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  #1  
Old Feb 25, '10, 4:59 am
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default The Principle of Double Effect

The principle of double effect is the natural result of a proper understanding of the three fonts of morality; it is not additional to the three fonts, but rather is found within these fonts.

FIRST FONT: The intended end (or purpose) for which the act is chosen.

SECOND FONT: The inherent ordering of the act itself toward its moral object. This ordering constitutes the moral species, i.e. the essential moral nature, of the chosen act.

THIRD FONT: The circumstances pertaining to the morality of the act, especially the consequences.

Under the principle of double effect, an act is moral if the first two fonts (intention, moral object) are good and if, in the third font (consequences), the good outweighs the bad. When the intention, including the intended means and the intended end, is good, and when the act itself is good (due to a good moral object), then the morality of the overall act depends on the circumstances. But if the moral weight of the circumstances depends on two effects (i.e. consequences) of the act, one good and the other bad, the act is moral if the good outweighs the bad, and immoral if the bad outweighs the good.

So the principle of double effect is nothing other than the proper application of the three fonts of morality to a particular class of acts, those in which the first two fonts are good, and in which the third font has both good and bad consequences (i.e. effects).

If the intention or the moral object is evil, then the act is immoral. The principle of double effect NEVER justifies an evil intention, or an evil moral object.
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Old Feb 25, '10, 5:06 am
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DomusAurea DomusAurea is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

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Originally Posted by Ron Conte View Post
The principle of double effect is the natural result of a proper understanding of the three fonts of morality; it is not additional to the three fonts, but rather is found within these fonts.

FIRST FONT: The intended end (or purpose) for which the act is chosen.

SECOND FONT: The inherent ordering of the act itself toward its moral object. This ordering constitutes the moral species, i.e. the essential moral nature, of the chosen act.

THIRD FONT: The circumstances pertaining to the morality of the act, especially the consequences.

Under the principle of double effect, an act is moral if the first two fonts (intention, moral object) are good and if, in the third font (consequences), the good outweighs the bad. When the intention, including the intended means and the intended end, is good, and when the act itself is good (due to a good moral object), then the morality of the overall act depends on the circumstances. But if the moral weight of the circumstances depends on two effects (i.e. consequences) of the act, one good and the other bad, the act is moral if the good outweighs the bad, and immoral if the bad outweighs the good.

So the principle of double effect is nothing other than the proper application of the three fonts of morality to a particular class of acts, those in which the first two fonts are good, and in which the third font has both good and bad consequences (i.e. effects).

If the intention or the moral object is evil, then the act is immoral. The principle of double effect NEVER justifies an evil intention, or an evil moral object.
what does this mean:

"But if the moral weight of the circumstances depends on two effects (i.e. consequences) of the act, one good and the other bad, the act is moral if the good outweighs the bad, and immoral if the bad outweighs the good."
?
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  #3  
Old Feb 25, '10, 5:57 am
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

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Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
what does this mean:

"But if the moral weight of the circumstances depends on two effects (i.e. consequences) of the act, one good and the other bad, the act is moral if the good outweighs the bad, and immoral if the bad outweighs the good."
?
The third font of circumstances is good if the reasonably anticipated good consequences outweigh the reasonably anticipated bad consequences. Some bad consequences to a good act done with good intention can be tolerated, if the good consequences outweigh the bad, because bad consequences are bad in the sense of harm, not bad in the sense of moral evil. However, it is always wrong to choose an act knowing that more harm than good will be done in the consequences.
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Old Feb 25, '10, 6:13 am
Bookcat Bookcat is online now
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

In the Language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

I. THE SOURCES OF MORALITY

1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

- the object chosen;

- the end in view or the intention;

- the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.

1752 In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one's whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one's neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it.

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

II. GOOD ACTS AND EVIL ACTS

1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men").

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.

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

IN BRIEF

1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three "sources" of the morality of human acts.

1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a4.htm#I
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  #5  
Old Feb 25, '10, 6:43 am
Doc Keele Doc Keele is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

It'sa circular argument:
you're saying that an intrinsically evil act cannot be justified by PDE.
what's the definition of an intrinsically evil act?
an act that cannot be justified under any circumstances

your conclusion has already been stated in one of your premises
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Old Feb 25, '10, 7:05 am
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DomusAurea DomusAurea is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Conte View Post
The third font of circumstances is good if the reasonably anticipated good consequences outweigh the reasonably anticipated bad consequences. Some bad consequences to a good act done with good intention can be tolerated, if the good consequences outweigh the bad, because bad consequences are bad in the sense of harm, not bad in the sense of moral evil. However, it is always wrong to choose an act knowing that more harm than good will be done in the consequences.
I'm sorry to ask again but - huh?
I thought we were supposed to not mind the consequences but leave them in the care of God?
Will you forgive me if i take an example - I don't feel capable of using the terminology you're using.
You invite a homeless person to stay with your family during the holidays. He seems to bein bad shape and a bit crazy.

