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ninjacolin's avatar

Why not harm others?

Asked by ninjacolin (13818 points ) June 16th, 2011

Often moral concepts come down to the idea that we should avoid harming other people. Why? What makes not harming other people so important?

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42 Answers

rebbel's avatar

Because they then suffer?
And we know ourselves what suffering is, so we don’t wish it upon others to experience that pain?

FluffyChicken's avatar

Because when we harm others, we harm ourselves.

thorninmud's avatar

Because we’re all in this together. Hell, that’s not even strong enough—When you get right down to it, there are no “others”, just different shapes of you, all trying to be happy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

The mere fact that if others held this view you might not have been able to type this question as you might have been harmed to the point of death.

cheebdragon's avatar

I harm people all the time.

Zaku's avatar

Because they get harmed and suffer, and you are them, and they harm back. More harm and suffering for everyone, or not? People tend to choose less harm and suffering, usually.

DancingMind's avatar

What @rebbel said. Really it’s that simple, as individuals we don’t actively want to cause others pain.

If that’s not enough of a reason, evolutionarily we’re a social species, so there’s an extended-time view—those that sought to kill others, didn’t make it. From revenge back to them, or in solitariness they didn’t survive/reproduce, whatever. The vast majority relied on and enjoyed the company of others.

And, realistically, sadistic life is rare, the extremity. On this world, it’s a fight maybe, and pain is present, but it’s not a mad-ax-man run.

ninjacolin's avatar

@rebbel, I take it you mean that observing suffering is unpleasant and therefore we can save ourselves the misery of observing it by reducing the amount of suffering we cause.

The_Inquisitor's avatar

Because there is no incentive to harm people (usually, or sometimes..). There will be consequences if you hurt someone—perhaps someone of higher power will detain you and punish you. I don’t like to harm people because I do not wish harm upon myself, so I will try not to harm others. Also, it’s kind of a waste of time to get myself in trouble, to make the other person hate me, then get more authoritative people to hate me… etc.

laureth's avatar

Remember, to everyone else, you are “others.” If it is OK for you to harm them, it is OK for them to harm you.

As for the logical conclusion to that, I’ll link to my answer on another question. The other answers there might also be helpful.

marinelife's avatar

In order to get along in society and not have others harm you, you need to offer other the same courtesy.

Besides, the idea of hurting someone sickens me.

lillycoyote's avatar

Because we need to create a world in which it is not acceptable to harm other because that is the kind of world we want to live in, right? Do you want you and your family to live in a world where it is considered acceptable to harm other people? Putting morality aside it’s a simple matter of practicality, to try construct a world, to the best of our ability that is orderly and safe to live in as opposed to a world populated entirely by thieves, rapists, batterers, con artists and murderers.

roundsquare's avatar

<Little bit of Devil’s advocate>
So, according to most of the answers here, it would be okay for me to harm others if I’m okay with them harming me?

I think it comes down to the fact that, as humans, we need rules by which to live. Without them, we get endlessly lost in the decision making process. It turns out that a rule that says don’t harm others (with a number of exceptions) makes each person happier. It just comes down to an empirical fact.
</Little bit of Devil’s advocate>

flo's avatar

@ninjacolin you have to be pulling our legs. Added: Look at all catagories you put it in.

dabbler's avatar

Your nervous system is strapped in with the rest of ours by design we resonate.
You feel the force, Luke, whether you recognize it or not.

People go to great lengths to hide their existential angst in hobbies like isolationism racism, and elitism to pretend there is an other.

Others go to great lengths to be kind to everyone around them because it feels good.

Being unkind plants pain on everyone involved.
Right there is a good selfish reason to avoid causing harm.

DancingMind's avatar

To the little round horns : P – that is what psychopathy is, isn’t it? They have no fear or foreboding of harm to come… so I guess in that sense, yes?

Personally, I do think it’s deeper than just a surface-level contract of sorts, but the contract is easier to explain, easier to logic… It’s that : most creatures just don’t seek violence as a first-resort. It’s if there’s no other perceived option. Say all laws banning murder were lifted today… how many would really run out eager for blood? Those laws are for the protection of the majority against an unstable/horribly misguided minor minority, not for keeping the masses from mass murder.

YARNLADY's avatar

If we expect to get along with others, we treat them as we wish to be treated. If it doesn’t matter how we get treated, than it doesn’t matter how we treat others.

It is entirely reciprocal, just as the stealing question earlier. What is the goal?

wundayatta's avatar

Tit for tat.

A game theory strategy. Look it up.

roundsquare's avatar

(Side Question: Should this be social?)

Symbeline's avatar

Because pain sucks, and violence is ugly, man. Maybe there are valid reasons to hurt someone, mentally or physically. But can you tell me what they are? Why not harm someone…okay, but why harm someone?

koanhead's avatar

@ninjacolin These threads would be a bit more fun if you’d make them ‘social’ rather than ‘general’- but here goes:

Why not harm people? They (or someone else) will harm you back, probably out of proportion to the original harm.
Also, it makes a mess.

Symbeline's avatar

@koanhead Aye. You reap what you sow, and all of that.

ETpro's avatar

@rebbel has an empathetic answer. But if one needs a selfish reason, then look to the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The reason that is logical is that it’s corollary is also true. What you do to others, they are likely to do to you. If I go up and down my street deliberately harming my neighbors, and if we eliminate the law for a moment and imagine I could just get away with it, they would soon gang up and do unto me enough to stop me form hurting them again.

dannyc's avatar

Harm to others will probably harm you as much, thus is counter intuitive to the espoused goal of maximizing your efficiency, innate in any human.

