Does 'Do No Harm' Equate to 'Do No Good'?

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  1. profile image0
    Emile Rposted 10 years ago

    I just finished a conversation with a Hubber who seems to be under the naive and misguided impression that 'Do No Harm', in and of itself, is a morally superior position to some others. However, when asked to back up a claim that the problem of Hitler could have been resolved without resorting to violence, he drew a blank.

    If the entire world could all live by a 'Do no harm' philosophy that would be great. Unfortunately the world doesn't work that way and neither does the human ego. I challenge any hubber who believes that 'Do No Harm' isn't hypocritical and unworkable to explain to me not only how they do no harm on a daily basis; without a matching, or exceeding, 'Do some good' philosophy; but also how 'Do no harm' can work when we all know that physical violence isn't the only harm we can inflict on a fellow individual.

    If you can explain how a claim that you 'Do no harm' isn't a facade that equates to little more than a holier than thou stance void of personal accountability; I'd love to hear how 'Do no harm' can work on a global scale without a resulting 'done some harm' outcome.

    I realize this sounds argumentative. But, the whole idea sounds to me as if people might be deluding themselves into believing they couldn't stand some improvement.

    1. A Troubled Man profile image56
      A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Yes, it was an amazing argument in which Emile's words were placed in the naive and misguided hubbers mouth so that Emile could support herself successfully. Hilarious. lol

      1. profile image0
        Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Did you answer the question I asked; how 'Do no harm would have worked with the problem of Hitler as you claimed it could? No.

        Since you have no problem posting, and offered no backup to your assertion; it's obvious you couldn't back it up.  And don't bring your frustrations from another thread onto this one. If you can't answer the question posed, don't spam the thread.

        1. A Troubled Man profile image56
          A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          lol <--- me being frustrated

          1. profile image0
            Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            Well, at least you can laugh at yourself. That's a plus, don't you think?

    2. profile image55
      stoneyyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      You're right.  This is another case of a idea shattering on the rocks of reality.  I can see the level for the definition of harm becoming ever smaller smaller and smaller until nothing is done which, in itself, causes harm.

  2. God is in kitchen profile image60
    God is in kitchenposted 10 years ago

    It were great if we could live by that principle. But that's impossible, because we can't enforce that principle without violent means. To end all wars you still need a war. lol

    It's only possible, even imperfectly, if we all can change our hearts, I mean can get rid of our desires and our urge to power. Will that ever happen, anyone? Ciao cool

    1. profile image55
      stoneyyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      And the war (WW1) presented as; "The War to End all Wars" utterly failed.

      As to the latter part of your post the answer is; "No".

  3. profile image0
    Greatest I amposted 10 years ago

    E R

    I agree that do no harm is unworkable rhetoric and impossible for an evolving species like man to do.

    We must compete for resources to survive and when we do, we cannot get away from the loser of that competition  feeling that he has been harmed. He has been.

    Christians are always trying to absolve God of moral culpability in the fall by whipping out their favorite "free will!", or “ it’s all man’s fault”.

    That is "God gave us free will and it was our free willed choices that caused our fall. Hence God is not blameworthy."

    But this simply avoids God's culpability as the author of Human Nature. Free will is only the ability to choose. It is not an explanation why anyone would want to choose "A" or "B" (bad or good action). An explanation for why Eve would even have the nature of "being vulnerable to being easily swayed by a serpent" and "desiring to eat a forbidden fruit" must lie in the nature God gave Eve in the first place. Hence God is culpable for deliberately making humans with a nature-inclined-to-fall, and "free will" means nothing as a response to this problem.

    If all sin by nature then, the sin nature is dominant. If not, we would have at least some who would not sin.

    Having said the above for the God that I do not believe in, I am a Gnostic Christian naturalist, let me tell you that evil is all human generated. Evil is our responsibility.

    Much has been written to explain what I see as a natural part of evolution.

