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Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

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erk
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Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by erk » November 25th, 2018, 12:41 pm

In criminal law the concepts of harm and wrongdoing come together to define crime.

It is possible for there to be a harm without any wrongdoing, for example in purely natural events.

But is it possible to do wrong without causing harm?

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 25th, 2018, 1:44 pm

To do wrong, no. But causing harm is my idea of wrongdoing.
It isn't a universal definition of wrongdoing - there isn't one.
It's not possible, but unavoidable to commit many criminal acts without doing any harm.
Just try pissing in a receptacle intended for that purpose but designated off-limits to "your kind".

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by h_k_s » November 25th, 2018, 9:45 pm

[quote=erk post_id=324406 time=1543164086 user_id=47884]
In criminal law the concepts of harm and wrongdoing come together to define crime.

It is possible for there to be a harm without any wrongdoing, for example in purely natural events.

But is it possible to do wrong without causing harm?
[/quote]

Wastefulness is not illegal but it strikes me as purely wrong.

My father taught me not to waste meat because an animal had to die so we could eat it. He was from Illinois and he had Midwestern values.

I have taken what he gave me about meat and extended it to all food. I believe wasting food although not illegal is purely wrong.

Wasting natural resources such as coal and oil seems purely wrong as well.

And so forth -- anything to do with wasting.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 25th, 2018, 10:35 pm

Those wrongs - like many legal wrongs - do a very great deal of harm.
There are three separate concepts: crime --- wrong ---- harm.
In one act, you might have all three, or any two but not the third, any one but not the other two, or none of them, depending on your definition of each of those words.
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by barata » November 25th, 2018, 11:47 pm

who knows ? history is written by victors. so really who knows?

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by LuckyR » November 26th, 2018, 3:56 am

It is a crime to take LSD. I am unaware of any harm, thus some would conclude that it is not wrong.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 26th, 2018, 1:07 pm

"Harm" I take to be that which is detrimental to life: that which damages a living organism and/or its environment.
Harm can be calculated in many ways. In a social context, it may be considered wrong to damage the fabric of the society in any way - physically, as by depleting its population; economically, as by the diminishing the productivity of its members; psychologically, as by disturbing their emotional equilibrium; spiritually, as by undermining its belief system.
Nations enact laws and designate crimes according to any of those criteria.
As private individuals, we may have different views of both harm and wrong, but the law which defines crimes is beyond our direct control. Individuals can only influence law-making indirectly and very slowly. The law does change to reflect the majority view.
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Eduk » November 26th, 2018, 2:22 pm

I think we can agree that the law and wrongness, while linked, aren't the same thing?
It is wrong to close ones eyes and run a red light but it is possible to do so without harm.
For me a more nuanced question might be can you do a wrong without increasing the chances of harm?
I can't think of an example which would qualify off the top of my head.
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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 26th, 2018, 3:44 pm

Eduk wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 2:22 pm
I think we can agree that the law and wrongness, while linked, aren't the same thing?
Totally agree.
For me a more nuanced question might be can you do a wrong without increasing the chances of harm?
I had not taken the risk factor into consideration. You're right - I must amend my definition to include potential harm - to weigh the probability of harm to others against whatever benefit the agent might expect from an action.
I can't think of an example which would qualify off the top of my head.
Lucky R's example might work here. What are the perceived benefits, probable risks and peripheral factors.
Leaving legality completely aside, I'll make three lists.
Expected benefits rated by importance: A person might want to use LSD 1. as a treatment for mental illness, 2. to expand their creative/spiritual awareness, 3. to join in the rituals of a subculture, 4. out of curiosity, 5. for simple fun.
Probable risks rated by severity: 1.psychotic break, 2. destructive/irresponsible behaviour under the influence, 3. self-harm, 4. flashbacks/ recurring nightmares, 5. a bad trip.
Collateral: We don't know where and how the drug is made; whether it contains harmful contaminants. We don't know how the manufacture and distribution of it affects the local economy (e.g. child labour, and ecology (e.g. effluent in the drains). We don't know what the long-term effect of its use will be on the user and his or her family, friends, work environment, etc.

Most of the risks are impossible to predict, but we can take a stab at calculating them from available statistics.
Myself, I'd put a very low wrongness rating on the ingestion of LSD - most drugs, for that matter, since most of the probable harm is to the agent himself, with very small likelihood of harming others, and I don't feel impelled to save the agent from the consequences of his own actions.

