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The Right Call?

From The Weekly Standard comes a pedestrianly written but, because of the subject matter, moderately mesmerizing article entitled "Cheney Speaks", in which Stephen Hayes recounts the following from the events of 9/11:

Moments later Cheney spoke to Bush for the third time. The Secret Service had told Cheney that another aircraft was rapidly approaching Washington, D.C. The combat air patrol had been scrambled to patrol the area. We have a decision to make, Cheney told the president: Should we give the pilots an order authorizing them to shoot down civilian aircraft that could be used to conduct further attacks in Washington? Cheney told Bush that he supported such a directive. The president agreed.

Within minutes, Cheney was told that an unidentified aircraft was 80 miles outside of Washington. "We were all dividing 80 by 500 miles an hour to see what the windows were," Scooter Libby would later say. A military aide asked Cheney for authorization to take out the aircraft.

Cheney gave it without hesitating.

The military aide seemed surprised that the answer came so quickly. He asked again, and Cheney once again gave the authorization.

The military aide seemed to think that because Cheney had answered so quickly, he must have misunderstood the question. So he asked the vice president a third time.

"I said yes," Cheney said, not angrily but with authority.

"He was very steady, very calm," says Josh Bolten, then deputy White House chief of staff. "He clearly had been through crises before and did not appear to be in shock like many of us."

Cheney says there wasn't time to consider the gravity of the order he had just communicated. It was "just bang, bang, bang," says Cheney, one life-or-death decision after another.

The entire room paused after Cheney had given the final order as the gravity of his order became clear. At 10:18 A.M., Bolten suggested that Cheney notify the president that he had communicated the "shoot-down" order. Shortly after Cheney hung up, the officials in the bunker were advised that a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

Everyone had the same question, says Rice. "Was it down because it had been shot down or had it crashed?" Rice and Cheney were both filled with "intense emotion," she recalls, because they both made the same assumption. "His first thought, my first thought--we had exactly the same reaction--was it must have been shot down by the fighters. And you know, that's a pretty heady moment, a pretty heavy burden."

Both Rice and Cheney worked the phones in a desperate search for more information. "We couldn't get an answer from the Pentagon," says Rice. They kept trying.

"You must know," Rice insisted in one phone call to the Pentagon. "I mean, you must know!"

Cheney, too, was exasperated. We have to know whether we actually engaged and shot down a civilian aircraft, he said, incredulously. They did not. For several impossible minutes, Cheney believed that a pilot following his orders had brought down a plane full of civilians in rural Pennsylvania. Even then, he had no regrets:

"...having seen what had happened in New York and the Pentagon, you really didn't have any choice. It wasn't a close call. I think a lot of people emotionally look at that and say, my gosh, you just shot down a planeload of Americans. On the other hand, you maybe saved thousands of lives. And so it was a matter that required a decision, that required action. It was the right call."

As it turns out, no planes were shot down (that I remember), but a question persists. And, at the risk of appearing overly squeamish about such matters, it is this: had the event come to pass, would this have been a case of intentionally killing the innocent to achieve a good end? Murder, in short?


Comments (216)

No planes were shot down in fact. Yes, it would have been wrong if they had. They wouldn't have known it was murder, because they would have believed it was justified by consequences. They would also have been regretful and sad, not gloating. There are worse kinds of murder. But yes, it would have been murder.

A former friend actually told me it was okay for them to do that because all adult Americans have entered into a tacit compact with our government by not leaving the country whereby we agree to die for our country if need be. I find this argument ludicrous, not to mention the fact that there were probably children on board the airliner(s) in question.

It would not have been murder. Awful, but not murder. In the event of a shootdown, the deaths of the passengers would have been incidental to the object, rightful in itself, of disarming and killing the terrorists. It was the terrorists, by killing the crew and taking over an aircraft that they didn't intend and weren't able to land, who committed murder. At the risk of falling into a consequentialist pit, the passengers were already dead once the pilots died, and the aircraft they were riding had become a weapon in the hands of the mujahideen (sp?). Downing the aircraft was the only right course of action, as the passengers decided themselves. To view it from another angle, if we accept that it would have been murder for the government to destroy the plane, must we not decide that it was suicide for the passengers to do so, rather than an act of gallantry?

Cyrus is correct. Shooting down the plane would have been an act of self-defense. The passengers would be incidental to the act.

Their deaths would be a tragedy, but the ojective would not have been to kill them, nor even (pace Cyrus) to kill the terrorists, but to defend an as-yet unidentified target that was under attack.

Only...the passengers weren't already dead. We can't start redefining "dead" here.

Good question about the passengers' own act. My position has been that if they aimed to destroy the plane and themselves, then it was suicide. But if they aimed to take over the cockpit, overpower or kill the terrorists and make some effort to land the plane, then it was a legitimate act of self-defense against the terrorists. Of course, their chances were very poor. If I remember correctly, what little we do know indicates that it was the terrorists, not the passengers, who deliberately crashed the plane at the last moment. Of course the most likely outcome was that the plane would crash accidentally while everybody was struggling in the cockpit, which may have been what happened. But you can fairly view it as their _trying_ to target the bad guys specifically in order to rectify the situation, even if this had little chance of success. It was, after all, the only chance. Shooting down the plane, on the other hand, attempted to target no one specifically but rather the plane as a unit with everyone aboard.

I have no problem, by the way, with having it as an objective to kill the terrorists. I have always believed that it's perfectly all right to _try_ to kill bad guys who are engaged in an act of aggression, and that to pretend one is just shooting at their buttons or trying to stop them but not to kill them is almost always to engage in sophistry.

Short of the hand of God reaching down to catch them, there was nothing that could have been done to save the passengers once the aircrew had been incapacitated. They were going to die, because the act of hijacking that would culminate inevitably in their deaths had already been performed. The decision left to the government was not whether those people would live or die, but whether the aircraft that was incidentally carrying them would successfully be used as a weapon to kill still more people.

I'm not convinced, gentlemen, and I do think Cyrus falls into that consequentialist pit.

First, we ought to assume that the passengers' actions were not suicidal. I seriously doubt they were thinking, "Let's take over the plane and commit an act of collective suicide by crashing this bird where it won't hurt anyone else." I think they were hoping to save their own lives as well as those of others. It is not inconceivable that a pilot in the tower could have talked the plane down, even if unlikely of success. As Lydia points out, it is the attempt that matters. If we accept that "the passengers were already dead once the pilots died," we permit ourselves to consign them to that category of people who are "as good as dead," a mode of thought that proves problematic in other areas, as with the advocacy of euthanasia. It is only then that people's lives become "incidental."

It is true that the plane had become a weapon (of mass destruction, no less), but it was a weapon full of people, most of them innocent, a situation analogous to the placement of missile batteries and weapons factories in densely populated areas of a city during wartime, which an unscrupulous government knows will be targeted by the enemy. (What I mean is that these terrorists were hiding behind the passengers.) The question becomes: can we disable the weapon and still call it self-defense?

To do so, one condition that must be met is a determination of fact: that you are indeed under attack. Cheney met this condition.

Another condition is that the response must be proportionate to the threat. If the plane had held only terrorists, Cheney could also have met this one.

Lastly, a genuine act of self-defense cannot involve the intent to kill the innocent as a means to one's end. Did Cheny choose to do this? His own words acknowledge that he did: "...my gosh, you just shot down a planeload of Americans. On the other hand, you maybe saved thousands of lives."

Maybe.

In Zippy's terminology, the object of Cheney's act was to kill a planeload of Americans in order to save others. If this is not consequentialist, I don't know what is. He feared the consequences of not shooting down the plane. He was weighing the value of the lives on the plane against the value of those on the ground. This is to say that the loss of a hundred on the plane is acceptable if we can save a thousand on the ground. But (using Anscombe's example) I do not accept the principle that it's all right to boil one baby in oil if it would save a thousand people.

If events had played out differently, say the plane had not crashed in Pennsylvania but gone on to the White House or Capitol building, and Cheney had not ordered it shot down, my guess is that he would have been pilloried by public opinion.

Btw, there has been much talk in the blogosphere over the past year of ticking bomb scenarios. As such things go, they don't get much better than this one.

I would add that in the prospect of death one can legitimately choose death without it being suicide. Saint Apollonia choose to step into the fire and be killed rather than have her virginity be taken from her. As Dionysius recalled:
At that time Apollonia, parthénos presbytis (virgo presbytera, by which he very probably means not a virgin advanced in years as is generally reported, but a deaconess) was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death.

The link also has a comment from Augustine addressing this. In short, one generally has wide liberty in sacrificing one's own life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Apollonia

I never understand things like the St. Apollonia story. (Not that I was familiar with that particular one but have run into something like it in a work of fiction.) If they were going to burn her at the stake anyway, why bother jumping into the flames? She could just have continued to refuse to do evil--to say the words--and the bad guys would have killed her. The act would have been unambiguously theirs, and no one would have to ask about suicide at all. It seems like a rather pointless gesture to me. In the work of fiction in question, a missionary was to be thrown off a cliff by aborigines who believe he has killed someone who died while the missionary was doctoring him. They take him up to the top of the cliff and he jumps off rather than waiting for them to throw him. His reason is to show them that he's not afraid of death. This does actually impress several of them, and I believe one converts. But for goodness sake! You don't need to jump off a cliff to show that you're not afraid of death, and I'm not at all sure the rhetorical point was worth the ethical problems.

Lastly, a genuine act of self-defense cannot involve the intent to kill the innocent as a means to one's end.
That intent, unless we are construing "intent" differently, to kill the innocent is precisely what is lacking in this scenario, which is why it is not the same as boiling newborns. In firing on the plane, the death of the passengers, while for all intents an inevitability, is not willed, nor strictly speaking necessary to the desired end of destroying the aircraft before its new crew can wreak further damage on the ground. In the scenario of the boiled baby, the death of an innocent per se is precisely what is intended.

That would be a disputed point Cyrus. While one may not will the terrorists by on the plane, one does certainly will the death of the innocents and the terrorists by shooting the plane down. I doubt I can find the link, but I believe a German court or the EU explicitly stated that the obligation to protect the innocents on the plane was equal to the obligation of protecting the innocents on the ground and therefore one could not shoot down the plane.

To be honest Lydia, I'm more on the 'just accept it' side on the spectrum of obedience regarding that teaching. It isn't something I've given tremendous thought.

That intent, unless we are construing "intent" differently, to kill the innocent is precisely what is lacking in this scenario, which is why it is not the same as boiling newborns.

It is true that colloquially we don't use the word "intent" univocally. Sometimed it refers to desired and expected consequences, and sometimes it refers to chosen behavior, for example. And those are two quite different things.

If I shoot through a wall of children with the remote intention of killing the terrorist behind them do I "intend" to shoot through the wall of children? Do I intend their injuries, specifically? Have I chosen, as a specific behavior or act, to harm them?

Clearly yes.

I may wish that I could engage in a different behavior which does not injure or kill the wall of children. But wishful thinking is not the same thing as intent. I can't claim that I don't intend something that I choose as a direct and specific behavior. If I am choosing it directly in my deliberate and specific behavior then I intend it, whether I wish that some counterfactual obtained or not. If I wish that I could fly to Tokyo by flapping my arms and without boarding an airliner then when I step out of the plane at Narita I cannot claim that I didn't intend the getting on an airliner part. Specific behaviors are always directly chosen; what is directly chosen is always intended.

That this causes no small amount of discomfort among modern consequentialists - of which there are legion - is itself a morally irrelevant consequence. All of course as I see it, as far as I can tell, from my POV, and all that.

Saith Zippy (regarding intent): Sometimes it refers to desired and expected consequences, and sometimes it refers to chosen behavior

Yes. Cyrus is referring to the former, I to the latter. I think. I suspect so, for he says "the death of the passengers, while for all intents an inevitability, is not willed..," which is another way of saying 'not desired', while I say that it is 'chosen.'

He is attempting to invoke double-effect, in which the deaths of the innocents would not be an intended effect, but a sort of unfortunate side effect to a different intention (the protection of innocents on the ground). But for that principle to apply, the passengers' deaths would have to be accidental to be unintended. You can't very well shoot down a plane full of people, knowing as you do it, and for an absolute certainty, that all will die as a result, and then claim it was an accident. Their deaths were the chosen means to the end, and, as Zippy well puts it, "what is directly chosen is always intended."

We should keep in mind (and perhaps lay to his credit) that Cheney seems not to have needed the protection of double-effect to salve his conscience. He doesn't kid himself. He makes a directly consequentialist justification, saying that he would have had to sacrifice those Americans on the plane for the sake of many others on the ground.

Were my wife and kids on that plane, I would not blame Cheney for their deaths. I asked my wife the same question and she agreed. If I were a pilot of the United States Air force, I would have shot it down, even if it were full of children coming back from their first communion.

1) The Secretary of Defence and his subordinates have the obligation to protect the United States of America from attack: it is a grave moral obligation. All non hostile citizens of the United States are entitled to the protection of the SecDef.

2) Once the terrorists had assumed control of the aircraft, it became a weapon directed against the United States capable of causing mass destruction. The threat was credible, real and immediate. The potential victims of this weapon had as much right to life and to the protection of Mr. Cheney-- in his capacity as SecDef --as the civilians on the aircraft.

3) The SecDef then had a moral obligation to stop the aircraft. Failure to stop the aircraft would have a dereliction of his duty and a moral evil.

4) The SecDef had no way of extending his protection to the civilians in the aircraft. If he did, and did not use the capacity, he would be guilty of dereliction of duty to these civilians. The SecDef must use the means at his disposal to fulfill his duties to both protect Citizens of the U.S while at that same time repelling aggressors.

5) The means available at his disposal in order to stop the aircraft did not permit the distinguishing between civilian and terrorist. The only way to stop the aircraft was to shoot it out of the sky. Cheney’s directive to the Air Force was to shoot the plane out of the sky. He did not add “and make sure all of the passengers are killed” to that directive.

I cannot imagine that anyone on this forum would even suggest that in the event that there were any survivors of the crash that the SecDef would have directed the military to make sure everyone was bumped off, rather medical assistance would have been directed to the survivors in ensure that they lived. Cheney’s directive was to stop the aircraft, not kill the passengers.

The thing that would have been directly actulised—the moral object--had Cheney’s orders been completed would have been that the plane would have been stopped: That is not evil. Extending the scope of the moral object to include the consequences beyond the thing actualized is to go beyond the act. Is a conception occasioned by a rape included in the moral object of the rape? Ordering the military to stop an aircraft that is attacking the U.S. by damaging its structure is not evil.

The directive was to stop the plane knowing that the passengers would be killed, not kill the passengers to stop the plane. It’s a subtle difference but it makes all the difference: admittedly not to the passengers. Consequentialism does not even factor into the equation.

Had Cheney had a non lethal capacity to stop the plane say through some ground based remote control of the aircraft, I feel he would have been obligated to use it. The fact is he didn’t and therefore couldn’t, and hence is inculpable.

On the other hand those who put civilians in harms way in order to occasion evil are culpable for the injury inflicted upon civilians. If you push a man in front of an oncoming train, the train does the killing but you are responsible for the murder. Judging by the logic of this thread the train driver gets lumped with the responsibility.

