"Double-effect" doesn’t mean "licensed circular reasoning"

February 17, 2008 § 149 Comments

The first criteria of the principle of double-effect is that the principle of double-effect only applies when an act is not intrinsically immoral. As the Catechism puts it,

The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.

Isn’t it odd, then, that so many Catholics, including a number of well respected theologians in their non-magisterial texts, appeal to the principle of double-effect in order to demonstrate that a proposed act is not intrinsically immoral? This is exactly backward. The principle of double effect doesn’t determine whether or not an act is intrinsically immoral: rather, the PDE applies only to acts which are not intrinsically immoral.

In order to apply the principle of double-effect, it must first be established that the act is not intrinsically immoral in itself as a specific kind of chosen behavior or concrete act. Appealing to the structures of double-effect – intended effects versus unintended, an intended end caused or not caused by the evil effect, etc – is something which takes place only after it is first established that the act is not intrinsically immoral. The cart comes after the horse.

(UPDATE: The original post which is the discussion context for this one is here.)

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§ 149 Responses to "Double-effect" doesn’t mean "licensed circular reasoning"

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ve often heard double-effect spoken in relation to abortion to save a woman’s life. The idea being that the intention isn’t directly to kill the child, but rather to save the mother (the child dying is a an inintended side effect). But based on what you wrote it doesn’t seem like that would hold up because the specific chosen behaviour is still to kill the child, and killing innocence is intrinsically wrong. Am I reading this correctly?

  • zippy says:

    <>Am I reading this correctly?<>Yes. In Catholic moral theology (and the natural law) there is no “life of the mother” exception allowing abortion in that case.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I suppose one _might_ try to approach this as a matter of epistemic access to ethical truths. Suppose that your epistemic grasp of the claim “X is a proper place for the application of the principle of double effect” were stronger than your grasp of the proposition that it is (or isn’t) intrinsically wrong. Then you could argue to the latter by way of the former, “I’m quite sure that it’s a legitimate place for the application of double effect, so it _must not_ be intrinsically wrong.” The trouble, of course, arises in that a person who is quite confident that it _is_ intrinsically wrong will simply reverse the reasoning and conclude that it _must not_ be a proper place for the application of double effect, _since_ it is intrinsically wrong.And in any event, I think we probably usually have clearer access to intrinsic wrongness than we do to the proper place to apply double effect.

  • William Luse says:

    <>I think we probably usually have clearer access to intrinsic wrongness than we do to the proper place to apply double effect.<>I suspect the first half of that <>might<> be wrong, and the second half definitely true. I’m beginning to get the impression that many Catholics (and conservative Christians in general) think double-effect can be brought to bear on most any situation, and I don’t know why that might be unless they just don’t get “intrinsically evil.” Anonymous’ example in the first comment is fairly representative. (Although I’d further define “killing innocence.” Innocence is an abstract noun. I assume he meant killing the innocent, but even that is not enough, since under scrupulously defined circumstances innocents may indeed be killed absent the charge of murder. I would say “killing the innocent as a means to an end” is intrinsically wrong.

  • Anonymous says:

    In general, that’s fine. But if your conclusion about an act flies in the face of long-standing tradition, and flies in the face of the opinion of MOST theologians, including the ones who are especially noted for upholding the “inherently evil” standard, and contradicts the example that is THE example used to illustrate the PDE, then you should doubt your understanding of the PDE. In particular, you need to understand the “object” of the act in the exact manner it stands in the PDE itself. And, unfortunately, that understanding has been under debate for some time.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    That’s kind of a depressing thought, Bill–that people don’t get intrinsic evil. It’s one thing to disagree over what is intrinsically evil. It’s another thing not even to know what it means.

  • zippy says:

    <>In general, that’s fine. But if your conclusion about an act flies in the face of long-standing tradition, and flies in the face of the opinion of MOST theologians, including the ones who are especially noted for upholding the “inherently evil” standard, and contradicts the example that is THE example used to illustrate the PDE, then you should doubt your understanding of the PDE.<>That’s a big fat pathetic straw man though. Blowing up a little girl with a bomb – the case which inspired this post, taken from the comments on my post attempting to define a certain class of murder – is not THE example used to illustrate the PDE, supported by millennia of Tradition, etc. Hogwash! The whole notion that one can justify directly and intentionally blowing up little girls (the daughter of a really bad guy in the proposed case) by appealing to double-effect is exactly the kind of thing that – to some extent justifiably – gives some “Catholic” casuistry a bad name.Bill:It should really be straightforward, but the guy who wants to blow up the bad guy general who happens to be standing with his daughter will claim that because her death doesn’t <>cause<> his, her death is not a means to the end of killing him. IOW, our language about acts has become so distorted by modern disembodied abstraction that the person will claim that he is not intentionally and inherently blowing up the little girl in his chosen behavior, even though he is quite obviously intentionally and inherently blowing up the little girl in his chosen behavior.

  • Tony M says:

    Zippy, OK, you wish to declare that the “blowing up a little girl” is inherently evil, and therefore does not permit the application of PDE. Though I expect I know your answer, please identify what it is in “blowing up little girls” that makes it inherently evil and that has no congruence in the other kinds of cases where we accept collateral deaths as morally permissible. Is it specifically that you know her name? Or that you know the 1-year girl is there, whether you know her name or not? Or that you know a civilian is there? Or that you are fairly confident that there is a civilian there, given usual circumstances? (For an example of collateral deaths: when police shoot at a criminal shooting at them and others: if there are bystanders, a certain percentage likelyhood attaches to an innocent bystander – or another policeman – getting shot by the police. This is permissible morally, though prudence requires weighing the danger to bystanders vs the danger to the public of not trying to subdue the criminal. And, even if the likelyhood were to rise above 50%, the calculus of prudent choices by the police would change, but it would still be possible that they ought to choose to shoot: If the criminal is intent on shooting as many people as he can until he is stopped, but holding a bystander as hostage.) The problem with your conclusion is that the Church, while condemning indiscriminate bombing of cities, has NOT condemned bombing of military installations during a war even when it is probable or morally certain there are some civilians present. I understand from this that She does not conclude that bombing of a military installation in such case is inherently evil. Indeed, if it were part of the inescapable conclusion from the Church’s teaching in this area that sending a bomb on a military target, whenever there could reasonably be expected to be innocents present, was inherently immoral, She would have had to condemn virtually all bombing whatsoever. And this is not what the Church does.

  • zippy says:

    <>…please identify what it is in “blowing up little girls” that makes it inherently evil and that has no congruence in the other kinds of cases where we accept collateral deaths as morally permissible.<>Why, the same thing that is wrong with performing a salpingotomy or other kinds of abortion: tearing the living little girl’s body to bits is built into the behavior which is chosen.<>The problem with your conclusion is that the Church, while condemning indiscriminate bombing of cities, has NOT condemned bombing of military installations during a war even when it is probable or morally certain there are some civilians present.<>That would only be a problem for me if I viewed the silence of the Holy See on a specific question as a moral license. But of course, as Anscomb points out, the Holy See has condemned the argument from the silence of the Holy See.Also the way the last two Pope’s have discussed modern means of warfare doesn’t really represent “silence”; though it is true that the specific question has not been addressed in precise theological language.

  • Tom says:

    <>…the guy who wants to blow up the bad guy general who happens to be standing with his daughter will claim that because her death doesn’t cause his, her death is not a means to the end of killing him.<>Well, but, I mean to say, her death <>isn’t<> a means to the end of killing him. So that’s not what makes the guy who wants to blow him up wrong.It seems to me you can slice it a couple of ways. You can say the object of your act is to detonate a bomb, an act which is not (God help us) intrinsically immoral. Then the girl’s death is a bad effect, and you’re reduced to sophistry to explain how the good of the general ‘s death outweighs the good of the girl’s death.Or you can say the object of your act is to kill everyone within the lethal blast radius, which <>is<> intrinsically immoral.My guess is, as long as you don’t leave any loose ends dangling, you can slice it however you like and you get the same answer. And I am more confident that, if someone doesn’t like how you get the answer slicing it one way, they won’t how you get it slicing it another way.

  • zippy says:

    <>…her death isn’t a means to the end of killing him.<>Exactly right — though only morally dispositive if killing her isn’t ‘built in’ to the behavior chosen, that is, if the PDE applies. Thus my warning to Bill about the misuse to which the ‘means to an end’ language can be put.<>It seems to me you can slice it a couple of ways.<>The ‘slicing’ though is merely a matter of <>description<>. I can <>describe<> Bill in a number of ways, but he remains Bill however I describe him, and in general a description shouldn’t be confused with the object itself — including when ‘object’ refers to the object of an act.In really software-geekish terms, the object of an act is an <>actual run-time instance<> (in this case a particular actual embodied chosen behavior), and a category of intrinsically immoral acts is a <>class<>. We can describe live executing code in an infinite number of ways, but if <>that<> object is an instance of <>that<> class then no amount of fooling around with descriptions can make <>that<> object not an instance of <>that<> class. In order to belong to a different class, the object would have to <>not instantiate that chosen behavior<>.And only if that is the case – only if the chosen behavior is not in fact an instance of an intrinsically immoral class of acts – does it begin to matter whether or not a bad effect is a means to some intended end.(Moral theologians say ‘species’ rather than ‘class’, but ‘class’ is the geeky software term that fits the analogy. I’m not sure I like the analogy myself yet, but I toss it out there in case it is helpful to some fellow geek).<>My guess is, as long as you don’t leave any loose ends dangling, you can slice it however you like and you get the same answer. And I am more confident that, if someone doesn’t like how you get the answer slicing it one way, they won’t how you get it slicing it another way.<>IOW, Bill remains Bill no matter how self-servingly we try to describe him for our purposes, unless we describe ‘him’ in such a way that what we are describing becomes not-Bill. There is a dialectical level and an ontological level here, and I get the sense that most people aren’t thinking about the object of an act as, well, an object: a definite thing (in this case a chosen embodied behavior) which we can refer to in many ways, but which is not equivalent to its descriptions.

  • William Luse says:

    Well, I wasn’t thinking of the general’s daughter case because I didn’t know about it until after I’d posted, but rather the abortion example, although I suppose they are the same in essence.But since I believe ‘murder’ is precisely defined by “killing the innocent as a means to your end,” I’m not yet willing to part with it. So let me take a risk:The fact that the little girl’s death isn’t the <>cause<> of the general’s does not exhaust our discussion of means. The means to your end is everything you employ to get there, which includes setting off the bomb <>with the intention of<> killing the girl. You can’t get to your end (a dead general) without going through her. Her death is necessary to his, inseparable from it, and you absolutely intend to do it. And that’s what I meant by killing the innocent as a means to an end, though her death does not cause his.A related question: do you draw a distinction between the means to the end and the object of the act?

  • zippy says:

    <>The fact that the little girl’s death isn’t the cause of the general’s does not exhaust our discussion of means.<>That is a perfectly reasonable use of language: referring to ‘means’ as the chosen behavior itself <>and<> everything between that chosen behavior as a cause and the intended effects it produces. I wasn’t saying “that is a wrong way of talking about acts”; I was saying “that is a corruptible way of talking about acts, and here is how they will corrupt it” — particularly when interlocutors are implicitly denying that there is anything morally pertinent other than causes leading to effects in play, that is, particularly when interlocutors have assued at the outset that the PDE applies to the act in question.<>…do you draw a distinction between the means to the end and the object of the act?<>Well, I think one <>can<> do that: one can refer to <>nothing but<> the chain of causes leading to intended effects as “means”. Or one can also use the term to refer to “the object (chosen behavior) plus all of its intended effects which causally result in the intended end”. The two usages are different, neither one obviously invalid as a matter of using the English language, since what we are doing is ‘mapping’ the everyday term “means” onto more philosophically precise concepts.But again, our linguistic choices don’t change reality, and what is morally dispositive is the reality.

