Clarifying Two Central Issues in Double Effect Reasoning Debates

Abstract
The principles whereby the reason operates in ethically complicated situations has been subject to long-standing debates in Catholic Philosophy. A classic text which exemplifies this is Aquinas’s consideration of self-defensive killing. In this paper I clarify two central issues in double-effect reasoning debates surrounding this text. Both issues are connected to the seemingly simple but actually complex task of accounting for the “chosen means” of self-defense. The first issue is whether the “chosen means” are also able to be considered a “proximate end,” to which the intention is directed. The second is determining whether the assailant’s death is related to the “chosen means” per se and therefore to the rest of the moral action. Resolving these issues will provide grounds for answering the broader question implicit in the situation of self-defensive killing: what is to be done when human actions would inevitably entail that some evil is instrumentally tied to realizing some good?
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