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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 54, Issue 4, December 2014

T. A. Cavanaugh
Pages 367-378

Aristotle’s Voluntary / Deliberate Distinction, Double-Effect Reasoning, and Ethical Relevance

In this essay I articulate Aristotle’s account of the voluntary with a view to weighing in on a contemporary ethical debate concerning the moral relevance of the intended / foreseen distinction. Natural lawyers employ this distinction to contrast consequentially comparable acts with different intentional structures. They propose, for example, that consequentially comparable acts of terror and tactical bombing morally differ, based on their diverse structures of intention. Opponents of double-effect reasoning hold that one best captures the widely acknowledged intuitive appeal of the distinction by contrasting agents, not acts. These thinkers hold that the terror bomber differs from the tactical bomber while terror bombing does not differ ethically from tactical bombing. Aristotle’s accounts of the voluntary and the deliberately decided upon provide grounds for the ethical relevance of the intended / foreseen distinction as applied to both acts and agents.

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