Monthly Archives: May 2013

Seminar: Phil Bates, 1 May 2013

Phil Bates, Lecturer in Law, Open University Law School
Killing Law and Murdering Philosophy
1 May 2013

Bizarre killings, either imagined or historical, feature in Philosophy seminars and in Law tutorials. Philosophers may stress that they are interested in the ethical or conceptual aspects, while lawyers will say that ‘this is a court of law, not of morals’. Legal discussion necessarily takes place within a framework of authority, and national jurisdiction, which has little or no relevance to philosophical debate. Nevertheless, students of both disciplines (and members of the public and juries) may struggle to distinguish the legal and ethical elements, particularly if there is an appeal to intuition or ‘common sense’. In addition, each discipline may sometimes present a simplistic version of the other perspective, for its own purposes. In this paper, Phil will ask what is at stake when different disciplines discuss responsibility for killing, and what we can learn by considering these disciplinary perspectives together.


Seminar: Chris Belshaw, 5 June 2013

Chris Belshaw, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
The Language of Harm
5 June 2013

What is harm? Or, when is it correct to say that a person, or a thing has been harmed? I defend a familiar account against a recently advanced rival.

I claim –a) all and only things having a good of their own – people, animals, plants – can be harmed; b) they enter a harmed condition when their level of well-being becomes less good than it would have been, were some harming event not to have occurred; c) harm involves ones undergoing some intrinsic change – relational change isn’t enough.

Three important consequences of this: death can harm us; there are no posthumous harms; undiscovered betrayal doesn’t harm us.

What can justify these claims? I contend that all there is to harm is what, ordinarily but after reflection, we want to say about it. Hence my title, and the familiarity of much of what I say. An alternative account, that we need a philosophical investigation into the nature of harm, is one that I consider and reject.

This talk will be of interest to all those needing to know what harm is, and when it occurs.