  • zippy says:

    Let me answer this reflected from the other direction, hopefully for additional clarity:<>…do you draw a distinction between the means to the end and the object of the act?<>YES. If I hire a hit man to commit murder for me, then the means to my end is someone else’s act. If it is someone else’s act it cannot be the object of my act, though I am just as guilty, through formal cooperation, as if it were my act.

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    The general’s daughter introduce matters into the debate that aren’t necessarily PDE related. While not maintaining that her death is permissible in war, one could argue she cooperates in the actions of the general and is therefore a threat. The other rationale would be to transfer the culpability to the General for placing her in the situation. There are of course limits to both arguments, but neither argument is a PDE argument.

  • zippy says:

    <>…one could argue she cooperates in the actions of the general and is therefore a threat.<>We could eliminate that from the scenario by stipulating that she is (say) two years old.<>The other rationale would be to transfer the culpability to the General for placing her in the situation.<>Blaming someone else because they brought about the circumstances, and thereby absolving yourself, isn’t a part of any tradition of moral theology of which I am aware. Granting that the general may well <>also<> be morally responsible for his daughter’s death, that doesn’t justify her killer’s act. You get the PDE or you get nothing when it comes to justifying an act with foreseen evil effects.

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    <>Blaming someone else because they brought about the circumstances, and thereby absolving yourself, isn’t a part of any tradition of moral theology of which I am aware.<>Transfer of culpability isn’t unheard in ethics. Take the rape victim who requests her attacker uses a condom. I don’t see how you construct a PDE for her in that instance, but you and I would agree that she isn’t choosing to contracept.Take the example of the trucker who is given arnaments to carry but is unaware of his cargo. There is no issue under just war theory of attacking his truck.Take the example a kindergarten class touring an arnaments factory. How much care would the opposing army need to take to account that they or other innocents would not be there? Admittedly some of this goes to the area of ignorance, but at the same time I’m not aware of any imperative to enlighten oneself prior to bombing an armaments facility.In the case of the General’s daughter, I think it can be fairly argued that he owes a certain level of dilligence in protecting her. The argument that extraordinary provision must be made for innocents is I believe wrong.

  • zippy says:

    <>Admittedly some of this goes to the area of ignorance…<>That is what distinguishes <>all<> of your examples, as far as I can tell. I agree that there is no special duty to determine whether there are truly innocent civilians at a military facility. But that – issues of duty to ascertain the facts before acting – is changing the subject. In <>this<> case we <>know<> the facts.<>In the case of the General’s daughter, I think it can be fairly argued that he owes a certain level of dilligence in protecting her.<>Of course he does. But that doesn’t translate into a license for us to kill her under any legitimate moral principle of which I am aware.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I’m glad to hear you say, Zippy, that we don’t have to take a bunch of extra care to make certain there are no innocents in the armaments factory. That really would make warfare pretty much practically speaking impossible, and you had made a comment once (in discussing the possibility of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities) that had me worried a bit on whether you thought that every military strike must be preceded by extensive fact gathering until we are morally certain no civilians are in or near the otherwise military targets.

  • Anonymous says:

    Why, if you MUST not send in the bomb if you know a specific innocent person is present, does it make sense that you don’t have a grave prior obligation to find out if there are innocent persons present? It sounds to me like saying “Well, I <> would <> have to refrain if I found innocent people there, so I won’t try too hard to find out and then I won’t know. Isn’t that just about as justifiable as shooting into a dark car because you don’t know if there is anyone there? I would think that the obligation to find out is awfully strong if it means that you utterly cannot send the bomb if any are present. Lydia, I think Zippy’s idea really does mean warfare would be impossible, even if he does not wish to claim that. The obligation to seek the knowledge must be as strong as the imperative to avoid killing a known innocent person, which according to him is absolute.

  • William Luse says:

    Zippy – yes, I know you weren’t calling me wrong. I should have been clearer, wishing only to take issue with Tom’s statement that the girl wasn’t a part of the means to the end.I was wondering how long it would take for someone to start calling you a pacifist, which probably has its foundation in MZ’s belief that an argument demanding “extraordinary provision…for innocents is I believe wrong.” Of course it is, but I think <>ordinary<> provision is not an inhumanly exacting standard, and in the case of the general’s daughter neither provision need bother us since we know with absolute certainty that the girl is there and that we <>absolutely intend to kill her<>.

  • Tony M says:

    Would it change your conclusion if you were to add that the bomb won’t blow up the WHOLE building, and you HOPE the girl is in the part of the building that won’t be completely destroyed, so that she survives? Then, you do not ACTUALLY intend that she be killed. Does this change the picture?

  • zippy says:

    Bill: I’m also getting the impression that a number of commenters haven’t read the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">conditions I laid out in the original post<>. As I said in that post, my purpose wasn’t to define to exacting detail every scenario that anyone might think of, but rather to define a class of acts that we can definitely, unequivocally, without question determine to be instances of murder; a class of acts where the moral species ‘murder’ is a matter of the chosen behavior (object) <>as opposed to<> in intentions (formal cooperation); all for the larger purpose of clarifying discussion of intrinsic evil.

  • zippy says:

    Tony: my posts – deliberately – don’t address scenarios of epistemic uncertainty.

  • zippy says:

    Typo: the hyperlink in my 7:13 comment was supposed to link to the murder definition post < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/02/definitions-can-be-murder.html" REL="nofollow">here<>.

  • Tony M says:

    Zippy – But that’s my point: unless you actually USE the death of the innocent bystander to accomplish the death you really want, whatever means you employ will have a degree of uncertainty with respect to the innocent bystander. HOW MUCH uncertainty is an inherently prudential issue: you don’t KNOW that a bomb will kill everyone in the building – ever. (Even the Hiroshima bomb left survivors almost within sight of ground zero.) So the uncertainty of results on innocents is, practically speaking, an inherent part of the fact that they are not intentionally targeted and whose deaths are not directly needed in the causal chain to the intended result. And, therefore, it is unavoidable that one weigh the probable but uncertain outcome on innocent bystanders by proportionality – and PDE becomes the approach used to discern.

  • zippy says:

    <>But that’s my point: unless you actually USE the death of the innocent bystander to accomplish the death you really want, whatever means you employ will have a degree of uncertainty with respect to the innocent bystander.<>Obviously you can’t read. In the post that started this discussion, where I gave a definition of a class of murder to which you objected, one of the conditions I gave was:<>(2) Knowingly kills a particular person P whom I can specifically identify,…<>You keep trying to take the discussion off on a red herring of epistemic uncertainty and probabilities, when epistemic certainty is <>built into the original definition I gave<>. If you want to retract your objections to the original post, or re-formulate them to address the actual criteria I gave, I’m all ears. But your persistent attempts to change the subject and declare victory are becoming tiresome.If you know for sure that you are killing the innocent little girl with your bomb, are you or are you not doing wrong?

  • m.z. forrest says:

    Guilty as charged Zippy.

  • zippy says:

    MZ, in the case of commenters who literally hadn’t seen the < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/02/definitions-can-be-murder.html" REL="nofollow">original post<> the oversight is mine, since I did not explicitly reference the original post in this post. My bad.

  • George R. says:

    Zippy,There is a distinction between foreseeing an effect and intending it. As long as the evil effect is not intended, PDE may apply even when the evil effect is clearly foreseen — provided the other criteria are met. Your argument in the original post is not valid.

  • zippy says:

    <>There is a distinction between foreseeing an effect and intending it.<>Right, that is always understood in discussions of the PDE. It is a mistake to think that my post doesn’t take this into account, because it does. And again, the foreseen/intended distinction <>does not come into consideration unless we have determined that the object of the act is not evil in itself<>. The PDE doesn’t apply to intrinsically immoral acts.Part of what that implies is that an “effect” must be the kind of thing one can foresee without intending. For example, when I send my men charging up the hill I may foresee that the enemy will kill some of them without intending for the enemy to kill some of them. But that <>foreseen effect<> isn’t my own <>chosen behavior<>. The <>object<> of the act is my own <>chosen behavior<>, and if blowing up the little girl and her father together with a bomb is my chosen behavior then any claim that killing her is an “unintended effect” is specious. I may <>wish<> I were choosing a behavior that doesn’t murder her, but in fact I am choosing a behavior which murders her.

  • Tony M says:

    Just how certain do you mean when you say “Knowingly kills”? That is, I can shoot someone, without knowing that I am going to kill them. The chances are lower than 100%. In fact, ALL methods used to kill people have a built-in probability for the circumstances, none are 100% certain. If none are 100% certain, then your described case is for all practical purposes irrelevant – unless you mean something like “reasonably certain” by “knowingly.” But, if you mean “reasonably certain” by that, then you cannot avoid the inherent condition of prudential judgment as to circumstances – at least with respect to the results that are expected to come about. So, my question is, does your definition NOT extend to “reasonably certain to kill” an innocent bystander? Or does your definition regard a pristine state of affairs that never actually obtains and therefore in practice has no use?

  • zippy says:

    Tony: I don’t think describing the ‘object’ of human acts in terms of probabilities works. Yes, there is always a finite probability that the fornicator will fail to penetrate through some accident, and there is always a finite probability that you will fail to blow up the general and his daughter through some accident, viewed from a third party physicalist perspective. But so what?

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    I think that which is foreseen can be contingent but can’t be chosen. For example, a terminally ill person may be given morphine sufficient to quell the pain but it may also hasten his death. We can foresee the quickening but we are not choosing to kill him, so long as we are treating the pain and there lacks cause mitigating the hastening of death.I must apologize for bringing the ignorance card into the discussion.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,<>The object of the act is my own chosen behavior, and if blowing up the little girl and her father together with a bomb is my chosen behavior then any claim that killing her is an “unintended effect” is specious. I may wish I were choosing a behavior that doesn’t murder her, but in fact I am choosing a behavior which murders her.<>Are you then saying by the same above reasoning that destroying military targets near civilian locations is an intrinsically evil act?e.

