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If you listen to some moral philosophers and theologians, you'd think that the Principle of Double Effect (PDE) is just a rare, weird concept we pull out to deal with exceptional cases like ectopic pregnancies or crazy situations like in the conclusion of the movie Armageddon. It's not.
Ever had surgery? Ever taken a medicine stronger than a vitamin supplement? Know anybody who has had chemotherapy?
How about self-defense? Can you protect your family? Can a soldier defend himself? Should we have invaded Germany? Better yet, can a soldier jump on a grenade to save his buddy? Was Jesus on the cross a suicide?
What about the death penalty?—what if we're in the Wild West and the killer's henchman will spring him? Should Batman kill the Joker, since no prison can hold him?—if so, on what grounds does a civilian execute a criminal?
If my apartment building is on fire, can I jump out the window, even if it's a seven-story fall?
Can I vote for a major candidate who will do much good, even though he or she isn't perfect, or must I chose a "flawless" 3rd party candidate who has no chance?
Without PDE, you have no good answer for these. You either leave someone in dire straits or tell them to claim the end justifies the means and to go ahead and break the moral law.
Welcome to the Principle of Double Effect.
|Top: The Principle of Double Effect. |
Bottom: Claim the End Justifies the Means