Fiona Woollard: On Doing and Allowing Harm
Marshall (Richard) & Woollard (Fiona)
Source: Marshall (Richard) - Philosophy at 3:AM
Paper - Abstract

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Editor's Introduction

  1. Introductory Quotations
    • ‘Intuitively, there are morally relevant distinctions between different ways of being related to harm. One of these is the act/omission distinction: did the harm happen because I did something or because I didn’t do something? I think the act/omission distinction is different from, but related to, another distinction, the doing/allowing distinction: did I do harm or merely allow it to happen? On my view, you can sometimes allow harm through an action – for example, if you cancel a direct debit to charity you *do* something, but because all you do is to prevent money that belongs to you from aiding, you merely allow the harm’.
    • ‘I’m inclined to think that you wouldn’t be required to break your *own* legs to save the child. This is partly because it would be very difficult to break your own legs or to kill yourself. I think it makes a difference whether the cost would be upfront or a side effect of saving the child. This connects to my claims about the need for protection against normative imposition in order for our bodies and other resources to genuinely belong to us’.
    • ‘It’s obvious that I have a moral reason to run a marathon raising money for a life-saving charity. The potential benefits certainly speak in favour of running. And it might be that there are no strong countervailing considerations. Sure, the training would be hard and it would take up a lot of time, but it would on balance make me healthier, happier and more efficient. But no one thinks they get to require me to justify my failure to run a marathon. I don’t need to feel guilt and no one gets to blame me.’
  2. Fiona Woollard
    • Has research interests in normative ethics, applied ethics, epistemically transformative experiences and the philosophy of sex and pregnancy.
    • She has published on topics including the distinction between doing and allowing harm, climate change and the non-identity problem, the moral significance of numbers, pornography and the norm of monogamy.
    • Here she discusses
      1. the distinction between acts and omissions and doing and allowing,
      2. wicked uncles,
      3. Frances Kamm’s argument for the moral relevance of the distinction between doing and allowing,
      4. intrusion,
      5. Warren Quinn’s arguments for the distinction,
      6. substantial facts and presuppositions,
      7. Singer’s pond case,
      8. Unger and Singer on the Donation case and why it links to the pond case,
      9. whether her work helps decide which normative theory we adopt,
      10. Parfit’s non-identity argument and the hired gun, and
      11. whether all moral reasons give rise to moral obligations.


For the full Interview, see 3am: Fiona Woollard.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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