  • <>There is a distinction between foreseeing an effect and intending it. As long as the evil effect is not intended, PDE may apply even when the evil effect is clearly foreseen — provided the other criteria are met. Your argument in the original post is not valid.<>To be fair to Zippy, that is simply begging the question as against his argument, since he is maintaining that no difference between “foreseen” and “intended” is relevant when one’s “chosen behavior” (per Zippy’s definition of that term) is the same. In other words, his argument is that for intrinsically evil “chosen behavior,” such a distinction is precluded by the fact that an intrinsically evil chosen behavior is so regardless of intentions.Zippy does admit that epistemic differences can change the moral status of an act, but the hypothetical is intended to exclude that factor, which appears to be the sole mental distinction regarding the morality of an act that Zippy will admit. Essentially, what Zippy argues is that in circumstances of perfect moral knowledge (which is admittedly an interior fact not observable by a third party), no change in the interior disposition of the actor can differentiate between the chosen behavior being intrinsically evil or not. If you are knowingly killing a specific innocent girl with the bomb as a result of one’s act, then the act is intrinsically evil irrespective of one’s subjective intention with regard to the act, since intentions cannot render an intrinsically evil chosen behavior licit.My argument has been all along that the ontological nature of an act is the formation of the will to the physical act, so that there can be purely mental, non-epistemic differences between chosen behavior just as there can be purely physical differences between behavior. IOW, even if we take two people with perfect knowledge, the moral species of behavior can be different <>solely because of the differences in the mental disposition of the actors<>. As yet, I have seen no convincing argument why there cannot be purely mental, non-epistemic distinctions in the specification of moral acts. The closest I have seen is that this just amounts to “wishing things were different,” but I don’t see why wishing is not a perfectly material and real consideration when the distinction in question is purely mental (and Zippy cut off the last discussion at exactly this point). One might wish that the circumstances weren’t physically as they are, and that would indeed be completely irrelevant, because one’s wishes aren’t pertinent to a physical distinction. But it seems equally clear to me that in taking the physical circumstances as they really are, purely mental distinctions that are morally relevant to the species of act can indeed distinguish between acts simply by what we desire in doing the act. To take one example, the fact that we desire to kill the general and not the girl but that the physically untargeted nature of the bomb limits the effectiveness of realizing our will is morally relevant. Our ability to intentionally control the effects of a bomb is limited; the physical nature of a bomb is such that the relationship between the will and the destructive effect is imperfect. It is physically unlike a case of shooting through someone, for example, where the damage to the intervening body serves as the physical channel through which the bullet reaches the target. Now one might wish that the bomb could be better targeted, and that really *would* be trying to wish away circumstances, but my point is that there can be relevant mental distinctions even accepting the physical circumstances as they are. But for Zippy, anyone who suggests that there can be purely mental distinctions between chosen behavior is either (1) defying the teaching of VS by allegedly making intentions relevant to the specification of an intrinsically evil act or (2) subconsciously confusing or squirming around the issue by introducing extraneous considerations because the true conclusion challenges our “self-serving” reasons for creating the distinction. As to who is actually confusing the issue, I’ll simply point out that Zippy accused John Finnis of being “highly confused” about intentions in contrast to the clarity of VS. Either Finnis’s concept of “moral object” is confused, or Zippy’s is, and I would wager every penny that I could earn in a lifetime that it isn’t Finnis.Not that I expect any of this will change anything, of course. I just wouldn’t want anyone else to beat his head into a brick wall. Zippy would have to have a drastically different understanding of the ontological nature of the formation of the will for the discussion to proceed, at least if the analogy to instantiation of software classes is any indication, and I doubt anyone would realistically be able to revise that understanding under these circumstances.

  • zippy says:

    <>Are you then saying by the same above reasoning that destroying military targets near civilian locations is an intrinsically evil act?<>I haven’t addressed “near” cases or probabilistic cases. I’ve addressed a particular kind of case. If we all agree about the particular kind of case, it might be interesting to talk about other perhaps related kinds of cases. But I’ve tried to be very meticulous here – deliberately – in to address a particular kind of case, precisely because that particular kind of case is where the metal meets the meat in discussions of intrinsic evil and the PDE.

  • <>For example, a terminally ill person may be given morphine sufficient to quell the pain but it may also hasten his death. We can foresee the quickening but we are not choosing to kill him, so long as we are treating the pain and there lacks cause mitigating the hastening of death.<>Per Zippy’s reasoning, that’s just “wishing” that you weren’t killing him, and “wishing” is morally irrelevant. Don’t look for sense there, because there isn’t any.

  • zippy says:

    <>…the moral species of behavior can be different solely because of the differences in the mental disposition of the actors.<>FWIW, I agree that this is precisely what is at issue: that one must otherwise believe that “change in behavior” can mean choosing to do precisely, exactly, identically the same thing, as an embodied person, with nothing but a change in (knowledge independent) interior disposition.<>Per Zippy’s reasoning, …<>On the other hand, Jonathan, you really shouldn’t impute things as “per Zippy’s reasoning”. The reason I cut off the last discussion was to save us all the embarrassment and enormous waste of time, as adults, going through your myriad inconsistencies and misprepresentations in detail. Lets not go there again.Anyone with sense will immediately recognize critical differences between the morphine case and this case. As a couple of immediately obvious examples of critical differences, the little girl is not dying (unless you kill her) and the bomb is not an instrument for relieving her suffering.The foregoing is not an invitation to open the floor to all manner of other straw man scenarios. Say something intelligent about <>this<> scenario, by all means.

  • <>The reason I cut off the last discussion was to save us all the embarrassment and enormous waste of time, as adults, going through your myriad inconsistencies and misprepresentations in detail.<>If I am going to be accused of “inconsistencies and misrepresentations,” I’d like to know the accusation in detail if it’s all the same to you. I’m certainly not embarrassed by my position. And as I understand it, that is how adults proceed with these matters. Perhaps I am simply immature.<>Anyone with sense will immediately recognize critical differences between the morphine case and this case. As a couple of immediately obvious examples of critical differences, the little girl is not dying (unless you kill her) and the bomb is not an instrument for relieving her suffering.<>And anyone with sense will recognize that those distinctions are spurious. The fact that someone is dying does not mean that one can actively hasten that death, which could be intrinsically evil euthanasia. By your reasoning, the fact that something is an “instrument for relieving suffering” is also irrelevant. You’re just “wishing” that relieving his suffering didn’t have the concurrent effect of simultaneously hastening the death of an innocent person. In other words, you are just trying to excuse the fact that your chosen behavior is intrinsically evil euthanasia by the circumstance that it makes him feel better while you’re killing him.See, that’s how you demonstrate a logical inconsistency. You don’t just tack the word “myriad” onto the word and use that to excuse yourself from actually showing one.

  • zippy says:

    Jonathan: I’m not going to play an infinitely long game of “he said, he said”. Anyone who really cares can go through the discussions. I don’t care, and I have better things to do with my time.<>And anyone with sense will recognize that those distinctions [between killing a little girl with a bomb and treating a dying man’s pain with morphine] are spurious.<>Well then thank Heaven I have no sense.

  • <>Well then thank Heaven I have no sense.<>I doubt that Heaven is the source of confusion as to whether a distinction between murder by euthanasia and murder by bombing is spurious as regards the morality of the acts.

  • George R. says:

    <>But that foreseen effect isn’t my own chosen behavior. The object of the act is my own chosen behavior, and if blowing up the little girl and her father together with a bomb is my chosen behavior then any claim that killing her is an “unintended effect” is specious.<>Not true.For example, if I choose to step in front of a Mack truck with the intention of ending it all, that would be suicide, a sin. However, if I choose to step in front of a Mack truck with the intention of pushing someone out of the way of it, that would not be a sin. In both cases I choose to die by my own actions. The difference is in the intention. One can foreknowingly cause the death of the little girl without intending to kill her.

  • Anonymous says:

    Crimson Catholic & Zippy Catholic,Kindly refrain from the <>ad hominems<> and attack the other’s arguments instead.While I, myself, would most likely resort to such tactics under the same circumstances; for gentlemen of intellect with not an insignificant knowledge of Catholic Teaching and a certain modicum of respect to conduct themselves in such a manner debases the whole notion of gentlemanly debate amongst the Catholic intelligentsia.e.

  • c matt says:

    <>Our ability to intentionally control the effects of a bomb is limited<>Yes. They are essentially limited to set it off or not.The Mack truck example seems to be two different objects of the act – one is to commit suicide, the other to save a life. There is more than a mere difference in “intentions” – they are different objects of the act and therefore different acts altogether.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>The Mack truck example seems to be two different objects of the act – one is to commit suicide, the other to save a life. There is more than a mere difference in “intentions” – they are different objects of the act and therefore different acts altogether.<>The Mack truck example is merely a variation of an example that had been visited in the distant past by some here in the form of a person throwing themselves on a grenade: (1) to kill himself (2) to save another.At any rate, I do hope Crimson Catholic & Zippy Catholic could resume their debate — only this time without the <>drop for hydrochloric drop<>.If ever there were 2 Catholic individuals that would engage in a lengthy thought-provoking debate, it would be these 2 gentlemen.e.

  • zippy says:

    c matt:<>The Mack truck example seems to be two different objects of the act – one is to commit suicide, the other to save a life. There is more than a mere difference in “intentions”…<>Indeed, for one would in fact <>behave differently in the details of one’s embodied chosen motions<> in those two cases.But again, there is a madness to my method: I chose the kind of case I did precisely because it is <>not<> as much of an “edge case” as some others, particularly some others where (for example) self-sacrifice and care directed toward the good of a person who is in the process of dying of other causes are in play. Those things aren’t in play here. In <>this<> case a deliberate decisions is made to sacrifice a little girl who would otherwise not be harmed for the putative “greater good”. If we can’t agree that that is murder and always wrong, we certainly aren’t going to be able to agree on more “edgy” cases.e:I understand precisely what Jonathan and I disagree on. And that is fine. But there doesn’t seem to be anything more to say about it, particularly when the form of that ‘saying’ is another person representing what <>he<> is saying as if it were what <>I<> am saying. Life is too short, and I don’t owe anyone the time committment that it takes to go point by point over vast acres of inconsistent misrepresentations of “what Zippy says”. I’d rather shorten the conversation.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    So Jonathan, you think it is okay to drop the bomb on the general and his daughter? Have I got that right?

  • e.:I concur with Zippy’s assessment; Zippy stated the disagreement here:<>FWIW, I agree that this is precisely what is at issue: that one must otherwise believe that “change in behavior” can mean choosing to do precisely, exactly, identically the same thing, as an embodied person, with nothing but a change in (knowledge independent) interior disposition.<>The notion that a change in behavior can be nothing more than a change in knowledge-independent interior disposition strikes me as such a bedrock principle of Catholic moral theology that I don’t even know what reasons there could be for denying it. Otherwise, supernatural charity could not distinguish the moral quality of acts motivated purely by the love of God from other sorts of good acts. This strikes me as the same principle, just at the natural rather than supernatural level. But as is often the case with first principles, the very obviousness of the principle makes it hard to demonstrate. Unfortunately, it seems as if <>reductio ad absurdam<> of the contrary is the only way to do it. That necessarily involves an <>ad hominem<> charge of inconsistency, one that is unlikely to be received well under any circumstances.One could follow Luther’s axiom that someone who denies first principles is not worth the discussion. I am close to that, but I thought it worth at least trying to point out the inconsistency through <>reductio ad absurdam<> before I gave up entirely. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have worked, so the cause now seems hopeless to me. There’s simply no discussion to have if we can’t get agreement on a basic principle.

  • <>So Jonathan, you think it is okay to drop the bomb on the general and his daughter? Have I got that right?<>Correct. It’s an unintended side effect resulting from the bomb being an imperfect destructive instrument for the purpose you actually want to achieve. You can’t ignore it in the moral calculus, but it is no essential part of the intended act.

  • zippy says:

    <>Otherwise, supernatural charity could not distinguish the moral quality of acts motivated purely by the love of God from other sorts of good acts.<>This is one of the many nonsequiters you introduced in your voluminous sidetracks and subject-changes in the other discussion: we aren’t talking about good acts, we are talking about intrinsically immoral acts, and evil acts more generally. That good acts can be made better by a more pure motivation says <>absolutely nothing whatsoever<> about whether intrinsically immoral acts can be altered to become good acts through <>nothing but<> a changed interior disposition while doing the same thing to the same objects with the same knowledge of those objects.<>That necessarily involves an ad hominem charge of inconsistency,…<>That isn’t what <>ad hominem<> means. Note that I am not saying that you were engaging in ad hominem: you weren’t claiming that my arguments are bad because I’m a fool, or whatever. (Frankly I don’t mind much when people call me a fool; but pretending to speak for me when you don’t is another matter). You do need to stop ‘speaking with my voice’, because you haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about.Combine the fact that you are constantly attempting to ‘speak with my voice’ with the fact of muddlement even on really basic things like what is and isn’t ad hominem, and I don’t need to do the work required to make corrections, word by word, character by character, on all the sidetracks that have nothing to do with the specific issue at hand.And yeah, I won’t receive it well when you try to put words into my mouth. The only other time I recall cutting off discussions was when another commenter (Rob/Rodak) kept doing the same thing, in similar voluminous incoherent bursts of irrelevance combined with a pretense to speak for me. Cut it out, or get lost.

