Rebuilding the Harm Principle: Using an Evolutionary Perspective to Provide a New Foundation for Justice


Following Mill’s (1859) definition, the ‘harm principle’ came to dominate legal debates about crime and the appropriate response of the justice system, effectively replacing official talk of morality in modern secular societies. However, the harm principle has collapsed without an accepted definition of harm or a method to adjudicate between competing claims. To address this, we propose a definition of ‘good’ derived from evolutionary perspectives. From this, a universal goal for society can be recognised, specific objectives to reach that goal can be listed, and a new definition for harm can be used to repair the harm principle and restore its ability to underpin criminal law and the principles of justice in society.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2020-08-05
Pages:100 to 115
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How to Cite
Gibney, E. and Wyatt, T. (2020) “Rebuilding the Harm Principle: Using an Evolutionary Perspective to Provide a New Foundation for Justice”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 9(3), pp. 100-115. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v9i3.1280.

Author Biographies

 United Kingdom

Ed Gibney is a writer who publishes works of fiction and philosophy. He brings an evolutionary perspective to these pursuits, which can be found at 

Dr Tanya Wyatt is a professor at Northumbria University located in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom.. She is a green criminologist specialising in research on wildlife trafficking, non-human animal abuse, and the intersections to organised crime, corporate crime and corruption.​