About this topic
Summary The Doctrine of Double Effect is a normative principle according to which in pursuing the good it is sometimes morally permissible to bring about some evil as a side-effect or merely foreseen consequence: the same evil would not be morally justified as an intended means or end. The Doctrine is normally thought to originate from Aquinas’s discussion of self-defence and it has today more or less legitimate application to a variety of important ethical issues: amongst the most common are collateral damages in war, palliative care, abortion, self-sacrifice, self-defence, and the so-called Trolley Problem. Following Gury and Mangan 1949, the Doctrine of Double Effect is normally formalised as comprising four conditions: 1) the action in itself from its very object must be good or at least indifferent; 2) the good effect and not the evil effect must be intended; 3) the good effect must not be produced by means of the evil effect; 4) there must be a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect.
Key works Apart from Mangan 1949, a key modern source on double effect is Foot 1967. See also Boyle Jr 1980 on double effect's four conditions. For an influential critique see Bennett 1980.
Introductions McIntyre 2008 has written an introduction to the topic.
Related categories

297 found
1 — 50 / 297
  1. added 2018-07-29
    An the Church Agree to Condom Use by HIV-Discordant Couples.Luc Bovens - 2009 - Journal of Medical Ethics 35:743-6.
    Does the position of the Roman Catholic Church on contraception also imply that the usage of condoms by HIV-discordant couples is illicit? A standard argument is to appeal to the doctrine of double effect to condone such usage, but this meets with the objection that there exists an alternative action that brings about the good effect—namely, abstinence. I argue against this objection, because an HIV-discordant couple does not bring about any bad outcome through condom usage—there is no disrespect displayed for (...)
  2. added 2018-06-29
    Double-Effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil. [REVIEW]Jason T. Eberl - 2009 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 83 (2):295-298.
  3. added 2018-06-13
    Wild Goose Chase: Still No Rationales for the Doctrine of Double Effect and Related Principles.Uwe Steinhoff - forthcoming - Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-25.
    I focus on the question as to what rationale could possibly underlie the doctrine of double effect or related principles. I first briefly review the correct critiques of the claim that people who intend some evil as a means to a good must be “guided by evil,” and that this is allegedly always wrong. I then argue that Quinn’s claim that violations of the DDE express certain negative attitudes of the agent and that agents violating the DDE must make an (...)
  4. added 2018-06-13
    Bennett, Intention and the DDE – The Sophisticated Bomber as Pseudo-Problem.Uwe Steinhoff - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):73-80.
    Arguing against the doctrine of double effect, Bennett claims that the terror bomber only intends to make his victims appear dead. An obvious reply is that he intends to make them appear dead by killing them. I argue that the alleged refutations of this reply rest on a mistaken test question to determine what an agent intends, as Bennett's own test question confirms, and that Bennett is misled by confusing metaphorical death and literal death. Moreover, Bennett's argument is half-hearted anyway, (...)
  5. added 2018-06-09
    The Secret to the Success of the Doctrine of Double Effect : Biased Framing, Inadequate Methodology, and Clever Distractions.Uwe Steinhoff - 2018 - Journal of Ethics 22 (3-4):235-263.
    There are different formulations of the doctrine of double effect, and sometimes philosophers propose “revisions” or alternatives, like the means principle, for instance. To demonstrate that such principles are needed in the first place, one would have to compare cases in which all else is equal and show that the difference in intuitions, if any, can only be explained by the one remaining difference and thus by the principle in question. This is not the methodology defenders of the DDE and (...)
  6. added 2017-11-20
    A Stronger Doctrine of Double Effect.Ben Bronner & Simon Goldstein - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (4):793-805.
    Many believe that intended harms are more difficult to justify than are harms that result as a foreseen side effect of one's conduct. We describe cases of harming in which the harm is not intended, yet the harmful act nevertheless runs afoul of the intuitive moral constraint that governs intended harms. We note that these cases provide new and improved counterexamples to the so-called Simple View, according to which intentionally phi-ing requires intending to phi. We then give a new theory (...)
  7. added 2017-10-23
    Targeting Human Shields.Amir Saemi & Philip Atkins - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (271):328-348.