  • Tony M says:

    Zippy, though good acts are different from bad acts, the first principles of human action should be visible in both. What J is pointing out is valid as a mode of understanding human action – be it good or bad. If two identical outward acts can be one imperfectly good and the other perfectly good solely on account of the intention of the second being more pure than the first, then the PRINCIPLE is established that the WHOLE specification of the act (and therefore its morality) cannot be found without taking note of the <> object as intended <>. This implies that when you attempt to describe the bombing act as “you killed the girl” solely by ignoring the object as intended, you have not actually stated the human act (precisely as human) properly. Yes, you described the physical chain of events, but that is not where morality lies. Jonathan, no good can come of this kind of discussion in this venue until it is possible to express clearly what the proper meaning of “object” is. Such proper meaning is not shorn of intention absolutely, as Zippy appears to believe. I have made that case in other discussions, but it does not seem to stick in the mind well in some circles. In order for an object to be the object of a HUMAN act, that object must participate both in the knowledge that individual human has as to the circumstances and the consequences of the act, and must constitute a relation between the understood consequences and the end the person intends. The specification of the object is impossible separated from the intended end, though the intended end is not sufficient of itself to determine the act. Why is THAT so hard to accept?

  • William Luse says:

    All your opponents seem to be saying that they don’t intend the death of the daughter while at the same time acknowledging (forgive the repetition) that <>they absolutely intend to kill her<>. It’s amazing to watch.Way up earlier Tony M. asked: “Would it change your conclusion if you were to add that the bomb won’t blow up the WHOLE building, and you HOPE the girl is in the part of the building that won’t be completely destroyed, so that she survives? Then, you do not ACTUALLY intend that she be killed. Does this change the picture?”Speaking only for myself, I’d say yes, it <>might<>. But that’s not the scenario we’re dealing with.

  • Zippy:Per Peter Geach, the fact that some particular person’s beliefs are inconsistent is an <>ad hominem<>, but it is a also a legitimate attempt to cause someone to revise his beliefs. <>Ad hominem<> needn’t be a personal insult, although it is often taken as an attempt to put words in one’s mouth. For example, pointing out <>ad hoc<> appeals to principles, such as the observation Tony M. just made regarding the selective application of a principle of human action that appears to apply to both good and evil actions, don’t actually show that the conclusion itself is wrong.As to putting words in your mouth, I can’t imagine that most victims of a <>reductio ad absurdam<> will own the <>absurdam<>. Indeed, the whole point is that we <>know full well<> that you don’t accept the conclusion, and the only point in “putting words” in your mouth is to point out to you what your principles are going to lead people to concluding SO THAT you will cease from advocating for the principles. It’s only fair to charge people with “putting words” in your mouth if you can show a principled reason why their application of your principles does not result in the absurd conclusion. Otherwise, putting words in your mouth is fair game, because people are entitled to impute to you what results from applying your principles in a consistent way. That would seem to be a fruitful, and indeed necessary, part of any truth-seeking discussion.As to alleged irrelevancies, if you draw <>ad hoc<> distinctions without grounding them in principle, then anything can be made irrelevant merely by positing a new distinction. Likewise, it would seem that principled justifications for distinctions that appear at least at face value to be <>ad hoc<> would be the first order of business in reasonable discussion aimed at locating the truth.If you aren’t willing to justify your distinctions and respond meaningfully to other people’s distinctions, then I’m not quite sure what you hope to gain by the discussion. But I have to join with Tony M. in expressing some perplexity that there would be difficulty in these ideas being understood and accepted among people who were actually listening. It seems that somebody who understood the principle wouldn’t make an <>ad hoc<> response like “Those actions are good while these are evil,” which seems remarkably analogous to your response to my Christological model of human action, so I have to conclude that either you aren’t listening or you aren’t understanding. I don’t know what I can do to help that scenario, but it is clear to me that there is absolutely nothing that distinguishes the principle of human action that I have presented in Christ and in the first among sinners. My preference would be to start with first principles such as these and then deal with intrinsically evil actions as a specific case. Otherwise, I can’t see any hope of forming a consistent picture of the whole universe of moral actions.

  • <>All your opponents seem to be saying that they don’t intend the death of the daughter while at the same time acknowledging (forgive the repetition) that they absolutely intend to kill her. It’s amazing to watch.<>To correct the equivocation, it would be better to say that they do not have the death of the daughter as the moral object of their action but that they reasonably foresee she will die as a result of the action. That way you can discard the term “intend” entirely, and the distinction is apparent, because not even reasonably foreseeable consequence of an action is part of the moral object.

  • typo: “not even” -> “not every”

  • zippy says:

    Of course the entire act depends upon interior dispositions: good acts become better or worse, and bad acts become better or worse, based on interior dispositions, and <>in some cases<> interior dispositions can change a good act into a bad act, etc. But – and this is why this particular sidetrack of Jonathan’s is a sidetrack – an <>intrinsically immoral act<> can be specified as evil apart from the reasons why one does it, the interior dispositions one has toward it (beyond simply choosing the behavior, which in itself involves a disorder of the will), etc. You can mitigate the gravity and culpability of an intrinsically evil act by changing interior dispositions, the “full specification” of any act <>always<> depends on interior dispositions, and I’ve never claimed otherwise; but you can’t change an intrinsically immoral act into a good act without changing the behavior chosen. That is pretty much the whole point of the theology of intrinsically immoral acts, without which we get the consequentialism Jonathan and Tony are pushing.And Jonathan: once again, you haven’t the faintest idea what an <>ad hominem<> is. Throwing more words at the wall doesn’t change BS into reality.

  • zippy says:

    Oh, and with this, by the way:<>Otherwise, putting words in your mouth is fair game, …<>Jonathan has lost his posting privileges here, after plenty of fair warning. Anything else will be deleted as soon as I see it.

  • George R. says:

    Zippy,By assuming that the act is intrinsically evil and then concluding that the PDE cannot make it licit, you yourself are engaging in circular reasoning and are committing the fallacy of begging the question. Since your opponents are arguing that because of PDE the act may not be evil, to counter them you must demonstrate that it is, not assume that it is.

  • zippy says:

    <>By assuming that the act is intrinsically evil and then concluding that the PDE cannot make it licit, you yourself are engaging in circular reasoning and are committing the fallacy of begging the question.<>To some extent that may be a fair criticism; that is, I haven’t provided a set of positive criteria beyond what is said in <>Veritatis Splendour<> to establish that <>this<> act (whatever it is that we are considering) is intrinsically immoral. But that doesn’t undermine the basic thesis of the post, which is that it is fallacious to invoke double-effect as an argument that an act is not intrinsically immoral; because double-effect doesn’t apply when an act is intrinsically immoral, that is, immoral as a specific chosen behavior independent of other considerations.The counterpoint in defense of my argument, though, is that in < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/02/definitions-can-be-murder.html" REL="nofollow">this post<> I did propose specific criteria by which we can conclude that a particular act is murder; criteria I based upon <>Veritatis Splendour<>‘s characterization of the object of the act as a specific kind of chosen and embodied behavior independent of intentions (other than the kind of “intention” involved in choosing <>that<> behavior). That was a proposal against which (these question-begging) PDE arguments were raised: the general/daughter scenario (which was originally suggested by a commenter as a specific example matching the criteria I gave for a particular kind of murder) is useful as a focal point for discussing the main point of the present post, though, which is that you can’t establish that act X is <>not<> intrinsically immoral by appealing to double-effect. Double-effect is something which can be appealed to in order to justify an act which has evil effects, <>but is already established as <>not<> intrinsically immoral<>. Appealing to the PDE (and its structures, e.g. intended versus foreseen but unintended effects) in order to argue or establish that act X is <>not intrinsically immoral<> is always a fallacy, and specifically is always begging the question.

  • Tony M says:

    But the specification of “the act chosen” must, perforce, include the understanding of the consequences that will come about. I am positive you will agree that we cannot specify “the act chosen” as pushing a button which sets off a bomb.” That specification is insufficient. When we set out further that the bomb probably will kill my country’s war enemies, this is closer to being sufficient to specify the act. When we next add that it may also kill some civilians we are closer still. And there are a lot of other consequences that are third- and fourth- order: fear instilled in the public, emergency resources used up, etc. I fail to see why adding “it may also kill some civilians” puts it in the category of intrinsically immoral, regardless of whether that “may” is 5% probable, 99% probable, or 100% probable. That is to say, it seems odd to suggest that the character of the act can undergo an ultimate and total reversal from moral to intrinsically immoral strictly on account of a 1% change in probability of the death of a civilian, when that part of the outcome is definitely secondary in the specification of the act.

  • zippy says:

    <>Veritatis Splendour<><>In order to offer rational criteria for a right moral decision, the [condemned] theories mentioned above take account of the intention and consequences of human action. Certainly there is need to take into account both the intention — as Jesus forcefully insisted in clear disagreement with the scribes and Pharisees, who prescribed in great detail certain outward practices without paying attention to the heart (cf. Mk 7:20-21; Mt 15:19) — and the goods obtained and the evils avoided as a result of a particular act. Responsibility demands as much. But the consideration of these consequences, and also of intentions, is not sufficient for judging the moral quality of a concrete choice. <>

  • Tony M says:

    Right. Just so. Excellent that you see this. Now, get right to the heart of the matter: what constitutes the right way to specify “the concrete choice”? Obviously not just the physical act alone. I pushed a button. Oh boy! The concrete choice is……drumroll please……..?

  • zippy says:

    <>The concrete choice is…<>To blow up <>that general<> and <>that little girl right there<> with <>this<> bomb.

  • William Luse says:

    <>To correct the equivocation<>You haven’t corrected anything, but rather changed the scenario – to the one I said we are not dealing with. Reasonably foreseeing that the girl <>might<> die is not the same as <>definitely intending to kill her<> because you can’t get to the general without doing so.

  • Tony M says:

    And, why do you say that the “concrete object” is to blow up that general and that little girl? Why do you limit it to those few consequences? Why do you INCLUDE those 2 consequences? Why is it that those specific results constitute “the concrete object”? Why not one result only? Why not 44 of the expected results? More to the point, is there any <> order <> to the way expected results relate to “the concrete object”?

  • George R. says:

    <>Reasonably foreseeing that the girl might die is not the same as definitely intending to kill her because you can’t get to the general without doing so.<>But neither does the scenario include <>intentionally<> killing the girl. If it did the act would be intrinsically immoral, of course. But in this scenario the death of the girl remains incidental to the intentional act itself, which is the killing of the general.This is one of the reasons that the Church counsels not to judge intentions. Because intentions cannot be known simply by observing acts and their effects. And without intention, there is no sin.

  • zippy says:

    <>And without intention, there is no sin.<><>Veritatis Splendour:<><>It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. <>

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    One isn’t judging an interior disposition. The girl and the general are dead from the bomb the moral actor detonated. Until contrary evidence is produced, the intent is what happened, two people dead. In other contexts the logic of the girl’s death be accidental to the will of the actor is manifest. If I’m using explosives for excavating, I can’t upon seeing the girl detonate the bomb and claim my chosen action excavation. In the scenario as given, one is choosing to kill both. In other scenarios, there is recourse to varying levels of ignorance. But as I stated above, ignorance has nothing to do with PDE, which is the area Zippy is attempting to address. Although it is very popular in Internet theology, PDE has very limited applicability.Not to go on another tangent, but some moral theorists would indeed have an issue with killing the general outside the bounds of battle.

  • m.z. says:

    In other contexts <>the error of<> the logic of the girl’s death being accidental to the will of the actor is manifest.Proofreading. grr..

