Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen

Scanlon on the Doctrine of the Double Effect

Torsdag 5. mars, kl. 14.15-16.00.
Sted: Georg Sverdrups hus, grupperom 1


The doctrine of the double effect (DDE) seems to many to be a crucial part of non-consequentialist morality with strong intuitive backing, e.g. it seems to explain why conventional acts of war predictably, but not intentionally so, leading to the loss of civilians lives is morally less problematic than unconvential acts of war aimed at resulting in the loss of civilians lives. Scanlon has recently offered a strong critique of DDE arguing that its attraction to a significant extent rests on our confusing issues of permissibility (deliberative use of principles) with an evaluation of the way in which agents go about making up their minds about what to do (critical use of principles). While Scanlon’s critique has admirable theoretical depth, I doubt that it offers a decisive case against DDE. More specifically, I argue that comparison of actions reflecting very faulty moral deliberations and involving merely foreseen harm to innocents, on the one hand, and actions reflecting less faulty moral deliberations involving intended harm to innocents, on the other, suggests that proponents of DDE do not confuse the critical and the deliberative uses of moral principles. Also, Scanlon suggests that it is odd to say to an agent deliberating about what to do that the permissibility of the course of action she ponders depends on the intention with which she will perform it if she does. I argue that there is no comparable oddness involved in the case where an agent tries to establish what her intentions behind a past action were in order to deem whether what she did was permissible. This suggests that the best explanation of the oddness of the former situation is, not the irrelevance of intentions to permissibility, but the absurdity of the agent treating future intentions as parametric to her deliberations.


Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen er professor i politisk teori ved Århus Universitet. Seneste publikasjoner inkluderer: Egalitarianism (m. N. Holtug (red.), Oxford University Press (2006)); “Against Self-Ownership”, Philosophy and Public Affairs (2008); “Inequality, Incentives, and the Interpersonal Test”, Ratio (2008).