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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L140-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2001
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Inviolability is a status an entity has when it is impermissible to harm it in certain respects. Inviolability can come in degrees and vary with the characteristics of an individual and in the manner in which we might violate that individual. Aggressors, for example, might not be as inviolable as others, and it may even be permissible to violate innocent, non-threatening individuals in certain ways. The impermissibility of violating someone is based not merely on its being a bad state of affairs for someone to be violated, since someone’s inviolability could make it wrong to violate them even in order to stop worse violations of others. Hence inviolability could interfere with the project of maximizing good outcomes. Still, the good of being an individual of high inviolability is retained by each person – including those who are violated because it is impermissible to violate someone else in order to save them – only if it is impermissible to violate someone in order to produce certain good outcomes. It is possible that someone’s permission, and also agreements made in advance to reduce one’s chance of being violated, could make a violation permissible that would otherwise not be permissible. It is sometimes thought that the historical roots of the idea of inviolability lie in the Kantian idea that persons are to be treated as ends in themselves and not merely as means, but it is not clear that this is so.

Citing this article:
Kamm, Frances. Inviolability, 2001, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L140-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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