Harms as Setbacks to Interest

Joel Feinberg

in The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 1: Harm to Others

Published in print August 1987 | ISBN: 9780195046649
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868728 | DOI:
Harms as Setbacks to Interest

Show Summary Details


According to Feinberg, we must distinguish between a nonnormative notion of harm as a setback to interests and a normative notion of harm as a wrong. The harm captured in the harm principle combines both these interpretations: it refers to setbacks to others’ interests that are also wrongs. Interests take one of two forms: welfare interests, which are minimal, and nonultimate interests, or ulterior interests, which are interests related to one's personal projects and goals. Feinberg identifies three ways in which someone may impair one's network of interests: (1) she may modify circumstances to make it difficult for one to satisfy competing interests; (2) she may reduce the degree to which prudential interests are protectively diversified; or (3) she may directly impair one's welfare interests to make it difficult for one to pursue one's ulterior interests. Noting the link between wants, dislikes, and interests, Feinberg argues both that one's interests are not always compatible with one's wants and that one's dislikes (including most hurts and offenses) are not always antithetical to one's interests.

Keywords: hurts; interests; nonnormative; normative; offenses; prudential interests; ulterior interests; wants; welfare interests; wrong

Chapter.  15656 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.