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Author Topic: The philosophical meaning of "harm none"....and is it right?  (Read 20160 times)
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« Reply #45: December 18, 2008, 10:05:55 pm »


After thinking about it for a while.. I believe that the 'harm none' rede refers to not going out of your way to harm someone. If it happens by accident, you can't help it. I think those are two different kinds of things.
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« Reply #46: January 19, 2009, 09:37:08 pm »

As has been mentioned several times, in a practical sense it is impossible to live without causing harm to SOMETHING.  I think, then, that in "An ye harm none, do as ye will" the word "will" becomes important.  It is saying not to set out with the intention to harm.  Some also go by an amendment to the Rede that goes "An it cause harm, do as ye must."  The point is not that you never cause harm, but that harm not be THE OBJECTIVE. 

Now, of course, as has been said, actions can sometimes speak louder that others, and I would say that even if you live with good intentions, and work magick with good intentions, what you actually do cannot be ignored either.  Perhaps you are not MORALLY at fault for something that was well meaning but had bad results, but that doesn't mean there won't be consequences for it.  Which is where the Threefold Law would come in.  To every action a reaction. 
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« Reply #47: January 19, 2009, 09:47:59 pm »

As has been mentioned several times, in a practical sense it is impossible to live without causing harm to SOMETHING.  I think, then, that in "An ye harm none, do as ye will" the word "will" becomes important. 

I think the word "An" is the most important word in the sentence. It's an archaic word meaning "if".  "If you will harm none, [you can] do as you will."
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« Reply #48: January 19, 2009, 10:18:42 pm »

I think the word "An" is the most important word in the sentence. It's an archaic word meaning "if".  "If you will harm none, [you can] do as you will."
I read an article on Witchvox once, sorry, but I can't seem to find it, advocated an interpretation of the eight words of the "short" rede, wherein each word was given prominence in turn. 
AN it harm none, do what ye will--If it doesn't harm, it's ok
An it HARM none, do what ye will--If it doesn't HARM, it's ok
An it harm NONE, do what ye will--All these will apply regardless of who or what you're harming (even yourself)
An it harm none, DO what ye will--Don't just want it, DO it.  Intentions don't mean anything without actions.
An it harm none, do what ye WILL--Don't have the intention to do harm in the first place.  And when you're doing things make sure they are in accordance with your Will, and you aren't working against yourself. 

Now, I'm not sure I got everything they meant to say, and I probably butchered something or other, but the idea that you're supposed to think about each word, and not just the sentence is the point.   
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« Reply #49: January 20, 2009, 09:37:43 am »

I read an article on Witchvox once, sorry, but I can't seem to find it, advocated an interpretation of the eight words of the "short" rede, wherein each word was given prominence in turn.

One can read all sorts of things into it, but all the indications are the original intention of the Rede was a bit of good moral advice: If what you want to do doesn't cause harm, it is certainly moral to do it.  Note that nothing is said about the morality of doing things that do cause harm. It doesn't say that things that cause harm should not be done or are always morally wrong.
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« Reply #50: January 20, 2009, 05:24:54 pm »

I read an article on Witchvox once, sorry, but I can't seem to find it, advocated an interpretation of the eight words of the "short" rede, wherein each word was given prominence in turn. 
That sounds like either Judy Harrow's "Exegesis on the Rede", or someone else using that essay as a springboard for their own.

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« Reply #51: January 20, 2009, 05:40:36 pm »

That sounds like either Judy Harrow's "Exegesis on the Rede", or someone else using that essay as a springboard for their own.

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I think that might be it.  The title sounds right.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the one.  It was just posted on Witchvox when I saw it.  Thanks for finding it Sunflower!

One can read all sorts of things into it, but all the indications are the original intention of the Rede was a bit of good moral advice: If what you want to do doesn't cause harm, it is certainly moral to do it.  Note that nothing is said about the morality of doing things that do cause harm. It doesn't say that things that cause harm should not be done or are always morally wrong.
Also, I hope you understand that I wasn't trying to say you were wrong, but merely to add on by saying that as long as we're focusing on what we're deciding are "key words" we can look at each word individually as a key word, and see how it works.  I totally agree that it's meant as moral advice.  I was just saying that it can also mean more.  Though the idea of "rede-ing" into it (to make a pun) is, I suppose more appealing to me than some, being trained by my English teachers to analyze everything and every word. . .
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« Reply #52: January 25, 2009, 04:02:04 pm »

After thinking about it for a while.. I believe that the 'harm none' rede refers to not going out of your way to harm someone. If it happens by accident, you can't help it. I think those are two different kinds of things.