I am absolutely amazed at you people. What you are in effect suggesting is that defence is illegitimate against an aggressor surrounded by a human shield. Just think about it for a minute. Every suicide bomber would soon enough surround himself with a shield of women and children knowing that the pious right would condemn anyone who dared to injure the innocent in order to get to him. Likewise arms factories would be placed around hospitals and orphanages. Nuclear reactors and enrichment plants would be next to retirement homes and schools. It is too horrible to contemplate. Military operations are morally out, since nearly all wars will conceivably result in the deaths of civilians and as we all know a foreseeable unintended death is just as bad as an intended death.

The left does not have a monopoly on intellectual pathology.

SP, not all such situations are created equal. The mere possibility of collateral damage is not at all on a par with deliberately shooting down a planeload of civilians. Even when bad guys operate out of neighborhoods, not only is precision bombing sometimes possible, but warnings can be issued to the civilian population to evacuate before undertaking operations. The kinds of human shield situations you cite have been used extensively against Israel, though it is usually the pious Left that castigates that country for even the most painstakingly moral self-defense. Last summer they were _phoning_ homes from which Hezbollah was launching missiles and in the basements of which arms were stored to warn them to evacuate, to warn them that they were going to strike the homes. _Phoning_ them! Yet they were still demonized. Civilians were loudly and repeatedly warned to evacuate areas of conflict and often chose not to. To my mind, those who deliberately place themselves as human shields (sometimes these are "peace activists") for aggressors are just barely a rung up from combatants and have no right to complain if they end up as collateral damage. They are trying to manipulate the moral sensibilities of the good to benefit the evil. I saw pictures of such activists on the roofs of buildings from which rockets were being fired last summer. I would not have minded in the least if they had been killed.

In any event, the very fact that people have a choice in such situations shows that not all attempts to use human shields are the same in terms of the constraints they place on the intended victim of the manipulation. To be sure, there are cases where I would say it is better to die than deliberately to kill the innocent, and where the bad guy can win in this way. There, you and I will doubtless disagree. But you take it too far when you assume that by disagreeing with Cheney's choice here we are all condemning all risk of civilian collateral damage in war.

I have little time, so I will be brief. Lydia, Mr. Luse, etc: Is it irrelevant that there was in fact nothing that could have been done to save the lives of the passengers on that aircraft? I would appreciate clarification on that point as I struggle with this question. Or do you disagree with that statement of fact? Do you think that there was something that could have been done? It would appear to be an essential to the assignment of culpability to Cheney et al in the event of the plane having been shot down, that he actually did have some control over the near-term fate of those passengers, but perhaps I misunderstand.

Were my wife and kids on that plane, I would not blame Cheney for their deaths.

That may be true, but it is irrelevant in the important sense here. If someone murdered me because the detonator of a doomsday weapon was attached to me and would destroy the world as long as I went on living, I wouldn't personally blame him for doing it. But it would still be murder, and as a moral matter - for his own teleological good - he shouldn't do it.

Also I don't think "object" means what you think it means. The object isn't a goal or objective like "stop the plane from killing people on the ground"; it is the directly chosen behavior. If you choose it, then you can't claim that you don't intend it. And it is never, ever licit to intend evil, period. The very concept of "morally licit to intend evil" is self-contradictory.

Cyrus, I consider it irrelevant. If you had a fatal disease that was going to kill you in ten minutes, three days, or thirty years, it would make no difference to my moral responsibility not to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger.

Naturally, it would be _worse_ if the passengers could have been saved but they opted to kill them anyway for reasons of efficiency or something weird like that. But it doesn't make it okay just because the bad guys were planning to kill them anyway by flying the plane into a building some minutes later.

Is it irrelevant that there was in fact nothing that could have been done to save the lives of the passengers on that aircraft?

Yes, it is irrelevant. It may not be irrelevant in terms of gravity of the moral offense, subjective culpability, etc; but as a categorical matter it doesn't change an evil act into a good act. Aborting a baby that you are morally certain will die anyway is still morally illicit, for example; morally illicit no matter what the consequences.

Cyrus,

I don't think we can know for a certainty whether anything could have been done to save their lives (e.g., in the event they had wrested control of the plane from the terrorists), but yes, I do consider it irrelevant. The fact that a man is doomed by circumstances doesn't grant me permission to speed him on his way.

Doing the right thing is often a very hard thing; at times the alternatives seem downright unbearable, and that's why what I'm suggesting will never be, shall we say, 'popular'. And note that I do not condemn Cheney. Caught in the vice of circumstance, I might have done the same thing. Who knows? I hope never to have to.

As for the Social P., Lydia and Zippy answered him as politely as might be expected, considering that we've all been diagnosed with some undefined pathology. But further considering his magnanimity toward the lives of innocents in time of war, perhaps the physician could turn his diagnostic skills on himself.

Zippy and Bill:


A homicide, if not criminal, isn't murder.

What is your rationale for excusing the criminal, especially considering an act so heinous as murder?

What is your rationale for excusing the criminal.

None, unless by "excusing" you mean "forgiving", since I don't think I mentioned excusing anything. If I don't personally blame someone who wrongs me - if I forgive him - it doesn't change the fact that as an objective matter he did something he shouldn't have done. I am incapable of remaking reality such that he didn't do wrong; I am only capable of forgiving the wrong from my own standpoint. I do think the extreme circumstances I described mitigate the gravity and culpability of the wrong, but they don't make it not-wrong.

I also made no mention of the positive law, so I am not sure why "criminal" needs to be even introduced as a (new) category into the discussion. In the paragraph above in this comment I took it as synonymous to "wrongdoer".

Lydia:
>The mere possibility of collateral damage is not at all on a par with deliberately shooting down a planeload of civilians

The plane was not just a planeload of civilians, but a planeload of civilians commandeered by terrorists who were intending to kill other civilians.

To my mind, those who deliberately place themselves as human shields (sometimes these are "peace activists") for aggressors are just barely a rung up from combatants and have no right to complain if they end up as collateral damage

Huh? Why. A peace activist is not harming anybody; there is no self defence justification.
I presume that Zippy would assert that dropping a bomb on a terrorist shielded by a civilian would be an evil moral object in itself and hence wrong. The argument could be made, that the peace activist may be colluding with the aggressor and trying to further their cause, hence attack on the peace activist is justified. But many peace activists are stupid and hence morally innocent; doesn’t their moral position resemble that of the passengers on the plane? If it is wrong to kill non combatants, why is it a “non evil” to kill sincere peace activists shielding enemy combatants?
Furthermore suppose that warning leaflets have been dropped, appeals made and yet innocent individuals for whatever reason cannot leave; are justifiable military operations to be stopped because of the fear of civilian casualties? The civilians in that plane were to be collateral damage; they were not the directly intended targets. Had Cheney an opportunity to separate the terrorists from the civilians and not availed himself of the opportunity I would agree that he was guilty of moral evil, but he didn’t and hence wasn’t. Honestly Lydia—and with respect—I cannot see how you can say that incidental civilian deaths in the course of military operations are justifiable but not in this instance. Once again—with respect as usually you are right—I think your thinking on this matter is woolly.

Zippy:

I think I know what object of the act means.

The thing willed by Cheney was to stop the plane not kill the passengers. (Not evil)
The act to be actualized was the physical destruction of the aircraft (Not evil)
The consequence was the death of the terrorists and passengers. (Double effect)

Likewise in a salpingectomy for ectopic pregnancy;

The thing willed is saving the mother. (Not evil)
The act performed is a salpingectomy. (Not evil)
The consequence is the mother’s life is rescued and the fetus is killed. (Double effect)

Most of the conservative world has not had a problem with this line of reasoning and neither do I, but perhaps as Bill alludes; it is a result of my defective moral character.


Bill:

You are right, Zippy and Lydia have both answered me politely and I was aggressive but in no way have I inferred that their line of reasoning are based on anything but a desired to conform to the good. But excuse me if I get a bit hot under the collar if I see a line of reasoning that upon meditation leads to nothing but misery, grief and death. I feel honor bound to refute it.
But perhaps both you and I could take politeness class, as you seem quite keen to infer less than sincere motives to my reasoning. My support of Cheney in this thread is not because his actions satiated my bloodlust, rather I thought he did the right thing. Over on the contraception thread I felt that you last few comments directed towards me were less than charitable and not in the spirit of things, I see that spirit resurrected on this thread. I don’t want to sound like a prissy miss, but if the aim of this blog is simply beat the consensus drum then I feel I probably have no place here. Women’s rights, racial equality, democracy and religious were all ideas that were not initially accepted by conservatives. Those who first raised those issues on the conservative forum probably got an earful as well.
One of things that is never asked is why did conservatism fail so thoroughly in the 20th Century, perhaps it was because when challenged, it appealed to tradition and authority instead of the Good. Forums such as this one are sorely needed people need to debate issues and ideas within the conservative mindset but if the aim is simply to moan about the ways of the world and rehashing old ideas simply because they are old then I’m off. To all of you who have considered my posts, thank you. Many have helped clarify my thinking.
This Physician is going to heal thyself. Best wishes and good luck to all.

unless by "excusing" you mean "forgiving"

Just before I posted, I said to someone, I think he means "forgive." Anyhow, I'd still like to know what mitigating circumstances deserve your magnanimity.

I don't think we can know for a certainty whether anything could have been done to save their lives (e.g., in the event they had wrested control of the plane from the terrorists), ...

This is an aside, but I think people may underestimate the odds here more than a little. Assume for a moment that the terrorists are down, the crew is dead, and the passengers have control of the cockpit. A little less than one person in a hundred in the US is a pilot. Some multiple of that have at least taken a few flying lessons, and even more have flown Microsoft Flight Simulator. Keeping the shiny side up and the greasy side down isn't very difficult if you aren't in the clouds. Landing is the more dangerous part, and many modern airliners (including a 757 like Flight 93) have an autoland capability: one guy can make sure the plane stays level while the guys on the ground coach another guy to arm the autopilot for an auto-land. Once that is engaged you just sit back and enjoy the ride. As long as there are no systems malfunctions (and these are very, very rare: you'd have to be having a really bad day to get hijacked and be in an aircraft with a major malfunction) you'll be home in time for supper with your new book agent.

You can't take off without a trained pilot, but in many of the larger airliners you can land without one. The old joke is that a modern air crew requires one human and one monkey: the monkey flies the plane, and the human feeds him bananas.

The biggest danger in any situation is panic. Try to postpone panic to those last few seconds of your life when you know for certain there ain't a thing you can do. If you can do that, you'll almost always live longer.

I'd still like to know what mitigating circumstances deserve your magnanimity.

The fact that in the scenario I described my murderer was attempting to save the world rather than (say) rob me comes immediately to mind.

The act to be actualized was the physical destruction of the aircraft ...

Not just the aircraft, but everything in it, including all the innocent people in it. You can't fire a missile at a bunch of innocent people and kill them without intending to kill them. To claim that one doesn't intend to kill them or that one isn't choosing to kill them is obvious nonsense.

Salpingectomy is (or at least may be) different, especially if one makes every attempt to preserve the living embryo: an attempt at cryogenic freezing comes to mind. Though I am much more sympathetic to Lydia's view that salpingectomy is an abortion and always evil than I am to the view that killing a bunch of airline passengers by destroying them along with their plane isn't murder. Specifically I think Lydia is definitely right if what one does is discard the tube in a bin of medical waste rather than treating it as the container of an innocent living (though in danger of almost certain imminent death) human being.

Hey, SP--You don't have to worry too much about respecting me. As long as you aren't nasty, which you never are, we can always agree to disagree. And I know _very well_ that virtually all men of good will living in the world now would disagree with me on this, so I'm prepared to be thought very weird indeed by people I like and respect. Don't leave, please. We're happy to have you around.

On the peace activist, I don't think his stupidity is entirely non-culpable. And yes, he is _definitely_ colluding with evil people. So no, for sure, he is _not_ in the same situation as some person totally non-sympathetic to the bad guys, not trying to help them by manipulating the feelings of the good guys, just living his life, who gets grabbed by the bad guys. Terminal moral stupidity can definitely be inexcusable; sincerity has nothing to do with it. For that matter, the terrorists themselves are sincere. They sincerely believe this is what their god wants them to do! So-called "peace activists" (and really, they are aiding the cause of evil aggressors) in such situations deliberately acting as human shields for the evildoers make me very angry indeed. They are being bad themselves, in my opinion, fuzzleheaded though they may be. Their reward for being somewhat fuzzleheaded instead of entirely evil is that I wouldn't lock them up in military prison as POW's if they happened to survive the conflict! I'd let them go home. But that's about it.

As to your question about when civilians truly cannot leave a given area, I still would not say military operations have to be entirely called off, though they should be carried out with the knowledge that there are civilians present who have been truly unable to leave and are innocent of combative intent. House-to-house fighting becomes (I would think) a better method in that case than, say, indiscriminate airstrikes.

But remember, in the case of the plane we're talking about aiming fire _directly at_ a plane, a compact physical unit, that you're going to shoot down out of the air, that you know is full of innocent captives of evil people, as well as the evil people in question. That's deliberately killing those specific people, not hypothetically maybe killing people who may be there. The closest analogue in ordinary warfare, I suppose, would be something like fire-bombing Dresden or, perhaps even more relevantly, dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I think both of these were wrong, though done for good intentions.

Zippy, the info is very interesting. I've always thought that _if_ they could retake the cockpit without the whole thing going down (which unfortunately didn't happen), the odds wouldn't be so horrible as all that. I know for a fact that the pilot was actually alive in the one plane that was flown into one of the towers (before it was flown into the tower, that is). He was herded back with the passengers. I don't know what was the case with Flight 93.

The closest analogue in ordinary warfare, I suppose, would be something like fire-bombing Dresden or, perhaps even more relevantly, dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Quite different, though. The specific situation under consideration is about self-defense in a military action that involves _collateral_ loss of innocent lives.

I'm sorry, Social P., I didn't realize you got to call us pathological and that we had to take it sitting down. Others can, I won't. It's true that I haven't much patience these days for people who call themselves Catholic but don't let its moral dictates interfere with their own conclusions. Maybe some of that leaked out. Call it collateral damage. If you can't stand me you should still stick around to read Lydia, Zippy, et al. They're always edifying, especially when their thinking isn't "woolly." I won't be here much longer anyway.

KW - weren't the victims of Hiroshima collateral losses too? They were killed for the very same reason: that in the end many more lives would be saved than lost.

Yes, some see it that way. But it's better to keep the examples separate. The problem with such comparisons is the same as other with irrelevancies (Cyrus got answered well-enough on that). They don't advance the premise that innocent life killed in an act of defense is anything more than homicide.


innocent life killed in an act of defense

you forgot the word "intentionally" in front of "killed", which would render the phrase as what it is, a self-contradiction.

My apologies, but would you mind just stating clearly what point you're trying to make? I trust Zippy's answer satisfied you?


Sure, what part is unclear?

I think, KW, you have this separate category called "homicide" that's objectively not as bad as murder. Is that it?

I can see a point to having a bunch of different categories in law for different degrees of ill intent, heinousness, accident, or whatever. But in discussions of moral issues where legal categories are not in question, I just use the word 'murder' to _mean_ the deliberate taking of an innocent human being's life. There can be murder with an evil heart (as in the case of the terrorists) or there can be a willingness to murder with a good heart and good intentions but a confused set of moral categories (as with Cheney). But it's murder either way, in terms of moral categories. Calling the one 'homicide' just doesn't get us anywhere, to my mind.

