Does victimless damage exist?

  1. Cabezas, Mar 1
  1. 1 Universidad de Salamanca

    Universidad de Salamanca

    Salamanca, España


Les ateliers de l'éthique

ISSN: 1718-9977

Year of publication: 2020

Volume: 15

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 39

Type: Article

DOI: 10.7202/1077528AR GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openOpen access editor

More publications in: Les ateliers de l'éthique


Cited by

  • Web of Science Cited by: 1 (19-10-2023)
  • Dimensions Cited by: 0 (07-01-2024)


  • Social Sciences: C
  • Human Sciences: C

Journal Citation Indicator (JCI)

  • Year 2020
  • Journal Citation Indicator (JCI): 0.08
  • Best Quartile: Q4
  • Area: ETHICS Quartile: Q4 Rank in area: 69/71


(Data updated as of 07-01-2024)
  • Total citations: 0
  • Recent citations (2 years): 0
  • Field Citation Ratio (FCR): 0.0


This article aims to explore the concept of victimless damage. This refers to paradoxical cases where a perpetrator and a moral wrong can be easily identified, but where somehow the role of the victim as such can be questioned. In order to explore this concept, I will first offer a typology of cases that could be labelled under this umbrella concept—namely, (1) cases of deceased victims, (2) biotechnological or no-identity cases, and (3) the ones related to lack of awareness due to epistemic injustice. Then, after highlighting the common traits and discussing some fuzzy cases, I will flesh out the main arguments for and against of the existence of and need for this concept, on the basis of both moral objectivism and subjectivism. In my view, delving into these arguments could shed some light on the metaethical debate on the sine qua non conditions of moral damage and its relation to moral wrongness. Finally, I will conclude by advocating for the need to introduce a gradational concept of moral damage and the second-person perspective into moral philosophy in order to take into account potential cases of victimless damage, but without having to accept the premises of moral realism.

Bibliographic References

  • Almodóvar, Pedro, Hable con ella, El Deseo, 2002.
  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics, London, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Arteta, Aurelio, El mal consentido. La complicidad del espectador indiferente, Madrid, Alianza, 2010.
  • Bermejo, Carmen, “Consentimiento informado y ¿derecho a la ignorancia?” in José M. G. Gómez-Heras and Carmen Velayos (eds.), Bioética: perspectivas emergentes y nuevos problemas, Madrid, Tecnos, 2005, pp. 309–321.
  • Cabezas, Mar, Ética y emoción, Madrid, Plaza y Valdés, 2014.
  • Doyle, Celia, Child Neglect and Emotional Abuse: Understanding, Assessment and Response, Los Angeles, SAGE, 2014.
  • Elliot, Daniel, “Living, Breathing, Glowing Rabbits Successfully Born”, CBS NEWS, 2013. . Accessed 10 August 2019.
  • Feinberg, Joel, Harm to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1984.
  • Finkelhor, David, Richard K. Ormrod, and Heather A. Turner, “Re-victimization Patterns in a National Longitudinal Sample of Children and Youth”, Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 31, no. 5, 2007, pp. 479–502.
  • Francione, Gary, “Animals—Property or Persons?”, in Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum, (eds.), Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp.108–142.
  • Fricker, Miranda, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, New York/ Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Gómez-Heras, José María G., Bioética y ecología. Los valores de la naturaleza como normal moral. Madrid, Síntesis, 2012.
  • Goodpaster, Kenneth, 1978, “On Being Morally Considerable”, Journal of Philosophy, 75, pp. 308-325.
  • DeGrazia, David, “Great Apes, Dolphins, and the Concept of Personhood”, Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. 35, 1997, pp. 301–320.
  • Habermas, Jürgen, Die Zukunft der menschlichen Natur. Auf dem Weg zu einer liberalen Eugenik?, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2001.
  • Haidt, Jonathan, “The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgment”, Psychological Review, vol. 108, no. 4, 2001, p. 814–834.
  • Joyce, Richard, The Evolution of Morality, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 2005.
  • Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft. Hamburg, Feliz Meiner, 1952.
  • Leopold, Aldo, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, New York, Oxford University Press, 1949.
  • Levenbook, Barbara Baum, “Harming Someone after His Death”, Ethics, vol. 94, no. 3., 1984, pp. 407–419.
  • Medina, José, The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imagination, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Mendieta, Eduardo, “El debate sobre el futuro de la especie humana: Habermas critica la eugenesia liberal”, Isegoría. Revista de filosofía moral y política, vol. 27, 2002, pp. 91–114.
  • O’Hagan, Kieran, Emotional and Psychological Abuse of Children, Toronto; Buffalo, University of Toronto Press, 1993.
  • Patridge, Ernest, “Posthumous Interests and Posthumous Respect”, Ethics, vol. 91, no. 2, 1981, pp. 243–264.
  • Parfit, Derek, Reasons and Persons, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1984.
  • Pino, Felisa, “¿Sordera de encargo?”, El País, 2002. . Accessed August 10, 2019.
  • Pluhar, Evelyn, “Two Conceptions of an Environmental Ethic”, Ethics and Animals, vol. 4, no. 4, 1983, pp. 110–127.
  • Prinz, Jesse J., The Emotional Construction of Morals, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Singer, Peter, Practical Ethics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  • Thiebaut, Carlos, “Mal, daño y justicia”, Azafea. Revista de filosofía, vol. 7, 2005, pp.15–46.
  • Tugendhat, Ernst, Lecciones de ética, Barcelona, Gedisa, 1997.
  • Veber, Francis, Le dîner de cons, Gaumont/EFVE/TF1/TPS, 1998.
  • Velayos, Carmen, La dimensión moral del ambiente natural: ¿necesitamos una nueva ética?, Granada, Comares, 1996.
  • Vrousalis, Nicholas, “Smuggled into Existence: Nonconsequentialism, Procreation and Wrongful Disability”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 16, 2013, pp. 589–604.
  • DeWaal, Frans, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 2006.
  • Weir, Peter, The Truman Show, Paramount Pictures, 1998.
  • Wolf, Ursula, Das Tier in der Moral, Virginia, Klostermann Vittorio, 1990.
  • Yourcenar, Marguerite, The Mighty Sculptor, Time, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.