Intractable Difficulties for the Doctrine of Double Effect: The Problem of Closeness and the Proper Focus of Concern
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A more recent development within moral philosophy has been authors of a nonconsequentialist stripe forwarding arguments against principles once thought foundational to nonconsequentialist ethics as features that distinguished such an ethics from a consequentialist one. The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is one such principle. It holds that it is impermissible to act with the intention to harm either as a means (even to some good end) or as an end, but it is sometimes permissible to perform the same act when the harm is not intended but merely foreseen as a side-effect. The primary aim of this project is to examine two difficulties facing the DDE, and to see whether these difficulties give us reason to reject the DDE. I argue the first problem, the Problem of Closeness, is intractable if the DDE maintains the intend/foresee distinction. The second problem is a concern that by focusing inward on the agent’s intentions the DDE misses the proper focus of concern in permissibility. Of two possible readings of the concern: i) that a judgment of inferiority is insufficiently strong to support to support the DDE, and ii) that the DDE is inconsistent with certain facts about deliberation, I find that while the defenders of the DDE may provide the resources necessary to respond to the second proper focus concern, they do not offer a satisfactory response to the first.