  • Tony says:

    Zippy, a further question, while you are answering why the specification of the concrete object did not stop at result 1 but did stop at results 1 and 2: Do you have built in to your conclusion the actor actually getting around to considering results beyond result 1? In other words, can you describe the proper basis for the primary question in general terms, i.e. in terms that prescind from knowing HOW MANY results are contemplated by the actor? Second additional question: how does the harm caused to the little girl being <> death <> affect your inclusion of it as part of the concrete object. Does the expected result of causing concussions to civilians in the next building ALSO enter in as part of the concrete object? Why or why not?

  • zippy says:

    <>…while you are answering why…<>I’m not answering ‘why’ at this point. Death by a thousand paper cuts isn’t my style. I’ve said my bit here, people can read it and make what they will of it. If some want to insist even after all that that when you choose to move your body to blow up <>that<> little girl with <>this<> bomb, that that choice is not built into the concrete behavior or choice and therefore the object of the act, and the moral agent can claim that killing her is an unintended; if someone wants to insist on all of that, then I don’t think argument is what is required to correct matters.

  • zippy says:

    <>Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition. Although the latter did witness the development of a casuistry which tried to assess the best ways to achieve the good in certain concrete situations, <>it is nonetheless true that this casuistry concerned only cases in which the law was uncertain<>, and thus the absolute validity of negative moral precepts, which oblige without exception, was not called into question. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord.125 When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfilment of the law in the precept of love of neighbour as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbour cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit. It is an honour characteristic of Christians to obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 4:19; 5:29) and accept even martyrdom as a consequence, like the holy men and women of the Old and New Testaments, who are considered such because they gave their lives rather than perform this or that particular act contrary to faith or virtue.<>

  • zippy says:

    IOW, “the law is uncertain and confusing in this case over here and that case over there” is not a claim or implication which calls into question the validity of the moral law in a clear case of killing an innocent little girl with a bomb just because she happens to be in the way. Certain kinds of casuistry – what MZ Forrest aptly calls “Internet theology,” and which I think of as casuistry by a thousand paper cuts – engage in exactly this kind of attempt to undermine the conclusiveness and categoricity of the moral law in even clear-cut cases of murder.

  • George R. says:

    In response to m.z. forrest, the issue as I see it is not whether PDE <>does<> apply, but whether PDE <>might<> apply, or whether the act is intrinsically immoral (as Zippy argues), in which case PDE can never apply. That being said, I will relate what I heard in a lecture by a respected moral theologian, Msgr. William Smith. In discussing surgical operations performed on the mother which would cause certain death to the child in her womb, he said, “If the operation would have taken place in the same way had she not been pregnant, PDE may apply.” In other words, if the fetus’ death is not being used as a means to an end, PDE may apply. This case seems to me to be parallel to Zippy’s.Of course, whether all the criteria for PDE are met is a far more complicated question.

  • Anonymous says:

    george r.I thank you ever so profusely for your example here as it helped me in trying to come to grips with Zippy’s perspective since, quite frankly, my own view on the matter was not unlike Tony M’s.<>That being said, I will relate what I heard in a lecture by a respected moral theologian, Msgr. William Smith. In discussing surgical operations performed on the mother which would cause certain death to the child in her womb, he said, “If the operation would have taken place in the same way had she not been pregnant, PDE may apply.” In other words, if the fetus’ death is not being used as a means to an end, PDE may apply. This case seems to me to be parallel to Zippy’s.<>

  • zippy says:

    It is true that the PDE <>may<> apply if the child’s death is not a means to an end — precisely because that is one of the criteria of the PDE, that is, that a “bad effect” must not be a means to achieve the desired good effect. However, that takes us back around the race track to the same issue which the post addresses: that invoking PDE criteria in order to argue that the act is not intrinsically immoral is begging the question.

  • zippy says:

    Another way to look at it: if act X is intrinsically immoral, it is immoral <>whether or not<> it is done as a means to some other end. So appealing to the (putative) fact that blowing up the little girl is not a means to the specific end of getting the bad guy cannot produce the result that it is therefore OK to kill her.I tend to side with William Luse in saying that clearly in this case killing the little girl <>is<> a means to the end of getting the bad guy. But however one uses the language, a claim that X is not a means to achieving the intended good end Y cannot in itself tell us that X is not intrinsically immoral. It can tell us that <>if<> X is not intrinsically immoral <>then<> the act may be licit under double-effect; but the “means to the end” appeal cannot banish the “if” from that determination.

  • Tony M says:

    It is impossible that blowing up the little girl is part of the means to killing the general. The bomb would have been absolutely just as effective in blowing up the general had the girl never been there, and the bomber never knew about the girl until the last moment – after all of his planning was completed. He would have to have been incredibly stupid to leave out the means to his desired objective. I worry about anyone who does not see that much. <> I’m not answering ‘why’ at this point. Death by a thousand paper cuts isn’t my style. I’ve said my bit here, people can read it and make what they will of it. <> In other words, you refuse to explain why your notion of “the concrete object” includes just what you want it to include and nothing else, so it is impossible for us to assess whether it makes sense in principle. I already know it is flawed in practice. The fact of the matter is there is no way to include the secondary result “the death of the little girl” in the concrete object without twisting the notion of object in ways that destroy all capacity to discern moral action. Yes, you’ve had your say, and I’ve had mine. I’m not the one refusing to analyze the essential notions that my points hinge on.

  • zippy says:

    <>It is impossible that blowing up the little girl is part of the means to killing the general.<>That depends upon what “means” means. A great deal of debate about double effect seems to me to boil down to the abuse of language.<>The fact of the matter is there is no way to include the secondary result “the death of the little girl” in the concrete object without twisting the notion of object in ways that destroy all capacity to discern moral action.<>That is plainly false. It just doesn’t produce the result you want it to produce, which is a moral permission slip to deliberately kill the little girl.<>Yes, you’ve had your say, and I’ve had mine.<>Till another day then.

  • george r. says:

    <>However, that takes us back around the race track to the same issue which the post addresses: that invoking PDE criteria in order to argue that the act is not intrinsically immoral is begging the question.<>But who is making this argument? If the act is intrinsically immoral, then, of course, PDE cannot make it moral. But the act in this case, killing the bad guy, is not immoral. The bad effect, killing the little girl, <>might<>, on the other hand, make the act immoral. But if the act is immoral, it is made so by circumstances not by its essence. There is no intrinsic immorality involved in this case.I think the confusion is caused by the fact that you and William Luse see the killing of the little girl, not as a bad effect of the intentional act, but as another intentional act, or at least an essential part of the intentional act. Such a position, I believe, is philosophically untenable. Moreover, it would leave those responsible for making difficult decisions that by nature have will have ambiguous results open to the charge of intending evil.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>I think the confusion is caused by the fact that you and William Luse see the killing of the little girl, not as a bad effect of the intentional act, but as another intentional act, or at least an essential part of the intentional act. Such a position, I believe, is philosophically untenable. Moreover, it would leave those responsible for making difficult decisions that by nature have will have ambiguous results open to the charge of intending evil.<>This is why I have a hard time with Zippy’s point-of-view because it happens to fly squarely in the face of those actions specifically in times of war where innocent civilians are, in fact, killed not because soldiers mean to kill them, but that they happen to be in the line of fire, so-to-speak.Again, I put forward the example of where allied bombers attack military targets strategically located near civilian populations.Is their act of destroying these military targets intrinsically evil due to the civilian causality that results?e.

  • zippy says:

    <>…specifically in times of war where innocent civilians are, in fact, killed not because soldiers mean to kill them, but that they happen to be in the line of fire,…<>I think everyone understands that accidents are expected as a general thing and cannot be avoided. But that is quite different from perceiving an accident-not-yet-happened and proceeding to kill <>that<> innocent civilian with <>this<> bomb anyway, in order to achieve some military objective. As soon as the person you are killing becomes <>that<> person whom you are killing with <>this<> bomb as a part of <>this<> act, the act is concrete: it is the object of an actual act, not merely the acceptance that <>someone<> innocent will be killed at some time through some accident.The distinction is pretty clear, it seems to me, as is the distinction between the officer ordering his men into the breach knowing that some will be killed by the enemy and the officer shooting through his own man on purpose in order to get to the enemy just beyond.Of course if we’ve decided ahead of time that it must be morally licit to shoot through your own man’s living body to get at the enemy just beyond, then we’ll probably want these distinctions to be unclear. But wanting them to be unclear doesn’t make them in fact unclear.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy’s argument appears to be correct to me. Lets imagine that a terrorist has a hostage, but instead of using a bomb, a sniper rifle is used. The sniper wants to kill the terrorist, but the hostage is in the way, thus the sniper aims at the hostage’s head and shoots through his brain in order to kill the terrorist who was behind the hostage. We can use a thought experiment to illustrate that the death of the hostage was not a mean used to kill the terrorist by arguing that the sniper would have fired the shot whether or not the hostage was there or not, but this thought experiment cannot change the reality of the circumstances, which is that the hostage is there. The only way I could possibly see how the chosen behavior is not to kill the hostage is by an appeal to a miracle, which is that the sniper somehow believed that shooting the hostage through the head would not kill him (which is more improbable if a bomb is used). I do not think wishing that a bullet through the brain does not kill the hostage is enough to conclude that the chosen behavior is not in fact to kill the hostage.Zippy,If the sniper was able to shoot through the hostage without killing the hostage, would this be permissible? Could the chosen behavior then be something different than killing the hostage?

  • Anonymous says:

    I meant to add if in fact the hostage did die.

  • zippy says:

    <>If the sniper was able to shoot through the hostage without killing the hostage, would this be permissible? Could the chosen behavior then be something different than killing the hostage?<>If the act was directed toward rescuing the hostage himself, that seems reasonable. Certainly it is a more arguable or difficult case than the present one. In my < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/02/definitions-can-be-murder.html" REL="nofollow">“definitions can be murder”<> post I specifically set it up so that the innocent person killed would otherwise not be harmed (like the daughter-of-the-bad-guy in the concrete example suggested by a commenter to illustrate the scenario). I set it up that way on purpose, to avoid “he is going to be killed anyway” type of arguments, so that we could try to get at the essence of the object of the act when it comes to murder.

  • William Luse says:

    <>But neither does the scenario include intentionally killing the girl. If it did the act would be intrinsically immoral, of course. But in this scenario the death of the girl remains incidental to the intentional act itself, which is the killing of the general.<>I realized long ago that those who who believe, not merely, that they ought to kill the general, but that they <>must<> kill him, will continue to insist that the girl’s death is “incidental.” If something “must” be done, then of course you are not likely to relinquish your position. Meanwhile, those of us who see it differently – that when we kill a little girl on purpose her death is no accident – must soldier on.<>I think the confusion is caused by the fact that you and William Luse see the killing of the little girl, not as a bad effect of the intentional act, but as another intentional act, or at least an essential part of the intentional act.<>Yes, that last thing. So essential, in fact, that I see it as <>one<> act – choosing to kill the general and the girl.“Confusion” is a pejorative. I tend to see “clarity” as the quality that Zippy is engendering here.If I understand him, I think M.Z. Forrest has it about right.

  • george r. says:

    <>I realized long ago that those who believe, not merely, that they ought to kill the general, but that they must kill him, will continue to insist that the girl’s death is “incidental.”<>Not at all, Mr. Luse. For even if the pilot was firing a missile at the house just for target practice, knowing the girl was inside, her death would still be incidental to the intentional act.Now I know you disagree, because you believe that killing the general and killing the girl are two essential parts of the same act. But if they are two parts of the same act, are they identical parts? If not, how are they different? I defy you to distinguish the one from the other without asigning intention to the one rather than the other.

