Article

Is the Appeal of the Doctrine of Double Effect Illusory?

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Abstract

Scanlon (2008) has argued that his theory of permissibility (STP) has more explanatory power than the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE). I believe this claim is wrong. Borrowing Michael Walzer’s method of inquiry, I will evaluate the explanatory virtue of these accounts by their understanding of actual moral intuitions originated in historical cases. Practically, I will evaluate these accounts as they explain cases of hostage crises. The main question in this context is: is it permissible that nation-states act with military force in order to liberate hostages, even if those actions put the lives of the hostages at risk? The first part of this paper has an operative reconstruction of the relevant theories. In the second section, two cases of hostage crises will be considered: the Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002, and the Jaque Operation, which occurred in Colombia in 2008. Additionally, it will be shown that DDE explains these cases better than STP. Finally, this paper offers a critical analysis of Scanlon’s account of the explanatory power of both STP and DDE.

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... There has been limited focus in the field of IR on highlighting yardsticks that may assist with determining how great powers can be held accountable for the sideeffect harms of their actions, and in particular for the side-effects that were not directly intended. The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) (Woodward 2001;Marrero 2013) and Consequentialism (Sinnott-Armstrong 2011) are approaches that are often employed in connection with the issues of intentions, actions and consequences in the fields of philosophy and political sociology, but such a discussion is largely absent from the realm of IR theories. This lack of IR theoretical tools available to help assess side-effect harms of the great powers' actions does not help with apportioning responsibility for these actions. ...
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