I do think that's an oversimplification. You can easily do preventable harm without going out of your way to do so.

If I want your iPod and I take it, I'm not going out of my way to do harm - I'm just doing what I need to do to accomplish what I want. That doesn't diminish the harm though, and doesn't make me less responsible. While I'm not Wiccan in any sense of the word, what I know of the philosophy does indicate that it addresses that as well. After all, it does pose that you're to do as you will on the condition that it doesn't harm anyone. That implies more than just that harming someone not be your main purpose.

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« Reply #53: January 27, 2009, 09:45:42 pm »

I do think that's an oversimplification. You can easily do preventable harm without going out of your way to do so.

If I want your iPod and I take it, I'm not going out of my way to do harm - I'm just doing what I need to do to accomplish what I want. That doesn't diminish the harm though, and doesn't make me less responsible. While I'm not Wiccan in any sense of the word, what I know of the philosophy does indicate that it addresses that as well. After all, it does pose that you're to do as you will on the condition that it doesn't harm anyone. That implies more than just that harming someone not be your main purpose.

--Chabas

I'd say taking the iPod is "going out of your way". You're not doing anything fancy to get it, but you are purposefully and intentionally taking the iPod. It's not a simple, "oops! you left it at my house!" kind of thing.  But then, of course, it depends on what Rin meant by "Go out of your way."
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« Reply #54: January 28, 2009, 09:07:51 am »

I'd say taking the iPod is "going out of your way". You're not doing anything fancy to get it, but you are purposefully and intentionally taking the iPod. It's not a simple, "oops! you left it at my house!" kind of thing.  But then, of course, it depends on what Rin meant by "Go out of your way."

Well, there's a difference between going out of my way to get the iPod (which I might ormight not be doing depending on circumstances) and going out of my way to harm the owner. The harm to the owner is a side-effect that I may or may not care about, not something I go out of my way to accomplish.

"Going out of my way to do harm" to me implies making an extra effort with the express intent to do harm. If I'm stealing something because I want it, that's not what I'm doing. The harm is a side effect of me going about what I want in a somewhat overly direct manner.

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« Reply #55: January 28, 2009, 11:49:34 am »

Well, there's a difference between going out of my way to get the iPod (which I might ormight not be doing depending on circumstances) and going out of my way to harm the owner. The harm to the owner is a side-effect that I may or may not care about, not something I go out of my way to accomplish.

"Going out of my way to do harm" to me implies making an extra effort with the express intent to do harm. If I'm stealing something because I want it, that's not what I'm doing. The harm is a side effect of me going about what I want in a somewhat overly direct manner.

--Chabas

Ok, that makes sense.
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« Reply #56: January 28, 2009, 12:39:55 pm »

"Going out of my way to do harm" to me implies making an extra effort with the express intent to do harm. If I'm stealing something because I want it, that's not what I'm doing. The harm is a side effect of me going about what I want in a somewhat overly direct manner.

Since it seems there is a bit of disagreement on what exactly constitutes "Going out of one's way" when it comes to harming, I think perhaps we should reconsider what we are deeming reprehensible.  Rather than saying that the rede applies to "going out of your way to harm," maybe we should say it applies to the willful performance of an action that is understood to cause unnecessary harm.  Stealing the iPod is a willful act that is understood to harm another.  Since there are other ways to acquire an iPod, and having the iPod is not necessary to the thief, the action is also an unnecessary act of harm.  The combination of a willful act of unnecessary harm is what makes it fail to fall within under the caviat of unintentioned harm.  If you are aware of the harm you will cause, then it will take some serious circumstances justifying its necessity to still be considered unintentional.  The situation would be complicated if the thief actually needed the iPod for some reason (I can't think of anything logical, only bizarred hostage scenarios that only ever happen in movies).

So with that said, while I think that accidental harm would technically still fall within the realm of forgiveness in that there was, in fact no intent to cause harm, so there was no will in the action, I think if we are to look at intentioned harm as being unnecessary harm that we understand out reactions to cause, then it is our implied responsiblity to think through the potential consequences of our actions, to determine whether such an action is likely to cause harm.  I don't think carelessness should be excused. 
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« Reply #57: March 01, 2009, 01:13:46 am »

There is obviously some debate over whether the harm none is a necessary or correct principle of magic, and the different interpretations of the definition. What does everyone think about what it really means? Does it mean that no matter what you do, none of the repercussions can harm anyone? What about spells that return negativity (I hesitate to use the word evil due to the often contradictory opinions on the word) to its source. Wouldn't that harm said source? I know Wiccans adhere to "an it harm none" (as do I, as best I know how), but to what individual degrees or interpretations?  And what about everyone else?