  • zippy says:

    <>I defy you to distinguish the one from the other without asigning intention to the one rather than the other.<>That makes the point rather than undermining it:<>But the consideration of these consequences, <>and also of intentions, is not sufficient<> for judging the moral quality of a concrete choice.<> – Veritatis Splendour

  • george r. says:

    <>But the consideration of these consequences, and also of intentions, is not sufficient for judging the moral quality of a concrete choice. – Veritatis Splendour<>Yes, but we are not “judging the moral quality of a concrete choice.” We are determining whether that choice is intrinsically immoral, which requires intention. For it is not intrinsically immoral to kill an innocent, but only to <>intentionally<> kill an innocent. The “moral quality” of this choice depends on other circumstances, which is the whole thrust of my argument.By the way, can I take it then that you concede that intention and the lack thereof distinguish the act of killing the general and the effect of killing the girl respectively?

  • zippy says:

    George R:<>Yes, but we are not “judging the moral quality of a concrete choice.” We are determining whether that choice is intrinsically immoral, which requires intention.<>VS:<>One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, <>apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made<> or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.<>George R:<>By the way, can I take it then that you concede that intention and the lack thereof distinguish the act of killing the general and the effect of killing the girl respectively?<>The question is not expressed clearly in the sort of terms I would use. If we take the girl out of the picture completely so that she is not physically present at all, and the general is targeted all on his own with no other persons around, then the chosen behavior is to bomb an enemy soldier in a time of just war. The deontological objects upon which we are choosing to act are different. much as the deontological object “wife” differs from the deontological object “hooker”.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I suppose we could supply the distinction George is asking for by saying, “The person feels upset, bad, unhappy about killing the little girl but feels triumphant about killing the general.” I’m not sure that’s such an exciting distinction, though.

  • george r. says:

    <>apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made<>There are two senses in which the word “intention” is used. In one sense it is the will to the object of the act. In another sense it is the will to an expected good outcome of the act. It is obviously in this second sense that VS was using the word. For intention in the first sense is assumed in any designation of an object as intrinsically immoral. Are you contesting this?<>The question is not expressed clearly in the sort of terms I would use.<>I’ll take that as a “maybe”.

  • george r. says:

    <>“The person feels upset, bad, unhappy about killing the little girl but feels triumphant about killing the general.”<>But why does he have contrary feelings? Because he willed one thing and not the other. He intended one thing and not the other.

  • zippy says:

    <>There are two senses in which the word “intention” is used.<>At least, and in general discourse, yes, the term is multivocal. VS never uses the term “intention” to refer to the object of the act. Instead it refers to the object of the act as the chosen behavior or chosen action.<>In one sense it is the will to the object of the act.<>Yes – it is the “choice” in choosing the behavior — in this case, detonating <>that<> bomb, killing <>those<> people.<>In another sense it is the will to an expected good outcome of the act.<>Yes, as in “the bad general is dead and cannot continue his unjust attacks”.

  • zippy says:

    <>I’m not sure that’s such an exciting distinction, though.<>Nope, it isn’t. A long face doesn’t make an intrinsically immoral act licit. Doing something while wishing you didn’t have to do it in order to achieve your goal is not morally exculpatory.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “But why does he have contrary feelings? Because he willed one thing and not the other. He intended one thing and not the other.”That doesn’t follow. I bet if you asked the fellow who did it, he’d say, “I had to. I wish I hadn’t had to do it, but I had to.” In other words he _did_ it, and he _intended_ to do it; he just wishes he hadn’t had to do it.People feel awful about lots of things that they intended to do, even if they don’t think the things were wrong. They just “wish it didn’t have to be this way.”By the way, I have no access to WWWtW today for reasons mysterious. If anybody wonders why I’ve made no appearance there all day, which is unusual. 🙂 Obviously, I have web access.

  • William Luse says:

    <>For even if the pilot was firing a missile at the house just for target practice, knowing the girl was inside, her death would still be incidental to the intentional act.<>It’s hard to believe that you actually believe this.<>I defy you to distinguish the one from the other without asigning intention to the one rather than the other.<>But why would I want to do that, since the moral object of my act is to kill them both? Oh, okay, I’ll give it a try. The general is a combatant and can be legitimately killed. The little girl is innocent and cannot. I intend to kill the general. I do not intend to kill the girl – because she just happens to be in the way – but I’m going to do it anyway. I don’t <>want<> to kill her, but I can’t kill the general without killing her too. So I choose to kill them both rather than no one at all, and I’m going to do it on purpose while not intending to do it. Sorry, I think I’ve failed. This isn’t working for me.

  • george r. says:

    <>That doesn’t follow. I bet if you asked the fellow who did it, he’d say, “I had to. I wish I hadn’t had to do it, but I had to.” In other words he _did_ it, and he _intended_ to do it; he just wishes he hadn’t had to do it.<>Lydia,A few years ago I was reading an account of the Israeli seige of the Church of the Nativity, which had been occupied by Palestinian terrorists. The writer was a Catholic monk who evidently did not like the Jews too much because he accused those Israelis who fired into the church of doing willful harm to the church of our Lord’s birth. I said to myself, “Not fair. Their intention was to shoot the enemy not damage the church.”Now the Israelis knew that by firing on the church they would do some damage. Therefore, according to yours and Zippy’s position, the monk’s assessment was correct and mine incorrect.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    It isn’t intrinsically wrong to do harm to a building. Even the Church of the Nativity. If I were one of the soldiers I’d just say, “Yes, I knew there would be some damage to the building, but that was a price I was willing to pay, because those extremely bad guys needed to be routed out. I regret it. Damaging the church wasn’t something I enjoyed nor something I would have done if it had not been necessary for that end.”I really think that what you mean by “they didn’t intend to damage the church” is something like, “Damaging the church wasn’t their _goal_, it wasn’t what they were _desiring_ and _hoping_ to do.” Well, that’s true enough as far as it goes. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the things they did, in fact, choose to do. I just don’t happen to think it’s something to excoriate the Israelis over. (Though I’m sure that wouldn’t stop the monk in question. I think I know his sort.) Protecting the innocent, especially one’s own citizens, from evil terrorists by capturing or neutralizing them is more important than protecting a building, even one of great religious and historical significance.

  • george r. says:

    <>It’s hard to believe that you actually believe this.<>Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Mr. Luse. What do you think I’m saying, that the act was not immoral? I’m only saying that the girl was part of the circumstances of the act, the act itself was to use the house as a target. Obviously, anyone that would actually do this would be a psychopath.<>Sorry, I think I’ve failed. This isn’t working for me.<>No. You’re doing fine. Keep at it.

  • William Luse says:

    <>Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Mr. Luse. What do you think I’m saying, that the act was not immoral?<>Yes, I do, based on this: <>Moreover, it would leave those responsible for making difficult decisions that by nature have will have ambiguous results open to the charge of intending evil.<>Otherwise, I don’t see the point to the analogy, nor in your pesistence in trying to establish that the girl’s death was accidental rather than intentional murder. Why bother, if you don’t want to be able to kill her without being blamed for it?<>Obviously, anyone that would actually do this would be a psychopath.<>That is heartening to hear. But to its predecessor – <>I’m only saying that the girl was part of the circumstances of the act, the act itself was to use the house as a target<> – I would say again that it’s hard to believe you seriously believe this. Perhaps the confusion comes from your interchangeable use of “circumstances” and “incidental.” Everything that happens in the course of an act is part of the circumstances, from the first intention to the final effect. That the girl’s presence is circumstantial does not make her death incidental. If we intend to kill her, which in this case we do, no circumstance can render this permissible.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy, I believe that your use of VS quotes to this case is missing the kind of error JPII was trying to clarify in VS, namely, one which says there is no such thing as intrinsically evil kinds of acts, so that <> its moral “goodness” would be judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its “rightness” on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion. <> (VS # 75). The Pope’s explains his point in terms of the traditional Catholic understanding of human acting. <> The morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the ‘object’ rationally chosen by the deliberate will,” as is borne out by the insightful analysis, still valid today, made by Saint Thomas. <> Still more to the point: <> Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person. <> Or to take a point from the Catholic Encyclopedia which uses Thomistic concepts <> The sinner’s intention terminates at some object in which there is a participation of God’s goodness, and this object is directly intended by him. The privation of due order, or the deformity, is not directly intended, but is accepted in as much as the sinner’s desire tends to an object in which this want of conformity is involved, so that sin is not a pure privation, but a human act deprived of its due rectitude. From the defect arises the evil of the act, from the fact that it is voluntary, its imputability. <> Let me take an example A on which we will all agree as to the conclusions demanded: suppose I am in lust with Delia, and I want the delights of sex with her. If I were to reason as the Pope rejected in VS, I would say there is nothing wrong with sex, or the pleasure of sex, as such. There is intrinsically nothing wrong with enjoying sex with Delia either. This is my object in choosing to sleep with her. The fact that I happen not to be married to her is NOT part of my intention – I don’t intend to sleep with her precisely on account of our not being married, so being married or not married to her is apart from my intention. Therefore, my specific intention is for a good, and the act itself is not immoral as such. Based on VS and the Catholic Encyclopedia, our response is that the concrete object, the proximate end, is indeed pleasure, and that end is not itself evil as such. But further, the concrete object is pleasure with Delia. What is evil as such is that this precise end is actualized in a moral deformity – namely, that the pleasure, which is morally enjoyed only with one’s spouse, is in this case enjoyed beside one who is not your spouse. If one took Delia out of the picture, the end would in NO WAY be achieved, because the thing desired and the act chosen for is sex with Delia. Thus Delia is PART of the proximate end, and therefore part of the true object in this case. Who and what Delia is (not my spouse) cannot be separated from the intention to have sex with her. Therefore, you cannot define the act chosen, sex with Delia, without it being an act of sex with one not my spouse. Put another way, choosing to “have sex with” automatically includes the other person in the object, and the only correct such choosing is choosing to have sex with spouse. A choosing to have sex which is not specifically directed to spouse AS SPOUSE is deformed of itself. So the deformity exists in the <> proximate <> end. For the bomb guy, stopping the general is the proximate end. If you take the girl out of the picture, this end is obtainable just fine. The proximate end for the act was determined when the bomber planned the event. There is no way to incorporate the girl’s death into the proximate end. It is indeed a foreseeable result. Her presence does not make her death part of the immediate good desired, because nobody views her death as good, merely as tolerable. Nor is the good desired, stopping the general, caused by the death of the child. Stopping the general is not a deformed intention of itself.

  • zippy says:

    <>For the bomb guy, stopping the general is the proximate end.<>That may be a “proximate end” in some sense of those words, but it isn’t the object of the act in the terms used by <>Veritatis Splendour<>: “<>The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour.<>““Stopping the general” isn’t a specific kind of chosen behavior. Blowing up <>those<> people with <>this<> bomb is a specific kind of chosen behavior.

  • zippy says:

    Or again:<>[the act’s] “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.<>I could go on. But as I read the encyclical (and the Tradition behind it) “kill the general” is an intention, not a specific kind of chosen behavior: just the sort of intention which, though licit in itself, cannot turn an intrinsically immoral act into a good act. There are many different chosen behaviors which could in principle carry out that intention. The object of the act is not an intention abstracted from the concrete reality of the acting subject doing something in particular as an incarnate being; rather, it is the specific behavior chosen: “<>A doctrine which dissociates the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition.<>“

  • Anonymous says:

    The full quote is as follows: <> “One must therefore reject the thesis,” characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, “which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species”–its “object”–“the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned. <> I think the <> — its “object” <> is juxtaposed to “species”, not “the deliberate choice. Regardless of the grammar here: I said the proximate end is to stop the general – I did not say the object or the species of act is to stop the general. But, in keeping with JPII’s words <> that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision <> the correct statement of the chosen act’s <> species <> is to set off a bomb to stop a war threat. This particular act as an instance of the species is stated as setting off THIS bomb to stop THIS general. The species of act is not intrinsically disordered, so an act which falls in the species can be disordered only from the particulars of the event, not from the species. The particular act cannot accrue an immoral character precisely on account of the exact facts in virtue of which it falls into its species, if the species is not disordered as such. And the exact facts which are present to this particular which make it fall into the species “set off a bomb to stop a war threat” are what tell us the object of this act. The particularity of this bomb and this war threat are concretized as the object of this single act. Nothing outside of these belongs in the statement of the object. The locations of persons other than the general in relation to the bomb are included in the <> circumstances <> which determine the prudential conclusion about this bomb. They are not part of the statement of the chosen act itself. If they were, it would be impossible to ever actually set out the full chosen act, for there would be no end to the circumstances which must be identified and included in “the chosen act.”