Separate categories are always applied to distinguish crucial differences. To be exact and respectful, the distinction exonerates one from the charge of murder--morally or legally--and it stretches back through Aquinas and Augustine. This very distinction has gotten us quite far over the centuries, even though it may or may not apply to the Cheney scenario. Do you oppose the just war theory, too?

What's not clear is that I can't tell whether you supported Cheney's decision or not.

I'd be interested in hearing where Acquinas and Augustine support intentionally killing the innocent.

I have a much more difficult time condeming the hypothetical shooting down of Flight 93 than I do in condemning the atomic bombings and fire bombings in WWII, or the British "dehousing" campaign. Those bombings were quite obviously simple acts of terrorism, inexcusable even if they did shorten the war.

It is a rare enough event on the internet, so enjoy it. I am persuaded that my intuition was wrong. My remaining question is that of collateral damage. Collateral damage, to use that bloodless phrase, is inevitable in any conflict. Given that, how can any military action be licit? Belligerents know noncombatant deaths are inevitable, so must it not be said that they intend those deaths? If so, are they not murderers, even if a conflict is otherwise justified? The laws of war impose standards of reasonableness, proportionality, and good faith, and don't really protect human shields, placing the blame for their deaths on the users of the human shields, but this is a much higher standard.

Zippy - I didn't know that about modern airliners. I've never flown an aircraft, and my experience with simulators is limited to a few hours playing Il-2 Sturmovik and a very old AH-64 simulator. I always found landing rather difficult...

I am absolutely amazed at you people. What you are in effect suggesting is that defense is illegitimate against an aggressor surrounded by a human shield. Just think about it for a minute. Every suicide bomber ... [blah blah blah] ... It is too horrible to contemplate. Military operations are morally out, since ... [blah blah blah]. The left does not have a monopoly on intellectual pathology.

Social P., seems to me that Bill answered this harangue in the manner in which it was delivered; that is, with a bit of sarcasm and even irritation. I've even tempted to bring up the standard "you can give it but you can't take it" line. The fact is you disagree with a position held by Bill, Zippy, and (I believe) the Roman Catholic Church. Disagreement need not issue in bitterness -- but it is likely to do just that when it is accompanied by accusations of pathology.

Let's try to stick to the substantive arguments here.

Many of the quandries require liciety by ignorance. For example, a missle is headed toward your home, and you proceed to take use of your Surface-To-Air missle in reflexive self-defense. In such a case, the shooting would be licit, because you would have no opportunity to ascertain whether your defensive measure would harm innocents. Your ignorance wouldn't be culpable in anyway. In the cases of deliberate human shields, the human shields do not have ignorance as to what they are doing and are culpable in their own deaths; you aren't forcing someone to sit between your bullets. The hijacked air plane scenario does not give the benefit of ignorance.

The joyful quandry between unintended but foreseen effects and intended effects. An example would be taking morphine at the end of life to suppress pain knowing that it will hasten death. It is licit in so much as the treatment is for pain. I imagine there is a point at which the chosen behavior is not to kill all the people on the plane. However, I don't believe that point is necessarily over a field in Pennsylvania.

I'd be interested in hearing where Acquinas and Augustine support intentionally killing the innocent.

A complex interest.

Nota bene, Aquinas is named the chief proponent of a just war theory and a prime architect of the double effect reasoning.

I think there's a big difference between the extremely general fact that civilian deaths almost inevitably happen in war and clear knowledge of the specific fact that there are innocents in *that* building that you're about to drop a bomb on *right now.* The latter would be the analogy to shooting down Flight 93. If you've seen the movie _Clear and Present Danger_, I think it is, there's this scene where the Americans are about to take out the house of a South American drug lord. The one soldier has his shoulder-mounted thingy and is about to shoot it at the guy's house, when he sees these little kids running around just outside. He says something like, "Uh, sir..." to his superior, but he's (I seem to recall) ordered to shoot, so he does. The whole house is blown up. (It's supposed to be some special technology that I don't think is real.) And of course, we hear that the South Americans drag the little kids' bodies out of the wreckage. Now that's morally problematic, to say the least of it. Engaging in war when you know in the general sense that civilians are likely to be killed in the process as a whole is a different matter.

Belligerents know noncombatant deaths are inevitable, so must it not be said that they intend those deaths?

No. There is a difference - a nontrivial difference - between choosing to kill Innocent Bob as a specific chosen behavior (in the object of the act) and knowing with certainty that there will be accidental deaths in wartime. We know with absolute certainty that there will be accidental deaths on the highway, but we still drive.

Nota bene, Aquinas is named the chief proponent of a just war theory and a prime architect of the double effect reasoning.

Yes. My own understanding of these matters comes from Acquinas, from reading commenters (with whose reasoning I do not always agree) on Acquinas (e.g. Kaczor and Finnis), and from the only detailed Magisterial statement in existence on the subject, Veritatis Splendour. I support the just war doctrine (which is to say I believe that it is a true description of the moral realities with respect to war) and the principle of double-effect.

Nowhere in anything I've ever read by Acquinas or Augustine has it been stated that it is morally licit to intentionally kill the innocent. So I was curious why you seemed to think that some reading of Acquinas and Augustine supports the notion that intentionally killing the innocent can be licit in some circumstances.

I was curious why you seemed to think . . .

OK, an innocent mistake, I guess, from reading into my reply to Lydia aobut the important distinction between homicide and murder.

KW, in what do you take the distinction between homicide and murder to consist? I see that you express doubt as to whether it applies to the Cheney scenario. When I call it "murder" I mean that it was a decision deliberately to kill specific innocent people. I consider the gravity of that offense and the need not to pretend that it was somehow unintentional or justified by double effect to be more important for purposes of moral clarity in discussion than the fact that Cheney wasn't an evil person and acted *in one sense* with good intentions. This is why I think giving it a different name would have the wrong implications in discussion.

Zippy - I didn't know that about modern airliners.

Another old aviator joke comes from the maintenance log entries for an airplane just back from a test flight:

Problem: Test flight OK, except autoland extremely rough.

Solution: Autoland not installed on this aircraft.

I have a much more difficult time condeming the hypothetical shooting down of Flight 93 than I do in condemning the atomic bombings and fire bombings in WWI

Yes, that's why Zippy discussed culpability and forgiveness, and Lydia said that "there are worse forms of murder."

I am persuaded that my intuition was wrong.

Rare? It's unheard of. A statistical singularity, improbable verging on impossible. And yet somehow I believe you.

One thing I'm considering is eliminating the word "collateral" from my vocabulary, for that "bloodless" reason you mention. The key word is "accidental".

I'm hoping to find time to post a little more on what I think is your major difficulty. Not my post, actually, but excerpts from the thoughts of someone a lot smarter than I, and whom I greatly respect. By this weekend, hopefully.

- Paul, I don't really want him to go, but if Lydia can't keep him around, nobody can.

- Zippy, the stuff about landing the plane was fascinating. Btw, are you familiar with a spelling of "Aquinas" of which I am ignorant?

I love KW, but it's hard to get a straight answer. Sometimes.

Btw, are you familiar with a spelling of "Aquinas" of which I am ignorant?

The basic problem is that I am just barely literate, and have a subconscious but very strong tendency toward creative spelling. It might even be a result of my inner child rebelling against the conflation of formal symbols with meaning; if so, I need to hunt the little bastard down and kill him. More likely it is just the capital modern vice of hurried laziness. It certainly isn't that I intentionally set out to drive those more literate than I nuts.

"I love KW, but it's hard to get a straight answer. Sometimes."

Dr. Tollefson once called his comments elliptical. I agree with that, but I think it helps his cause of persuasion that he has such a pleasant way of disagreeing. It is the art of diplomacy, really.

Please don't kill him, Zippy. There are few enough amusements in life. "those more literate than I" Talk about diplomacy. I think.


Step 2, I won't contend with that. Very diplomatic of you.
How do you know it's a he?

Zippy, you were much missed around here, as evidenced by the fact that with little time this morning I'm on this thread writing about your plan to kill your inner child rather than on the other thread deciding whether I want to dive in in defense of capitalism. :-)

That line about the inner child ranks up there with the funniest I've read in a long time.

Being the master of Diplomacy, I though I would return to finally burn any remaining bridges that I have. I don’t imagine I’ll convince anyone but here goes.

Paul Cella, sorry in advance for the [blah, blah, blah] but I’m a bit pedestrian in my thinking and I have trouble expressing myself as eloquently as yourself. To the rest of you sorry for the long post.

I presume—though I am not sure anymore-- had terrorists been the only people on the aircraft, everyone here would agree that Cheney would have been right to shoot it down. However civilians were on the aircraft and this clearly changes the moral situation for most people on this thread. The presence of civilians changed what was a morally permissible act into a morally impermissible act.

I don’t know of Dick Cheney shooting down any civilian airliners purely for the heck of it, so I assume that his interest in Flight 89 was due to the terrorists on it, not the civilians.

Presumably the objection to the order is due to the actual means employed. I presume that no one would object that if a method which had no ill effects were used, such as being able to take over the plane by ground control. However such means were not available so Cheney authorized the use of a non-discriminatory weapon which would kill both civilians and terrorists.

Now the moral objection to non discriminatory weapons is that they kill innocent as well as the guilty: In other words they actuate a double effect in their operation. The objection to deliberately dropping a bomb on a terrorist who has housed himself in a packed schoolhouse is because children would be killed. Likewise dropping bombs in civilian areas even though it is intended to kill aggressors is morally impermissible due to civilian deaths. Therefore the objection to shooting the plane down is that it would kill both the innocent passengers and the guilty terrorists.

The moral principle which is behind this objection: It is impermissible to use agents which have double effect in pursuit of a good. This is Axiom 1.

But perhaps my rustic understanding of this thread is flawed. The moral objection to Cheney’s act is that he willed the death of the civilians and hence murdered them. The principle of double effect forbids us to use evil means despite the good effect of stopping the terrorists and hence Cheney’s act was morally objectionable.

However bringing about the death of someone is not the same as murdering them. Killing someone as an act of self defence is not murder, nor is bringing the death of a patient when trying to save them murder. For an act to be murderous there must have a death and desire to kill for it is these criterions which give the murderous act its moral character. I have always understood this as the Christian view but then again it looks like I’m wrong.

Zippy has stated what one wishes is irrelevant, what one does is. For in foreseeing the consequences of ones actions and then proceeding to do them one clearly actuates what one intends; Acts assume their moral character in what they objectively actuate. The moral object of the act is evidenced by the ends as observed objectively, not from the vantage point of the actor. The vantage point of the actor is irrelevant, since intention can be deduced from actualized act. I didn’t see this take in Veritatis Splendor.

According to the Zippian proposition I am no different to Dr Kevorkian when I administer a lethal dose of morphine to a patient to relieve his pain. Both Dr Kevorkian and I foresee the death of the patient through the administration of morphine. I may be “wishing” that the patient did not die as a result of my administration of morphine, but as Zippy has stated this is irrelevant, what determines the moral object of the act is the thing that is actuated, i.e the death of the patient. As I see it, according to Zippy I cannot claim that I did not want to kill the patient when I deliberately took actions which killed the patient.

Zippy’s line of reasoning effectively neutralizes any justification by appeal to the operation of double effect. The concept of foreseen unintended effect is rendered incoherent by the line of reasoning that all foreseen effects by a chosen action are intended by virtue of their deliberate actuation. The concept of a foreseen unintended effect is an illusion.

Moral Axiom 2: The foreseen consequences of what you do are what you intended.

Hence if you foresee an evil consequence of an act, then when you act you have done an evil.

It is impossible to invoke the principle of double effect if Axiom 1 and Axiom 2 are to be satisfied. All sorts of evils start to creep in.

Now the principle of self defence is only legitimate through the appeal of double effect.
St Thomas will back me up on this one. But if double effect is cannot be invoked due to the operation of Axioms 1 and 2 then self defence is illegitimate. The logical conclusion of the above line of reasoning is Militant Pacifism: Curious for a site that has a sword bearing Knight in its banner.

Now I see why Cheney’s correct course of action was to do nothing.

Now the operation of Axiom 1 and 2 would explain this curious line of Lydia’s;

“My position has been that if they aimed to destroy the plane and themselves, then it was suicide”

Um, Err, No: Perhaps it could have been self sacrifice? But then self sacrifice is only justifiable through the principle of double effect. Killing yourself for a good cause is morally wrong since actions which exert a double effect are wrong in light of Axiom 1 and the claim that you weren’t really trying to kill yourself—in order to save others-- doesn’t stand up to scrutiny by the operation of Axiom 2. Choosing an action in which you deliberately foresaw your death-- no matter what else you intended-- is suicide.

Now of course it is perfectly legitimate to hold these views. Mahatma Gandhi did and many modern Churchmen of the Left do as well. However it ain’t Christianity.

Traditional Christianity has approved of the principle of double effect. It recognised that in the real world by doing good sometimes one actuated unintended evil. It was a fact of life. Apparently what one “wished” mattered.

I don’t think the Church fathers would have viewed approvingly of the line of reasoning that concludes that self sacrifice is suicide and the self defence is murder. My condemnation of this line of reasoning was harsh; theirs would have been far sterner.

Not being Catholic sometimes has its advantages. I don't have to appeal to double effect for self defense. I think if some bad guy is trying to kill me, it's okay for me to _try_ to kill him.

I tend to think that double effect is legitimate only when the second and unintended effect really might very well not come about, where one has reason to believe one can "get away with" just carrying out the primary effect, and the secondary one really is an accident. E.g. Driving on the highway, getting in an accident, and having a child in the other car killed. Perhaps this isn't the way the phrase is normally used, though.

Thank you, SP. Much of what you say clearly follows from the foregoing discussion.

Step2: Thank you for your courtesy.

Lydia: You say, "When I call it 'murder' I mean that it was a decision deliberately to kill specific innocent people." I say, the discussion aims to demonstrate whether this applies and I have no doubt such a demonstration could apply to the chosen scenario. Deliberation precedes judgment; QED and all that. In fact, the President called the shot.


Bill: verum enim invenire volumus, non tamquam adversarium aliquem convincere. --Cicero


Poor Cheney and his "maybe." As is so often the case in tragic dilemmas, choice appears as the ghost of fate. Admittedly he didn't know if other lives were in danger. (I think Rice's comments suggest that there the interest of the community was in danger, in addition to innocent lives.)

In any case, we aren't Greek tragedians that pray against fate. Any discussion of moral dilemmas is incomplete without a theology of prayer. But one must be in the habit.

This disaster is reason enough to consider technological safeguards against turning passenger planes into missiles. If landing a plane is a simple task, perhaps a future VP will be able to do so--or at least divert it from compounding disaster.

The moral principle which is behind this objection: It is impermissible to use agents which have double effect in pursuit of a good.

Nonsense. At bottom what is at issue in this thread is double effect. Everyone participating in this thread, as far as I know, believes in the principle of double effect, with the possible exception of Lydia. So starting out by stating that your opposition doesn't believe in double effect is begging the question.

Since we all believe in double effect (with the possible exception of Lydia), we all believe that there is a distinction between the chosen behavior or object of an act and the remote effects which result from the act. Under double effect it can be morally licit to perform an act with evil remote and unintended effects. Under double effect it is not ever morally licit to choose an evil behavior though: for the object of the act to be evil in itself.

So at bottom, some of us think that choosing to kill a bunch of innocent passengers with a missile is part of the object - the chosen behavior - in this act, and that no remote intention (and no wishful thinking about counterfactual behaviors which are not chosen) nor any justification based on remote intentions (save the innocents on the ground) can make such an act licit.

