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An Error About the Doctrine of Double Effect

Abstract

This paper claims as erroneous the current widespread representation of the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) as primarily condemning as intrinsically bad actions involving intentional harm. The DDE's Four Conditions are in fact used solely for justifying certain intrinsically good actions with both intended good and unintended bad effects. Though contemporary writers assign a minor justificatory role to the DDE this is incompatible with their attribution to it of a primary prohibitive role. Not only is the conduct cited by these writers as justifiable under the DDE so morally innocuous as to require no justification, but any attempt to justify it by appeal to the DDE leads to incoherence. We finally suggest reasons for this misinterpretation in current concerns with the structure of deontological moral theories.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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