  • zippy says:

    <>I did not say the object or the species of act is to stop the general.<>OK. But I can’t get where you want me to go with this, to where I get to blow up the girl on purpose (because she is in the way) without it being on purpose. The Luse/Anscomb language is different from the language of JPII but as far as I can tell amounts to the same thing: that the notion that we can kill her with the bomb without <>intending<> (in the morally relevant sense) to kill her won’t fly. But I do prefer JPII’s language, which more scrupulously avoids using “intention” as a referent to the object of the act, upon which <>alone<> depends the moral prohibition of the act in the case of intrinsically immoral acts.The “proximate end” phrase refers to the object of the act, <>intrinsic<> immorality depends on the object independent of intentions and consequences, and the object is variously characterized as the chosen behavior, chosen action, concrete choice, etc. As always I encourage anyone interested to read the whole thing, and to read non-magisterial moral theology texts, etc.<>If they were, it would be impossible to ever actually set out the full chosen act, for there would be no end to the circumstances which must be identified and included in “the chosen act.”<>As far as that goes, I think people often mistake language for reality, especially in analytic philosophy and moral theology. There <>are<> a literally infinite number of ways in which I could use language to refer to the (singular) object of <>that<> act, just as there are literally an infinite number of ways in which I could use language to refer to <>that<> table, or <>that<> [any other particular, real object]. Invocation of linguistic potential infinities isn’t particularly persuasive to me, if I understand the criticism correctly. I’m not a positivist. We can’t capture and possess fully the object of the act <>completely<> with nothing but language; but so what? We can’t capture and possess completely anything significantly interesting with language alone, because the language about things is not the things themselves.Still though, when I choose to blow <>those people<> to smithereens with <>this bomb<>, I’m choosing to kill them. If I quite directly, deliberately, and knowingly blow <>her<> living body to pieces with <>this<> bomb, she is not a <>circumstance<> with respect to my act. This is quite different from sending my men charging up the hill, because it isn’t my act that kills them: if they are killed it is by the enemy’s act, an act with which I materially but don’t formally cooperate.

  • Anonymous says:

    Your use of “blowing up the girl on purpose” is odd, to say the least. If it were on purpose, then one must be able to say what my purpose is in blowing her up. Not in blowing up the bomb – that is indeed on purpose. Your conclusion rests specifically on blowing up the girl on purpose. While there is some tortured way in which one can stretch “on” to get the girl “on purpose”, the fact is that the girl’s death does not serve us in any way. So it is not on purpose in the usual sense. Besides, we know that torture is intrinsically immoral. So torturing the language is forbidden. 🙂

  • zippy says:

    <>If it were on purpose, then one must be able to say what my purpose is in blowing her up.<>If you don’t like the term “on purpose” you can substitute “deliberately” without any change of meaning whatsoever.The reason why you choose to blow her up is because she is in the way. Besides which, even “having a reason why” is an irrelevant appeal to psychology. You don’t have to “have a reason why”, it just has to be true that you chose to do it.

  • Anonymous says:

    “because she is in the way.” But even there, you don’t blow her up to get the girl “out of the way”, so that you can get at the general, or so that the bomb is more effective upon the general. Whether the bomb blows up the girl or not does not in any way determine its effect on the general. She is in exactly the same moral category as all the other people whose names you do not know who are close enough to the bomb to be affected by it in some way.

  • zippy says:

    <>But even there, you don’t blow her up to get the girl “out of the way”,…<>I didn’t say that you choose to kill her to get her out of the way, I said you choose to kill her because she is in the way; the morally pertinent fact being that you choose to kill her, for whatever reason.

  • Anonymous says:

    Forget all the psychology, do you choose to blow up the girl or not?

  • Anonymous says:

    Pull back from the girl for a moment. Suppose our country sends 2 bombers, McVeigh and York, to get the general, each is given a different address to set their bombs. McVeigh sets his at the apartment complex in town where the general lives, York at HQ building at “Camp Pendleton.” Suppose that neither one of them is near enough to the location at set-off time to bother with the question “Do I know for an actual fact that there are civilians present at this time?” Both York and McVeigh set off their bombs. Do we consider that both are guilty of exactly the same evil? Of course not. Regardless of they asked the question: Both had the basic, generic knowledge to know that (a) as a moral certainty an apartment complex has civilians and when you set off a bomb you will kill some of them, and (b) as a moral certainty, a military HQ building ALSO has civilians, and when you set off a bomb you will kill some. Oh, wait, that ISN’T the difference, is it. Oh, yeah, the difference is that ONE is a military target, while the other is not. But is the moral certainty of civilians being present what makes one not-military? Of course not. Anyone who has seen a military base knows that. The difference between the natures of the targets makes the acts different acts. York’s target is a military target. It’s nature is such that he is not obligated to even ask himself the question, and is not obligated to expend any effort in trying to find out, whether there are civilians present. If he has no obligation to find out, then the presence of a civilian is irrelevant to the act’s species. That is, the presence of a civilian – known or unknown – is irrelevant to the species.

  • Anonymous says:

    Anonymous,I believe Zippy had already provided his answer in this thread to the dilemmas of which you allude to in your above example.Rather than even wait for a response from Zippy, perhaps you may want to refer to those and you will have your answer.It appears by your above comments that you may be missing the mark in your interpretation of what Zippy had been saying all along about such matters here and elsewhere.e.

  • george r. says:

    I think the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas should be consulted to settle this issue.Thomas discusses PDE when answering the question, “Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense?” (II:II Q.64.7) He had already determined in a previous article that it was not licit for a private person to kill a man. But on question of self-defense he writes:“Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, not according to what is beside the intention . . . Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful . . .”This passage pretty much demolishes your and William Luse’s position. Note that the species of the act is determined by the intention, as I have been arguing throughout this thread. Note that the death of the aggressor is “beside the intention.” And if killing an aggressor in self-defense is beside the intention, then certainly killing the girl would be beside the intention. Note that killing the aggressor is an <>effect<> of the act, not part of the act itself. Again, if killing an aggressor in self-defense is merely an effect, then certainly killing the girl would be an effect.

  • zippy says:

    George R:<>I think [George R’s specific selective quoting of] the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas should be consulted to settle this issue.<>Veritatis Splendour:<>This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial.<>Humani Generis:<>It is not to be thought that what is set down in Encyclical Letters does not demand assent in itself […] But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts, after due consideration, express an opinion on a hitherto controversial matter, it is clear to all that this matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question of free discussion among the theologians.<>

  • george r. says:

    Are you saying that I took Thomas out of context?Are you saying that <>Veritatis Splendor<> contradicts the <>Summa<> on this point?Do you at least admit that my position seems to be in conformity with this passage of the <>Summa<>?

  • zippy says:

    <>Are you saying that Veritatis Splendor contradicts the Summa on this point?<>No, or certainly not necessarily. (It wouldn’t be earth-shaking if it did: The Summa also treats abortion prior to quickening as a merely venial sin, for example, and treats a pre-quickening child as not yet human).VS ‘collapses’ or narrows the possible interpretations of the Summa on this point. Any development or clarification of doctrine ‘collapses’ interpretations in this way, in this case ruling out, in my understanding, yours.

  • george r. says:

    <>The Summa also treats abortion prior to quickening as a merely venial sin<>Alright Zippy, call.Where in the <>Summa<> does Thomas say that abortion was only a venial sin?The Church has always considered onanism, contraception, and abortion to be grave sins. If Thomas ever said otherwise, the proposition would have been condemned. I suggest you either provide a citation or retract the statement.By the way, your defense of your PDE position on this thread has deteriorated to almost complete opacity. Take my advice, don’t hold on so tightly to what you think is true. If it’s really true, it’s not going to run away.

  • zippy says:

    <>I suggest you either provide a citation or retract the statement.<>Since it is irrelevant to my point, and just a particular example, I’ll happily retract it rather than spending time digging up the citations and arguments.The point is that if your personal interpretation of Aquinas conflicts with the Magisterium on a particular point, it is your personal interpretation of Aquinas that has to go; and even if what Aquinas unequivocally held himself (such as ensoulment at quickening – gonna deny that one too?) conflicts with the Magisterium, what he held has to go. Citing Aquinas in an attempt to refute a papal encyclical is a misuse of Aquinas, as I am sure he would be the first to attest.

  • zippy says:

    <>By the way, your defense of your PDE position on this thread has deteriorated to almost complete opacity.<>Yeah, it is really difficult to understand that you musn’t deliberately kill an innocent little girl, even in wartime. How horrifically opaque.<>Take my advice, don’t hold on so tightly to what you think is true. If it’s really true, it’s not going to run away.<>Not to worry. You’ve given me absolutely no credible reason to doubt that deliberately blowing up an innocent little girl is murder.

  • William Luse says:

    <>This passage pretty much demolishes your and William Luse’s position.<>That’s pretty funny. There’s no conflict between the Aquinas passage and Zippy’s argument, for the simple reason there’s no innocent girl in the mix, only an unjust aggressor, whom you are, of course, licensed to kill (reluctantly, to be sure). :~)

  • george r. says:

    <>There’s no conflict between the Aquinas passage and Zippy’s argument, for the simple reason there’s no innocent girl in the mix, only an unjust aggressor, whom you are, of course, licensed to kill (reluctantly, to be sure).<>Perhaps I did not make clear one of the premises of Thomas’ argument; a private person does not have the right to kill a man under any circumstances. He is never “licensed to kill”. In other words, according to Thomas, to kill an aggressor and to kill a little girl are both illicit if done intentionally. In the same article he explicitly states, “[I]t is unlawful to takes a man’s life, except for the public authority acting for the common good . . .” Now would it be a graver sin to intentionally kill a little girl than an aggressor? Of course. But that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.Therefore, I think it is safe to reiterate that, since Thomas considered that intentionally killing an aggressor would be illicit, his position seems to contradict yours and Zippy’s.One more thing Mr. Luse, I detect a note of sentimentalism in your responses. Having sentiments is good. But remember, sentimentalism is the death of reason, and religion.

  • zippy says:

    <>…since Thomas considered that intentionally killing an aggressor would be illicit, his position seems to contradict yours and Zippy’s.<>That is a really bizarre statement, utterly disconnected from anything I’ve said in this discussion, as far as I can tell. We are talking about whether it can be morally licit for the competent authority to blow up an innocent person in a just war scenario. If you think you’ve provided support from Aquinas for your notion that it is morally licit to kill the little girl there must be more than a few unstated assumptions and inferences in there.

  • zippy says:

    Also, George, cut it out with the <>ad hominem<>. If you want to actually address Bill’s argument, and show where in Aquinas you find warrant to kill the little girl, by all means do so. But the ‘sentimentalism” tergiversation is a cheap rhetorical move. (As if objecting to the murder of innocents were a matter of unreasoning sentiment. Good grief).