You appear to think that directly killing a bunch of innocent people with a missile is not in the object of the act. I think that's wrong. But when you state that I don't believe in the principle of double-effect you are simply begging the quesiton: precisely what is at issue is whether killing the innocent is or is not in the object (chosen behavior) in this act. Everyone agrees that it isn't a remote intention, that the person performing the act wishes it could be avoided, etc. But that is irrelevant if I am right and killing the innocent is inherent in the chosen behavior.

Your entire comment is (1) question begging and (2) imputes a bunch of axioms to me that I don't hold. You should retract it in its entiriety and try again. I can just as easily infer that you don't think there is any such thing as the object of an act independent of remote intentions, and that therefore you are a de-facto consequentialist.

If the effect in question were remote, I doubt that it could be certainly foreseen. In any event, I'm willing to reconsider if anything I said implied that remote consequences are in view. I assumed we were talking about less-than-remote consequences. I suppose it's an interesting question at that point which consequences count as "remote." For example, suppose my car isn't terribly safe, but I have a sudden emergency, no emergency vehicles available, I have to go out in the car to save the life of an immediate family member, etc. I do the best I can to drive carefully, but there's an accident, and somebody is killed. Certainly that was an unforeseen consequence. After all, I wouldn't have bothered if I knew that was going to happen, because presumably the whole series of events didn't do any good to the person I was trying to help either. But it's not really "remote," either, because it happens with my own car, right on the road, etc., not on the other side of the world as the result of a butterfly wing that flutters the wrong way because I go driving. So it can be unforeseen yet not in the normal sense "remote." On the other hand, if you told me that if I walk out of my house and around the block, a butterfly wing will be caused to flutter and someone will die 100 years from now, that definitely seems "remote." So remote, in fact, that even if foreseen (if somehow I could have good reason to believe you), it does not seem wrong to take the walk, if only because once we are considering consequences at that distance of time and space, staying in my house hiding under the bed would probably have similarly bad remote consequences for somebody else.

The bottom-line question in every discussion of double-effect is: what is the object of the act? Finnis uses language like "specifying intentions" to delineate what is in the object. Whether his underlying concepts are correct or not, using the language of intention in describing the object is confusing, because the object of the act is supposed to reflect the act itself independent of intentions. So I very much prefer the language of John Paul: John Paul describes the object of the act as whatever deliberate behavior the acting agent chooses. It is never morally licit to deliberately choose an evil behavior, independent of one's intentions or the circumstances.

Operating on a patient to save his life is a deliberately chosen behavior. If one operates on a patient in the field without anesthesia, one is not choosing the pain that the patient feels: one is not choosing the bad effect, even though one knows that it will occur as long as the patient remains conscious. But the notion that one is not choosing the death of the innocent passengers is just obviously wrong: one is choosing it, directly in one's behavior as one fires the missile into the plane. (Strictly speaking the evil act would be the gunner's act; Cheney's evil act would be a matter of formal cooperation with evil).

It isn't nuts to disagree with me about what is in the object of a particular act. This stuff is very counterintuitive and difficult as philosophy (as is any discussion involving the very place where free will meets objective reality), though I think as acting persons it is a lot clearer in the moment what behaviors we are actually choosing. But when SP says that I am denying the principle of double effect, either explicitly or de facto, he couldn't be more wrong. In fact from my perspective the opposite seems to be the case: he hasn't given me any reason to believe that his understanding of the object of an act can ever render an exceptionless norm independent of intentions or circumstances. So if anything he is de-facto consequentialist. I've given examples where I think double-effect applies (e.g. salpingectomy, field operations without anesthetic); he's never given me a chosen behavior that is always evil independent of the acting subject's intentions or the circumstances.

Part of the problem, as I've mentioned before in a number of places, is the limits of discourse when discussing qualia. I know the difference between my chosen behavior and my intentions, just as I know the difference between the color green and the color red. Those differences cannot be reduced to the discursive. But I've seen no indication from SP (and SP is hardly the only interlocutor with whom I've had this issue) that he acknowledges the existence of the object as something independent of intent and circumstances at all. It is as if when discussing colors my interlocutors were unwilling to admit the existence of greenness at all, and refused to consider color as anything other than light wave frequencies.

I don't know how to surmount the discursive barriers. But I do know that - I am very certain that - killing a bunch of innocent passengers, sacrificing them as a chosen behavior in order to save others on the ground, is wrong under any and all circumstances.

Even surgery _with_ anesthesia causes pain after the patient wakes up. My own inclination about those cases would be just to say that causing pain to the innocent isn't intrinsically wrong, and the good to the patient himself is more important than the pain (especially if it's necessary to save his life) so the surgeon need have no qualms about admitting that he's choosing to cause the person pain in the process of saving his life. Of course, it's important to a description of the doctor's character that he not _enjoy_ causing the person pain. But couldn't we say that the pain is an undesired but accepted consequence of his actions? But it's never okay to accept as a direct, non-remote, foreseen, and inevitable consequence of one's actions that a specific innocent person dies.

John Paul describes the object of the act as whatever deliberate behavior the acting agent chooses.

Does that include omissions?

Zippy,

To hijack (!) the medical analogy, there are some cures that are almost as bad as the disease. While combating cancer, there is a very high chance some "innocent, healthy" cells will be killed as well. In advanced stages, the ability to target the tumor specifically is lost and has to be done with chemotherapy, which targets all replicating cells in the body. Given the general state of panic on 9/11 and the known loss of life that had already occurred, there is every reason to believe that the first priority of anybody in charge would be to stop the bleeding, i.e. to stop any further attacks from succeeding.

Does that include omissions?

In terms of exceptionless norms - that is, acts which are always evil and thus prohibited independent of intentions and circumstances - it is always a particular choice of behavior which is prohibited.

For example :-

The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts. They oblige everyone, regardless of the cost, never to offend in anyone, beginning with oneself, the personal dignity common to all.

On the other hand, the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments.

etc. etc.

Lydia, I don't see anything un-Catholic in what you said except maybe for this: "I think if some bad guy is trying to kill me, it's okay for me to _try_ to kill him," that is, if you are willing the death of the individual and the situation is personal self-defense and not communal, as in war. But maybe Zippy could clear me up on that. Seems to me a good subject for a future post. From you, I mean.

Moral Axiom 2: The foreseen consequences of what you do are what you intended.

That seems correct to me. Consider the obverse: The foreseen consequences of what you do are not, in all cases, what you intend. I now have permission to do pretty much what I want.

Somebody translate KW's Latin for me.

And:

Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

I had a post with a rather lively discussion a while back taking the opposite tack: rather than trying to define what the object of an act is, I attempted to put boundaries around what it isn't. In a nutshell, as soon as the things you have chosen to change in reality through your behavior start to be altered by things that other people have chosen, we have definitely passed out of the object of the act and are in the domain of effects. A really clear example is "if I say that Mohammed was demon-inspired, the Moslems will freak out and kill someone". I may be morally certain of what the Moslems will do in response to what I say, and I may even bear some responsibility for it; but it is their act, an unintended effect of my act, and most definitely not the object of my act.

There may be other criteria which can be made explicit as well; my intuitions are pretty solid but again, developing formulae or even just heuristics to satisfy our positivist tendencies is as nontrivial in the domain of moral qualia as it is in the domain of perceptual qualia.

The bottom line though for me is this: if someone is going to invoke double-effect to justify something, they had better have more than just a perfunctory account of what the moral object (chosen behavior) is in the act they are attempting to shield from moral condemnation through that invocation. There is no sense even talking about intentions or circumstances until it is established that the act itself isn't evil, because double-effect only applies when the act itself isn't evil. You can't make orange juice without an orange, so don't even start with the painted apples.

I don't see anything un-Catholic in what you said except maybe for this: "I think if some bad guy is trying to kill me, it's okay for me to _try_ to kill him," that is, if you are willing the death of the individual and the situation is personal self-defense and not communal, as in war. But maybe Zippy could clear me up on that.

Well, here is the thing on that one, to the best of my knowledge. The strongest tradition to invoke on it is Aquinas. According to Aquinas it is exactly as Bill says here, and that is definitely the safe bet. But there is no authoritative Magisterial statement on the matter that I know of, and we know that Aquinas was not right about everything (e.g. abortion before quickening being a merely venial sin). So Lydia's statement as it stands isn't un-Catholic per se, though it is definitely a minority view.

I think you have a good point, Zippy, about things you have chosen and things other people choose. But the doctor operating on the guy without anesthetic is causing him pain right on the spot, without anybody else's choice intervening. This doesn't bother me unduly, though. If I were the doctor I'd probably be too squeamish, but if it's necessary to save the guy's life, that's probably my problem.

Bill, my Latin ain't up to it, and Babel fish is being _distinctly_ unhelpful. I think it says something about finding that one is unable to convince another person.

Yeah, what I've done there is define a class of things that the object is not, but I haven't defined a complete class of what the object is not.

Lydia writes, "I think it says something about finding that one is unable to convince another person."

Cicero wrote, "we wish to find the truth, not refute anyone adversarially."

John Paul describes the object of the act as whatever deliberate behavior the acting agent chooses.


And Aquinas describes that whatever deliberate behavior the agent chooses results in two effects. Of these two effects, one is intended, the other not. duos effectus, quorum alter solum sit in intentione, alius vero sit praeter intentionem Summa Theologica (II-II, Qu. 64, Art.7) So, what some think is a grave evil really isn't because it is praeter intenione. Say rather that one effect is willed or that only one effect is chosen. The end in intentione is to preserve oneself in being and this primary effect is what justifies an act that is otherwise a grave evil.

The thing with Aquinas is that must interpret PDE through a deontological framework. To speak strictly of ends is to speak in proportionalist or consequentialist mode. The first rule of PDE is to determine that what we are attempting is not morally evil, i.e. intrinsically evil.

Of interest to maybe Zippy:
3) Its advocates are simply wrong in their claims about St. Thomas Aquinas. Their claim is that Aquinas nowhere states a moral absolute in exceptionless terms. This is simply wrong; confer ST, II-II, q.64, a.6: "Et ideo nullo modo licet occidere innocentem;" "It is never licit to kill an innocent."! Aquinas's theory is a teleology of virtue not a calculation of consequences.

4) It is an extrinsic theory. One notes in the above that there is nothing intrinsic to the act that determines its morality; rather, the moral fulcrum on which the theory turns is something extrinsic: external consequences (results) or proportionate reasons determine the morality of acts.

II:6 Lesson Six. The False Theory of Proportionalism

The end in intentione is to preserve oneself in being and this primary effect is what justifies an act that is otherwise a grave evil.

As someone with no formal training whatsoever in this area, how does this avoid consequentialism? It seems what you are saying is that a good end (preserve oneself in being) justifies an otherwise grave evil. Or am I missing something?

I know this is a simplification (but I realy need simple stuff), just to keep things somewhat straight:

Consequentialism, in plain English, is the end justifies the means?

Proportionalism is choosing the lesser of two evils is permssible?

And Aquinas describes that whatever deliberate behavior the agent chooses results in two effects ...

Sure. There is an additional double-effect conversation to have once the first hurdle - that the act is not evil in itself - has been passed. That conversation involves evaluation of intended effects and unintended ones. Consequentialism - the heretical kind condemned by VS - involves skipping the first hurdle, ignoring the object of the act, and evaluating morality based solely on intended and unintended consequences.

Double-effect is probably the single most misused principle of moral doctrine precisely because people gloss over the question of the object and jump right to intended consequences. As the Magisterium says:

...there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action.

c matt: yep, close enough for daily use. What they have in common is that they ignore or gloss over the object of the act itself and evaluate actions based solely on their intended future-directed outcomes (their effects). That is why JPII calls them "teleological" theories when he condemns them as heresy.

This one is guaranteed to get me kicked off the blog.

Once again sorry for the long reply, but a lot of heat was directed my way so I though I should reply to most of it.

KW; Thanks, I must take diplomacy classes from you.

Everyone participating in this thread, as far as I know, believes in the principle of double effect, with the possible exception of Lydia. So starting out by stating that your opposition doesn't believe in double effect is begging the question.

Nope, that’s not what I said. I believe that you do believe in double effect. It’s that your line of thinking as evidenced in this thread, makes it impossible to ever justify an act in which there is a deliberately acutalised, foreseen non-intended evil, by the principle of double effect.

The bottom-line question in every discussion of double-effect is: what is the object of the act?

Nope, the bottom line is, is it permissible?

Operating on a patient to save his life is a deliberately chosen behavior. If one operates on a patient in the field without anesthesia, one is not choosing the pain that the patient feels: one is not choosing the bad effect, even though one knows that it will occur as long as the patient remains conscious. But the notion that one is not choosing the death of the innocent passengers is just obviously wrong: one is choosing it

It is an illusion to think that one is not choosing the pain that once elicits. The pain is part and parcel of the nature of cutting into flesh. The pain by its very nature is intrinsic to the action of cutting. The malum and bonum of the act are indivisible. There is no choice with respect to nature and consequences of the act of cutting; there is only choice in actuation or non actuation.

In the above situation every time the surgeon puts the knife in two events are simultaneously actuated; curative surgery and pain for the patient. The pain is direct consequence of the chosen action, stop cutting and the pain goes away, put the knife in and the pain comes back. The pain is dependant on your actions; on what you choose to do. Now clearly the surgeon foresees that every time he puts the knife in, he is going to cause the patient pain. Now by your logic—not mine—choosing an action in which evil (pain) is deliberately foreseen and hence actuated is evidence of intent to cause evil and hence forbidden. Whishing that you could not cause pain is self delusion because one can stop the pain at any moment by not cutting. As long as you keep cutting you are causing evil to the patient. Hence the correct moral conclusion is not to operate.

By your line of reasoning, any action which actuates a multiple effect will have its moral quality determined by the presence of a negative effect. Any action which has at least one of its effects as negative would be morally impermissible by your reasoning. Your line of reasoning; that foreseen actuated evil is an imputable moral evil, effectively classifies every actuated evil as intended even if it is not. There is no unintended actuated evil. Since the principle of double effect only permits an action if the evil co actuated is non intended, it is impossible to act if any evil is present. The principle of double effect is effectively neutralized.

So if anything he is de-facto consequentialist. I've given examples where I think double-effect applies (e.g. salpingectomy, field operations without anesthetic); he's never given me a chosen behavior that is always evil independent of the acting subject's intentions or the circumstances.

Lets go back to our unfortunate victim on the operating table. A CBS reporter is standing in the distance. The surgeon is an American Army surgeon, and the patient a Al Qaeda insurgent. There is an anaesthetic machine next to them which has run out of anaesthetic.

Our CBS reporter standing in the distance—observing events objectively-- would see that as the surgeon plunges the knife in, the Al quaeda patient writhes in pain. Seeing the anaesthetic machine next to them but not being used. The CBS reporter reasonably concludes that American Surgeon have been given an instruction not to use anaesthetic in the course of their surgery and are hence torturing Al Quaeda operatives. The CBS reporter concludes that the American surgeon is torturing an Al Quadea operative and reports him for war crimes.

The reporter has truthfully reported what was actuated by the Surgeons actions. i.e pain in the patient. However nothing could be more further from the truth, the surgeon was attempting to save the life of the patient.

John Paul describes the object of the act as whatever deliberate behavior the acting agent chooses.

