How the Source, Inevitability and Means of Bringing About Harm Interact in Folk-Moral Judgments

Bryce Huebner, Marc D. Hauser, Phillip Pettit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Means-based harms are frequently seen as forbidden, even when they lead to a greater good. But, are there mitigating factors? Results from five experiments show that judgments about means-based harms are modulated by: 1) Pareto considerations (was the harmed person made worse off?), 2) the directness of physical contact, and 3) the source of the threat (e.g. mechanical, human, or natural). Pareto harms are more permissible than non-Pareto harms, Pareto harms requiring direct physical contact are less permissible than those that do not, and harming someone who faces a mechanical threat is less permissible than harming someone who faces a non-mechanical threat. These results provide insight into the rich representational structure underlying folk-moral computations, including both the independent and interacting roles of the inevitability, directness and source of harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-233
Number of pages24
JournalMind and Language
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language

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