Double Effect Highlighted

Double Effect Highlighted - SOURCE:

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SOURCE: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/ Doctrine of Double Effect First published Wed 28 Jul, 2004 The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such a harm as a side effect (or “double effect”) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end. This reasoning is summarized with the claim that sometimes it is permissible to bring about as a merely foreseen side effect a harmful event that it would be impermissible to bring about intentionally. * 1. Formulations of the principle of double effect * 2. Applications * 3. Criticisms * 4. One principle or many? * Bibliography * Other Internet Resources * Related Entries 1. Formulations of the principle of double effect Thomas Aquinas is credited with introducing the principle of double effect in his discussion of the permissibility of self-defense in the Summa Theologica (II-II, Qu. 64, Art.7). Killing one's assailant is justified, he argues, provided one does not intend to kill him. Aquinas observes that “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. … Accordingly, the act of self-defense may have two effects: one, the saving of one's life; the other, the slaying of the aggressor.” As Aquinas's discussion continues, a justification is provided that rests on characterizing the defensive action as a means to a goal that is justified: “Therefore, this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being as far
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as possible.” However, Aquinas observes, the permissibility of self-defense is not unconditional: “And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore, if a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, whereas, if he repel force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.” Aquinas does not actually say that intending to kill the assailant as a means to self-defense would be prohibited. The passage can be interpreted as formulating a prohibition on apportioning one's efforts with killing as the only goal guiding one's actions, which would lead one to act with greater viciousness than the goal of self-defense would allow. In contrast, Augustine had earlier maintained that killing in self-defense was not permissible, maintaining that “private self-defense can only proceed from some degree of inordinate self-love.” Later versions of the double effect principle all emphasize the distinction between causing a morally grave harm as a side effect of pursuing a good end and causing a harm as a means of
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This note was uploaded on 04/30/2011 for the course UGS 303 taught by Professor Foster during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Double Effect Highlighted - SOURCE:

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