    First, let us eliminate what some see as evil. Natural disasters. These are unthinking occurrences and are neither good nor evil. There is no intent to do evil even as victims are created.

    Evil then is only human to human.
    As evolving creatures, all we ever do, and ever can do, is compete or cooperate.
    Cooperation we would see as good as there are no victims created. Competition would be seen as evil as it creates a victim. We all are either cooperating, doing good, or competing, doing evil at all times.

    Without us doing some of both, we would likely go extinct.

    This, to me, explains why there is evil in the world quite well.

    Be you a believer in nature, evolution or God, we should all see that what Christians see as something to blame, evil, we should see that what we have, competition, deserves a huge thanks for being available to us. Wherever it came from. God or nature.

    There is no conflict between nature and God on this issue. This is how things are and should be. We all must do what some will think is evil as we compete and create losers to this competition. … F680C1DBEB


    1. profile image55
      stoneyyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Good points except for the comment about believing in evolution.  Evolution isn't something to believe in.  It is observed with the birth of every human and animal baby (with the exception of Cheetas who are genetically identical).

      1. profile image54
        augustine72posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        No evolution is not something that is observed. It is something to be believed with no evidence as this article will show you: … unked.html

  4. profile image0
    HowardBThinameposted 10 years ago

    Hitler's rise was through a series of missteps, seen only in retrospect.

    I suppose that the "do no harm" mantra could have prevented Hitler's rise, had we, and the world court, not slapped Germany with severe financial penalties after WWI.

    Those penalties created the animosity within the German ranks that allowed Hitler to rise. Without that - he would have had very little support for his financial changes, which eventually led to fascism and national socialism.

    So yes - we could have stopped Hitler with a "do no harm" policy, but it would have had to be before he rose to power.

    1. profile image0
      Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      So, if we had not expected the German government to pay reparations for damage inflicted during their aggression of WWI we could have avoided WWII? I suppose that is possible, but isn't it just as likely that, had the world community not insisted on repayment for expenses and losses incurred because of the agression, another nation might have decided that it wouldn't be to their disadvantage, economically, to begin new aggressions?

      Either way; I'm not sure that your 'Do no harm' approach in this example qualifies as 'Do no harm'. It is just an example of 'Do no harm' to the German government at the end of the war. So, 'Do no harm' to them resulted in a 'Done some harm' outcome toward others by expecting the non aggressors to foot the bill for Germany's missteps.

      1. profile image0
        HowardBThinameposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Interesting. Most historians agree that Germany's financial straits were the leading catalyst behind Hitler's successful rise. I'm not sure what you mean by "expecting the non aggressors to foot the bill for Germany's missteps." Germany was levied as a result of them having lost the war - kind of a revenge tactic by the victors.

        At any rate - that's about two months of Germanic studies and I have no time or inclination to teach another class right now. Suffice it to say that for every action, there is generally a catalyst - and a reaction. I'm not sure what the original debate was - but I now see that this thread might not have been started as an open question. Rather, as a means to carry on a conversation that originated in another thread.

        There are numerous things that could have occurred that might have kept Hitler from rising, including foreign investments, those in power looking the other way, the RC and Lutheran churches pandering to Hitler. Dozens of things might have swayed der fuhrer from his destiny.

        And who knows? Had the US not entered WWII in the European theater - perhaps Hitler would have stopped with his few conquests, Stalin would not have become embroiled and the Allies would have focused on Japan.

        Now that I feel this wasn't really a philosophical endeavor, which I originally thought it was - my final comment is that sure, the "do no harm" factor might well have changed history - and Hitler. But, it might not have as well.

        One thing is certain - it's impossible to prove either side of this debate.

        1. profile image0
          Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          I'm not sure that two months of Germanic studies would make you qualified to teach history, but that isn't the point of the thread, nor was Hitler. The comment on Hitler was simply an example of someone naively thinking 'do no harm' is possible.