Pandora's avatar

Because you diminish the value of a life when you do. So in doing so you diminish your own value. Unless it is to protect yourself than there really is no point in harming someone else.
What would be the point in making enemies.
There are times when people have hurt me, (not physical injury) and I wanted revenge. A few times I did, when I was younger but as I grew older, I realized I wasted a lot of energy on people not worth my time. I found walking away and living my life the best I could was much more satisfing. Now I just try my best to avoid conflict. I can’t say I do it everytime. But I get better at it as I get older.
So the best reason I could give someone for not hurting another person, is it worth even a day to think about.

mazingerz88's avatar

Why not harm others? Because it’s tired and its cliche’.

jonsblond's avatar

Because it’s a shitty thing to do to someone, and karma is a bitch.

seperate_reality's avatar

For one reason, it bothers a person more for the harm he or she causes to someone else, than what harm someone else causes them. We each reward and penalize ourselves, so when you cause harm to someone else you will cause something harmful to happen to yourself. Like, when someone crosses the street without first looking both ways and gets hit by a car or truck. God or Satan did not punish you, because you did a good job of it all by yourself. Life is a lot about helping yourself and others survive better and not lessening that survival. Sometimes you have to harm someone for the greater good of all concerned, but that is an exception. Like, you have to agree to push someone off the plane to make it light enough for the others on the plane to have a better chance of landing and surviving.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I say actions speak louder than words.

Go outside and punch the next five people you see in the mouth.
Then you tell us why not harm people.

Vincent_Lloyd's avatar

Because if we harm them…Our guilt of that comes back and haunts us again. And also that the fact that we have also felt pain and harm in our lives and we don’t want other people to have that same harm that we’ve had to suffer…But at this momento in time I really wish to harm someone…Even if that guilt comes back…Deserved it…. But yes!

Hibernate's avatar

DO to others as you want them to do to you.

Acting rude only brings rudeness from the others.

AdamF's avatar

1) Because it hurts to harm others. In other words,empathy. Most humans experience empathy. We experience it for other members of our own species, often for at least some other species, and often for imaginary characters (watch the Lion King for instance). We’re a social primate evolved to sense how other’s are experiencing their circumstance, in part, because that capacity helps us to gauge our social circumstance. Hence harming other’s hurts.

We’re not the only ones…
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070625085134.htm

2) Because (at least in small societies or in cases of illegally harmful acts) harmful acts are remembered and will result in social, resource, and or reproductive costs to the individual(s) doing the harm. We are so aware as a society of the importance of point 1, that we accept as part of the cost of civilization, the cost of regulation of those individuals that for whatever reason sufficiently fail to obey by the most basic rules of human society.

ucme's avatar

Because we live on this planet to share & care not glare & stare.
Wow, I seem to have gone all hippy dippy…..peace man :¬)

cazzie's avatar

Harming others makes you a target for harm. This is exemplified in many social and pack animals. Not harming others is actually a self preservation tactic.

mattbrowne's avatar

For others you are the other.

chewhorse's avatar

Why not harm others?

Famous last words:

Gary Leon Ridgway (known as the Green River Killer) A truck painter who confessed to killing 71 women and dumping their bodies along the Green River near Seattle, Washington. The man with the most murder convictions in U.S. history, he pleaded guilty to 48 and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to his 49th. Possible kills: 90.. ‘Nuff Said on the question (I hope).

emeraldisles's avatar

because its just not worth it to lower yourself to someone else’s level and be just as bad as they are.

roundsquare's avatar

You could look at this like a repeated prisoner’s dilemma. Some solutions to his have cooperation as the solution.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@ninjacolin By hurting, what do you imply? And by “why not”, do you mean because you want to, because you accept the potential consequence, because you want to exercise the hilosophy of force and power, or because you are willing to permit others to hurt you so you may retaliate?
Generally speaking, only those who oppose your definition of hurting would not want to be “hurt”. There is nothing moral (right or wrong) about physically or psychologically hurting someone unless there are moral implications involved. The human perception of what is morally right is what limits a humans actions, for the most part. The common ground would be, no one wants to be intentionally hurt and we want to see that as an individual we are not intentionally hurt or placed in a situation where we can be potentially hurt.

ninjacolin's avatar

@whiteliondreams “harm” was the word I used, actually. not that that changes anything but I seem to like it better aesthetically.

Anyway, good question. What does it mean to “harm” someone in the first place?
I’ll think about it. I like a good solid all encompassing definition.

I think it has something to do with lack of consent over actions that incur suffering and/or damages. But when I try to think of an example, it seems like it’s more than that somehow…

I find it tough to articulate the definition and I’m open to suggestions.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@ninjacolin I’m certain you are using harm as a light definition for causing discontent because that’s what it seems like. That is the impression you are giving. I’ve recently learned that harming or hurting is a form of distrust. That’s the reason we have social morals, to set norms against harmful attempts at what can be considered painful, annoying, disrespectful, disorderly, or any other terms expressing the likes of what an individual has been accustomed to and risks being attacked (although that isn’t the word I wanted to really use). The question can then transgress to: why would being harmed be acceptable or important? There are so many variables and subcategories for this and your question that we could probably write a book on the what’s and why’s.

chewhorse's avatar

Why not harm others? Because harming others reveals the monster in you and no one wants to associate with a monster thus you continue to harm as you become alienated from society until you find yourself totally alone and dying where with your last breath you will finally ask yourself, “What did it profit me?”..

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