The Evil of Refraining to Save: Liu on the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing

Jacob Blair

About author

Jacob Blair, Ph.D.
CSU East Bay
Philosophy Dept.
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd
Hayward CA 94542 USA



In a recent article, Xiaofei Liu seeks to defend, from the standpoint of consequentialism, the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing: DDA. While there are various conceptions of DDA, Liu understands it as the view that it is more difficult to justify doing harm than allowing harm. Liu argues that a typical harm doing involves the production of one more evil and one less good than a typical harm allowing. Thus, prima facie, it takes a greater amount of good to justify doing a certain harm than it does to justify allowing that same harm. In this reply, I argue that Liu fails to show, from within a consequentialist framework, that there is an asymmetry between the evils produced by doing and allowing harm. I conclude with some brief remarks on what may establish such an asymmetry.

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  1. Cruft R. (2010), “On the Non-Instrumental Value of Basic Rights,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 7 (4): 441–461.
  2. Kagan S. (1998), “Rethinking Intrinsic Value,” The Journal of Ethics 2 (4): 277–297.
  3. Liu X. (2012), “A Robust Defense of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing,” Utilitas 24 (1): 63–81.


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