What about whether its even a principle that makes sense? Many people think that this is a stupid (or incorrect) principle... that magic contains both positve and negative aspects, and should be performed utilizing both. I can see the logic in this as well, as everything else (as I understand things) contains both good and evil. Yin and Yang type thing. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the matter.

My personal thoughts: I try to make sure that nothing I do harms anything else. Even with banishing type spells, I don't want harm to come to whatever I may be banishing, I just want it/them to go away. I DO know that my personal feelings on this matter have to do with me being somewhat empathic, and I can't stand for anything to be in pain. The exception is in protecting my family. AN EXAMPLE: Walking down a street I might have to beat off an attacking dog with a large tree branch, hurting it in the process in order to protect my children, but I would do it, even as my heart hurt at the sounds of pain coming from the dog.

While I agree it's impossible to harm nothing, I harm as little as possible for a few reasons. One is, I figure the more peaceful I am, the more I don't try to use my unreliable emotions to try and make the world right (i leave it to karma), the more pleasant the world would be. As for returning negativity, I have done that, but I don't think I would do it again. Another reason for abstaining from intentionally harming someone is that it puts me in a bad state of mind. It's going to make my day worse if I'm indulging in my anger and it's going to make it harder for me to switch my mind over when doing more positive magic. And when it comes to animals, plants, etc... I harm as little as possible. I do eat meat, but I don't go out and step on insects for no reason. There has to be a reason for me to harm the plant/animal... I mean harm is a part of our world, but if I have the power to minimize it, I will. And I see no reason to harm something just for the sake of harming it or cause you see no reason not to. Also, in a case where it's "well this person would be harmed if i don't this, but if i do it, then i would be harmed"... I think then you'd have to weigh it, because harm to yourself is just as much harm to someone else.
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« Reply #58: March 02, 2009, 03:39:41 pm »

Well, there's a difference between going out of my way to get the iPod (which I might ormight not be doing depending on circumstances) and going out of my way to harm the owner. The harm to the owner is a side-effect that I may or may not care about, not something I go out of my way to accomplish.

"Going out of my way to do harm" to me implies making an extra effort with the express intent to do harm. If I'm stealing something because I want it, that's not what I'm doing. The harm is a side effect of me going about what I want in a somewhat overly direct manner.

--Chabas

Sorry for not elaborating more. I really have to work on that.

Honestly, I'd view both "taking the iPod because I want it" and "taking the iPod because it'd hurt her" would both be against the Rede. The person knows it will hurt the other person, whether they wanted to harm them or not. Also the former is just being mindlessly selfish, which I think is just as bad.

Now, if you found my iPod because I'd left it on the bus or at the library or whatever, you taking it or say leaving it at the front desk, is where the grey area is for me. If you took the iPod from the library, you didn't know me. Its quite possible I left it for someone else. Or maybe I thought it was broken and ditched it. Then I think the harm would be secondary, and doesn't necessarily apply in this situation.

But I don't follow the rede, so my answers may not make sense in a Wiccan/Neo-Pagan context.
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« Reply #59: March 02, 2009, 05:05:57 pm »

Now, if you found my iPod because I'd left it on the bus or at the library or whatever, you taking it or say leaving it at the front desk, is where the grey area is for me. If you took the iPod from the library, you didn't know me. Its quite possible I left it for someone else. Or maybe I thought it was broken and ditched it. Then I think the harm would be secondary, and doesn't necessarily apply in this situation.

As someone who's lost things (though fortunately nothing as pricey as an iPod) through accidentally leaving them behind and having someone play "finders keepers" with them, I'd argue that taking something you find in a library or on a bus falls under "harmful" in the same sense that taking it directly from the person does.  You don't know why they left it, and it's not OK to assume that they thought it was broken or something.  The appropriate thing to do is to turn it into the librarian, bus driver, etc.  Someone who will be there and able to keep an eye on the item in case its proper owner comes looking for it.

If you just find it out in the middle of the street or in some other location where there's not really someone to turn lost-and-found items in to, then that's a bit more of a grey area because there may not be a good way to attempt to get the item back to its owner.  But in a library?  Not so much, IMHO.
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