  • george r. says:

    <>We are talking about whether it can be morally licit for the competent authority to blow up an innocent person in a just war scenario.<>Yes, I know. I was just explaining how the two scenarios were analogous. For just as we all agree that it is not morally licit for a competent authority to intentionally kill an innocent person, Thomas was saying that it was not morally licit for a private person to intentionally kill an aggressor. However, just as Thomas argued that the aggressor may be killed if killing him was “beside the intention”, assuming proportionality, I argue, analogously, that the girl may be killed if killing her is beside the intention, assuming proportionality.<>Also, George, cut it out with the ad hominem. If you want to actually address Bill’s argument, and show where in Aquinas you find warrant to kill the little girl, by all means do so. But the ‘sentimentalism” tergiversation is a cheap rhetorical move.<>I said this because I suspected that Mr. Luse was not looking at the little girl as an abstraction but as a real little girl with flesh and blood and dolls and doll houses and the like. But unless the little girl is reduced to an abstraction, she cannot be compared analogously to Thomas’ aggressor.

  • zippy says:

    <>However, just as Thomas argued that the aggressor may be killed if killing him was “beside the intention”, assuming proportionality, …<>Right. So if you use force proportionate to stopping his attack, and he dies, it isn’t your fault.<>I argue, analogously, that the girl may be killed if killing her is beside the intention, assuming proportionality.<>The little girl isn’t attacking. No amount of force is ‘proportionate’ to stopping a non-attack.<>But unless the little girl is reduced to an abstraction, she cannot be compared analogously to Thomas’ aggressor.<>I think I’ll leave that statement right where it stands.

  • William Luse says:

    <>a private person does not have the right to kill a man under any circumstances. He is never “licensed to kill”.<>Believe it or not, George, I already knew that. I was having some fun with you.<>I suspected that Mr. Luse was not looking at the little girl as an abstraction but as a real little girl with flesh and blood…<>Yes, I was. That’s why I don’t want you to kill her.Btw, you may have thought you detected something in my comment, but “sentimentalism” wasn’t it.

  • george r. says:

    <>Believe it or not, George, I already knew that. I was having some fun with you.<>Then why didn’t you acknowledge that the example of Thomas was analogous?<>Yes, I was. That’s why I don’t want you to kill her.<>I’m sure she appreciates all your doing for her.However, unless you reduce her to an abstraction you cannot discuss the moral implications of this scenario in an intelligible manner. For if blowing up this little girl is illicit, it is not so because blowing up little girls is illicit. It is because killing <>non-combatants<> is illicit. And if killing non-combatants is not always illicit, then killing this little girl is not illicit in all circumstances. For the essence of the little girl in this scenario is <>non-combatant<>, which is the abstaction that she must be reduced to in order to render the scenario intelligible.

  • William Luse says:

    <>Then why didn’t you acknowledge that the example of Thomas was analogous?<>Because it wasn’t.<>then killing this little girl is not illicit in all circumstances.<>Perhaps not, but it is in <>these<> circumstances.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    <>But unless the little girl is reduced to an abstraction, she cannot be compared analogously to Thomas’ aggressor.<>Holy Cr*p! Did he really say that? There is no better statement he could have made to demonstrate his incompetence in the matter.The statement: “The only way your argument works is if you reduce the real, live girl into an abstraction” would kill the argument if it is true as george r. said. (I’m not saying it would work even then, though.) He made about the strongest argument against himself that he possibly could have.It was the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ that suffered on the cross–not an abstraction.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    And if one insists on something that sounds like an abstraction, “non-combatant” probably isn’t even the best one. Non-combatants can knowingly offer aid and comfort to the enemy, can even (as we’ve been discussing) materially cooperate in the evil being done by the combatants. One of the whole points of choosing a small child when we discuss such things is their innocence in such matters. So “complete innocent” would be better even as an abstraction (if we must have one) than “non-combatant.”

  • george r. says:

    Fine. But if you use the term “complete innocent” to designate that class of persons who may not be licitly killed in war, you are thereby implying that “non-complete innocents” may be licitly killed. Therefore, unless you wish to imply this, you will need a more broadly applicable term to designate that class of persons. It seems to me that “non-combatant” is that term, in that it nicely implies that “combatants” may be licitly killed, upon which there is general agreement.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Actually, that’s fallacious. “Complete innocents may never, never, never be deliberately killed” does not imply “Non-complete innocents may be.” You’re leaning way too hard on conversational implicature there. My point in my total comment was simply that “non-combatant” is sufficiently broad that it _may_ include _some_ people in _some_ instances who are legitimate targets, subject to questions of proportionality, prudents, etc., etc., whereas “complete innocent” is better for setting up the case of intrinsic wrong, because there can be no quibbling on the matter. _That_ is why people choose to talk about “little girls,” “babies,” “four-year-olds” and the like in setting up these sorts of cases. I’ve noticed it many a time. One is trying to put the label of “innocent victim” beyond the reach of question. But to you it sounds like sentimentality.

  • george r. says:

    You could quibble about the term “non-combatant” but that’s what you would be doing, quibbling. It’s a perfectly good term to designate that class of persons who may not be licitly targeted. Is there a better term? Perhaps. But that is not the point. The point is that the little girl is an illicit target, not because she is a “little girl” or a “perfect innocent,” but because “little girls” and “perfect innocents” are included in that class of persons who may not be licitly targeted.<>That_ is why people choose to talk about “little girls,” “babies,” “four-year-olds” and the like in setting up these sorts of cases.<>One of the effects, however, of using “little girls” et al in these cases is that people lose sight of the fact that it is no more illicit to kill a little girl than it is to kill a janitor who happens to be in the building.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I realize I might be getting into deep waters here, but doesn’t that depend on what else the janitor is doing besides sweeping some floors? Does he also help fix the planes sometimes? Does he blog in support of the atrocious actions of his country’s soldiers? Does he wear a T-shirt that says, “Kill all the evil Americans”? Does he teach his child at home to pretend to behead President Bush? (They just videotaped somebody doing this in the UK, by the way.) And so on and so forth.The point about the little girl is that we know that if she’s little enough, anything of that sort she does is something she does not properly understand and cannot be held accountable for.And why are you so het up to make this point? I’ll tell you why I think it is: It’s because you think some people might think it could be okay under some circumstances to drop the bomb on the general and the janitor, and you want to use this fact to try to force them “in consistency” to say it could be okay to drop the bomb on the general and the little girl.But that hardly follows.

  • george r. says:

    Lydia,It is intrinsically evil to intentionally kill a non-combatant,i.e. one who is not part of the war machine, be he janitor, baker, or candle-stick maker.Do you agree?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Can somebody be a non-combatant in the sense of having a civilian job, not being officially part of the war machine, but be formally cooperating (I think I have that right) with an unjust war being perpetrated by the official combatants?

  • JohnMcG says:

    Well, I’m a bit of a rigorist in term of just war, which to me seems analogous to self-defense. A just war is meant to stop an aggression. A janitor mopping the floors (or even a five-star general vacationing in his home) is not engaged in aggression, and thus would not be a legitimate target in a just war.That’s JohnMcG; I’m not sure the Church requires as rigorous a reading as I have.To argue otherwise leads to the conclusion that the 9/11 attacks (particularly against the Pentagon) could justified from the jihadists’ perspective.

  • zippy says:

    Yes, the purpose of stipulating a small child is not emotionalism, but rather precisely to consider a person who is definitely not a legitimate target. Tying this to other recent discussions, a pre-verbal child cannot possibly be formally or materially cooperating in the war effort. This is not true as a matter of empirical impossibility when it comes to a janitor in a munitions plant. Taking ‘combatant’ off the table completely as a possible category (though there are Catholic bloggers who refuse to admit even that much w.r.t. pre-verbal children) allows us to focus on the precise moral theology issue at hand rather than sidetracking the discussion over who is and is not a legitimate target.

  • george r says:

    Lydia,I think in certain situations the line between combatant and non-combatant may be blurred, such as in the total-war insanities of Nazi Germany and today in Gaza. But a citizen who merely supports his own country, even when that country is wrong, can be considered a non-combatant in the traditional sense. Therefore, knowing that a janitor is in the building mopping floors, one should not consider him to be anything other than a janitor mopping floors. With that said, would it be intrinsically immoral to intentionally kill him?

  • Anonymous says:

    Lydia,In World War II, the Allies bombed manufacturing centers that were filled with non-combatants.Would you render this immoral or, even further, an intrinsically evil act?

  • zippy says:

    Personally, I am willing to stipulate a very ‘liberal’ understanding of ‘combatant’ for the sake of this discussion. Even if the pizza boy who delivers pizza to the janitor who cleans the munitions plant is a ‘combatant’, it goes beyond all reason to claim that a pre-verbal child is a combatant. That is the utility of sticking to the pre-verbal child: it keeps the discussion from going off the rails in attempting to define who is and isn’t a ‘combatant’ to the Nth level of detail.That doesn’t mean I think ‘combatant’ is particularly difficult to define. My own understanding is actually pretty lenient. If I can say ‘he is choosing <>this<> behavior which is either harming us or is in preparation for or support of harming us’ then he is a combatant[*]. Pre-verbal children, of course, cannot be said to be choosing such behaviors.[*] That does not, however, excuse us from the requirement to use proportionate means to stop him from harming us.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy gets my point. Thanks, Zippy, that’s a relief.Other guys, my point is that I don’t know the answers to all those questions and precisely that the line can get blurry. There are times when I would say, “I don’t know. I’m not sure. I am willing to be convinced either way.”But I’m sure about the little girl. That’s why it isn’t sentimental to stick to the little girl. Exactly. We’re trying to define what we *know we should never do*. It really only darkens counsel to try to insist that what some of us know we should never do be classified with what we think it might sometimes be okay to do and then to use that to insist that therefore it’s sometimes okay to do the thing that we started out with as a paradigm case of something that we should never do. Killing the little girl, that is.

  • William Luse says:

    I’ve got a question for you, Zippy. Suppose that, instead of the little girl, it’s the janitor who must also die if you are to kill the general (either by bomb or by gun). What is it you must know about that janitor before you will allow yourself to take him as your target?

  • zippy says:

    <>What is it you must know about that janitor before you will allow yourself to take him as your target?<>Like Lydia, for me there is a significant range of questions for which the answer is “I don’t know”. Abstractly it needs to be the case that the janitor is engaging in behaviors which kill us or contribute pretty directly to killing us. I tend to think that the <>epistemic<> bar is fairly low here: that is, that adult men in proximity to an enemy general at a munitions plant in wartime are presumptively combatants. If we see a bunch of schoolchildren in the bombsightes though then the opposite presumption prevails. I expect for example that a ‘decapitation strike’ on a public restaurant in a residential neighborhood is presumptively immoral, and it becomes <>definitely<> immoral once we have credible knowledge of the presence of non-combatants.

  • William Luse says:

    Sounds about right. By “decapitation strike”, I assume you’re referring to something we actually did early in the Iraq war. It amazed me then, and it still does, that so little outrage resulted.Btw, I’m perfectly comfortable with George R.’s distinction (though he may be making it falsely) between combatant and non-combatant. “Innocence” in war time is not established by the state of one’s soul but one’s status as being capable, or not, of doing harm. If there were ever a case of someone incapable of harm, it is that little girl.

  • […] it, since we are working with questions of intrinsic morality.  The principle of double-effect only apples to questions of extrinsic morality, when the behaviors in question are morally neutral in themselves qua chosen […]

  • […] Once we accept the premise that good ends don’t justify evil means it follows that we must be able to morally evaluate means in themselves, independent of ends, and reject those means which are morally evil. We’ve already stipulated a good end. It further follows that we can’t start with the principle of double effect and reason our way backward from the good end to conclude that the chosen means is not evil. […]

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