Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

William A Edmundson - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

George Rainbolt - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Peter Lindsay - Committee Member


An instrumental defense of a right to do wrong is plausible because we cannot directly intervene in an individual's choices so as to effectively promote that individual's moral good, if her moral good is conceived as being some form of individual autonomy. An epistemic defense is also plausible if we reorient J.S. Mill's epistemological argument for his Harm Principle in "On Liberty" to center on the agent's knowledge, rather than on the interfering observer's knowledge. Restrictions on harmless acts that are imposed because the acts are wrong are only justifiable to that individual if she herself knows that her acts are wrong. Both approaches depend upon the limited subjectivity and fallibility of the agent or interfering observer. Moreover, both approaches make the justification for a right to knowingly do wrong problematic.

Included in

Philosophy Commons