    In this paper, we are concerned with the morality of killing human shields. Many moral philosophers seem to believe that knowingly killing human shields necessarily involves intentionally targeting human shields. If we assume that the distinction between intention and foresight is morally significant, then this view would entail that it is generally harder to justify a military operation in which human shields are knowingly killed than a military operation in which the same number of casualties result as a merely foreseen (...)
  8. added 2017-05-18
    The Means/Side-Effect Distinction in Moral Cognition: A Meta-Analysis.Adam Feltz & Joshua May - 2017 - Cognition 166:314-327.
    Experimental research suggests that people draw a moral distinction between bad outcomes brought about as a means versus a side effect (or byproduct). Such findings have informed multiple psychological and philosophical debates about moral cognition, including its computational structure, its sensitivity to the famous Doctrine of Double Effect, its reliability, and its status as a universal and innate mental module akin to universal grammar. But some studies have failed to replicate the means/byproduct effect especially in the absence of other factors, (...)
  9. added 2017-02-22
    Book Reviews: Action Reconceptualized: Human Agency and Its Sources by David Chan, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. [REVIEW]Amir Saemi - 2016 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:1-2.
    David K. Chan provides an account of various mental entities that interact with each other to produce human action. Once we have a theory of human action, Chan states, we will be in a better position to examine how to evaluate human actions from a moral perspective. I will address only two sets of claims that I don't find convincing. The first concerns Chan's idea that we need to introduce a new category of non-intentional action (besides intentional and unintentional) to (...)
  10. added 2017-02-09
    Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.D. Nelkin - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (4):603-607.
  11. added 2017-02-07
    In Search of the Deep Structure of Morality: An Interview with Frances Kamm.Alex Voorhoeve & Frances Kamm - 2006 - Imprints 9 (2):93-117.
    An extended discussion with Frances Kamm about deontology and the methodology of ethical theorizing. (An extended and revised version appears in Alex Voorhoeve, Conversations on Ethics, OUP 2009).).
  12. added 2017-02-07
    Self-Defence and Innocence: Aggressors and Active Threats.Phillip Montague - 2000 - Utilitas 12 (1):62.
    Although people generally agree that innocent targets of culpable aggression are justified in harming the aggressors in self-defence, there is considerable disagreement regarding whether innocents are justified in defending themselves when their doing so would harm other innocent people. I argue in this essay that harming innocent aggressors and active innocent threats in self-defence is indeed justified under certain conditions, but that defensive actions in such cases are justified as permissions rather than as claim rights. This justification therefore differs from (...)
  13. added 2017-02-06
    Killing John to Save Mary: A Defence of the Distinction Between Killing and Letting Die.Helen Frowe - 2013 - In J. Campbell, M. O’Rourke & H. Silverstein (eds.), Action, Ethics and Responsibility. MIT Press.
    Introduction This paper defends the moral significance of the distinction between killing and letting die. In the first part of the paper, I consider and reject Michael Tooley’s argument that initiating a causal process is morally equivalent to refraining from interfering in that process. The second part disputes Tooley’s suggestion it is merely external factors that make killing appear to be worse than letting die, when in reality the distinction is morally neutral. Tooley is mistaken to claim that we are (...)
  14. added 2017-02-06
    The Consequences of Rejecting the Moral Relevance of the Doing–Allowing Distinction.Bashshar Haydar - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (2):222-227.
    The claim that one is never morally permitted to engage in non-optimal harm doing enjoys a great intuitive appeal. If in addition to this claim, we reject the moral relevance of the doingallowing distinction. In this short essay, I propose a different take on the argument in question. Instead of opting to reject its conclusion by defending the moral relevance of the doingallowing distinction, we can no longer rely on the strong intuitive appeal of the claim that one is never (...)
  15. added 2017-02-06
    The Justified Infliction of Unjust Harm.Helen Frowe - 2009 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 109 (1pt3):345 - 351.
  16. added 2017-02-06
    Thomson's Turnabout on the Trolley.William J. FitzPatrick - 2009 - Analysis 69 (4):636-643.
