Arguments for the DDE

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.

11 Replies to “Arguments for the DDE

  1. Jussi,
    You write,

    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.

    What if the terror bomber is a utilitarian who pursues civilian destruction and pain, but does so very reluctantly, because this is the only available means to adverting even greater civilian destruction and pain. I fail to see how such a utilitarian counts as having a loving attitude towards evil (i.e., as having a loving attitude towards the civilian destruction and pain that she causes). Indeed, the utilitarian acts this way only because she hates civilian destruction and pain and so does whatever she can to minimize them. Thus, I fail to see how intending harm equates to loving evil.

  2. Doug,
    that’s a good point which I recognise is a problem for the argument. Alison MacIntyre makes a similar point. She writes that:
    “A properly regretful agent with a clear-sighted grasp of just why she was causing a particular harmas a means to a good end would be able to acquit herself of the particular moral charge of manifesting a bad attitude.(McIntyre,2001, p. 227)”
    But I think there are some things one can say in response and Hills says many of them.
    First, you could say that the DDE only is able to condemn most instances of terror bombing. There are few clear-headed utilitarians. Most terror bombers have intended terror in some more robust sense.
    Second, I’m not sure how the utilitarian bomber can hate civilian destruction and do whatever she can to minimize them. After all, she needs to maximise terror in order for the other side to give up. If you’re not producing enough death and suffering to achieve this end, you’ll be guided to create more pain and suffering. In this sense, the latter seems to be your plan-relative end.
    Third, thinking in the utilitarian way does not maximise the utilitarian ends as is well known. The terror bomber will be much more effective in reaching the good end if she does not do utilitarian calculations about which means lead to that end. She will be much more effective if she adopts the end of terror and destruction as her proper end in deliberation. Consequentially direct pursue of that end is more effective than considering causing harm as mere means.

  3. Jussi –
    I share Doug’s worry. Let me put it in slightly different terms. As Hurka makes quite clear, the morally relevant attitude is loving a particular thing for itself, rather than for the sake of some other thing. But I find it quite implausible to believe that every person who violates DDE intends harm for its own sake. One doesn’t have to be a utilitarian to believe that sometimes one has to intend harm in order to achieve a desirable result. (Cf. “The Battle of Algiers”) That doesn’t mean that one intends harm merely for itself.

  4. Dale,
    good. I’m trying to wiggle out of this. Here’s one way to do so. You might be right that the terror bomber does not *love* harm because he does not intend harm for its own sake. But, if I remember this right from Hurka’s book’s chapter on proportionality already lacking a hating attitude towards pain and suffering can be an intrinsically bad state. Now, you might think that the attitude which bomber has towards pain and suffering is incompatible with having a hating attitude towards pain and suffering. If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a reason [edited…] for doing the action. And, this is what the terror bomber has to do. So, on this view, she could not have the hating attitude towards pain which is required for virtue. After all, it is a derivative reason for her that her bombing does bring about these evil consequences.

  5. Jussi,
    You write: “If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a result [this should be: reason] for doing the action. And, this is what the terror bomber has to do.”
    Why can’t one hate pain and suffering and see the fact that x-ing will bring about pain and suffering as an instrumental reason for x-ing, as where bringing about this pain and suffering will minimize pain and suffering overall?

  6. One thing you could say is that pain and suffering do not just hang about in the air but rather they are some persons pain and suffering. It would then be the case that we should always talk about hating and loving attitudes towards the pains, sufferings and pleasures of definitive individuals. And, now the question becomes, do you hate Susan’s suffering if you want to cause her suffering and bring Mandy and Jane pleasure/avoidance of pain? I’m not sure I would want to answer that you do.

  7. Jussi,
    But even if I would prefer Susan’s lesser suffering to Mandy’s greater suffering, it doesn’t follow that I intrinsically want Susan to suffer. And it seems that I can want Susan to suffer for instrumental reasons and still hate Susan’s suffering.
    Moreover, consider the following case. Suppose my baby daughter will be in terrible agony an hour from now unless I cause her minor pain sometime in the next half hour. Suppose that she has a temporary condition such that if I cause her pain now, she’ll produce a massive amount of endorphins, which will anesthetize her for the next two hours. Suppose that this temporary condition will last for only the next half hour, so that if I don’t act soon, she won’t be anesthetized. Suppose that I prick her with a needle to get her endorphins going. Is it your view that I cannot possible hate my daughter’s pain given that I see the fact that my pricking her with a needle will cause her pain as an instrumental reason for my doing so?

  8. No. In that case you hate your daughter’s suffering, and to bring about as little of it as possible as you can you’ll need to cause her little suffering first in order to avoid more suffering later. Intrapersonal cases are different from interpersonal cases.
    The Susan case is trickier. I was thinking of the case where all the individuals suffer as much as they can (death is the usual case in bombing). So, the question is can you hate Susan’s death if you take her death to be something to be pursued for achieving the aim of saving the two other people.
    One thing that Hurka’s account requires is proportionality – that you hate things to the degree that they are bad and evil. And, death for an individual is as bad as things pretty much anything can be. We can then ask do you hate some individual’s death enough if you can see it as an instrumental reason do some action that may later end to saving other people. I’m still not convinced that you can.

