In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 260-286 (2013)

Howard Leo Nye
University of Alberta
The Doctrine of Double Effect [DDE] states roughly that it is harder to justify causing or allowing harm as a means to an end than it is to justify conduct that results in harm as a side effect. This chapter argues that a theory of deontological constraints on harming needs something like the DDE in order to avoid the charge that it reflects a narcissistic obsession with the cleanliness of our own hands. Unfortunately, the DDE is often interpreted as maintaining that we must avoid acting with certain intentions, which, this chapter contends, embodies an equally narcissistic obsession with the purity of our own hearts. The chapter argues that the DDE is better interpreted as a denial of the Machiavellian idea that beneficial ends justify harmful means. On this view, the objective fact that our conduct will secure benefits for some individuals at the expense of other individuals weakens the extent to which those benefits count as reasons to engage in that conduct. The chapter argues that this version of the DDE provides a plausible, non-narcissistic foundation for deontological constraints.
Keywords Double Effect  DDE  Deontology  Narcissism  Intention  Reasons  Objective  Benefit at Someone’s Expense  Weakening Considerations  Ends Justify Means
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Ethics Without Principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.

View all 28 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Intentions, Permissibility, and Choice.Anton Markoč - 2018 - Res Publica 24 (4):493-508.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Problem for the Doctrine of Double Effect.Sophia Reibetanz - 1998 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 98 (2):217–223.
Aristotle and Double Effect.Ezio Di Nucci - 2014 - Journal of Ancient Philosophy 8 (1):20.
The Danger of Double Effect.P. A. Reed - 2012 - Christian Bioethics 18 (3):287-300.
Who is Entitled to Double Effect?Joseph Boyle - 1991 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 16 (5):475-494.
Intention and Responsibility in Double Effect Cases.David K. Chan - 2000 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3 (4):405-434.
Revising the Doctrine of Double Effect.Jeff McMahan - 1994 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 11 (2):201-212.
The Principle of Double Effect as a Guide for Medical Decision-Making.Georg Spielthenner - 2008 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 11 (4):465-473.
Double Effect, Double Intention, and Asymmetric Warfare.Steven Lee - 2004 - Journal of Military Ethics 3 (3):233-251.
Defending Double Effect.Alison Hills - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 116 (2):133-152.
Intentions, Motives and the Doctrine of Double Effect.Lawrence Masek - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):567-585.


Added to PP index

Total views
319 ( #30,083 of 2,461,934 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
59 ( #13,943 of 2,461,934 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes