Volume 59, Issue 3, September 2019
Adam D. Bailey
The Principle of Double Effect, Permissiveness, and Intention
While some believe that the principle of double effect provides sound ethical guidance, others believe that it does not and have leveled various types of argument against it. One type of argument leveled against it proceeds by applying it to hypothetical “closeness” cases. This objection seeks to show that in such cases the principle permits what patently should not be permitted, and thus is unacceptable because it is too permissive. In this essay, I critically evaluate an argument of this type developed by Alexander R. Pruss. Central to my strategy is to develop and defend a distinction between two kinds of means. I refer to them as closed-ended and open-ended means. I argue that once what is intended is understood in light of this distinction, the principle does not permit what patently should not be permitted, and thus need not be seen as being too permissive.