  9. Jussi,
    You write: “No. In that case you hate your daughter’s suffering.”
    Good. So your earlier statement is false: viz., “If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a [reason] for doing the action.”
    You also write: “One thing that Hurka’s account requires is proportionality – that you hate things to the degree that they are bad and evil. And, death for an individual is as bad as things pretty much anything can be.”
    This (the second sentence) also seems false. The Holocaust seems much worse than the death of any single individual. It seems, then, that one could intend the death of a single individual (e.g., the death of the woman who would otherwise become the great grandmother of the next Hitler) and hate this evil in proportion to its badness while seeing the fact that x-ing will cause this person’s death as a reason to x given that x-ing is the only way that one can advert something as bad as the Holocaust (e.g., the next holocaust).

  10. Well yes. But that earlier claim did not make the distinction I gave in the later replies. If one hates certain individuals suffering, one can see that fact that the action causes suffering as an instrumental reason for reducing the amount of pain that individual suffers later. But, I wanted to suggest later that if one hates certain individuals suffering, one cannot see the fact that your action causes pain to that individual as an instrumental reason for reducing the amount of pain other individuals suffer later.
    The second holocaust point seems to me to be a rather nice illustration of the proportionality even though my intuitions are not so clear about those cases. I did mean as bad for the individual as possible. Of course death of one individual is not the worst thing that can happen in the world.
    I think a better case would be one in which you could by killing a single German induce such fear amongst the Nazi’s that they will surrender and a holocaust is avoided (imagine that they were real cowards). Of course a defender of the DDE will want to accept this even if she might not want to say that it is ok to induce similar fear by killing hundreds of thousands or millions of civilian Germans. DDE usually comes with some sort of proportionality clause too.
    The defender of the previous view will then want to say that one must also hate the holocaust a lot in order to be virtuous. So, maybe, in the cowardly Germans case, hating the death of the one individual is compatible with seeing the death of that individual as a reason for avoiding the holocaust which it would be evil not to hate hugely. But, you might think that there is a lesser number of individuals the saving for whom one cannot treat someone’s death as a reason if one hates the death of that person.

  11. There is a difference between pain-and-suffering and pain AND suffering. People here seem to use pain-and-suffering as the equivalent of pain AND suffering without acknowledging that fact. It is entirely possible to feel pain and enjoy it. Michael Crichton has an entire novel based on that premise. People cut themselves every day and enjoy it. Marquis de Sade claimed that it is possible to enjoy pain during sex so much that it actually brings men and women to orgasm. You may not agree with de Sade or with Crichton, etc. but the fact remains some types of pain actually alleviate suffering.
    Equally, it is possible to suffer without feeling any pain whatever. A 3-year-old who eats way too much candy and gets way too chubby for her own good, by the time she is 4 years old, is suffering, but feeling no pain whatever. In fact, she thoroughly enjoys the candy.
    To love evil, you must enjoy suffering — but only the suffering of others. And even so, you must do so with the knowledge that all the suffering is completely pointless, that it will result only in further suffering and nothing else whatsoever.
    A misguided belief is not the same as being evil. A doctor who believes that removing a bullet from someone’s head will make the person healthier, even though it may cause the patient migraines the rest of his life, is not evil, even in the event that the patient dies on the operating table while suffering an intense migraine. The doctor, in this case, is wrong and misguided in his belief that he can make the patient better, and yet not evil. But a woman who takes pleasure in reminding her child that the child’s father is dead, just to watch the child cry, is evil, because no good is either intended or expected. There is no other intent present except to create the maximum amount of suffering — for someone else.
    Without getting into the religious aspects of evil, it can be defined as an act (or several acts) inherently disruptive, with no other intent than to cause suffering to someone other than oneself. Evil people do, of course, cause themselves to suffer but good people cause themselves to suffer too. Hence, to that extent, there is no real difference between being evil and being good. Good people, however, do not cause others to suffer unless they intend that suffering to have some positive effect. No doubt there are good people who cross the line and cause suffering for its own sake — and when they cross that line, they are evil.
    Furthermore, it should be clear that actions are evil in and of themselves, regardless of the person who commits the acts. A person whose actions are almost exclusively evil is an evil person. A person whose actions are almost exclusively good is a good person. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle, most of the time. Most of us strive to be 100% good and 0% evil and that never happens, in real life. A few, twisted people, try to be 100% evil and 0% good, and that never happens either.
    The reason (in my opinion) that it is impossible to be 100% evil is that I define evil as inherently disruptive. But, in order to be 100% disruptive, 100% of the time, you need a fairly high degree of intelligence focus, dedication, cooperation, etc. and these are qualities that are inherently cohesive rather than disruptive. Moreover, even assuming that a person managed to be disruptive 100% of the time, he or she would have to wait until some semblance of order was restored to continue being disruptive.
    And, for the same reason, it is impossible to be 100% good. Being good means (to me) creating healing and cohesion, constantly. But, if there is no injury to heal and no chaos to turn into cohesion, then you more or less need to wait until things begin to fall apart, to see if you are really capable of being good. Not being evil or disruptive is not (in my opinion) the same as being good. Good and evil (in my opinion) are active states in which a person chooses to be, voluntarily, consciously, and continuously. Everything else is simply a kind of emotional gravitation.

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