          You were correct when you stated that for every action there is usually a catalyst and a reaction. History can easily be changed, but it does not result in a 'do no harm' outcome. 'Do no harm', in and of itself, is a useless statement. Harm is always done to someone. 'Do some good' has to be factored in to any course of action in order to lessen the harm possible.

          1. profile image0
            HowardBThinameposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            Well, I'm not sure what you're after - but I'm bowing out. I teach Germanic studies - that was my point. And thoroughly covering the events that lead to Hitler's rise would take about two months of study.

            But, it doesn't matter. I misjudged the intent of this thread and I'm not interested in a mud-wrestling match. Good luck debating whomever it is you're debating.

            1. profile image0
              Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              Had you bothered to read the OP, this conversation might have been avoided and we could have discussed the topic presented. And, it's funny how you first stated you had two months of study and all of a sudden you claim to teach it.

              Either way, as was stated in the beginning and at other places throughout the thread; I'm interested in finding out, exactly, how much thought has gone into a do no harm philosophy. So far, I don't see much of any.

              1. profile image0
                HowardBThinameposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                Look, I obviously misread your intent - I don't typically post on attack threads. You have a bee in your bonnet or you'd have seen from my earlier post that I wasn't in the mood to "teach." I don't know what led to your posting of this thread, but this is a public forum and your question indicated that you'd like responses.

                I'm not sure what your problem is - but taking a deep breath and refocusing on what's important might help. It's quickly becoming apparent that you're more into attacking others than you are in fostering conversation.

                This is my last post on this thread because I find this kind of banter silly and counterproductive to adult conversation. I'm sure someone else will come along that will engage you in that type of silliness.

                1. A Troubled Man profile image56
                  A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                  Well said. lol

                  1. profile image0
                    Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                    Nothing of value to add, I see. Not surprising.

                    Can you answer the question posed?

                2. profile image0
                  Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                  Since you've been off topic from the beginning (with no intent of discussing the question posed), it's definitely best that you leave.

            2. A Troubled Man profile image56
              A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              She's mud-wrestling with herself. First, she tells you what you said even though you didn't say it and then follows up with a refutation of what you allegedly said.  smile

      2. aguasilver profile image70
        aguasilverposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Emile, if you read about the 'how' of WW1 coming about, it's plain to see that all participants were equally guilty of the horrors and costs that ensued.

        The Brits saw it as a chance to maintain their naval supremacy.
        The French were concerned that the Germans would attack them.
        The Russians wanted to take the Germans on anyway
        The Americans saw it as a good opportunity to bankrupt the British Empire with war loans spent on armaments, and succeed to be the new Empire rising.

        But for the record, do no harm is actually a witchcraft phrase, and I agree with you, it's impossible to live by that concept.

        Some folk can ONLY be stopped harming others by force.

        1. profile image0
          Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          I wouldn't argue the causes of the war. Europe, by their policies, was ripe for one. Nor would I argue that the reparations expected weren't grossly unfair. However, I think the statement made didn't support a do no harm belief.

          I didn't start the thread to argue history. The guy didn't bother to read the OP and then apparently got fretted because I preferred to focus on his do no harm claim and not  his opinion of history.

  5. psycheskinner profile image81
    psycheskinnerposted 10 years ago

    'Do no harm' is part of two major philosophical statements, neither of which commands inaction.

    First is the Hippocratic Oath, which says 'first, do not harm'. Basically saying of your treatment will damage the patient you should not use it.  But, of course, if your treatment will help the patient, you should use it.

    Second is the Wiccan Rede which says 'An' it harm none, do as you will'.  This says that so long as an action does not harm, you may do it.

    Neither is a call for inaction, just that the actions you may do are actions that are harmless or helpful to others.  Both remind us that sometimes inaction is the least bad option available. 

    Acting just for the sake of being able to say we have 'done something' is selfish when it causes harm to others.

    If you were referring to some other codified form of a 'no harm' philosophy you could make that a little clearer.