    The famous ‘trolley problem’ began as a simple variation on an example given in passing by Philippa Foot , involving a runaway trolley that cannot be stopped but can be steered to a path of lesser harm. By switching from the perspective of the driver to that of a bystander, Judith Jarvis Thomson showed how the case raises difficulties for the normative theory Foot meant to be defending, and Thomson compounded the challenge with further variations that created still more puzzles (...)
  17. added 2017-02-02
    Abortion, Potential, and Value.Reginald Williams - 2008 - Utilitas 20 (2):169-186.
    This article challenges an important argument in the abortion debate, according to which at least early abortions are acceptable because they do not terminate the actual existence of something of moral significance (i.e., a ‘person’), but rather prevent a potentially significant entity from becoming actual, which happens whenever one uses contraceptives.This article argues that insofar as we see something as morally significant or valuable, we tend to think it wrong to deliberately terminate its actual existence and to deliberately prevent a (...)
  18. added 2017-02-02
    Responses to Commentators on Intricate Ethics.F. M. Kamm - 2008 - Utilitas 20 (1):111-142.
    Some of the commentators on Intricate Ethics complain of my method. One finds the main ideas ‘Kammouflaged’ because the relevant causal distinctions are so fine-grained and the cases that illustrate them so numerous . Some say that they do not have the intuitions about many cases that I have, that I concoct dubious and ad hoc distinctions and invest them with moral significance; I am Ptolemaic in that new crystalline spheres and epicycles are constantly being added in an attempt to (...)
  19. added 2017-02-02
    Infanticide.Jeff McMahan - 2007 - Utilitas 19 (2):131-159.
    It is sometimes suggested that if a moral theory implies that infanticide can sometimes be permissible, that is sufficient to discredit the theory. I argue in this article that the common-sense belief that infanticide is wrong, and perhaps even worse than the killing of an adult, is challenged not so much by theoretical considerations as by common-sense beliefs about abortion, the killing of non-human animals, and so on. Because there are no intrinsic differences between premature infants and viable fetuses, it (...)
  20. added 2017-01-30
    Is A Purely First Person Account Of Human Action Defensible?Christopher Tollefsen - 2006 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (4):441-460.
    There are two perspectives available from which to understand an agent's intention in acting. The first is the perspective of the acting agent: what did she take to be her end, and the means necessary to achieve that end? The other is a third person perspective that is attentive to causal or conceptual relations: was some causal outcome of the agent's action sufficiently close, or so conceptually related, to what the agent did that it should be considered part of her (...)
  21. added 2017-01-29
    Are Enabling and Allowing Harm Morally Equivalent?Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen - 2015 - Utilitas 27 (3):365-383.
    It is sometimes asserted that enabling harm is morally equivalent to allowing harm. In this article, I criticize this view. Positively, I show that cases involving self-defence and cases involving people acting on the basis of a reasonable belief to the effect that certain obstacles to harm will remain in place, or will be put in place, show that enabling harm is harder to justify than allowing it. Negatively, I argue that certain cases offered in defence of the moral equivalence (...)
  22. added 2017-01-27
    The Doctrine of Double Effect and the Trolley Problem.Whitley R. P. Kaufman - 2016 - Journal of Value Inquiry 50 (1):21-31.
    It is widely held by moral philosophers that J.J. Thomson’s “Loop Variant,” a version of the Trolley Problem first presented by her in 1985, decisively refutes the Doctrine of Double Effect as the right explanation of our moral intuitions in the various trolley-type cases.See Bruers and Brackman, “A Review and Systematization of the Trolley Problem,” Philosophia 42:2 : 251–269; T. Scanlon, Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame ; Peter Singer, “Ethics and Intuitions,” Journal of Ethics 9:314 : 331–352, p. 340; Matthew (...)
  23. added 2017-01-27
    The Total Artificial Heart and the Dilemma of Deactivation.Ben Bronner - 2016 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 26 (4):347-367.
    It is widely believed to be permissible for a physician to discontinue any treatment upon the request of a competent patient. Many also believe it is never permissible for a physician to intentionally kill a patient. I argue that the prospect of deactivating a patient’s artificial heart presents us with a dilemma: either the first belief just mentioned is false or the second one is. Whichever horn of the dilemma we choose has significant implications for contemporary medical ethics.
