Is the Appeal of the Doctrine of Double Effect Illusory?

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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. ...
In International Relations (IR), the actions of great powers are usually assessed through their direct effects. Great powers are generally considered to be responsible for the consequences of their actions if they intentionally caused them. Although there is discussion on “double-effects” and “side-effect harms” in the realms of philosophy and political sociology, these largely remain absent from the field of IR. This article bridges that gap by clarifying a set of yardsticks through which side-effect harms of great powers’ actions can be evaluated, including “capacity”, “historical precedent”, “voluntarism” and “unintentional causality”. These yardsticks are deduced through the Theory of Special Responsibilities, which combines elements of Constructivism and the English School. The theoretical framework presented is then applied to the case of American drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. A number of terrorists in FATA have relocated elsewhere within Pakistan to escape these strikes, subsequently harming individuals in new locations. The article asks: who bears responsibility for the harm brought to civilians by these dislocated terrorists? Analysis from the perspective of the theoretical framework, constructed and applied here, suggests that even if the US may claim not to have directly intended such an outcome, it still shares some responsibility for the harm to innocent civilians.
The relevance of double effect for end-of-life decision-making has been challenged recently by a number of scholars. The principal reason is that opioids such as morphine do not usually hasten death when administered to relieve pain at the end of life; therefore, no secondary “double” effect is brought about. In my article, I argue against this view, showing how the doctrine of double effect is relevant to the administration of opioids at the end of life. I contend that the prevailing view suffers from a misunderstanding of the nature of double effect, which includes application to risking a grave harm.
Michael E. Bratman develops a planning theory of intention. Intentions are treated as elements of partial plans of action. These plans play basic roles in practical reasoning, roles that support the organization of our activities over time and socially. Bratman explores the impact of this approach on a wide range of issues, including the relation between intention and intentional action, and the distinction between intended and expected effects of what one intends.
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