Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrew Jason Cohen

Second Advisor

Timothy O'Keefe

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen

Fourth Advisor

George Rainbolt


According to the dominant account of harming, to harm an agent is to cause her to occupy a harmed state. Matthew Hanser rejects this “state-based” account, arguing that each version of it faces counterexamples. Instead, Hanser argues, to harm an agent is to cause her to suffer harm, where suffering harm is undergoing an event: in particular, it is losing or being prevented from receiving a basic good. In this thesis, I argue that this “event-based” account is, at best, a version of the state-based account. The identity of any event as the suffering of a harm, I argue, derives from the fact that it causes the agent to occupy a harmed state. I then defend the “counterfactual comparative” version of the state-based account against three prominent objections. The intended upshot of my arguments is that the state-based account of harming is superior to its event-based counterpart.