers of a fetus off, knowing that the child that fetus will turn into will lose the abilities that come along with having five fingers, is causing something bad to happen, it is wronging the child, and it harms the child. I say it may harm the fetus too, by causing it pain, but that’s all. And that depends upon whether fetuses feel pain or not.
    I can’t quite follow the fission case. You say “S does not suffer a wrong, though I remove three of S’s fingers.” How could that be? What does ‘S’ refer to? And if S1 grows his fingers back in the fissioning process, I guess I’d say one doesn’t harm him or allow some harm to befall him. But if this is not true for S2, I’d say that if one is aware that this fissioning is going to happen, then one harms S2 by cutting S’s fingers off. I don’t understand why you deny that causation transfers through replication, or through fissioning.
    I throw a ball and it causes the bulls-eye to depress, which causes a lever to move, which causes a seat to go down, which causes Mike to fall in the water. Do you deny that my throwing of the ball causes Mike to fall in the water in a such a case? I’m not seeing the difference yet.
    In POND my failing to help does causally affect the person in the pond. Similarly for BOMB. But in the case I am discussiing. my actions do not causally affect S2 (or C). My actions causally affect S and S1.
    No it doesn’t. Imagine someone saying to you after you watched the child drown. “YOU CAUSED MY CHILD TO DIE!” That would be clearly mistaken. The same for BOMB, for one could say “I DIDN’T PUT THE BOMB THERE, SO, I WILL NOT HAVE CAUSED THOSE FUTURE PEOPLE TO DIE!” That would be clearly true. But both are still responsible. Do you accept that omissions are, or can be, causes? Do you think one wrongs the child in the pond, and the people in the future in the BOMB case?
    Suppose in the fission case that S1 and S2 have the same psychology and whatever else is relevant to personal identity. Both have S’s personality. However, S1 has red hair and S2 has blue hair. Does that fact exclude my detaching of S’s fingers from causing one of these people to suffer a harm? And if ‘having the same hair as’ is irrelevant, why is ‘being the same person as’ relevant to the existence of this particular harm? I can see how personal identity makes a difference to who suffers harm, I fail to see how it makes a difference as to whether there is a harm.

    October 3, 2008 — 20:23
  • Mike Almeida

    I can’t quite follow the fission case.
    Read it again, I guess.

    October 3, 2008 — 20:29
  • John Alexander

    “Well, if just we’re expressing what we think, I think the argument is already strong enough.”
    I had just briefly repeated a longer argument that I had made a couple of times in earlier comments, but to which you did not reply. But to go beyond what I think, you make the following claim: “I’d definitely disagree that, in any case in which I allow something needless and bad to happen, I have done something wrong.” The word “any” is inclusive so that you cannot claim this: “This is the central difference between the POND cases and the case I’m discussing. In POND my failing to help does causally affect the person in the pond,” unless you can demonstrate that causing something to happen that is needless and bad for those that it happens too is not doing something wrong to those people. For me, this is what your overall argument turns on. My counter-argument was that if one causes x and x is an unnecessary and avoidable harm to those who experience x, then one has done something wrong. Why, because I caused it. I would argue that we assign praise and blame for only those consequences we cause. In my argument (and examples) there is no distinction between doing x and allowing x where x is a needless and avoidable harm that warrants blame for doing and no blame for allowing. It seems that your argument commits you to the idea that even if I cause something needless and bad to happen that is not wrong. My issue is that you have not sufficiently demonstrated this. There are some apparent inconsistencies in what you are asserting in various key points in your argument. This is why I think that you need a stronger argument. If you disagree, fine. It has been an interesting discussion.

    October 3, 2008 — 20:56
  • Mike Almeida

    you make the following claim: “I’d definitely disagree that, in any case in which I allow something needless and bad to happen, I have done something wrong.” The word “any” is inclusive so that you cannot claim this: “This is the central difference between the POND cases and the case I’m discussing. In POND my failing to help does causally affect the person in the pond,” unless you can demonstrate that causing something to happen that is needless and bad for those that it happens too is not doing something wrong to those people.
    I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the point of diminishing marginal utility, but I guess I’ll make two logic points. First this,
    I’d definitely disagree that, in any case in which I allow something needless and bad to happen, I have done something wrong.
    That is equivalent to denying that,
    1. In any case in which I allow something bad to happen, I have done something wrong.
    This is formally,
    1a. (Vx)(x is an instance of allowing something bad to happen only if x is wrong).
    Since I am denying (1a), I believe the negation of (1a), which is just this.
    2. (Ex)(x is an instance of allowing something bad to happen and x is not wrong).
    And that is perfectly consistent with claiming tyhat in some cases my failing to help is wrong, as in the pond case.
    Second point,
    Omissions can be causes just as well as commissions. To borrow an example from McGrath, my failing to water Jones’s plant causes it’s death. I’d say the same thing about my failing to pull the child from the pond.

    October 4, 2008 — 7:43
  • Hi Mike,
    (I haven’t read the comments exhaustively, as a disclaimer.) Are we trying to decide how many people I harm in each case? Or how morally bad I am in each case? Or both? The way you phrase the question(s) seem(s) to vary between Mars Harm and Mars Harm II. And if you have a view where moral goodness doesn’t depend on outcomes, etc.
    Either way, I think I agree that I cause no more people harm, or am no morally worse, in Mars II than in Mars I. How could I harm Smith*? That would involve cutting off his fingers. But I’ve never even met Smith*! Sure, I cut off the fingers of someone very close to him. But not him.
    Suppose through negligence I pass on a disease to a woman, and this disease has the potential to be passed from mother to child. After years of deliberation, the woman decides to have a child, despite the risk. Sadly, the disease is passed from her to the child. Have I harmed the child?
    I think my intuition is No. But this is similar to Mars II. In both cases I harm someone very close (Smith, the mother) to the person in question (Smith*, the child), but not the person themselves. Maybe this is just another way of saying your conclusion …

    October 7, 2008 — 14:08
  • Mike Almeida

    Hi Luke,
    Yes, the case is supposed to concern how many people I harm, and how morally bad I therefore am. I want to conclude that you harm Smith* ONLY IF (i) you harm Smith, and (ii) Smith = Smith*. But if Smith* =/= Smith, then you harm Smith but not Smith*. I argue analogously for those who prefer wronged-Smith-talk over harmed-Smith-talk. I reject the suggestion that, for all actions A, if I perform A then S’s life would be better, then it is wrong for me to fail to perform A (or I wrong S (or harm S) in failing to perform A).

    October 8, 2008 — 9:19