Adam Morton

ABSTRACT: Humans are at their best when they are making things: families, social systems, music, mathematics, etc. This is human flourishing, to use the word in the somewhat un-idiomatic way that has come to be standard in translating Aristotle and developing views like his. We admire well-made things of all these kinds, and the people who make them well. And although “happiness” is not a good translation of Aristotle’s edudaimonia, it is a plausible conjecture about human psychology that people are happiest — most content, most satisfied with their lives, least troubled — when they are accomplishing, making, things of all these kinds, from families to mathematics. And they are miserable when they cannot. One kind of misery comes when one’s efforts are not successful. Families fail, music is detested, “theorems” have counterexamples. Another kind of misery comes when one is blocked from being able to achieve any of the things that human life is shaped around. The focus of this paper is on ways that people’s actions can make other people incapable of achieving properly human lives. This is what I call damage. I think its importance has only recently come to be appreciated; the delay in acknowledging it as a central moral concept has been particularly long in philosophy. And in human cultures worldwide an appreciation of how vulnerable we are to psychological damage is very recent.   s