American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 90, Issue 2, Spring 2016

Elizabeth Anscombe

T. A. Cavanaugh
Pages 263-280

Anscombe, Thomson, and Double Effect

In “Modern Moral Philosophy” Anscombe argues that the distinction between intention of an end or means and foresight of a consequentially comparable outcome proves crucial in act-evaluation. The deontologist J. J. Thomson disagrees. She asserts that Anscombe mistakes the distinction’s moral import; it bears on agent-evaluation, not act-evaluation. I map out the contours of this dispute. I show that it implicates other disagreements, some to be expected and others not to be expected. Amongst the expected, one finds the ethicists’ accounts of action and understanding of how agent-assessment relates to act-assessment. Amongst the unexpected, one finds the moralists’ views about the possibility of self-imposed moral dilemmas and allied positions concerning temporal aspects of “ought implies can.” Anscombe’s employment of the distinction in act-evaluation withstands close scrutiny; Thomson’s denial of it does not.