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date: 28 March 2023

double effect. 

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Nicholas DentNicholas Dent

The ‘doctrine of double effect’is a thesis in the philosophy of action which is put to use in moral choice and moral assessment. In many actions we may identify the central, directly intended goal or objective for the principal sake of which the action is selected and done. However, there will normally also be side-effects of the process of achieving that objective or of its accomplishment, which may be known prior to taking the action. The doctrine of double effect maintains that it may be permissible to perform a good act with the knowledge that bad consequences will ensue, but that it is always wrong intentionally to do a bad act for the sake of good consequences that will ensue. Sometimes moral problems may arise, or be resolved, by thus considering whether something bad is the direct effect, or the side-effect, of some intention or action. That someone dies as the result of your action is in any case bad, but directly to intend their death appears worse than directly to intend some benefit, but with the knowledge that death may be hastened by this. Administering pain-relieving drugs which shorten life expectancy is a standard example. The extension of this pattern of reasoning to (for example) ... ...

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