Also: There are very few actions that have zero probability of harmful effects. Nobody suggests that mountain-climbing or speed-skating is wrong, even though they have high incidence of injury to the agent and expense/inconvenience/hardship/emotional distress to their community. I suppose, as a society, we value the perceived benefits of these activities above the probable costs.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Ratwrangler » November 28th, 2018, 1:27 pm

I suppose this would depend on your definitions of 'wrong' and 'harm'. As an example, marijuana was illegal across the land for decades, and yet a lot of young people, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, smoked it with no apparent harm. Businesses would fire those who tested positive for it, claiming potential 'harm' to their bottom line, though there was often no evidence of such. These criminals would be jailed for long periods of time, as our society claimed it would be 'harmed' by letting them continue their criminal activities. The same thing happened during Prohibition. Society, as a group, claimed that alcohol was 'harming' them in some fashion, and voila, it was made illegal. I believe that the concept of 'wrong' has to include a 'harm' component. Most, though not all, of our laws reflect this, as most violations of the law have victims, whether it be physical or financial. I do not believe that 'illegal' automatically constitutes a wrong, as there have been many unjust laws on the books in our history. I'm a bit less certain if there can be any 'wrong' that should be legal, though. I would have to put some serious thought into that.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 28th, 2018, 3:59 pm

Ratwrangler wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 1:27 pm
I believe that the concept of 'wrong' has to include a 'harm' component. Most, though not all, of our laws reflect this, as most violations of the law have victims, whether it be physical or financial.
That was the premise with which erk began the thread.
I do not believe that 'illegal' automatically constitutes a wrong, as there have been many unjust laws on the books in our history.
The law reflects the values of a belief-system and the interests of a power-structure. The makers of law, in their time, place and circumstance, perceive harm from a perspective not shared by their average citizen, let alone a denizen of some unprevented future.
I'm a bit less certain if there can be any 'wrong' that should be legal, though.
That's something that hasn't been covered yet. My own feeling is that "wrong" is too difficult to define for there ever to be consensus. Some faction or interest or sect always considers itself harmed or threatened by the activities of other interests and factions.

The whole issue of criminalizing drug use is far more complicated than a question of right or wrong. It plays into economics, race, class, politics and law-enforcement funding.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Eduk » November 28th, 2018, 4:35 pm

I hadn't thought about comparing mountain climbing with lsd.
I don't consider mountain climbing to be wrong, although there are individual cases which are. Seems to me there are definite positives.
LSD on the other hand I can't think of arguments other than ones which make it wrong. It compromises the brain. Actually it reminds me of something I heard recently. A written deliberately deprived themselves of sleep in order to help their writing. It anecdotally helped them but I certainly wouldn't recommend it. I guess overall I'm slightly against but with the possibility that I am mistaken. Then again if my son wanted to take LSD I would be very against it.
I don't buy into the whole its only harming the individual thing either. No one is an island.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 29th, 2018, 12:55 pm

Eduk wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 4:35 pm
I don't buy into the whole its only harming the individual thing either. No one is an island.
True - this is what makes the weighing of known benefit/known harm ; potential benefit/potential harm so difficult.

However, it does become necessary to draw some line between individual and community - even if it's an arbitrary one. If individuals are totally constrained in their actions by potential harm as perceived by others, then individuals are deprived of freedom, self-expression, the pursuit of happiness - and the opportunity to experiment. This, again, would harm the community directly through destructive rebellion and indirectly through the loss of creative endeavour. So, we invent methods of channeling certain natural impulses toward group activity - team sports, contests, etc. And we draw an invisible circle around each member of the community inside which they're free to do risky, adventurous things (the circles are different sizes, too, according to social status.)

I feel that mountain climbing, skateboarding, drug-taking - insofar as they do not directly endanger anyone else - fall within that circle, as do suicide, body-decoration, sexual preference and birth-control. What the parents want is not necessarily what's good for every child; what the elders want is not necessarily what's best for each tribe member; what the Supreme Court decides is not necessarily in the best interest of every citizen.
The social contract is in a constant state of negotiation.

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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Eduk » November 29th, 2018, 1:04 pm

Yes it's certainly massively complex.
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Re: Are there "pure" wrongs, which involve no harm?

Post by Alias » November 29th, 2018, 8:01 pm

It is. And yet every society manages it somehow. When the numbers are small enough for everyone to be familiar with everyone else, it's as easy - as instinctive, i guess - as it is for a pack of coyotes or mob of meerkats. When a society is stable for a long time, it can rely on tradition, which changes so gradually as not to cause conflict. When a society is large and diverse, we have to rely on law and common sense, which causes a lot of problems.

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