Types of harm

When we say that an action “does harm” or “is wrong”, what do we mean?

Subject

  • Causes harm to self
  • Causes harm to others
  • Causes harm to the environment
  • Causes harm to the culture/process

Direct

  • Causes physical harm
  • Causes emotional harm
  • Causes spiritual harm
  • Causes sexual harm
  • Causes psychological harm

Indirect

  • Dehumanises the human
  • Removes opportunities
  • Create a Power shift
  • Undermines or takes away someone’s rights
  • Limits choices and freedom
  • Denies reality
  • Loses trust in the trustworthy
  • Sets a bad/dangerous precedent or example
  • Creates inequality between equals
  • Removes responsibility/accountability
  • Disrespects the respectable/sacred
  • Creates fear
  • Likely leads to something which leads to something which causes harm (slippery slope)
  • Has unintended consequences
  • Shouldn’t be promoted as “normal”
  • Detracts from something better
  • Establishes a harmful principle (proves too much)

Usually actions result in some form of good and some form of harm.

An action which causes more harm than good is considered harmful, whereas an action which causes more good than harm could be considered harmful (because harm is involved) or not harmful (because the good outweighs the harm).