Yep he does.

But he also says this, which conveniently gets dropped out of this discussion;

In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person.

In other words determination of the morality of the act can only be made by seeing things as the person performing them is seeing them, not as independently observed by an outside observer without reference to the actor.

By this line of reasoning the CBS reporter would be wrong. A correct interpretation of events could only be made by asking the surgeon what he was doing. Zippy judgment of the Flight 89 situation is partially based on the observed results of Cheney’s action. He is observing events not from the vantage point of the actor but by objective criteria. He imputes intent by virtue of what is actualised by Cheney's actions.

But I've seen no indication from SP (and SP is hardly the only interlocutor with whom I've had this issue) that he acknowledges the existence of the object as something independent of intent and circumstances at all.

It is independent of remote intent and circumstances but it is not independent of the acting person. I can’t give you that because it is wrong, even JP2 can’t. What gives the act its moral quality—and hence the quality of its object-- is the intent of the will in choosing the means to attain the remote end at that particular time and place. What flows from the human heart and is what is desired to be actualized in this world is what gives the act its moral quality. What is actualized in this world is not necessarily what the heart intends: It’s a fact of life.

Apparently JP2 would have been very interested in what Mr Cheney intended to do.

A human action is actualized through the operation of the will. In deliberately actualizing a good we may, by no effect of our own—and hence control—simultaneously acutalise evil. We can’t be culpable for the events we do not have control over. The moral object of the act is not determined by what we have control over but what we intend there and then. Sometimes the unintended act is foreseen and sometimes it is not. But what you fail to see is that your line of reasoning imputes culpability of evil when a unintended—and hence uncontrollable-- foreseen evil as actuated. The morality of an act is determined by what the will intended to happen, not what is actually happens through operation of the will. When I move my hand to pick up a coffee cup and knock over a glass of water. I am the agent who has knocked over the glass but I did not willfully break the glass. In order for there to be a moral dimension to the breaking of the glass, my intentions with respect to the glass are important.

What they have in common is that they ignore or gloss over the object of the act itself and evaluate actions based solely on their intended future-directed outcomes (their effects).

Nope; It may be true for others but it is not true for me. Evil intent of the will, deliberately actualized is always wrong. In fact it is wrong even without actualization. Voluntary evil, such as fornication, murder, blasphemy, suicide, adultery, abortion, undue care, lack of charity, etc are always wrong independent of the ultimate ends which they may serve as a means of attaining. However not all actualized deaths through an act of the will are murder. Sometimes the will actuates an event which is unintended and consequently results in a death; that ain’t murder.

As I see it your objection to the shooting down of the plane is based on the following.

Firstly that that the malum directed toward the innocent civilians of the plane was willed because it was foreseen. The argument that the evil was non intended by virtue of double effect does not hold water for you. By your reasoning it is impossible that a foreseen actuated evil cannot have been unintended. Therefore the evil was intended.

As the evil was intended and the shooting down of the plane involved the death of the passengers. The passengers were murdered.

One cannot murder passengers in order to achieve a good.

Since murder is everywhere and always an act with an evil moral object then the act is unjustifiable.

Coherent argument; but wrong.

The fault I see in your reasoning is that you have developed a intellectual mechanism of attributing intention to a non intentioned effect by virtue of its actuation. What’s worse it seems to be rather haphazard in its application. It’s quite all right to operate on a man without anaesthetic if it is unavailable but not to shoot down a plane if it is full of passengers. I also feel that your understanding of the object of the act may be different to JP2’s

Hypothetical Intellectual exercise:

1)Suppose we could shoot down the plane without harming the passengers would that be morally permissible. Yes-I presume.

2)But suppose we could shoot down the plane with death to the terrorists and small foreseen injury to the passengers such as minor scarring? (minor evil)

3)Or what about shooting down the plane with foreseen major maiming to the passengers instead of death?(moderate evil)

As I see it under Zippy’s criteria. 1) Is always permissible 2)+3) are never. One can never intend evil to achieve good.

SP: I'll read your voluminous post at some point, and if I think it says anything new - or even if I think that unlike your previous one it accurately characterizes my position rather than erecting a straw man - I will comment. But in the meantime, if you are going to use italics tags please put the slash before the closing letter i in the tag. I've had to edit and fix your last two comments just to make them readable.

Nope, the bottom line is, is it permissible?

Let me rephrase: the front-line question in every discussion of double-effect is: what is the object of the act - the chosen behavior - and is it evil in itself? Until that question is answered, and the latter in the negative, every other question that is raised is completely moot. Oddly, when people invoke double-effect to justify their acts they usually gloss over this step, giving it at best a perfunctory and question-begging lip service, and start talking about intentions and circumstances - intentions and circumstances which are utterly irrelevant until it can be established that the chosen behavior is not evil in itself.

Beyond that I think I'll limit myself to correcting a few new errors that I haven't already corrected above:

But he also says this, which conveniently gets dropped out of this discussion;

"In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person."

No, it doesn't get dropped out of the discussion, conveniently or otherwise. You can't know what behavior the acting subject is choosing without putting yourself in the perspective of the acting subject. But there is still a distinction between the behavior he is choosing and what he is trying to accomplish through that behavior (his intentions).

On another point, as far as I know choosing to injure someone is not always and everywhere wrong; indeed choosing to kill someone is not always and everywhere wrong. Choosing to kill the innocent is always and everywhere wrong. If killing the innocent is intrinsic to a particular chosen behavior, that particular chosen behavior is always and everywhere wrong no matter what intentions or circumstances obtain.

SP, I know you think I'm just nuts in this whole discussion anyway, but I'd say that your 2 and 3 are both permissible, because they are better *for those same passengers* than letting *those people* be killed by terrorists. In other words, you'll be saving their lives, like a doctor who performs an amputation to get a person out of a situation where (say) he's stuck in a place where he will otherwise be killed by a train.

I doubt that it would be permissible seriously to maim person A to save person B's life (all that "treating people as ends, not as means" stuff), but it would certainly be permissible to maim person A to save *his own* life. And I don't have a problem with saying, in the language I suggested above, that the maiming is an undesired but accepted result of one's actions, and that it's moral to accept it because one is doing it for what is objectively the greater good--even the greater physical good, which is properly the sphere of concern of the Vice President--of the innocents on the plane themselves. You're not just serving the country; you're serving those very people by saving their lives from the terrorists.

But this is all dependent on the fact that it's not claimed by anyone that causing pain or some degree of physical damage to the innocent is *intrinsically* wrong. And that, precisely because of situations like this, where you have to do a person some physical harm in order to save him from the ultimate physical harm of being killed altogether or of dying of some disease, etc.

MZ Forrest - thanks for the link; it will be read.

KW, thanks for the translation.

This one is guaranteed to get me kicked off the blog.

SP reminds me of a condemned prisoner who wants to be executed so that he won't have to spend the rest of his life in prison. I think we ought to eschew the death penalty in this case.

To Zippy he says: "Any action which has at least one of its effects as negative would be morally impermissible by your reasoning."

I don't think so. If the negative effect is a mere accompaniment to the process that saves a man's life, as in the sugery analogy, I think Zippy would go for it. Furthermore, the person experiencing the negative effect is also the person benefitted. Precisely what benefit will accrue to the passengers who experience being blown up? (I would go along with Lydia in accepting hypotheticals 1,2&3.)

Further furthermore, the pain of surgery is a non-moral pain (unless inflicted as torture) intrinsic, as SP says, to the act. Since it is unavoidable, it is truly 'incidental' or unintended. There is nothing about the pain of the 'surgery' to be inflicted on those passengers that is unavoidable. The more I think about this analogy, the poorer it becomes.

In quoting the Pope on the necessity of placing "oneself in the perspective of the acting person," SP encourages us to believe that the Pope would grant to the individual the subjective authority to render final judgement on an act's "moral quality". I know this is misconstrued, because the Pope then goes on to do exactly what Zippy says, reasserting that The foreseeable consequences are part of those circumstances of the act, which, while capable of lessening the gravity of an evil act, nonetheless cannot alter its moral species; that One must therefore reject the thesis... which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its "object" — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned...; that, in other words, there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.

Talk about quoting at one's convenience. The Pope also offers a summary of the approach to these difficulties employed by many these days:

In a world where goodness is always mixed with evil, and every good effect linked to other evil effects, the morality of an act would be judged in two different ways: its moral "goodness" would be judged on the basis of the subject's intention in reference to moral goods, and its "rightness" on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion. Consequently, concrete kinds of behaviour could be described as "right" or "wrong", without it being thereby possible to judge as morally "good" or "bad" the will of the person choosing them. In this way, an act which.. [contradicts] a universal negative norm... could be qualified as morally acceptable if the intention of the subject is focused...on the moral value judged to be decisive in the situation.

I think this describes SP's approach as well, and it is one the Pope condemns.


SP reminds me of a condemned prisoner who wants to be executed so that he won't have to spend the rest of his life in prison. I think we ought to eschew the death penalty in this case.

:-)

Talk about quoting at one's convenience

I thought my posts were long enough.

SP, I know you think I'm just nuts in this whole discussion anyway…

Nope you’re not nuts. Usually you’re right—more right than me in many instances—but on this issue I feel that you are wrong. Lydia, I think the line of reasoning that is evidenced in this thread eventually leads to very great evils. I know you have goodwill, but I’ve got to stick to my guns on this point.

I have no doubt that if the plane could have been shot down with no injury to the people on the plane, no one—I presume—would condemn Cheney. However, as the level of injury to the passengers gets ratcheted up, more and more people find the Cheney’s actions unjustifiable. The problem is everyone is happy with the passengers suffering some harm to a certain point after which the action becomes unjustifiable.

Most people are Utilitarians, weighing the price paid by the terrorists v’s the passengers in determining the justification of the action. That ain’t double effect.

As a “pseudo” Catholic; I’m not allowed to wish any evil to the passengers on that plane, even a scratch. If I could the shoot down the plane while deliberately scratching the passengers I would be guilty of sin and the action would not be permitted. I cannot choose an evil act in order to do good.

Most people would think that if I had the technology to shoot down the plane, and that the only consequences to the passengers were a few broken bones, cuts and bruises; it would be a good thing. The Zippean analysis forbids me even to do this, since I cannot choose an act which will foresee ably harm the passengers; by his reckoning, in doing so I intend evil.

If killing the innocent is intrinsic to a particular chosen behavior, that particular chosen behavior is always and everywhere wrong no matter what intentions or circumstances obtain.

Zippy I’d like to rephrase the above quote;

If (evil) is intrinsic to a particular chosen behaviour, that particular chosen behaviour is always and everywhere wrong no matter what intentions or circumstances obtain.

Now if a chosen behaviour has an intrinsic double effect (good/evil), how can that behaviour ever be permitted?

Also;

Would you shoot down the plane if the only consequence to the passengers were cuts, bruises and broken bones?


(I've checked the formatting on the preview pane and all seems well)

Physical evils can be considered for double effect. To cause death itself is the issue.

For me, to remove the threat of the plane in such a way as would not ordinarily kill passengers would be fine with me.

However, as the level of injury to the passengers gets ratcheted up, more and more people find the Cheney’s actions unjustifiable.

Killing them isn't a matter of "ratcheting up their injuries." Though it would probably be more convenient for your argument if it were.

Zippy I’d like to rephrase the above quote

I have no doubt that you would like that.

Would you shoot down the plane if the only consequence to the passengers were cuts, bruises and broken bones?

Sure. Though I think you may be getting as squirrely with the term "shoot down the plane" as you are with "ratcheting up their injuries".

I have been reading this site for some time and I thoroughly. This topic did capture my attention. I hope my post is welcome.

It appears that an implicit distinction is being made between killing and letting die. Where is the distinction between intentionally killing innocent life and intentionally letting innocent life die? I sense it is being argued that killing one innocent person is worse than letting a million innocent people die. However, if one can prevent a million deaths by choosing X and refuses to choose X, then that action is responsible for those deaths. All innocent lives are of equal worth, whether they are passengers in a plane or civilians in a building. If you could have prevented the planes from hitting the towers by shooting them down prior to impact, would you have done so? If not, what do you tell the families of the thousands of people that are now dead because of a decision you have made? It is foreseen in this situation that the action of not shooting down the plane will result in thousands of deaths, thus is it not fair to conclude that the action of doing nothing is intended to kill thousands of innocent lives? In short, I feel that if you choose to allow innocent people to die when given the opportunity to save them, then you are responsible for those deaths.

My question, I suppose is, if foreseeing that the innocent will be killed by shooting down the plane is intending to kill the innocent, why is letting the plane crash into its intended target, which was also foreseen, not intending to let the innocent die?

My question, I suppose is, if foreseeing that the innocent will be killed by shooting down the plane is intending to kill the innocent, why is letting the plane crash into its intended target, which was also foreseen, not intending to let the innocent die?

As a moral matter, foreseeing that someone else is going to kill a bunch of people isn't the same thing as doing it yourself. It is possible to be guilty of a sin of omission by failing to protect someone, but only when the thing you failed to do wasn't itself morally impermissable. If the only way to save the world was to behead an innocent child in cold blood, it would be immoral to save the world using that means.

As a moral matter, foreseeing that someone else is going to kill a bunch of people isn't the same thing as doing it yourself. It is possible to be guilty of a sin of omission by failing to protect someone, but only when the thing you failed to do wasn't itself morally impermissable. If the only way to save the world was to behead an innocent child in cold blood, it would be immoral to save the world using that means.

I appreciate the response. Does this not mean the life of one child is more important than the lives of everyone else? Is it not selfish to refuse to kill an innocent child at the expense of everyone else? I suggest it may be selfish because you appear to be concerned with the merits of your actions without any regard to the consequences of those actions, even if your actions result in the massive suffering of human kind or its extermination.

Using your example, are you also saying that even if the innocent child would die along with the rest of the world, you would still not kill the innocent child to save the world?

Let me use another example. Imagine that two people are hooked up to some device. This device has a button on it that if pushed will electrocute and kill one of the innocent lives hooked up to the device. However, if the button is not pushed, the other innocent person will be electrocuted. Is there something morally different about choosing to push the button and killing person A and not choosing to push the button and letting person B die? It appears that you are suggesting that it is always wrong in this situation to save the life of Person B.

There is a modern paraphrase of Shakespeare that describes this scenario, "Needs must when the devil drives." The devil was certainly in the driver's seat on 9/11.

I am willing to grant that choosing to kill the innocents on the plane is an intrinsic evil and that a failure to do so would be to let a greater evil triumph. If faced with a deadly hostage situation, which is more or less the complicating factor here, every moral system should allow some method of disrupting further killings.

Does this not mean the life of one child is more important than the lives of everyone else?

No. It means that it is nonsensical to talk of weighing various innocent lives against each other in that way. Superposition, transitivity, etc are not properties which apply to the moral value of innocent human lives.

Is it not selfish to refuse to kill an innocent child at the expense of everyone else?

No, it is not selfish. In fact it is evil (which is to say morally impermissable) to kill an innocent child, period, full stop, no matter what the intentions or circumstances of the killer or anyone else.

Using your example, are you also saying that even if the innocent child would die along with the rest of the world, you would still not kill the innocent child to save the world?

