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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 53, Issue 2, June 2013

James G. Murphy, S.J.
Pages 189-205

The Principle of Double Effect
Act-Types and Intentions

Objections to the principle of double effect usually concern its first and second conditions (that the act not be evil in itself, and that the evil effect may not be intended). The difficulties often arise from a rejection of the idea that acts have a moral nature independent of context, and a tendency to interpret intention as purely psychological. This article argues that the “act itself” should be understood as the act-type and suggests that examples of evil act-types are not hard to find. It argues that the notion of intention is involved in both conditions, but in different ways. It proposes that these different ways can be interestingly illuminated by Anscombe’s distinction between acting intentionally and acting with an intention.

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