Neil Feit's forthcoming book, Bad Things: On the Nature and Normative Role of Harm, will be published in 2022 by Oxford University Press. Feit provides a sustained defense of the counterfactual comparative account of harm, or CCA.
Bad Things: On the Nature and Normative Role of Harm
Abstract: This book is primarily about the nature of harm, or the metaphysics of harm. The concept of harm is of considerable interest to moral philosophers (consider duties to avoid harming others and the distinction between doing and allowing harm), legal philosophers and theorists (consider John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle), bioethicists and various medical professionals (consider some versions of the Hippocratic Oath, or similar pledges), and others. Feit provides a sustained defense of the counterfactual comparative account of harm, or CCA. According to CCA, in its most basic form, an event harms you provided that you would have been better off, on balance, if it had not occurred. A main theme of the book is the idea that an adequate theory of harm should imply CCA but say more. An adequate theory should allow for plural harm, that is, cases in which two or more events together harm an individual although neither one by itself is harmful.
The book sets out and defends a detailed account of plural harm. Although the primary focus of the book is on the metaphysics of harm, there is substantial discussion of its normative or moral relevance. It is widely held, for example, that one has strong moral reasons not to harm others, reasons that can be overridden only if the one who is harmed consents to it, or deserves it, etc. Feit argues to the contrary that our reasons against harming others per se are relatively weak; they are strong only when the others have a legitimate interest in our behavior.
The book also contains applications of CCA with plural harm, new critical discussion of competing accounts of harm, as well as new responses to objections against CCA and the notion of plural harm.
Bio: Neil Feit is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He has published two (soon to be three) books and over 20 articles, most of which appear in leading international journals of philosophy. Feit’s interest in bioethics and related topics dates back to 2002, when he published a widely cited article on the badness of death. More recently, in a series of papers on the metaphysics and moral significance of harm, Feit has done work on several issues concerning the foundations of bioethics and the nature of disease.