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Intention / Double Effect

The paradigm of an action for which one may be held morally responsible is one that is intentional and voluntary. To say that it is intentional is to say that one meant to do it, either as a means to achieving something else or for its own sake. To say it is voluntary is to say that it was not an uncontrolled movement or was not forced on one by internal compulsion of external pressure or constraint. One may occasionally be reasonably held responsible for unintentional actions and involuntary movements, for reasons of culpable ignorance, or neglectfulness or lack of due care and attention, but responsibility attaches primarily to the voluntary and the intentional. In acting one typically brings about more than one result, and besides those that are intended are others than are unintended but foreseen, and others that are neither intended nor foreseen. The principle of ‘double-effect’, which derives from ideas of Aquinas holds that while one is always responsible for what one intends one may not be responsible for what one merely foresees. So, for example, in restraining someone who poses a threat to others, and perhaps to themselves, one may unintentionally cause then to have a heart attack and die. That outcome may have been recognised to be a risk but it was not intended, and so long as one’s action were neither reckless nor excessive one is not morally responsible for the death even though one caused it. The principle has been widely invoked, first in Catholic moral theology and later in secular moral philosophy especially in the spheres of medical ethics and the ethics of violence and war.

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    Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association Volume 56, 1982 The Role and Responsibility of the Moral Philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe Pages 12-25 https://doi.org/10.5840/acpaproc19825611 Medalist’s Address Action, Intention and ‘Double Effect’  

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    There are two perspectives available from which to understand an agent's intention in acting. The first is the perspective of the acting agent: what did she take to be her end, and the means necessary to achieve that end? The other is a third

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    The University of San Francisco USF Scholarship: a digital repository @ Gleeson Library | Geschke Center Philosophy 1997 Aquinas's Account of Double Effect Thomas A. Cavanaugh University of San Francisco, [email protected] Follow this and additional works at: http://repository.usfca.edu/phil & Part of the Philosophy Commons Recommended Citation Cavanaugh, Thomas A., "Aquinas's Account of Double Effect" (1997). Philosophy. Paper 33. http://repository.usfca.edu/phil/33 College of Arts and Sciences This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the College of Arts and Sciences at USF Scholarship: a digital repository @ Gleeson Library | Geschke Center. It has been accepted for inclusion in Philosophy by an authorized administrator of USF Scholarship: a digital repository @ Gleeson Library | Geschke Center. For more information, please contact [email protected]. T. A. Cavanaugh, Philosophy, University of San Francisco Penultimate Draft of: Aquinas's Account of Double Effect, The Thomist, Vol. 61, No. 1, January 1997, pp. 107-121. AQUINAS'S ACCOUNT OF DOUBLE EFFECT THOMAS A. CAVANAUGH UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO In this paper, I present Aquinas's account of double-effect reasoning (DER) -- often called the "principle," "rule," or "doctrine" of double effect. Often, if not always, DER is attributed to Thomas Aquinas tout court.¹ Yet, I will argue, Thomas's account substantially differs from contemporary double-effect reasoning (DER) insofar as Thomas considers the ethical status of risking an assailant's life while contemporary accounts of DER focus on actions causing harm foreseen as inevitable." Of course, if DER applies to cases in which harm is foreseen as an inevitable result of an otherwise good action, it will apply to cases in which harm is foreseen as being a possible consequence. The reverse, however, need not obtain. For example, one might think that it is ethical for an ironworker knowingly to risk his life doing dangerous work while one would not think it ethical for the ironworker knowingly to do work from which his death would follow inevitably. Thus, one might think that it is ethical to risk causing harm which one would not think it ethical to cause inevitably. I will argue that Aquinas holds something like this point in his account of DER. 1 Q.64, a.7 and "Praeter Intentionem" The locus classicus of double-effect reasoning is Aquinas' discussion of homicidal self-defense found in S.t. Ilallae, q.64, a.7.iii Q. 64 occurs within Aquinas's consideration of vices opposed to commutative justice. Q. 64 concerns what Aquinas considers the greatest injury committed upon one's neighbor against his will: his death. In article seven, Thomas asks whether it is licit to kill a man in self-defense. He offers a number of objections against the liceity of so acting. St. Augustine voices two objections. The first comes from his epistle to Publicola; the second Thomas takes from Augustine's De Libero arbitrio. There Augustine asks: How are they free from sin in the sight of divine providence who, for the sake of these contemnible things have taken a human life? (q.64, a.7, ob.2) Aquinas notes that among the slight goods which men may forfeit against their wills, Augustine includes corporeal life. Augustine appears to rule out homicidal self-defense. Aquinas interprets Augustine as not permitting the intentional taking of an aggressor's life. Thomas has noted earlier in his discussion of war (q. 40, a.1) that Augustine thinks it licit for one charged with the public good to take life during a war. Accordingly, in q. 64, a.7, Aquinas considers the bailiff and the soldier to be agents who may in self-defense and as public officials intentionally take the life of an aggressor. Thus, in q. 64, a.7, the self-defense of particular interest is that of the private individual, as such, taking the life of an assailant. 2 The corpus of q.64, a.7 reads: iv Nothing prevents one act from having two effects, of which only one is intended, the other being praeter intentionem. Now oral acts recei their character (speciem) according to that which is intended, not, however, from that which is praeter intentionem, since this is accidental, as is evident from what has been said earlier. Thus, from the act of self-defense, two effects may follow: one, the conservation of one's own life; the other, the death of the aggressor (occisio invadentis). Since what is intended is the conservation of one's own life, such an act is not illicit: it is natural for each thing to preserve itself in existence for as long as it is able. Nevertheless, some act proceeding from a good intention may be rendered illicit if it is not proportioned to the end (proportionatus fini). Thus, it would not be licit if someone defending his own life were to use more force than necessary. But, if he repels force with moderation, his defensive act will be licit: for, according to the jurists, it is licit to repel force by force, with the moderation of a blameless defense (cum moderamine inculpatae tutelae.) Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man forego an act of moderate force in order to avoid the death of another: since one is more responsible (plus tenetur) to care for (providere) one's 3 own life than someone else's. But, since to kill a man is not licit except for the public authority acting for the sake of the common good (as is evident from what was previously said [article 3]), it is not licit for a man to intend to kill another man in order to defend himself, except for those who have public authority. These, intending to kill a man in self-defense, refer this to the public good. This is evident in the case of a soldier fighting an enemy, and in the case of a minister of the judge fighting (pugnante) against thieves. Nevertheless, even these would sin if they were moved by private animosity. What does Thomas mean by the phrase "praeter intentionem?" I will argue that in q.64, a.7, Aquinas uses "praeter intentionem" to refer to a characteristic, but not exclusive result which is not accidental, nor intentional, nor inevitable. I will argue that Aquinas understands justified private homicidal self-defense to be an action in which the defendant risked killing the assailant. To do something which one foresees as inevitably resulting in the death of the assailant is not to risk the assailant's life knowingly. To risk the aggressor's life knowingly is not to do something which one foresees as inevitably resulting in the assailant's death. Yet, contemporary accounts of DER paradigmatically apply to knowingly causing inevitable harm. In this respect, Thomas's account substantially differs from the accounts offered by contemporary theorists of DER. Praeter Intentionem: Intended or Accidental? 4