    1. stclairjack profile image80
      stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      now THAT was an answer that made this thread worth wading through!

    2. profile image0
      Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Finally, an answer. Thanks! I wasn't familiar with the entire Hyppocratic Oath, so I looked it up. The modern one I read doesn't include the line we all remember (First, do no harm) but maybe I wasn't viewing the full oath. But, the portion I read makes the point I was going for in the OP.  The oath has  'Do some good' promises that exceed the Do no harm by a mile.

      I don't know anything about Wiccans or any of their philsophies and I'm sure that they are kind and peaceful people.

      But, as I stated in the OP, I just wanted individuals who claim that as their philosophy to comment on how it is possible to claim they do no harm. Since do no harm still seems to me to be void of useful substance in and of itself. I can think of a thousand instances where I could fulfill the do no harm mandate, without actually contributing to a better world and doing absolutely no good in the process. I suppose I'm missing something here.

      And, on a global scale, it seems as if the philsophy, with no additions or disclaimers, could really put a nation in a quandary. How do you decide any course of action with humanitarian, economic and environmental issues all having to be taken into account? Everything you do causes harm on some level.

      I think my primary complaint is that 'Do no harm', in and of itself, sounds like a utopian dream. We can lessen the negative impact of our actions but we can't negate them and we should be willing to admit it.

      1. A Troubled Man profile image56
        A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Now, you've posted a response I can agree with.

        That's why it actually helps to read peoples posts here rather than putting words in their mouths.  Perhaps, things that one does can cause harm to others, but the key element is "intentionally"

        No utopian dream at all, just a simple common everyday concept to living ones life.

        1. profile image0
          Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Go away ATM. Or don't. Your choice, but your need to bicker and attempt to belittle grew tiresome several days ago. If you see dishonesty...stop gazing in the mirror. That should solve the problem.

      2. psycheskinner profile image81
        psycheskinnerposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        One of the reasons it is no longer in the Hippocratic Oath is the advent of effective treatments that do harm as well as good, like chemotherapy--it cures some people and kills others even quicker tha the cancer alone would. 

        But I think that there are domains were it is reasonable to refuse to do the harm.  Like pacifism and conscientious objection.  In a situation where war is in action is seems illogical.  But the more people were pacifist the less likely war would become, and it has to start somewhere.  Pacifism is like voting, one person doing it actually doesn't matter--but you contribute to the population as a whole doing it, which matters immensely.

        Most great social movements have started with some people being willing to be unreasonable and define a particular harm they just will not tolerate at any cost (like slavery or sexual discrimination).

        1. profile image0
          Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          I think you are 100% right. There are times that, collectively, we can make it work. Maybe, someday, we can find a way to make it the norm and not the exception.

  6. stclairjack profile image80
    stclairjackposted 10 years ago

    in agreement with psycheskinner, the phrase "do no harm" seems to be miss applied or misunderstood.

    Gandhi’s peaceful protest in the face of brutality only worked because the world was watching,... because the aggressor could be shamed or embarrassed into doing the morally right thing,... or because the world would be appalled and the aggressor would be forced by its peers to do the morally right thing... this only works when all parties involved are oporating within the same basic moral code.

    if another culture does not operate with the same moral code then guilt/shame will not work.

    Gandhi would have been simply slaughtered if the world had not watched and his peoples aggressors had not cared of the worlds opinion.

    In short,… “do no harm” is frightfully ineffective is another party is willing and eager to do harm.

    1. A Troubled Man profile image56
      A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      If the environment on earth promoted not intentionally doing harm to others, what reason would one have to do harm to someone or were eager to do so?

      1. stclairjack profile image80
        stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        the question then becomes one of intent.....

        i plow my garden in order to grow food,.... in the process i destroy the burrow of a rabbit and its litter,.... this is un intended harm, but harm none the less,... and happened only in the natural course of my providing for my family.    ..... hypothetical of course,... i don’t garden. ha!

        if i shoot and kill a deer to feed my family the scenario is the same,.. though in this case its not strictly hypothetical,... i hunt for food purposes.

