Rebuilding the Harm Principle: Using an Evolutionary Perspective to Provide a New Foundation for Justice


Following Mill’s (1859) definition, the ‘harm principle’ came to dominate legal debates about crime and the appropriate response of the justice system, effectively replacing official talk of morality in modern secular societies. However, the harm principle has collapsed without an accepted definition of harm or a method to adjudicate between competing claims. To address this, we propose a definition of ‘good’ derived from evolutionary perspectives. From this, a universal goal for society can be recognised, specific objectives to reach that goal can be listed, and a new definition for harm can be used to repair the harm principle and restore its ability to underpin criminal law and the principles of justice in society

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International Journal for Crime and Justice (Queensland University of Technology)

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