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Article
Double-effect Reasoning Defended: A Response to Scanlon
Philosophy
  • Thomas A. Cavanaugh, University of San Francisco
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-1-2014
Disciplines
Abstract
Common morality endorses some form of an exceptionless prohibition against killing innocents. Natural lawyers employ double-effect reasoning (DER) to address hard cases involving deaths of the innocent. Current deontologists (Scanlon and Thomson) criticize DER-proponents as conflating act-with agent-evaluations. Scanlon develops this critique extensively. I respond to his criticism. He maintains that the DER-advocate tells a badly-motivated agent to refrain from an obligatory act. Thus, he asserts, the natural lawyer who employs DER errs. Instead, Scanlon proposes, one ought to assess the act as permissible while blaming the agent. I argue that DER does not succumb to this critique. Moreover, Scanlon’s particular criticism nicely shows the reasonableness of the approach the DER-thinker takes, namely, that defective agents produce defective acts. Thus, employing DER does not lead to a confusion of act-with agent-evaluations. Rather, it results in coherent assessments of both. "The denial of any distinction between foreseen and intended consequences, as far as responsibility is concerned, was not made by Sidgwick in developing any one ‘method of ethics’; he made this important move on behalf of everybody and just on its own account; and I think it plausible to suggest that this move on the part of Sidgwick explains the difference between old-fashioned utilitarianism and that consequentialism, as I name it, which marks him and every English academic philosopher since him. By it, the kind of consideration which formerly would have been regarded as a temptation, the kind of considerations urged upon men by wives and flattering friends, was given a status by moral philosophers in their theories. It is a necessary feature of consequentialism that it is a shallow philosophy." —G. E. M. Anscombe, Modern Moral Philosophy
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Post-print. Article published in Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Vol. 86 (2012 Conference)

Citation Information
Thomas A. Cavanaugh. "Double-effect Reasoning Defended: A Response to Scanlon" (2014)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/tom_cavanaugh/18/