I am not saying what I would do, since I am a fallible human being and I think anyone who sits at a computer and says what he would in fact do in this hypothetical-but-never-actualized scenario is kidding himself. But I am saying that it would be objectively immoral to do so, yes: that one ought not kill a single innocent person in order to save the world (or for any other purpose). And I do hope that I would do the right thing, that is, that I would not commit an evil act by killing the child in the scenario: I strive to be the person who would refrain from doing so, and I think everyone universally ought to strive to be that person.

Thank you for that Zippy.

One more question for you. I hope you do not mind. You pointed out that you believe in sins of omission, thus I would assume that you would believe letting someone die when you could have easily saved this someone is morally evil. Lets say for example that if I happen to be walking alone on the beach and I see a drowning kid and do nothing to help him even though I am fully capable of saving his life, that I have committed a sin of omission. I simply want to know if a sin of omission, say to not let someone die if I have the ability to save them, ever conflicts with a sin of commission, say my obligation not to kill an innocent human being. In other words, an obligation to save lives never conflicts with the obligation not to take lives? You are obviously saying they do not, but why?

Because you may not do evil that good may come. Period. Full stop, as someone recently said.

I don't know if I should, but I'm getting a little annoyed by the phrase "letting someone die", as though those someones were not being murdered by terrorists.

every moral system should allow some method of disrupting further killings.

Yes. We just haven't figured out what that method is yet.

In other words, an obligation to save [innocent] lives never conflicts with the obligation not to take [innocent] lives? You are obviously saying they do not, but why?

A sin of omission is the failure to do something that one should do. A sin of omission is no less a sin than directly doing something evil, but the positive obligations are necessarily different in at least one respect from negative obligations: obligations to take action are always contingent upon circumstances. (In the extreme, the circumstances may be such that a particular action is literally impossible).

However, it is never literally impossible to refrain from doing some particular thing, particularly if one is willing to die rather than do evil. So the negative moral precepts in some cases - e.g. the prohibition against killing the innocent as a chosen behavior or an intention - are capable of obtaining and in fact do obtain always and everywhere, without exception, independent of circumstances or intentions. We refer to these always-prohibited acts as intrinsically evil acts, since the chosen behavior is never morally acceptable by its intrinsic (that is, independent of intentions and circumstances) nature.

(The above is pretty much just a paraphrase swiped right out of the Papal encyclical Veritatis Splendour. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge, as far as I know, all the usual caveats).

There is - in my view necessarily, though some moral theologians may disagree - an element of trust in God involved here: "I cannot solve this without doing evil, Lord, so I commend it to Your Divine Providence". That is part of what makes casuistry based on extreme hypotheticals into a two-edged sword. On the one hand, such casuistry can help us to understand better and prepare for things that we may actually face. On the other hand though, if God hasn't seen fit to present us - the real us here in the actual world as we are right now - with a real dilemma objectively calling for martyrdom, why should we risk sinning in our intentions and interior disposition by forcing that dilemma upon ourselves through the entertainment of the hypothetical? Counterfactuals are more dangerous - literally dangerous, both physically and to our souls - than is perhaps ordinarily appreciated.

I understand that terrorist intended to murder innocent people, but I think I could use that same reasoning for a child drowning in a pool. I could say "...letting someone die as though that someone was not drowning in a pool". Yeah, the pool killed him, but I could have prevented it and I chose not to. I think that is seriously negligent behavior.

Actions have consequences, thus I do not understand how those consequences can be ignored. In this situation, the action of remaining still will bring about the death of many more lives; lives which could have been saved. What I keep hearing is that you cannot kill someone because that is evil, but I would think allowing thousands of lives to end would be evil as well.

Thanks Zippy. I appreciate that very much. I will look into the Veritatis Splendour.

The child in the pool is a terribly confused analogy. If you didn't help that child, you would be morally culpable, because saving him doesn't require killing someone else in order to do it.

I would think allowing thousands of lives to end would be evil as well. It would be, if there had been only terrorists on those planes.

Would you shoot down the plane if the only consequence to the passengers were cuts, bruises and broken bones?

Sure. Though I think you may be getting as squirrely with the term "shoot down the plane" as you are with "ratcheting up their injuries".

Zippy, you’re a bright fellow; I know you know where I am going to go with this.

If it isn’t morally permissible to deliberately cause foreseeable evil to the passengers by way of death, why is it morally permissible to take a course of action which will foresee ably result in evil to the passengers by way of injury? Sure, death is a manifestly greater evil rather than injury, but it remains an evil; not something else.

If we’re not allowed to do evil to do good, you would appear to be—I swear, I truly say this with the utmost respect—contradicting yourself.

Furthermore, if the foreseeable evil of injury to the passengers were to be tolerated, it must have been a double effect of a good action. “Shooting down the plane” was morally licit.

Killing them isn't a matter of "ratcheting up their injuries." Though it would probably be more convenient for your argument if it were.

This is where I think the crux of this issue lays: To people of goodwill, the death of the innocent is such a foul evil that it must never be allowed to happen. It would appear to many, that it assumes the category of an evil even beyond evil itself. The Commandment though was shall not murder, not though shall not cause death. What separates the two is what flows from the human heart, the intent; which in trying to do good and doing a good act, brings forth unintended evil. To assume otherwise renders passivity in the face of aggression.

The child in the pool is a terribly confused analogy. If you didn't help that child, you would be morally culpable, because saving him doesn't require killing someone else in order to do it.

I think the analogy works just fine because you are just assuming it is wrong to kill innocent life to save innocent life. The job of an elected official, however, should be to protect innocent life. I am not sure how allowing thousands of innocent people to die when this could have been prevented is living up to that public duty. What I have been asking is if there is any moral distinction between letting someone die and killing someone. Without this assumption, the analogy works.

It sounded like you were saying that allowing the terrorist to hit their intended target is not letting people die because it is the terrorist that are in fact murdering these people. Therefore, I could not be held responsible, regardless of whether or not I could have prevented this from happening. In short, the terrorists are responsible whether or not I could have prevented the terrorist from murdering innocent life. Using this same reasoning, imagine a careless child falls into a pool and I happen to walk by. I have the opportunity to save his life, but I choose not to. I am not letting him die because the death of the child was the result of his careless actions. It was the actions of the child that resulted in his death rather than my decision not to save him. I would be no more responsible for the murders committed by those terrorists than I would be for the stupidity of some child.

I can't even try to type X's handle, so I'll just call him X: X, you don't seem to get that we don't agree that a "sin of omission" arises _simply from the fact that someone or many someones will otherwise die_. That's not enough to make it a sin of omission to fail to act. It all depends on what the action is. If the action is killing someone else innocent, then it isn't a sin of omission to refuse to take that action, regardless of the consequences. And calling refusing to act an "action," as you several times do, merely confuses the issue. You can't make refusing to kill someone an action, no matter how hard you try or just by calling it "an action."

SP, I'm a little surprised that you should be so resistant to the idea that making somebody dead is different in kind, not just in degree, from causing him injuries. Surely this should be obvious from the perspective of the person himself. Getting killed isn't just a higher degree of injury from, say, losing a leg. That's why people have amputations to save their lives.

Of course, some of us are cowards and might feel that we'd prefer to die rather than to live with such-and-such injuries. But I think that's a result of our cowardly and fallen nature, not of an objective evaluation of the situation.

Sure, death is a manifestly greater evil rather than injury, but it remains an evil; not something else.

I am not (and PJPII is not) using the term "evil" the way you are. When I use the term evil in this discussion, I mean "morally impermissable". Death and injury aren't moral qualities at all when separated from human acts: as JPII said and you yourself quoted, in order to apprehend the object of an act one must place onesself into the perpective of the acting subject. An act is a human choice, a choice to engage in a certain behavior. "Death" and "injury" aren't behaviors.

Furthermore, when you attempt to say that death and injury are the same kind of thing, the former simply a "scaling up" of the latter, you are making a category error. A category error on your part doesn't make my argument contradictory, it just results in you arguing with a straw man. Nobody has claimed that behaviors to which injury is intrinsic are evil -qua- behaviors.

...because you are just assuming it is wrong to kill innocent life to save innocent life...

It isn't merely an assumption. It is a necessary corollary to the principle that human beings are never to be treated as nothing but a means to some end.

Now, someone might say that that is just an assumption too. We can continue that game to the point where we say that the notion that reality exists is just an assumption, that the existence of other minds is just an assumption, etc. At some point anti-realism becomes its own punishment.

I can't even try to type X's handle, so I'll just call him X: X, you don't seem to get that we don't agree that a "sin of omission" arises _simply from the fact that someone or many someones will otherwise die_. That's not enough to make it a sin of omission to fail to act. It all depends on what the action is. If the action is killing someone else innocent, then it isn't a sin of omission to refuse to take that action, regardless of the consequences. And calling refusing to act an "action," as you several times do, merely confuses the issue. You can't make refusing to kill someone an action, no matter how hard you try or just by calling it "an action."

I am simply trying to find out where the responsibility lies. I know this is a repeat, but maybe it will help clarify. I thought it was being argued that if Dick Cheney allowed the terrorist to hit their intended target that he would bear no responsibility to the deaths of the innocent civilians, which resulted from his choice. The reason for this, it appeared to me, was that the terrorists were responsible because they murdered the innocent people. Therefore, the terrorists were fully responsible for those deaths. I used the child in the pool to illustrate that the child is fully responsible for his own death. If an individual that chooses not to save a drowning child is not responsible for that child remaining in the pool and dying, how is this a sin of omission? Whether an individual chooses to save the child or not, he is not responsible. If he is not responsible, how can you place any fault on him?

It seems to me that if Dick Cheney had chose to allow the terrorist to hit their intended target he would bear some responsibility for the death of the innocent lives that resulted from the crash. Now it appears that you are saying that is better to be responsible for allowing these innocent lives to die than being responsible for killing the innocent lives on the plane. This may in fact be correct, but I am not sure how to argue that Dick Cheney, who could have prevented the terrorist from hitting the target, is not responsible in anyway. This is the reason I asked where the moral distinction is between letting someone die and killing someone. Zippy, I believe, tried to answer this question. I am simplifying here, but I think he argued that it is always possible not to kill someone, regardless of the circumstances, but it is impossible to save every life due to circumstances.

I thought an action was anything that was being done or will be done. Therefore, if Dick Cheney had decided to let the terrorist hit their target, he would be acting. He could have acted in such a way to prevent the terrorist from hitting their target, but he chose an alternative action. Maybe I should have used the world choice instead of action.

Refraining from acting is not acting.

It is possible to have an obligation to act; but it is not possible for that obligation to obtain under all conceivable circumstances.

Suppose one would ordinarily have an obligation to insure that X occurs. (Save the child, stop the terrorist attack).

Now suppose that circumstances are such that the person is physically incapable of carrying out any act whatsoever which results in X. No matter how he chooses to behave, X will not obtain. Clearly the obligation to insure that X occurs does not obtain in those circumstances. It is never obligatory to do the literally impossible.

Then suppose that circumstances are such that the person is physically incapable of insuring that X occurs unless he does something evil. Here it is also impossible for him to have a moral obligation to insure that X occurs, because it (literally) isn't possible to have a moral obligation to do something which is morally prohibited: in fact, the opposite is the case. It is just as impossible to have a moral obligation to do something evil as it is to have a moral obligation to do something impossible. "Moral obligation to do evil" is a literal impossibility.

So in the case of positive obligations there can never be a sin of omission when all available options - all available concrete acts which carry out the putative duty - are (1) impossible or (2) immoral. In such a case, the moral obligation is to refrain from acting.

The baby-in-the-water scenario is different from the shoot-down-the-plane scenario precisely because there are morally licit options available to save the baby. It has nothing to do with who is or isn't responsible for creating the circumstances - circumstances which give rise to a conditional positive obligation to act (conditioned on the availability of a morally licit way in which to act to carry out the putative obligation) - in the first place.

All positive obligations to act are conditioned on the availability of a morally licit means by which to carry out the obligation. There are no exceptionless obligations to act. There are exceptionless obligations to refrain from particular acts.

I would say you aren't responsible for the death in a case where the only alternative to allowing it is doing something intrinsically wrong. This is all the more true when there is another clearly assignable person who is killing the person. He's clearly the guy responsible. But even in some weird case where you have to chop off somebody's head to save the drowning child (I have trouble dreaming this up), you aren't responsible for the death of the drowning child. Being responsible for the death implies that you should have prevented it, wh. of course I deny where preventing it required you to murder somebody else.

Thanks Zippy and Lydia. I think I understand what you are saying.

Zippy,
Although the choice was an unavoidable evil in my view, it was still something that should have caused Cheney a moment of deliberation and a degree of remorse afterwards. Just another example of his failure of compassion.

Your mention of the Kantian corollary is an angle I hadn't considered. Since they were already being held solely as means to a wicked end by the hijackers, their ability to escape that end was severely compromised. It is true that Cheney was not giving them the proper respect, but the hijackers had ensnared their basic rights by making them hostages on a suicide mission.

Just to reiterate, this is what your solution looks like: Terrorists who have innocent hostages cannot be stopped from further atrocities if they are clever enough to make it impossible to target them specifically. There can never be a significant risk of death to a single hostage initiated by legal authorities, even when nonintervention will certainly result in that person's death and the deaths of many others.

Step2, define 'significant risk' as you are attributing this position to Zippy. I won't speak for him, but to me it depends a great deal on what you mean by it, especially given the near-certainty of death for these people otherwise. Again, if there's a chance of _rescuing_ them, it's worth trying. A good example here would be the Entebbe rescue years ago. One hostage was accidentally killed in the crossfire, but it was a good-faith effort to rescue that hostage along with all the others, and it might have come off.

There can never be a significant risk of death to a single hostage initiated by legal authorities...

No. The authorities may never kill the hostages. When I shoot you in the temple with a .45, I am not "subjecting you to a singificant risk of death": I am killing you. Killing you is intrinsic to the behavior.

It seems to me that this is a similar category error to the one that SP makes, though perhaps a bit more subtle. In his argument death is presumed to be in the same category as injury, so that the two can be blended together such that chosen behavior which kills is just a more extreme version of causing injury. In this case it seems that killing is being equated to taking a risk that someone will die accidentally. It amounts - it seems to me - to a claim that killing someone isn't intrinsic to any behavior: that every specific behavior which results in death is a matter of betting on odds. But it seems to me that (e.g.) blowing someone's brains out or beheading him isn't a behavior to which merely a risk of death is intrinsic: it seems to me that killing is intrinsic to those behaviors.

The only debatable point (from my perspective) in this whole discussion is whether killing the hostages is intrinsic to the behavior of blowing up the plane. To me it just seems obvious that it is. If we had a crowd of hostages and terrorists intermingled and we sprayed the crowd indiscriminately with bullets to kill all the terrorists, killing innocent hostages is intrinsic to that behavior. If killing the innocent is intrinsic to the behavior then no discussion of intentions or circumstances is pertinent.

And it isn't probabilities that we choose directly, it is specific behaviors that we choose directly. When I scratch my nose I am not choosing to make it probable that my nose will be scratched: I am choosing to scratch my nose.

I don't think modern people like the idea - particularly given modern methods of warfare and modern methods of terrorism - that the actions of men of good will are so constrained by the moral law. (Just as pacifists don't like in the least what I have to say about justly waging war or just individual self-defense). But I think it is true nonetheless.

(I’m being truly respectful in the next comments)

Nobody has claimed that behaviors to which injury is intrinsic are evil -qua- behaviors.

No one has; however your understanding of the act imputes the evil of the double effect to the act; what’s worse it appears haphazard.

