chapter  3
48 Pages

Proximity 0: Body space

If harm can be modelled in terms of spatial incursion then one space above all stands out as a source of undesirable incursions. This is the space so proximal to us that it constitutes the primary location of our being – the space where our bodies are located at any given moment. But there seem to be significant variations in judging the culpabilities related to harming bodies. Most societies have accepted the right to harm bodies in self-defence while other forms of killing such as suicide or euthanasia have often counted as immoral, especially in Christian contexts (Donnelly, 1990; Larson et al., 1998). Bodies of ‘uncertain status’ – for example, those belonging to the foetus or the terminally ill – have raised their own set of moral ambiguities (McMahon, 2002), while harming behaviours in the pursuit of beauty or status such as dieting, plastic surgery, or body piercing have been tolerated or censured on different grounds at different times (Pitts, 2003).