See if I'm getting this right:
- First font: Good. The purpose is to help thy neighbor.
- Second font: Good. Charity and generosity and courage.
- Third font: This Guy could be a crazy axe murderer. Or steel your stuff to buy drugs. Or get drunk and scare the children. He might be a sex offender. He might be paranoid or psychotic. He could also get warm and rested and fed. It might turn his whole life around. It might make him feel loved for the first time in a long time.

First question - how would one go about weighing in those foreseeable consequences?

Second question - say that you determine the good consequences are heavier than the bad. You invite him in. He murders your children, and sets the house on fire: terrible consequences! Did those consequences change the goodness of the initial act?

Third question - How about caring about first and second font (but in reverse order) and leave number three to the only one who really knows?

But then again - I might not be getting it!
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  #7  
Old Feb 25, '10, 7:48 am
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

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Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
I thought we were supposed to not mind the consequences but leave them in the care of God?
The teaching of the Church is that there are three fonts (sources or basis) of morality. All three fonts must be good for an act to be moral.

Veritatis Splendor 77. In order to offer rational criteria for a right moral decision, the 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. The weighing of the goods and evils foreseeable as the consequence of an action is not an adequate method for determining whether the choice of that concrete kind of behaviour is "according to its species", or "in itself", morally good or bad, licit or illicit. The foreseeable consequences are part of those circumstances of the act, which, while capable of lessening the gravity of an evil act, nonetheless cannot alter its moral species.

First font: intention

Second font: the moral species of the act, whether it is morally good or bad in itself, as determined by the moral object.

Third font: the goods and evils foreseeable as the consequence of an action.
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  #8  
Old Feb 25, '10, 7:54 am
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
See if I'm getting this right:
- First font: Good. The purpose is to help thy neighbor.
- Second font: Good. Charity and generosity and courage.
- Third font: This Guy could be a crazy axe murderer. Or steel your stuff to buy drugs. Or get drunk and scare the children. He might be a sex offender. He might be paranoid or psychotic. He could also get warm and rested and fed. It might turn his whole life around. It might make him feel loved for the first time in a long time.
The reasonably anticipated good and bad consequences take into account the degree of harm, and the degree of likelihood of that harm, as well as the degree and likelihood of benefit. In the above example, it is not moral because the harm is grave and has a certain degree of likelihood, whereas the benefit is limited by comparison.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
First question - how would one go about weighing in those foreseeable consequences?
You weigh the consequences using reason and prudential judgment. You take the knowledge that you have of past circumstances and the present situation, and then you reasonably conclude what the possible good and bad consequences might be and their degree of likelihood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
Second question - say that you determine the good consequences are heavier than the bad. You invite him in. He murders your children, and sets the house on fire: terrible consequences! Did those consequences change the goodness of the initial act?
The third font is only the consequences that could be reasonably anticipated. So if a very unlikely bad consequence occurs, which could not be anticipated, it does not make the prior act immoral. However, in the example that you gave, those consequences might have been anticipated, at least as a possibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
Third question - How about caring about first and second font (but in reverse order) and leave number three to the only one who really knows?
The Church teaches, and we are required to believe, that there are three fonts of morality, not only two. It would be a serious doctrinal error to reject any one of those three sources of morality.
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  #9  
Old Feb 25, '10, 7:56 am
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DomusAurea DomusAurea is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

I did not know. Interesting!

But I am still curious about what to do if 1 and 2 are good and 3 ... isn't (giving birth even though it will probably kill you and orphan your children).

And what about when 1 and 3 are good and 2 isn't? (hiding a jew, lying to the SS).

Why 2 and 3 doesn't work I get. (even though a good priest once told me that one shouldn't be so occupied with the bad reason you had for doing something good. not even you know your heart as well as the Father does ...)

I simply want to know how to apply it!
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Old Feb 25, '10, 8:12 am
Ender Ender is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

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Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
I'm sorry to ask again but - huh?
I thought we were supposed to not mind the consequences but leave them in the care of God?
The consequences of the act do not change its moral nature. If the act is done with a good intention and a valid expectation of a good outcome then the fact that it all goes horribly wrong does not make the act retroactively immoral. If the act is not intrinsically immoral then it is not the outcome that makes the act wrong; it is the intent.

We take actions with the expectation (or hope) of achieving a certain outcome. For actions with the expectation of two effects, one good and one bad, we can only take the action if the good we expect is not outweighed by the expected bad outcome, if the good doesn't come directly as a result of the evil, that the evil is not intended but is unavoidable, and of course the act itself has to be good or at least morally neutral. Even in this case, however, it is not the actual consequences that determine the morality of the act, but the expected consequences, which is really an aspect of intent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Keele
It'sa circular argument:
you're saying that an intrinsically evil act cannot be justified by PDE.
what's the definition of an intrinsically evil act?
an act that cannot be justified under any circumstances

your conclusion has already been stated in one of your premises
It isn't a circular argument. It is a simple statement that nothing justifies an intrinsically evil act, even if good should come from it. It is a statement against consequentialism.

