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Doctrine of Double Effect: Consequentialism Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 17 July 2016

Doctrine of Double Effect: Consequentialism

The Doctrine of Double Effect states that it is a morally relevant difference between those bad consequences we aim and intend to bring about, and those that we do not intend but still foresee as a likely outcome of our actions. Under certain circumstances, it is morally acceptable to risk certain outcomes that would not be acceptable to intend. Though it is always wrong to kill innocents deliberately, this doctrine says, it is sometimes permissible to allow certain actions to occur understanding that some side effects will be negative. Considering that some side effects involve death, we need to consider the question of whether it is ever morally permissible to use people as a means to one’s end. Warren Quinn attempts to present a deontological way of viewing the Doctrine of Double Effect. The configuration of Doctrine of Double Effect prepared by Quinn makes distinctions on moral assessments. In proportion to consequentialist moral theory, the distinction the Doctrine of Double Effect comprises between intended and merely foreseen consequences does not matter for moral evaluation with the exception of factors that are consequential for production of better outcomes.

In Deontology edited by Stephen Darwill, Deontology is a element of ethical teachings centered on the idea that actions must be guided above all by adherence to clear principles. Thomas Nagel suggest that the core idea in deontological thinking is the Doctrine of Double Effect and the innermost idea is one ought not in one’s actions aim at evil and in this way to be guided by evil (177). Quinn suggests that there are two major problems dealing with the rationality and discrimination between cases when it comes to the Doctrine of Double Effect. In the following exert from Deontology, Quinn gives examples of contrasting cases from modern warfare:

In the case of a strategic bomber (SB), a pilot bombs an enemy factory in order to destroy its productive capacity. But in doing this he foresees that he will kill innocent civilians who live nearby. Many of us see this kind of military action as much easier to justify than that in the Case of the Terror Bomber (TB), who deliberately kills innocent civilians in order to demoralize the enemy. Another pair of cases involves medicine: In both there is a shortage of resources for the investigation and proper treatment of a new, life-threatening disease. In the first scenario doctors decide to cope by selectively treating only those who can be cured most easily, leaving the more stubborn cases untreated. Call this the direction of resources case (DR). In the contrasting and intuitively more problematic example, doctors decide on a crash experimental program in which they deliberately leave the stubborn cases untreated in order to learn more about the nature of the disease. …Guinea Pig Case (GP).

Another pair of medical examples is found in most discussions of Doctrine of Double Effect. In the Craniotomy Case (CC) a woman will die unless the head of the fetus she is trying to deliver is crushed. But the fetus may be safely removed if the mother is allowed to die. In the Hysterectomy Case (HC), a pregnant mother is allowed to die. In the Hysterectomy Case (HC), a pregnant mother’s uterus is cancerous and must be removed if she is to be saved. This will, given the limits of available medical technology, kill the fetus. But if no operation is performed the mother will eventually die after giving birth to a healthy infant. (Darwell 195)

In the above case I obviously see that there is a significant difference between the cases. The fetus is not yet a person, and the mother has a right to seek defense from anything that is hazardous to her health. Quinn makes the distinctions that the doctor in Craniotomy Case does not intend to actually kill the fetus; he probably would be happy if it survived. In this case it is little difference between the Hysterectomy Case and the Craniotomy Case.

Quinn produces a projected way to revive the Doctrine of Double Effect. He recommend that the Doctrine of Double Effect should be reiterated in the following way: One to make possible a differentiation between agency in which injury comes to a quantity of victims, at least impart, from the agent’s deliberately connecting them in something in order to further his purpose specifically by way of their being so involved and harmful agency in which either nothing is in that way intended for the victims or what is intended does not contribute to their harm. The overhaul of the Doctrine of Double Effect will produce the result that in the Terror Bomber and Craniotomy examples, the agency involved is the less customary kind, whereas in strategic bomber, Diversion of Resources , and cancerous uterus, the agency is involved is more acceptable kind. This works alongside with the original understanding of the Doctrine.

