I apologise for this but I want to return to the Doctrine of Double Effect. One thing that Tim Scanlon said in the comments was that his motivation for arguing against the DDE is, quote: ‘I see no plausible theoretical defense for it’. I wanted to ask about whether there really is no theoretical justification for the DDE. What are the best possible positive arguments for the DDE? What arguments have been presented in the literature so far? I also want to present a virtue-ethicist argument which I think works the best. It’s not very original (Alison Hills uses a similar one) but I ‘ll formulate it slightly differently.
I used to share Scanlon’s feeling about DDE. DDE is often presented as catholic cop-out to get plausible results in the self-defence even if we shouldn’t kill. Some defenders of the DDE have thought that these intuitive results from the cases justify the principle itself because the truth of DDE would be the best explanation for our intuitions. There are two replies to this; DDE doesn’t really give the right results (and we get to the counter-example game) or that there are other, better explanations for those intuitions (think Scanlon).
I know Quinn tried to justify the DDE on Kantian grounds. On his view, directly intending harm even for a good purpose involves treating people as mere means and this is ruled out by the second formulation of the CI. However, I want to build an argument from three elements: a general theories of value, virtue, and right action. The first two I borrow from Thomas Hurka, and the third from Rosalind Hursthouse (and Michael Slote).
1. Hurka’s recursive theory of good and evil. Hurka’s theory of good begins from the base-clauses of the goods and evils (in his Virtue, Vice, and Value):
(BG) Pleasure, knowledge, and achievement are intrinsically good.
(BE) Pain, false belief, and failure in the pursuit of achievement are intrinsically bad.
The lists could be different. The only thing that matters for us is that pleasure and pain are on them.
We then get four recursion-clauses:
(LG) If x is intrinsically good, loving x (desiring, pursuing, or taking pleasure in x) for itself is also intrinsically good.
(LE) If x is intrinsically evil, loving x for itself is also intrinsically evil.
(HG) If x is intrinsically good, hating x (desiring or pursuing x’s not obtaining or being pained by x’s obtaining) for itself is intrinsically evil.
(HE) If x is intrinsically evil, hating x for itself is intrinsically good.
These four claims are intuitively plausible, accepted by many (Aristotle, Brentano, Moore, Ross, and Nozick), and well defended by Hurka.
Now, think of the terror bomber. It could be argued that she has two attitudes; one of loving good and one of loving evil. She intends harm (loving evil) in order to end the war (loving good). At this point, one might need to argue that the harm to the civilians is not treated as a mere means for the good end (this should be ok in some cases) but rather as what Hills calls a ‘plan-relative end’. The bomber is not merely guided by the goal of ending the war but, rather, also adopts harm as an end in the larger plan she has. She actively pursues civilian destruction and pain, and is satisfied when she gets such results. This is why she counts as someone who has a loving attitude towards evil.
In contrast, the strategic bomber has two good attitudes. She loves the good of ending the war and hates the evil of pain caused to the civilians. Her bombing of the factories and military targets is guided by limiting civilian casualties. Of course, in some cases she will foresee that her actions will bring about some pain and suffering which she would not want to bring about.
2. Hurka’s definition of virtue and vice. Hurka then gives the following definitions for virtue and vice:
The moral virtues are those attitudes to goods and evils that are intrinsically good, and the moral vices are those attitudes to goods and evils that are intrinsically evil.
This definition of virtues and vices may sound surprising but Hurka makes a good case for it. The definition makes sense of the idea that virtues are desirable states of the person and vices undesirable ones. It also sets virtues, as higher-order goods, apart from other goods, and captures the idea that virtues are manifested in people’s virtuous actions via the motivation that leads to the actions. The definition can also be used to understand many traditional virtues we talk about especially if we understand the recursive theses proportionally.
The outcome of this definition of virtue and vice is that the the terror bomber has one virtue (loving the good of ending the war) and one vice (loving the pain and suffering caused to the civilians). The strategic bomber in contrast has two virtues (loving the good of ending the war and hating the civilian pain and suffering).
3. Hursthouse’s theory of right action. Hurka himself does not want to account for right actions in terms of virtues (he prefers consequentialism). However, he says that the previous view is compatible with such theories. So, one theory we could adopt is Hursthouse’s according to which the right action is that which a virtuous person would perform in the circumstances. Given that the terror bomber does not count as a virtuous person (she has a vice) what she does (bombs with the intention to cause suffering in order to end the war) cannot be right. Given that the strategic bomber counts as a virtuous person (two virtues) what she does can be right. One could also use here Slote’s view according to which right actions must result from virtuous motives and wrong actions from viceful ones.
This means that the three previous views entail the DDE. Of course, if you are convinced about the counter-examples to DDE, then what we have is a reductio against one of the previous three views. But there seems to be something to be said for them. I’d also like to hear what other arguments there are for the DDE.