        1. A Troubled Man profile image56
          A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Those are good points, however at the moment we're referring to other people.

          1. stclairjack profile image80
            stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            you asked re; "environment",... so i went in that direction,.... my bad.

            i assert that the "natural environment" does NOT promote non aggression or no-harm,.... the concept is flawed when applied in that way.

            the natural system of life here on earth is one of competition,.... for rescores, i.e. food, territory and genetics…. Fierce competition in life or death situations breeds violence,.. As does competition based in greed…. And greed in uniquely human.

            1. A Troubled Man profile image56
              A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              Yes, there are some very negative aspects of societies that have developed over the centuries, but those can change, it may take time, but a natural environment free from greed and violence is something we can attain. It is the mindset of our current societies fueled by religious thought and decision making processes that will keep them here.

          2. stclairjack profile image80
            stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            In short…… the idea of the meek inheriting the earth is utter bulls**t…… the meek inherit what the strong leave to them.

            It is in how we define strength that defines us as a people.

            To scream “do no harm” at the top of ones lungs is to over simplify the situation at best,… and to demonstrate naive ignorance at worst… if a police officer needs to do “do harm” to someone’s attacker in order to save their life, I assure you,… there would be no debate,… but its still harm.

            1. profile image0
              Emile Rposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              You are someone who understands my confusion on this thing. I always think of the Dakota saying ' We will be remembered by the tracks we leave behind'. And sometimes to stand for what is right, fair and humane, so that your tracks are worthy of remembering, involves situations where do no harm can't work...if you were going to make a positive difference.

            2. A Troubled Man profile image56
              A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              No one is talking about the meek inheriting the earth, you miss the point entirely.

              So, why is there an attacker in the first place? Oh yes, you're basing your thought process on our current societies. Seems you would much rather give in to a world full of violence than make an effort to change it.

              Naive ignorance? lol

              1. stclairjack profile image80
                stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                a wise person hopes and works for the possibilities of tomorrow,... while contending with the realities of today,.... there is what ought to be and what actually IS,... welcome to the land of what is.

                The “land of what is” is filled with 90% wonderful people who do the right thing, help their neighbor and raise good kids,... If for no other reason than its human nature to do so. They would behave in this way with or without a ridged religious belief system….. and 9% that are IQ deficient to the point of not being able to do so without supervision,... that’s why the 90% watches out for that 9%.

                that leaves the 1%,..... the ones that make the news.

                people crow on and on like the world is so depraved and vile,.... like we’re sinking into a moral abyss,..... ask a street child sold into sexual slavery 2000 years ago on the streets of Rome if he/she would like to be magically transported to the year 2012,.... no contest.

                the human race as a whole has made HUGE leaps forward from our knuckle dragging days,... and it took time,....

                so when some one tells me that we can change the world and it'll just take time,..... i always have to remind them that yes,... it will take time.

                you and i wont live to see the results of the work done today just the same as the work done by those 1000 years ago,... but our success's of today are built DIRECTLY on the works of Copernicus, Galileo, st Augustine and king James.

                be patient,..... and have faith,..... if you do not allow yourself faith,.... then focus more on the patience,.... but its harder without faith.

                1. A Troubled Man profile image56
                  A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                  Faith is the problem, not the solution.

                  1. aguasilver profile image70
                    aguasilverposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                    Oh how wrong you are!

                  2. stclairjack profile image80
                    stclairjackposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                    ATM- faith is not a bad word,.. nor is it a bad concept. my family had faith in me,... i have faith in my son,... i have faith in mankind,.... i'm sure someone has faith in you.

                    the word "faith" is not always associated with religion,... many people have faith in many different things, concepts, or people........ a man of faith is not nessesarily a man of organized religion.

                    misplaced faith,..... THAT is the problem.


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