  24. added 2017-01-27
    The Principle of Double Effect: Act-Types and Intentions.S. James G. Murphy - 2013 - International Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):189-205.
    Objections to the principle of double effect usually concern its first and second conditions . The difficulties often arise from a rejection of the idea that acts have a moral nature independent of context, and a tendency to interpret intention as purely psychological. This article argues that the “act itself” should be understood as the act-type and suggests that examples of evil act-types are not hard to find. It argues that the notion of intention is involved in both conditions, but (...)
  25. added 2017-01-26
    Moral Obstacles: An Alternative to the Doctrine of Double Effect.Gerhard Øverland - 2014 - Ethics 124 (3):481-506.
    The constraint against harming people in order to save yourself and others seems stronger than the constraint against harming people as a consequence of saving yourself and others. The reduced constraint against acting in one type of case is often justified with reference to the intentions of the agent or to the fact that she does not use the people she harms as a means. In this article I offer a victim-centered account. I argue that the circumstances in which the (...)
  26. added 2017-01-25
    Another Perspective on the Doctrine of Double Effect.Camillo C. Bica - 1999 - Public Affairs Quarterly 13 (2):131-139.
  27. added 2017-01-23
    Internecine War Killings.Cécile Fabre - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (2):214-236.
    In his recent book Killing in War, McMahan develops a powerful argument for the view that soldiers on opposite sides of a conflict are not morally on a par once the war has started: whether they have the right to kill depends on the justness of their war. In line with just war theory in general, McMahan scrutinizes the ethics of killing the enemy. In this article, I accept McMahan's account, but bring it to bear on the entirely neglected, but (...)
  28. added 2017-01-22
    Double Bubble.Alistair Fruish - 2007 - Philosophy Now 61:52-54.
  29. added 2017-01-21
    The Intended/Foreseen Distinction's Ethical Relevance.Thomas A. Cavanaugh - 1996 - Philosophical Papers 25 (3):179-188.
  30. added 2017-01-20
    Scanlon on Intention and Permissibility.Hallvard Lillehammer - 2010 - Analysis 70 (3):578-585.
  31. added 2017-01-19
    The Non-Identity Fallacy: Harm, Probability and Another Look at Parfit's Depletion Example.M. A. Roberts - 2007 - Utilitas 19 (3):267-311.
    The non-identity problem is really a collection of problems having distinct logical features. For that reason, non-identity problems can be typed. This article focuses on just one type of non-identity problem, the problem, which includes Derek Parfit's depletion example and many others. The can't-expect-better problem uses an assessment about the low probability of any particular person's coming into existence to reason that an earlier wrong act does not harm that person. This article argues that that line of reasoning is unusually (...)
  32. added 2017-01-19
    Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing.Warren S. Quinn - 1989 - Philosophical Review 98 (3):287-312.
  33. added 2017-01-19
    The Moral Effect of Art.Sidney Zink - 1949 - Ethics 60 (4):261-274.
  34. added 2017-01-18
    Permissibility and Practical Inference.Matthew Hanser - 2005 - Ethics 115 (3):443-470.
    I wish to examine a rather different way of thinking about permissibility, one according to which, roughly speaking, an agent acts impermissibly if and only if he acts for reasons insufficient to justify him in doing what he does. For reasons that will emerge in Section II, I call this the inferential account of permissibility. I shall not here try to prove that this account is superior to its rivals. My aims are more modest. I shall develop the inferential account, (...)
  35. added 2017-01-17
    Early Induction and Double Effect.John A. DiCamillo & Edward J. Furton - 2015 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 15 (2):251-261.
    A recent consensus statement claimed that double effect can justify induction of labor before viability when life-threatening pathological complications arise from the interaction of a normally functioning placenta with the diseased heart of the mother. The authors of this essay agree. They analyze two pieces published in response, using the framework of the first and fourth criteria of double effect; identify and attempt to clarify inaccuracies and other sources of ambiguity in the discussion; and acknowledge practical implications for other scenarios (...)
