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S. Matthew Liao
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Hi Jamie, One could construe DDE in causal terms (Kamm tries to do this in Chapter 5 of her Intricate Ethics), but not everyone does. Thomson, for example, argues against construing DDE this way. In her Self-Defence paper, she says "One possibility is to construe the doctrine [DDE] as concerned, not with intendings, but with sheer causal order; I ignored this possibility in the text above, since I think it pretty obvious that the doctrine so construed has no future at all" (p. 295, n. 9).
Toggle Commented Mar 25, 2009 on Defending Double Effect at PEA Soup
Ralph, That's helpful as it is becoming clear to me how you want to proceed. I have two comments. 1. You said that you don't like Thomson's PAS cases. How about the following from Kamm, which has a similar structure? Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing Case: To win a just war, a munitions factory has to be blown up. There are innocent children next to the munitions factory who would be killed as a foreseen side effect. Suppose that a bombardier who has been selected to bomb the munitions factory is someone who would not have taken the job unless he knew that innocent children would be killed as a side effect. That is, it has always been a goal of his to kill some innocent children, and he sees his bombing of the factory as a means of achieving this goal. Here it can't be good for the innocent children to get killed. Yet Kamm thinks that it is permissible for the bombardier to bomb the munitions factory, even with the bad intention. If she is right, this case seems to be incompatible with your 1. The particular act-token was wrong; they have acted impermissibly, since the particular act-token itself essentially involves the objectionable intention. 2. Your view is starting to look similar to William Fitzpatrick's. (I don't yet think it's the same). He says the following in his Analysis paper: DDE does not in fact link the moral permissibility of an act with the token intentions with which a given agent would be acting. Rather, it links the permissibility of a certain type of act with the existence of a justification in terms of a sufficiently worthy end that can be pursued through so acting without intending anything illicit as a means. There are two worries about his view that you will want to avoid/address if you want to go that route. First, as Kamm has also pointed, this view suggests that what determines permissibility are the characteristics of the act itself and its effect, as these are what make it possible for one to decide whether there exists a justification in terms of a sufficiently worthy end that can be pursued through so acting without intending anything illicit as a means. In other words, in deciding whether an act is permissible by considering whether someone without a bad intention could perform the act, one is in effect primarily considering the properties of the act, e.g., whether it leads to a greater good. If so, this view seems to reinforce the idea that one ought to use the properties of the act to determining whether an intention with regard to this act is permissible, and not vice versa. As such, this view does not seem to help to establish that intentions can independently determine the permissibility of an act. Secondly, consider the following case by Kamm: Clever Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing Case: Suppose that a bombardier who has been selected to bomb the munitions factory is someone who would not have taken the job unless he knew that innocent children would be killed as a side effect. That is, it has always been a goal of his to kill some innocent children, and he sees his bombing of the factory as a means of achieving this goal. Suppose though that the bombardier is not committed to trying to kill innocent children independently if tactical bombing missions are not available. In other words, Clever Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing is the same as the Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing Case, except that the bombardier is not committed to trying to kill innocent children independently if tactical bombing missions are not available. Given that in this case, there is no action that the agent’s intention might direct him to perform that can be independently determined to be impermissible, this case would seem to come out as a permissible case for Fitzpatrick. However, as Kamm has argued, intuitively, it seems that this ‘clever variant’ should be just like Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing. In particular, why should the fact that the bombardier is clever affect the permissibility of his acts, even though he has the same intention to kill the innocent children as in Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing? It seems that either both of these cases should be permissible or they should not be permissible. If this is right, the fact that Fitzpatrick's view appear to give asymmetric explanations regarding the clever variant and Terror-Intending Tactical Bombing seems therefore to count against such a view.
Toggle Commented Mar 25, 2009 on Defending Double Effect at PEA Soup
Ralph, great post! I actually have a paper on exactly this topic arguing for the same conclusion as you, though not via the same route, which I am revising at the moment. I’ll send it to you when I’m done with it. Just three comments on your post. First, as Tim Scanlon has already pointed out, he, Thomson, and you’ll be probably also want to add Kamm in the mix are concerned with the issue of permissibility/impermissibility. They can agree with you that having bad intentions is in some sense worse, but still maintain that this in no way affects permissibility/impermissibility. Indeed, they think that having bad intentions can affect a person’s character (Thomson, Kamm) or more narrowly, an assessment of the way the agent went about deciding what to do (Scanlon). So, at least for the purpose of this debate, the challenge for those who disagree with them is to show how intentions can affect the permissibility/impermissbility of an act and not just how intentions can be make something better or worse. Secondly, for precisely the reason you have given about mistaken intentions, the particular example of Thomson’s that you’ve used is probably not the best example for her claim that intentions are irrelevant for permissibility. Consider though another example from her physical assisted suicide piece, what I call in my paper the Terminal Illness Case: Suppose that a patient is terminally ill and suffering great pain. The only course of medication that will relieve this pain will also cause the patient to die. Suppose that the patient wants to take this drug. Thomson asks, does the permissibility of administering the drug depend on the doctor’s intention? In particular, does it depend on whether the doctor intends to relieve the pain by intending to cause the patient to die, or intends to relieve the pain by giving the drug which will, inevitably, also cause the patient to die? In this case, the problem of mistaken intentions does not seem to arise. And, according to Thomson, it seems counterintuitive to suppose that intentions determine the permissibility in such a case. Thirdly, anticipating that someone might respond the way you have done, namely, that when you intend something bad, you are intending to perform a different act, Thomson offers what I call the Revengeful Doctor Terminal Illness Case: Suppose that a patient is terminally ill and suffering great pain. The only course of medication that will relieve this pain will also cause the patient to die. Suppose that the patient wants to take this drug. Suppose also that the doctor hates the patient and wants the patient to die. According to Thomson, while a doctor who acts on revengeful intentions in such a case is a bad person, as long as the act relieves the patient’s pain, the act remains morally permissible. If she is right, Thomson can say that it does not matter whether intending something bad has resulted in a different act. It remains the case that this case shows that having bad intention is irrelevant to permissibility/impermissibility. And assuming that cases like this one are ones in which intentions should do some moral work, if they are to do any work at all, it seems, so the argument goes, that intentions is irrelevant to permissibility/impermissibility generally, and the challenge for those of us who disagree with her (like myself) is to show why this is not so.
Toggle Commented Mar 24, 2009 on Defending Double Effect at PEA Soup