Cheney shoots down plane without passengers (no double effect)=good.
Surgeon operates on patient with anaestheitc (no double effect)=good

But:

Cheney shoots down plane with passengers (double effect)=evil.
Surgeon operates on patient without anaesthetic(double effect)=not evil

I don’t get it.


SP, I'm a little surprised that you should be so resistant to the idea that making somebody dead is different in kind, not just in degree, from causing him injuries. Surely this should be obvious from the perspective of the person himself. Getting killed isn't just a higher degree of injury from, say, losing a leg. That's why people have amputations to save their lives.

Furthermore, when you attempt to say that death and injury are the same kind of thing, the former simply a "scaling up" of the latter, you are making a category error.

Look, as far as I am aware there are only three classes of moral quality: good, indifferent and evil. I don’t believe that the Church Fathers had a separate category for innocent death. Innocent death is not the worst thing that can befall a Christian, loosing your soul is, but the Church Fathers never instigated a separate category for that one either.

Sure; being dead is quite different to being injured, but under whatever system of taxonomy they retain the same moral quality. You can place them in whatever category you want but they still retain their same fundamental quality of being evil in themselves. Both belong to the genera of evil even though death and injury have different natures.

Now under the Zippean analysis:

(Deliberately actuating the death of the passengers (evil))=act is wrong.

(Deliberately actuating the injury to the passengers (evil))=act is right.

For the life of me I can’t see the logic. If deliberately actuating evil is wrong, it is always wrong. It’s just as wrong to deliberately break someone’s leg as it is to kill him, even though they are different categories of evil and hence deserving of different penalties.

What I see here is the recategorisation of the death of an innocent to another category, beyond evil. It’s a super-dooper evil. It is so evil that it should never come about even if it is unintended. It’s fine to have that opinion, but it isn’t Christianity 101.

I don’t get it.

Agreed.

What I see here is the recategorisation of the death of an innocent to another category, beyond evil. It’s a super-dooper evil.

Not "the death of" but "choosing to kill".

Still, though, I think you already know that the Church recognizes that there are extrinsically evil choices (choices evil by intention or circumstances) and intrinsically evil choices (acts evil in their object). So I don't know why you appear surprised when it is pointed out that there are different categories of evil acts. Calling intrinsically evil acts "super-dooper" as a way of belittling the categorization doesn't do much for me other than confirm what has been pretty clear for some time: that you don't think much of the Church's moral categories.

SP, again:
...being dead is quite different to being injured, but under whatever system of taxonomy they retain the same moral quality.

"Being dead" and "being injured" aren't acts. There isn't anything morally wrong about either being dead or being injured, because neither one is an act or behavior imputable to some acting subject.

Your confusion - again (and I think this is the last time I will say it) - seems to arise from the fact that the way you use the term "evil" is at best equivocal, and does not in any case reflect how I use it at all. I suggest that you avoid using it entirely and substitute "morally impermissable" everywhere that you are inclined to use it. (I'd be happy to do the same). As a hygenic matter it would get us to the point where at least we are using the same terms.

I wd. just note that "an evil in the world" (e.g. Joe's leg is broken) is not at all the same thing as "an evil act." Sure, under plenty of circumstances, making it the case that Joe's leg is broken is an evil act, and this is true *in part* because Joe's leg being broken is an evil (e.g. a negative state of affairs) in the world. But I think the word "evil" in that usage is getting way too much mileage, SP, in your analysis. Zippy and I are concerned with _evil acts_, not with actuating or not actuating negative states of affairs in the world. There are all sorts of negative states of affairs in the world that are positively _good_ to bring about. For example, a horrible criminal's unhappiness in prison is, in one sense, "an evil," but it's an "evil" that is a result of justice and that we should therefore feel very satisfied at having brought about.

Here we go again;

Cheney shoots down plane without passengers (no double effect)=morally permissible.
Surgeon operates on patient with anaestheitc (no double effect)=morally permissible.

but

Cheney shoots down plane with passengers (double effect)=not morally permissible.
Surgeon operates on patient without anaesthetic(double effect)=morally permissible.

Obviously I don’t get it.

I wd. just note that "an evil in the world" (e.g. Joe's leg is broken) is not at all the same thing as "an evil act." Sure, under plenty of circumstances, making it the case that Joe's leg is broken is an evil act, and this is true *in part* because Joe's leg being broken is an evil (e.g. a negative state of affairs) in the world.

Joe is an innocent. Deliberately breaking Joe’s leg is an evil act. Deliberately injuring Joe is an evil act. Deliberately killing Joe is an evil act.

Shooting down Flight 89, in which Joe is a passenger and breaking his leg is not an evil act, but shooting down Flight 89 and killing Joe is. Once again, I really don’t get it.

Why is it morally permissible to shoot down the plane, knowing full well that you are going to injure the passengers and it is not morally permissible to shoot down the plane knowing you are going to kill the passengers in the process?

Deliberately killing someone and deliberately injuring someone are both morally impressible acts and therefore not permissible through double effect.

Not "the death of" but "choosing to kill".

Suppose that flight 89 was not commandeered by the terrorists but in some way had to be shot down to save other Americans. I would be the first to condemn the act. But Cheney didn’t shoot down the plane because of the Americans but because of the terrorists. The deaths of the passengers were incidental to the shooting down of the plane which by your admission was licit sans the passengers. This would seem to justify it by double effect but apparently not.

Cheney’s choice in this instance was the same as one faced by a surgeon who is operating on a woman with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Remove the fallopian tube and the baby dies: shoot the plane down and the passengers die. The only choice here is to do it or do nothing.

Calling intrinsically evil acts "super-dooper" as a way of belittling the categorization doesn't do much for me other than confirm what has been pretty clear for some time: that you don't think much of the Church's moral categories.

What do I say?


It was fine when I previewed it on the preview pane.

Previewed what?

Mr Luse

When I posted my last post I checked it in the preview pane and it was fine, I checked it again after I had posted it and it came up all in italics.

I've checked it again just now and it all seems fine. Has Zippy fixed up the HTML tags?

I'm quite happy if you want to delete the
It was fine post...

Deliberately breaking Joe’s leg is an evil act.

No it isn't. Whether it is evil or not depends in intentions and circumstances. It isn't intrinsically evil to deliberately break Joe's leg. It is not the case that every deliberate behavior to which the breaking of Joe's leg is intrinsic is an evil behavior; nor is it evil always and in every case to intend to break Joe's leg.

Your clinging to this example, this attempt to conflate injurious behaviors with killing behaviors, has taken on the air of desperation.

When is it right to break Joe's leg without appeal to double effect?

Who said that it was?

Wow. What a thread. I'm sorry I missed it, until now. All I can say is: go, Social Pathologist! And I mean that in the cheerleading sense - not in the "go away" sense.

Tired but not desperate; I’m on a crusade and gotta keep on going. Steve Burton, sincere thanks, it's hard.

Who said it was?

Why did you approve of deliberately injuring the passengers when you shot the plane down?

I’m pretty stupid—no doubt Zippy and Bill would agree—but in posting my 9.35 post I missed Zippy’s 9.33 post. It changes things quite a bit.

It seems to me that this is a similar category error to the one that SP makes, though perhaps a bit more subtle. In his argument death is presumed to be in the same category as injury, so that the two can be blended together such that chosen behavior which kills is just a more extreme version of causing injury

Death is the most extreme version of injury. But that isn’t the point. You stated that you would shoot down the plane if the passengers would suffer only injuries. I’ve got you all wrong and I’ve been looking at your argument upside down; I never thought that you would deliberately injure the passengers if you deliberately would not kill them. This is why I didn’t get it. You are prepared to deliberately harm the passengers but not deliberately kill them: I never thought you would do either.

The point is that you are never allowed to do evil—be that intrinsic or whatever—to do good: The distinction is irrelevant.

Imagine deliberately indiscriminately firing rubber bullets (which don’t kill) into a room full of terrorists and hostages; it would appear to me to be just as morally impermissible as it would be to use normal ammunition. Firing rubber bullets into a room full of people as an end in itself, is always deliberately evil. Deliberately injuring people is just as morally impermissible as killing them. It’s not a question of degree it’s a question of the kind of actions they are.

As I see it your take is:

Scenario 1: Plane shot down and passengers killed.

Cheney has evil intent and kills passengers=morally impermissible.
(Deliberately killing always intrinsically evil)
Intentionally killed.

Scenario2: Plane shot down and passengers injured.

Cheney has evil intent and injures passengers=morally permissible.
(Deliberately maliciously injuring not intrinsically evil?)
Intentionally injured.

But I don’t believe that you would deliberately harm anyone so, I presume in scenario 2 you justified the shooting down of the plane by double effect, thinking that the injuries were incidental to shooting down the plane:

When you approved of scenario 2, did you justify the actions by double effect? If so, why is killing the passengers intrinsic to the choice of action in scenario 1, and not in scenario 2?

Death is the most extreme version of injury.

No it isn't. An apple is not an extreme version of an orange. If you will forgive a wild conjecture, I get the feeling that your professional experience as a doctor is blinding you to this manifest fact. A doctor is like a car mechanic for human bodies, and the demise of an automobile is indeed merely a breakdown only moreso. But that doesn't mean that death is the same kind of thing as an injury only moreso.

When you approved of scenario 2...

I didn't approve of scenario 2. In fact I'm not entirely sure that it is even coherently stated. But as far as I know it would be morally licit - under double-effect - to intentionally injure passengers to save their lives if there were no non-injurious method available to save their lives.

I'm fooling with you SP. I fixed it myself.

One can never intentionally injure to do good.

Cutting off your hand to stop stealing?
Torturing to convert to the faith?

I know that's not what you mean, but thats where the thinking leads.

Foresight does not equal intention.

One can foresee an evil as a result of a good action but one can never intend the evil that results.

I think I understand what The Social Pathologist is talking about. Maybe, Zippy, you can help me understand why he is wrong.

From my understanding it appears to be that a human being can never be used as a means to some end, but how is causing someone great suffering and pain not using this person as a means to some end, if the pain is caused in order to prevent innocent life from dying?

I know some of these examples are bizarre, but I think they can help explain the issue. Murdering innocent life to save innocent is never permissible, but what about torturing innocent life to save innocent life? How about causing serious brain trauma to innocent life to save innocent life? Is it not intrinsically evil to cause innocent people suffering? Is murder the only intrinsically evil act?

One can never intentionally injure to do good.

Rubbish. I can amputate a man's arm to free him from rubble so he doesn't die.

... but thats where the thinking leads.

Rubbish.

Foresight does not equal intention.

One can foresee an evil as a result of a good action but one can never intend the evil that results.

I agree. But I don't think you and I mean the same thing by "intention".

but what about torturing innocent life to save innocent life?

The examples really are becoming bizarre. Tortured, we might say.

The examples really are becoming bizarre. Tortured, we might say.

Maybe we can use them in the next Saw movie.

I like the way X uses "innocent life" like it's a substance, maybe in a petri dish. Sir: I can cause lesser physical injury to Joe to save Joe, that same, individual person. Doctors rightly do it all the time. For that matter, I can licitly perform minor surgery on Joe that involves some cutting of Joe's flesh in order to (say) correct a vision impairment. So I can even physically "injure" Joe (in one sense of 'injure') for his greater physical good.

No, I can't torture Joe to save Phil.

I trust this is all clear.

I like the way X uses "innocent life" like it's a substance, maybe in a petri dish. Sir: I can cause lesser physical injury to Joe to save Joe, that same, individual person. Doctors rightly do it all the time. For that matter, I can licitly perform minor surgery on Joe that involves some cutting of Joe's flesh in order to (say) correct a vision impairment. So I can even physically "injure" Joe (in one sense of 'injure') for his greater physical good.

I am certainly not trying to demean human life if that is what you getting at. Do you prefer innocent human being? I understand what you saying, but I am not sure how this relates to what The Social Pathologist was saying. I am reading his example, when he said, “what about shooting down the plane with foreseen major maiming to the passengers instead of death?(moderate evil)” I did not think he was talking about injuring the passengers on the plane in order to save their lives, but injuring the passengers on the plane in order to save the lives of the planes intended target. I thought he was moving the line from killing the passengers in order to save lives, from injuring the passengers in order to save lives. I do not think he was talking about injuring person A in order to save the life of person A, but rather injuring person A in order to save the life of another human being. If he was only talking about what you are talking about, then I do not know where the confusion is. If it was simply being argued that it is permissible to injure the passengers on the plane in order to save their lives, then I see no problem. I thought it was being said that murdering someone to save someone is not permissible, but seriously inuring someone to save someone is, which is the reason I asked those questions.

I think I understand what is going on here though. It has all become very confusing trying to read through everything.

1. Shooting down the plane is not permissible because murdering the passengers is not permissible;
2. Shooting down the plane with “foreseen major maiming to the passengers instead of death” is permissible because the terrorists were going to murder these passengers and injury is better than death. In this example, no evil was done to the passengers because a physical injury was caused in order for the passenger’s lives to be saved, which is a “greater physical good”.

Does this work?

Yes, I think we are all assuming the set-up of the original scenario: Those very passengers were going to be flown into a building and all killed, so if there were some way (this is purely hypothetical sci-fi, of course) to shoot the plane down and just badly injure them, you'd really be saving their lives.

Whether it would be okay to maim A for life when he wasn't otherwise going to be injured at all in order to save the life of a _different_ man, B, is quite a different question. I am strongly inclined to say "no."

But I gather that SP's argument is that, even in scenario 2, Zippy (and perhaps I and the others) ought, to be consistent, to say that it isn't okay because the major injury to the passengers is foreseen and inevitable, this is "an evil," so in doing this one is making "an evil" the object of one's act.

Since I haven't tried to cast my own analysis in terms of the objects of acts, perhaps I escape SP's charge of inconsistency, though Zippy and I still agree entirely about what would be right and wrong, so I don't escape SP's evaluation that I'm seriously wrong about the Cheney scenario.

Xkvsxe: Lydia gets to do the Christenings so I’ call you Mr. X. Thanks for taking the heat and for spotting my line of reasoning. (Big Harrison Ford grin and handshake); close ranks and let’s advance.

(Sorry for the long post, you have no Idea how I hate writing them)

I agree. But I don't think you and I mean the same thing by "intention".

Totally agree; but I’ll get to that.

But I gather that SP's argument is that, even in scenario 2, Zippy (and perhaps I and the others) ought, to be consistent, to say that it isn't okay because the major injury to the passengers is foreseen and inevitable, this is "an evil," so in doing this one is making "an evil" the object of one's act.

Precisely my point: That’s what Mr X, was the first to see and what got him into hot water. There is an inconsistent application of principle going on here but it’s not the only problem I see.

Rubbish. I can amputate a man's arm ……..

Check out VS; it defines maiming as an intrinsic evil: if amputation isn’t maiming I don’t know what is. If killing is the innocent is wrong because it belongs to the category of intrinsic evil why isn’t amputating a limb? Pretty much most surgery causes some form of maiming both internally and externally, if surgery can be thought of as a type of maiming then most surgery is out.

…….. to free him from rubble so he doesn't die.