The majority of military actions would be morally out of the question if the killing of civilians were absolutely forbidden. When factories, naval dockyards, and supply lines are bombed, civilian carnage is inevitable. In these cases, the philosophy of the Double Doctrine of Effect comes into to play. When it comes to this, there is a huge and undeniable gray area; for instance, could it be permissible to bomb a hospital in which Osama Bin Laden is lying ill. In the doctrines most precise form, it holds that if an action has two effects, one good quality and one unpleasant, then the action is morally permissible. The following questions must be asked: is the action good in itself or not evil; is the good effect the only one aimed for; the good follows as immediately from the action as the evil effect, and the reason for performing the action was as important as that for allowing the evil effect. Are the consequences good on balance? It is important that it is; the goodness of the good must outweigh the evil of the evil effect.

Walzer goes as far to say that the actor should seek out ways to lessen the evil effect, accepting risk to his or her self. “There is obviously leeway for military judgment here: strategies and planners will for reasons of their own weigh the importance of their targets against the importance of their soldiers’ lives. But even if the target is very important, and the number of innocent people threatened relatively small, they must risk soldiers before they kill civilians” (Walzer 157). Still if the noncombatants are in harm’s way due to direct actions of the enemy, or due to the adult noncombatants own choice, the agent is duty-bound by jus in bello’s highlighting on distinction to alter his campaign from those otherwise recommended, if those tactics will foreseeable result in noncombatant casualties. Could one claim that the bombing campaign America set out over Kosovo did not meet the Double Doctrine Effect? Yes, the campaign failed to meet Walzer’s extra requirement because pilots flew high to guard themselves and dropped bombs imprecisely, which resulted in greater civilian casualties.

In Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer claims, “Double effect is a way of reconciling the absolute prohibition against attacking non-combatants with the legitimate conduct of military activity” (153). These non-combatants are placed in the category of innocence. Indeed, it is unjustified to kill the innocent, but these victims aren’t entirely innocent. It can be said that they are beneficiaries of oppression; they enjoy the contaminated fruits. In certain cases, it could be understandable but not justifiable. Those who are opposed to this notion would claim that the children among them, and even the adults, obtain every right to look forward to a long life like anyone else who is not actively participating in war. This is the whole notion of noncombatant immunity, which is not only crucial to war but of any decent politics. Anyone who renounces this policy for a moment is not simply making excuses for terrorism, but they are joining the lines of terror’s supporters. The act of terror incorporates the deliberate killing of noncombatants as a means to an end; therefore, it is not accepted by the Doctrine of Double Effect.

“The question of direct and indirect effect is complicated by the question of coercion. When we judge the unintended killing of civilians, we need to know how those civilians came to be in a battle zone in the first place. This is, perhaps, only another way of asking who put them at risk and what positive effects were made to save them” (159). Do intentions really validate this doctrine? Could it be possible to leave out the intentions and simply judge the rightness or wrongness of an act by its consequences, the way a consequentialist would do? Consequentialist will only choose to perform actions with the best consequences, which ignores our prima facie duties to others. In this case, the answer would not be sufficient enough for the Doctrine of Double Effect because this doctrine encompasses deontological constraints. Quinn shows in the following account how the doctrine reflects a Kantian ideal of human community:

This ideal is given one natural expression in the language of rights. People have a strong prima facie right not to be sacrificed in strategic roles over which they have no say. They have a right not to be pressed, in apparent violation of their prior rights, into the service of other people’s purpose. Sometimes these additional rights may be justifiable infringed, especially when the prior right is not terribly important and the harm is limited, but in all cases they add their own burden to the opposing moral argument. (207)

The Doctrine of Double Effect gives each individual value, which is not based on the majority of people. Gives individuals rights against being used as means to any end.

In the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski, Between 120,000 and 250,000 civilians were killed. The decision to use this deadly weapon for Americans was allegedly not for revenge but to bring an end to this dreadful war. I would like to believe former president Harry Truman was under the impression that the evil performed would not surpass the greater good that would come out of the action. At that time it was believed that the Japanese were fighting an unjust and aggressive war. In the following exert in Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer has part of commits made by Truman after the decision to drop the Atom bomb in the following: “We have used [the bomb] against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war” (Walzer 264).

The shortening of the agony of war was the justification of the use of the atomic bomb. President Truman claimed that the alternative, an invasion, would have cost countless American lives. In his justification, he shows evidence that he believes American lives are more important than the lives of others; I definitely do not believe this is the way the Doctrine of Double Effect was suppose to be executed. Now if he was specifically to state that one half of a million American lives would have been taken if the war was not stopped, he then can claim the net savings from the terror amounted to around a quarter of a million lives. In the case of valuing American lives more and theirs less, it looks somewhat obvious that the Doctrine of Double Effect was not used properly. Under any circumstances, the use of such a lethal weapon against Americans on American soil could never be justified.

