An Argument Against the Person-affecting View of Wrongness

Jeannine Marie Bailey, University of Colorado Boulder


An act is usually thought of as wrong only if it harms someone and to harm someone is, roughly speaking, to make her worse off. However, the view that an act is wrong only if it harms some particular individual restricts us to a person-affecting view about wrongness. If an act is wrong that does not make any individual worse off, this wrongness cannot be explained in terms of person-affecting consequences. I want to propose that an action can be wrong even if no particular individual is harmed by that act. It is the goal of this paper to show that not only is this a plausible view about wrongness, but it is the correct view. On this view, there can be wrongness in the harm caused by diminishing the overall value in the world or by making the world a worse place than it otherwise would have been.