The Restricting Claims Principle Revisited: Grounding the Means Principle on the Agent–Patient Divide

Law and Philosophy 35 (2):211-247 (2016)
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Abstract

In an earlier article, I introduced the “restricting claims principle” to explain what is right about the means principle: the idea that it is harder to justify causing or allowing someone to suffer harm if using him as a means than if causing or allowing harm as a side effect. The RCP appeals to the idea that claims not to be harmed as a side effect push to restrict an agent from doing what she would otherwise be free to do for herself or others, given an appropriate account of her baseline freedom. Claims not to be harmed as a means are not in that way ‘‘restricting.’’ The original RCP relied on a counterfactual account of the agent’s baseline freedom: What could the agent permissibly do if the patient were not present? I argue here that that counterfactual baseline fails. The revised RCP relies instead on a ‘‘toolkit baseline’’: Do the patient claims concern the property the agent needs to use? This toolkit baseline reflects the different ways that agents relate to others: as fellow agents with whom they divide up the resources of the world, and as patients who might be affected by their actions. The toolkit baseline, resting on this agent-patient divide, provides a superior account of an agent’s baseline freedom, and a better account of the moral ground for the means principle.

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