Ender
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  #11  
Old Feb 25, '10, 8:14 am
Doc Keele Doc Keele is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Ender, prove to me with formal argument that this particular conclusion isn't a circular argument, because it fits the definition perfectly. Simply asserting that it isn't is not persuasive at all.
If it is a simple expression of the deontological approach then it's not an argument of course. It certainly doesn't disprove consequentialism.
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Old Feb 25, '10, 8:15 am
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DomusAurea DomusAurea is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookcat View Post
In the Language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

I. THE SOURCES OF MORALITY

1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

- the object chosen;

- the end in view or the intention;

- the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.

1752 In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one's whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one's neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it.

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

II. GOOD ACTS AND EVIL ACTS

1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men").

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.

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

IN BRIEF

1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three "sources" of the morality of human acts.

1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a4.htm#I
1754 seems to me the most interesting here.

One thing I've always wondered about is drunk driving. To drive under the influence is to take a great risk with your own life and other's. Is there a difference in guilt between a person who drove drunk without anything happening and a person who drive drunk and hit someone?
Put simply - does your guilt change with the consequences? Or just the penance (which would obviously be very different)?

I want to say your guilt does not change. And yet that doesn't sound very ... practical.

What do you say Bookcat?
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Old Feb 25, '10, 8:46 am
Bookcat Bookcat is online now
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
1754 seems to me the most interesting here.

One thing I've always wondered about is drunk driving. To drive under the influence is to take a great risk with your own life and other's. Is there a difference in guilt between a person who drove drunk without anything happening and a person who drive drunk and hit someone?
Put simply - does your guilt change with the consequences? Or just the penance (which would obviously be very different)?

I want to say your guilt does not change. And yet that doesn't sound very ... practical.

What do you say Bookcat?
Drunk driving would actually be a grave matter to begin with...

2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

And also being drunk to the point of loss of reason is also grave matter for mortal sin...

As to circumstance...

Circumstance ..while it can not make an intrinsically evil object good....one can be less culpable or even more culpable (guilty).

So there it could go either way...depending on what transpired...

Did the person get drunk unknowingly? (was given something he did not know would do that...) and then in such a state he really did not have the ability to know right from wrong....?

Or did the person plan to drink and drive in a state that would not be safe....?

(for there is a difference in drinking a half a glass of wine...and then driving a few hours later....and drinking several glasses of wine and hitting the road....)

(on a side note...I would also say...one should really avoid drinking and driving at all....)

From the Catechism:

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone's death, even without the intention to do so. CCC 2269
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  #14  
Old Feb 25, '10, 8:46 am
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomusAurea View Post
I did not know. Interesting!

But I am still curious about what to do if 1 and 2 are good and 3 ... isn't (giving birth even though it will probably kill you and orphan your children).

And what about when 1 and 3 are good and 2 isn't? (hiding a jew, lying to the SS).

Why 2 and 3 doesn't work I get. (even though a good priest once told me that one shouldn't be so occupied with the bad reason you had for doing something good. not even you know your heart as well as the Father does ...)

I simply want to know how to apply it!
If any one of the three fonts is bad, then the act is immoral.

If the intention is bad, but the act and the consequences are good, then the act is immoral. However, if the only thing making an act immoral is your bad intention, change your intention.

If the act has an evil moral object, and so is an intrinsically evil act, then the act is always immoral. The Church teaches that intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of good intention or dire circumstances.

If a good act is done with good intention, but the bad consequences outweigh the good, then choosing that act, in those circumstances, is immoral.
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Old Feb 25, '10, 11:12 am
Ender Ender is offline
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Default Re: The Principle of Double Effect

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Originally Posted by Ron Conte View Post
If a good act is done with good intention, but the bad consequences outweigh the good, then choosing that act, in those circumstances, is immoral.
This is confusingly stated. If my intent is good (and the intent contains the expectation of the outcome) then the actual outcome has no effect on the morality of the act. If I act with the expectation of negative consequences or even with disregard to the consequences then my act is immoral even if something good comes of it; this is because of my intent.

The principle of double effect pertains to the expected outcomes which is part of the intent, not the actual consequences.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Keele
prove to me with formal argument that this particular conclusion isn't a circular argument
Major premise: The principle of double effect allows acts that have both good and evil effects.
Minor premise: An action that is intrinsically evil may never licitly be committed.
Conclusion: The principle of double effect does not justify intrinsically evil acts regardless of the intent or consequences.

Ender
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