Double-effect Reasoning Defended: A Response to Scanlon

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 86:267-279 (2012)
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Common morality endorses some form of an exceptionless prohibition against killing innocents. Natural lawyers employ double-effect reasoning to address hard cases involving deaths of the innocent. Current deontologists criticize DER-proponents as conflating act-with agent-evaluations. Scanlon develops this critique extensively. I respond to his criticism. He maintains that the DER-advocate tells a badly-motivated agent to refrain from an obligatory act. Thus, he asserts, the natural lawyer who employs DER errs. Instead, Scanlon proposes, one ought to assess the act as permissible while blaming the agent. I argue that DER does not succumb to this critique. Moreover, Scanlon’s particular criticism nicely shows the reasonableness of the approach the DER-thinker takes, namely, that defective agents produce defective acts. Thus, employing DER does not lead to a confusion of act-with agent-evaluations. Rather, it results in coherent assessments of both.



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Thomas Cavanaugh
University of San Francisco

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