the moral principle that one should help others further their
important and legitimate interests, as those persons understand
them (respecting autonomy) or
as we conceive them (paternalism).
Under this principle,
failure to increase the good of others when one is knowingly
in a position to do so is morally wrong. Nonetheless, the
principle is usually understood restrictively: in most theories,
one is obligated to act to benefit others when one can do
so with minimal risk, inconvenience or expense.
principle or duty of beneficence corresponds to the virtue
or human characteristic of benevolence; in common parlance,
these terms are often used interchangeably.)
is a related, though rather more limited, principle: that
one should refrain from harming others.