Revising the Doctrine of Double Effect

Journal of Applied Philosophy 11 (2):201-212 (1994)
The Doctrine of Double Effect has been challenged by the claim that what an agent intends as a means may be limited to those effects that are precisely characterized by the descriptions under which the agent believes that they are minimally causally necessary for the production of other effects that the agent seeks to bring about. If based on so narrow a conception of an intended means, the traditional Doctrine of Double Effect becomes limitlessly permissive. In this paper I examine and criticize Warren Quinn's attempt to reformulate the Doctrine in such a way that it retains its force and plausibility even if we accept the narrow conception of an intended means. Building on Quinn's insights, I conclude by offering a further version of the Doctrine that retains the virtues of Quinn's account but avoids the objections to it. I The key element in the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is the claim that there is a stronger presumption against action that has harm to the innocent as an intended effect than there is against otherwise comparable action that causes the same amount of harm to the innocent as a foreseen but unintended effect. Since it is relatively uncontroversial that, except perhaps in cases involving desert, it is wrong to cause harm as an end in itself, the DDE is normally invoked to distinguish morally between harm that is intended as a means and harm that is considered a merely foreseen side-effect.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5930.1994.tb00109.x
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