Many moral philosophers are not pleased with the Doctrine of Double Effect; Jim Holt gives an account of some of their objections in the following:

If you ask the terror bomber why he is killing civilians, he will say, “to win a just war might even say that he does not need the civilians actually to be dead, but only to be thought to be dead until it is over to demoralize the other side. If his victims could be miraculously brought back to life after the end of the struggle, he would not object. In this sense, he does not really intend their deaths…. If I can kill Saddam Hussein only by shooting him through innocent human shield, do I intend harm to the innocent shield or not? (Holt)

Is the difference among directly intended effects and inevitable effects a contrived one? The point he is trying to make is that the incidental fatalities of a calculated bomb are just as dead as the intended victims of a terror bomber. This objection brings up another point made by Quinn in relation to the closeness of these situations. “…it surely matters how close the connection is between that which is, strictly speaking, intended and the resulting foreseen harm. If the connection is close enough, then the doctrine should treat the harm as if it were strictly intended.

And the reply might go on, the connection is close enough in the cases I have used to illustrate the doctrine’s negative force (196). In reference to the meaning of closeness, an illustration of closeness was supplied through an example of a glass. Someone could violently heat a glass just for the purpose of hearing the noise made from the initial impact. In cases involving force against something as fragile as a glass, the shattering is to be expected immediately after the action. These two actions form a causal relationship, so the connection seems intangible opposed to conditional.

It is morally acceptable to risk certain outcomes that would not be acceptable to intend. The Doctrine of Double Effect has prima facie reasoning in its make-up; therefore, it has a strong responsibility to do what is morally acceptable to our own standards. Proponents of Doctrine of Double Effect coincide more with deontological views opposed to consequentialist theories. Even though the Doctrine in some cases allows harm among individuals, they recognize that in real life cases there are events that have sufficient reasoning behind them.

Though it is always wrong to kill innocents deliberately, this doctrine says, it is sometimes permissible to attack a military target with the understanding that some civilians will die as a side effect. Even a dog knows when it is intentionally or accidentally kicked; therefore, We can not deny that intentions are of some importance. The question is whether or not the difference can be held up as morally acceptable. “For causal critics of the doctrine sometimes seem to suppose that its defenders must be ready to allow killings or harmings simply on the ground that the agency is indirect. But nothing could be further from the truth. The doctrine in no way lessons the constraining force of any independent moral right or duty” (203).

The Doctrine of Double Effect is centered among the impression of acceptable actions. The quest of good is less appreciated where a significant harm is intended as a means than where it is merely foreseen.

The deontologists grasp the idea that one or both of the distinctions between doing and allowing and intended and merely foresee effects scientifically affect what morality approves and condemns. Lying on this outlook, it is of importance morally not just what outcomes we bring about or fail to bring about, but the structure of our agency in this regard. The deontologist theories conflicts in the company of the act consequentialist, who holds that one morally ought always to do an act that leads to an outcome that is not worse than the outcome that would be reached by any other act.

Quinn gave an excellent account of the deontological view of the Doctrine of Double Effect, but his theory has flaws. What if the American government for an upright decent reason terrorizes the city of Berlin, and they can do this effectively by dropping bombs over Toronto? Our government does not strictly intend to include the people of Toronto for the reason that their attachment does not advance our objective; if all of the residents were out of town and survived, and our purpose still would have been served. In his reconstruction of the Doctrine of Double Effect, Quinn excludes our acts as indirect agency; therefore, the slaughter of the inhabitants of Toronto is parallel to a merely foreseen consequence. I don’t believe this exemption is one that he anticipated to make, but it is a loose end that needs further explanation.

Works Cited

Darwell, Stephen. (2003). Deontology. Malden, MA: Editorial material and


Holt, Jim. Terrorism and the Philosohers. Can The Ends ever justify the

means?2 June 2004.http://slate.msn.com/?id+2064544.

Walzer, Michael. (1977).Just and Unjust Wars. A Moral Argument With

Historical Illustrations. 3rd ed. Basic Books..

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