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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 89, Issue 3, Summer 2015

Double Effect

Heidi M. Giebel
Pages 369-395

On Why and How Intention Matters

While our common sense seems to tell us that intention matters to ethical evaluation, there is considerable disagreement among ethicists regarding why and how it matters. In this article I argue that intention matters to act evaluation in much the way that the principle of double effect (PDE) implies. First, I identify five propositions—one epistemological and four ethical—that the proponent of PDE holds regarding the ethical relevance of intention. Second, I give two general arguments for the ethical relevance of intention. Third, I offer preliminary arguments for each of the five propositions outlined in the first section. Together, these general and more specific arguments are meant to place the burden of proof on one denying intention’s relevance to act evaluation. Fourth and finally, then, I show that recent critiques of PDE and of the ethical relevance of intention fail to carry that burden of proof.