  36. added 2017-01-17
    The Principle of Double Effect in End-of-Life Care.Jordan Potter - 2015 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 15 (3):515-529.
  37. added 2017-01-17
    The Principle of Double Effect. Murphy - 2013 - International Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2):189-205.
    Objections to the principle of double effect usually concern its first and second conditions. The difficulties often arise from a rejection of the idea that acts have a moral nature independent of context, and a tendency to interpret intention as purely psychological. This article argues that the “act itself” should be understood as the act-type and suggests that examples of evil act-types are not hard to find. It argues that the notion of intention is involved in both conditions, but in (...)
  38. added 2017-01-17
    The Contralife Argument Andthe Principle of Double Effect.Lawrence Masek - 2011 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 11 (1):83-97.
  39. added 2017-01-17
    Double-Effect Reasoning—T.A. Cavanaugh. [REVIEW] Jaspers - 2008 - International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (2):260-262.
  40. added 2017-01-17
    Action, Intention and ‘Double Effect’.Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe - 2005 - In M. Geach & L. Gormally (eds.), Human Life, Action and Ethics. Exeter: Imprint Academic.
    Introduction: It is customary in the dominant English and related schools of philosophy to restrict the terms “action” or “agency.” That is, when the topic is ‘philosophy of action’. This is often done by an appeal to intuition about a few examples. If I fall over, you wouldn’t usually call that an action on my part; it’s not something that I do, it is rather something that happens to me. Donald Davidson has made a more serious attempt than this at (...)
  41. added 2017-01-17
    Woodward, P.A., Editor. The Doctrine of Double Effect: Philosophers Debate a Controversial Moral Principle.Peter J. Cataldo - 2004 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 4 (2):434-436.
  42. added 2017-01-16
    Anscombe, Thomson, and Double Effect in Advance.T. A. Cavanaugh - forthcoming - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.
  43. added 2017-01-16
    Can Deontological Principles Be Unified? Reflections on the Mere Means Principle.Stijn Bruers - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-16.
    The mere means principle says it is impermissible to treat someone as merely a means to someone else’s ends. I specify this principle with two conditions: a victim is used as merely a means if the victim does not want the treatment by the agent and the agent wants the presence of the victim’s body. This principle is a specification of the doctrine of double effect which is compatible with moral intuitions and with a restricted kind of libertarianism. An extension (...)
  44. added 2017-01-16
    The Closeness Problem for Double Effect: A Reply to Nelkin and Rickless.Joshua Stuchlik - 2017 - Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (1):69-83.
  45. added 2017-01-16
    Unequal Vividness and Double Effect.N. Sinhababu - unknown
  46. added 2017-01-16
    A Kantian Revision of the Doctrine of Double Effect.Andrew H. Chung - unknown
    In this paper, I will present a Kantian revision of the Doctrine of Double Effect. In order to do so, I will explain the concept of jus in bello – focusing in particular on the distinction between intent and foresight. I will then argue that we ought to take an agency-inspired look at the DDE. Finally, I will conclude by arguing for my thesis that Boyle’s theory of agency, while good, needs to be revised in order to accommodate concerns stemming (...)
  47. added 2017-01-16
    Double Effect.Brian Wicker - 2009 - New Blackfriars 90 (1028):449-457.
  48. added 2017-01-16
    Double Think and Double Effect.Stanley Windass - 1963 - New Blackfriars 44 (516):257-266.
  49. added 2017-01-15
    Double-Effect Reasoning Defended.T. A. Cavanaugh - 2012 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 86:267-279.
  50. added 2017-01-15
    The Loop Case and Kamm’s Doctrine of Triple Effect.S. Matthew Liao - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):223-231.
    Judith Jarvis Thomson's Loop Case is particularly significant in normative ethics because it questions the validity of the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect, according to which there is a significant difference between harm that is intended and harm that is merely foreseen and not intended. Recently, Frances Kamm has argued that what she calls the Doctrine of Triple Effect, which draws a distinction between acting because-of and acting in-order-to, can account for our judgment about the Loop Case. In this (...)
1 — 50 / 297