  • Action and Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action

    "Both Thomistic scholars and analytic philosophers interested in theories of human action and accountability will find this book a welcome addition to their libraries. Truly a substantive addition to both Thomistic scholarship and the ongoing analytic investigation into human action and responsible agency." - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly"A tremendously successful exposition of Aquinas, which brings him into conversation with contemporary and analytic philosophy in a mutually illuminating way. Action and Conduct is so thorough and so lucid that no students of Aquinas or of contemporary action theory can afford to neglect it." - Modern Theology"A first rate book...Brock's lucid and illuminating analysis offers much of value to both intellectual historians and theologians, as well as philosophers." - Theological Studies"Brock's treatment of Aquinas's account of action exhibits a rare combination of rigor and learning. It is, no doubt, the best we have." - The Thomist

  • The Way of Medicine: Ethics and the Healing Profession

    Today's medicine is spiritually deflated and morally adrift; this book explains why and offers an ethical framework to renew and guide practitioners in fulfilling their profession to heal. What is medicine and what is it for? What does it mean to be a good doctor? Answers to these questions are essential both to the practice of medicine and to understanding the moral norms that shape that practice. The Way of Medicine articulates and defends an account of medicine and medical ethics meant to challenge the reigning provider of services model, in which clinicians eschew any claim to know what is good for a patient and instead offer an array of "health care services" for the sake of the patient's subjective well-being. Against this trend, Farr Curlin and Christopher Tollefsen call for practitioners to recover what they call the Way of Medicine, which offers physicians both a path out of the provider of services model and also the moral resources necessary to resist the various political, institutional, and cultural forces that constantly push practitioners and patients into thinking of their relationship in terms of economic exchange. Curlin and Tollefsen offer an accessible account of the ancient ethical tradition from which contemporary medicine and bioethics has departed. Their investigation, drawing on the scholarship of Leon Kass, Alasdair MacIntyre, and John Finnis, leads them to explore the nature of medicine as a practice, health as the end of medicine, the doctor-patient relationship, the rule of double effect in medical practice, and a number of clinical ethical issues from the beginning of life to its end. In the final chapter, the authors take up debates about conscience in medicine, arguing that rather than pretending to not know what is good for patients, physicians should contend conscientiously for the patient's health and, in so doing, contend conscientiously for good medicine. The Way of Medicine is an intellectually serious yet accessible exploration of medical practice written for medical students, health care professionals, and students and scholars of bioethics and medical ethics.

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    The Moral Act

    Recorded in 1995. Dr. John Haas, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and former President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, offers reflections on leading an ethical life in light of revelation. What does Jesus and his Church teach about how to live? How does God help us to live imperfect happiness here on earth and perfect happiness in the life to come? What can we do to cooperate with grace so as to live in love with God, with other people, and with ourselves?

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    Defining Murder

    Prof Alexander Pruss is a professor of philosophy and director of graduate studies at Baylor University. He has published in many areas of philosophy as well as mathematics and his books include The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment (2006), Actuality, Possibility and Worlds (2011) and One Body: A Study in Christian Sexual Ethics (2012). His blog can be found here: alexanderpruss.blogspot.com

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    Euthanasia and the Doctrine of Double Effect

    This video examines Thomas D. Sullivan's application of the Doctrine of Double Effect to the ethics of euthanasia. Is the Doctrine of Double Effect sound? How do we differentiate between what is the intention of our action and what is merely a "foreseeable consequence" of our action? How would the doctrine recommend we act in the class "trolley problem" dilemmas? What relevance does the Doctrine of Double Effect have for end of life care? Sullivan argues that while it is morally wrong to withhold ordinary means of preserving life (since doing so necessarily intends the patient's death), that it is not morally wrong to withhold extraordinary means of preserving life (since doing so may be motivated by other considerations). But, how do we distinguish between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" means of preserving a patient's life? For the pdf document used in this video see: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1behvqhriEHlaA3dhx0iVUIRnlszUAfsA/view?usp=sharing