Intentions and consequences in military ethics

Journal of Military Ethics 10 (2):81-93 (2011)

Peter Olsthoorn
Netherlands Defence Academy
Utilitarianism is the strand of moral philosophy that holds that judgment of whether an act is morally right or wrong, hence whether it ought to be done or not, is primarily based upon the foreseen consequences of the act in question. It has a bad reputation in military ethics because it would supposedly make military expedience override all other concerns. Given that the utilitarian credo of the greatest happiness for the greatest number is in fact agent-neutral, meaning that the consequences to everyone should weigh equally, this critique of utilitarianism is not entirely fair. By focusing on some anomalies in both the principle of double effect and in our tendency to give priority to the interests of those who are near and dear to us, this article argues that there is something to be said for a military ethic that attaches less weight to intentions, and more to the consequences.
Keywords double effect  intention  Just War Tradition  obligation  utilitarianism
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DOI 10.1080/15027570.2011.593711
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References found in this work BETA

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