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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 34, Issue 2, Fall 2020

Stephen Kershnar, Robert Kelly
Pages 215-233

The Right-Based Criticism of the Doctrine of Double Effect

If people have stringent moral rights, then the doctrine of double effect is false or unimportant, at least when it comes to making acts permissible or wrong. There are strong and weak versions of the doctrine of double effect. The strong version asserts that an act is morally right if and only if the agent does not intentionally infringe a moral norm and the act brings about a desirable result (perhaps the best state of affairs available to the agent or a promotion of the common good). The weak version asserts that, other things being equal, it is deontically worse to intentionally infringe a norm than to foreseeably do so. A person’s intention or mere foresight might still be relevant to his or her blameworthiness or virtue, but this is a separate issue.

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