The justification for the act, but then;

But as far as I know it would be morally licit - under double-effect - to intentionally injure passengers to save their lives if there were no non-injurious method available to save their lives. (I’ve underlined what I think is important)

This is the wrong way of thinking about double effect .The above argument is an ends justifies the means argument dressed up to look like double effect That’s precisely what Mr X spotted It is never morally licit to intentionally injure someone; furthermore it is never morally licit to intentionally injure anyone for a good reason. That’s another argument for the ends justify the means. Double effect does not justify any type of intentionally evil acts be they intrinsically evil or extrinsically evil: If you’re intended act is generically evil it does not justify you.

Deliberately injuring someone to save their life is morally impermissible.
(Ends justifies the means)
Saving someone’s life who gets foresee ably injured in the process is morally permissible.
(Double effect)

What double effect does permit you is to do good, knowing full well that your actions deliberately chosen may actuate evils beyond your control. The moral object of the chosen act must be good. But what is actuated—bought into being--in the real world is a mix of moral qualities. What the Church fathers allowed is us to choose is the good part provided it outweighed the bad.

(This bit is hard going)

When one “acts’, one brings intentionality into being: Ones intention is realized. The moral object of the act concerns what one chooses to do, not what actually happens. Acting is a realization of intentionality; It is an individual choice not an objective result.

"Being dead" and "being injured" aren't acts. There isn't anything morally wrong about either being dead or being injured, because neither one is an act or behavior imputable to some acting subject.

Yes but being dead and being injured are states that are generally recognised as evil in themselves. The analysis of the moral object of the act is the analysis of what one chooses to bring into the world by performing an act. If one brings something evil into the world--such a death-- ones moral object is evil: if one brings something beneficial to realization—such as a freshly baked pie for the kids—the moral object is good.

Where I think Zippy errs, is that he interprets the moral object of the act--and hence the intentionality--from outside the perspective of the actor. Cheyney acted and innocent people died; therefore Cheyney is a murderer; what Cheyney intended doesn’t matter.
The deliberate death of innocent people is always murder. This is why this line of reasoning leads to condemnation of any war that is not immaculate: Practical pacifism.

Furthermore if the moral object of an act is solely determined from it’s foreseen consequences; the evaluation of the acts moral quality is dependent upon the sum weighting of good and evil as a result of the act, based upon the prudential judgment of the observer, contingent of their biases: Utilitarianism.

Since I haven't tried to cast my own analysis in terms of the objects of acts, perhaps I escape SP's charge of inconsistency, though Zippy and I still agree entirely about what would be right and wrong, so I don't escape SP's evaluation that I'm seriously wrong about the Cheney scenario

Yep; though probably inculpably so from my perspective. Kudos for spotting the inconsistency which I so verbosely tried to exhibit but you succinctly put.

(Previewed on the preview pane all well)

Now by your logic—not mine—choosing an action in which evil (pain) is deliberately foreseen and hence actuated is evidence of intent to cause evil and hence forbidden.

First, it is not entirely clear that causing pain in that situation = choosing evil. There is a difference between the surgery sans anesthesia (shorthand - field surgery) and shooting the plane of innocents down to avoid crashing into a building. In the field anesthesia, the patient is not being used a means to an end - the patient is the end. The patient's dignity and worth as a human being is not negated, in short, he is not turned into an object to achieve some other end. The field surgery is for the patient, not for some sadistic pleasure of the surgeon, or for some other end, for which the person being operated upon is merely a means.

The innocents on the airplane ARE being used as "things", or at least being treated as dispensible objects, to achieve another end. In that situation, the innocents' inherent humanity is being negated and they are treated as objects, to be used to achieve another end.

Where I think Zippy errs, is that he interprets the moral object of the act--and hence the intentionality--from outside the perspective of the actor.

I don't think so. There is a difference between viewing something from the actor's perspective, and viewing something objectively. Your own example of the CNN reporter and the surgeon shows that. One can view the scene from the perspective of the CNN reporter, or one can view the scene form the perspective of the surgeon. One can view both perspectives objectively. Similarly, with Cheney, one can view it from his perspective and view it objectively from his perspective.

In the CNN scenario, the camera man did not the anesthesia machine was not working. The surgeon knew anesthesia was not available, but the camera man did not. Therefore you constructed a hypothetical in which different knowledge of facts created two different objective moral evaluations of the situation (when viewed from the respective "perspectives").

What, from Cheney's perspective, is missing in the objective analysis? What moral "facts" do you claim Cheney possesses that the hypotheticals above do not take into consideration from his perspective?

Cheney knows there are innocents on board. Cheney knows that the plane is destined to crash into a building, killing those on board and in the building. Cheney knows that shooting the plane down may spare those in the building, but will not spare those on the plane. What additional moral fact from Cheney's perspective is missing in order to make an objective evaluation from his perspective? What is the broken anesthesia machine we are not considering?

cmatt, I made that same point many comments ago. It flew by unnoticed. Yours will too.

When one “acts’, one brings intentionality into being: Ones intention is realized. But if The moral object of the act concerns what one chooses to do, not what actually happens, then one's intention cannot be realized. (Unless the only thing that matters is what's going on in one's head.) The intention is real; the effect is not. My intention was to shoot down the plane. I knew it was full of passengers. I knew they would die if I shot it down. I shot it down and they died. But I didn't intend to do it.

It's hard to believe you could actually hold this.

Please let me know if I understand this correctly. Amputating an individual’s leg in order to save his life is a mean to achieve some desired end, where the mean is the amputation and the end is the life of the individual, however, this is not the point. The point is that the individual is not being used as a means to an end. The essential difference between shooting down the plane and amputating a leg is thus that in the first case an individual is being used as a means to an end, but in the second case the individual is not.

Now lets assume that Dick Cheney was able to make contact with the passengers in the plane and all the passengers agreed that Dick Cheney must shoot down the plane. If I understand correctly, the will of the passengers is irrelevant. They can never be used as a means to an end whether they desire it or not.

...if amputation isn’t maiming I don’t know what is.

Right. You don't know what maiming is, that is. Which is to say that you don't seem to have thought through why (e.g.) removing a body part that is killing a person is not maiming the person, but saving him (though it seems pretty obvious).

Acting is a realization of intentionality;

Acting is choosing a behavior. The chosen behavior is the object of the act.

I think you are basically ignoring the parts of Veritatis Splendour that don't comport with your view.

X, I think that's right myself particularly when it comes to death. (And remember that there would probably be infants and such on board who couldn't consent anyway.) Consent can sometimes remove the "means to end" problem. In work, for example, if someone agrees to mow my lawn, then I'm not using him. If I threaten to beat the tar out of him if he doesn't mow my lawn, I'm using him. Consent makes all the difference. I'm quite sure that this is not the case when it comes to death, though. An innocent's consenting to be killed doesn't make it okay. Suppose we have one of these "end of the world" scenarios where the person you have to shoot in the head to save the world is Lydia. Even if I'm very heroic and consent to be bumped off to save the world, it's still wrong.

Maybe it would help to discuss maiming in a bit more detail. (I'm not terribly optimistic about bringing SP around to what JPII taught, but who knows?)

Maiming as an intrinsically evil act is not something done to a body; it is something done to a person. It is a fallacy to treat the body as something utterly distinct from the person with its own utterly separate dignity. Any dignity that the body has, and any telos that obtains for the body, obtains to the body as the incarnation of a person. It seems to me that SP is attempting to saw the body off of the person (as a moral matter), treat it as a thing-in-itself utterly distinct from the person, and make moral evaluations of that separate thing-in-itself. But maiming isn't intrinsically evil because it involves the physical destruction of part of some arbitrarily organized chunk of matter as a means to some end. Maiming is intrinsically evil because it involves the choice to destroy a physical part of the person in a way contrary to the telos of that person. So amputating a diseased limb as a chosen behavior is not maiming in the sense condemned by VS. The choice between maiming him or letting him die is a false choice, because the purpose of the body is to live first and foremost and an act which saves his life - assuming it is in fact necessary to save his life - is not maiming.

SP keeps accusing me of treating acts as nothing but what physically happens. That couldn't be further from the truth; in fact SP frequently treats "evil" as if it meant "whatever happens that is bad" as opposed to "choosing a behavior which, either in itself or because of intentions and circumstances, is morally impermissable".

Acts are the behavior that the acting subject chooses. If I don't see the red light I am not choosing to run the red light, even if what physically happened is I ran the red light. My act might be something like "driving inattentively", but "run the red light" isn't the object of my act unless it is the behavior I chose.

That's very helpful, Zippy--the act is the object of choice, not the state of affairs that the act instantiates.

Yes, it is. Helpful, I mean.

good comments, Cmatt.

Lydia,

I was thinking about the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002. They were taking a significant risk by using whatever gas they used, which by Zippy's standard means they were forbidden to use it. Because intent and level of risk cease to matter once a chosen act is intrinsically evil.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_theater_hostage_crisis

An innocent's consenting to be killed doesn't make it okay. Suppose we have one of these "end of the world" scenarios where the person you have to shoot in the head to save the world is Lydia. Even if I'm very heroic and consent to be bumped off to save the world, it's still wrong.

Thank you Lydia. Your comments were very helpful. I understand how consent can prevent the "means to end problem" in the issue of employment. Without such consent it becomes slavery, which is definitely using someone for some desired end. What I am not sure about, and I hope you can help me understand, is why this does not apply to consenting to be "bumped off to save the world". From what I can gather, I take it that it would still be murder to kill you in such a situation regardless of your consent. If so, why is it still murder? How come your consent does not change this? If the example you gave is wrong, what would be a permissible example of self-sacrifice?

For example, in the movie Independence Day (forgive me if you are not familiar with the movie), actor Randy Quaid purposely fly’s his jet into the alien aircraft in order to prevent it from blowing up the city. He of course knew that such an act necessitated his own death. Is this a heroic act of altruism and self-sacrifice or a shameful act of suicide?

They were taking a significant risk by using whatever gas they used, which by Zippy's standard means they were forbidden to use it.

Did you even read my last reply to your probability-based mischaracterization of my argument?

That's very helpful, Zippy--the act is the object of choice, not the state of affairs that the act instantiates.

What exactly was cheyney's object of choice:

Killing the passengers:
Defending himself from terrorist attack.

Mr X; keep fighting the good fight.

Did you even read my last reply to your probability-based mischaracterization of my argument?

Just to help my understanding, does that mean that if there were the slightest probability that the passengers could have survived being shot down, the act would be permissible? In other words, the act is only impermissible if it necessarily (100% probability) leads to the killing of innocent people?

What exactly was cheyney's object of choice:

Killing the passengers:
Defending himself from terrorist attack.

It seems his choice was to kill the passengers. He made that choice in order to defend from terrorist attacks. The "what" of his choice (what he chose to do) was the killing of passengers; the "why" (why he chose to do it) was to defend from attack.

Thanks Bill. 140 some odd comments are easy to get lost in. But I must say, they are interesting.

C matt:

How did you determine that?

(must step out for a few hours)

What exactly was cheyney's object of choice:

None of the above.

Lets suppose the plane was actually shot down, for the sake of clarity in the following and for no other reason.

The object of Cheney's act was to give an order. That order involved formal cooperation with the act of a weapons officer or pilot. The object (chosen behavior) of the act of the weapons officer was to (say) fire a missile into the airplane filled with both terrorists and innocent hostages. Intrinsic to that specific actual chosen behavior is killing the innocent; therefore the act is intrinsically evil, and cannot be justified (through double-effect) by any appeal to intentions or circumstances.

Notice thet Cheney's (hypothetical) act wasn't intrinsically evil: it was evil because it involved formal cooperation (the willing of) the intrinsically evil act (act evil in the nature of the chosen behavior) of another.

Just to help my understanding, does that mean that if there were the slightest probability that the passengers could have survived being shot down, the act would be permissible?

No. When we act, we aren't choosing probabilities, even though it is always possible that a neutrino of sufficient momentum will catalyze fusion mid-act, causing my head to transform into a turnip and thereby thwarting my act. There is a finite but small probabiity that when the terrorist fires a gun to the head of a hostage that the hostage will survive; but it is still intrinsic to the behavior of execution by firearm, as a chosen behavior, to kill.

What we choose is not a matter of wishful thinking about things we wish we could choose but do not, and it is not a matter of whether there is a finite probability that the behavior we initiate will not work out as planned. It is a matter of the nature of the behavior we choose. If the nature of that behavior involves choosing something intrinsically evil (e.g. to kill the innocent), then the act is intrinsically evil.

What we choose is not a matter of wishful thinking about things we wish we could choose but do not, and it is not a matter of whether there is a finite probability that the behavior we initiate will not work out as planned. It is a matter of the nature of the behavior we choose. If the nature of that behavior involves choosing something intrinsically evil (e.g. to kill the innocent), then the act is intrinsically evil

Then I suppose this directs back to the question of whether or not the nature of the behavior was to kill innocent civilians. Dick Cheney may respond that he never intended to kill innocent civilians. Instead, the death of those civilians was a byproduct of the intended goal to prevent a terrorist attack. I suppose you would argue that it is impossible to intend to prevent the terrorist attack without intending to kill the passengers, since the killing of the passengers is necessary to prevent the attack. What I gather here is that in order to intend X, one must intend Y, but Y is intrinsically evil, thus X cannot be intended without intending to do evil. Where I am confused is that if there were a possibility that the passengers could survive being shot down, it would appear possible to intend X without intending Y. It then seems that Dick Cheney could argue that his intention was to prevent the terrorist attack and save the lives of the passengers on the plane. If they happen not to survive the crash, it is simply an unfortunate accident.

Zippy,

Since I am providing an example which actually does involve probabilities, I don't really comprehend your refusal of it.

Cheney's decision is a fairly easy scenario by your standard. I thought it would be interesting to look at something more difficult. Am I right that you would still forbid the use of the gas or not?

It seems to me like you have to. The apparent object was to save most of the hostages, not all of them. Which means that they planned to kill some innocent people since they were using such a potent chemical in a nondiscriminatory manner.

X, I think the guy flying his plane into the other plane (or ship, or whatever) was committing suicide. But he meant well. I'm not sure I'd say "shameful," but "objectively wrong." Heroic self-sacrifice could occur in several ways: Passively, if you died because you refused actively to do evil. (Mother who refuses to have an abortion and dies as a result.) Actively, if you risk death where you have some decent chance of surviving but also know you may die in trying to help someone else. (Fireman trying to save a baby.) Passively, again, where you stay at your post in some situation because you believe it to be your duty and other people come and kill you. (Mother stays in her house trying to defend her children against some sort of attack by evildoers.)

Step2, I think it depends on how well they knew those people were going to die. Considering the relatively small proportion of people who did die, and considering that the gas was an anesthetic rather than in and of itself a deadly poison, was it reasonable of them to hope that none of the hostages would die? It also depends on how likely it was that all of the hostages would otherwise be killed by the terrorists. If they were all morally certainly going to be killed by the terrorists, then this would be subjecting them to a lesser risk in an attempt to save them from death, as in our responses to SP's scenarios 2 and 3.

I take it that it would still be murder to kill you in such a situation regardless of your consent. If so, why is it still murder? How come your consent does not change this?

Well, when you put the gun to my head, will it be with the intent to kill me? If so, how does my consent change that?

If the example you gave is wrong, what would be a permissible example of self-sacrifice?

Come up with any example you like that doesn't simultaneously involve the commission of evil to achieve that self-sacrifice. Say, the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It then seems that Dick Cheney could argue that his intention was to prevent the terrorist attack and save the lives of the passengers on the plane. If they happen not to survive the crash, it is simply an unfortunate accident.

People tell themselves a lot of things when they want badly enough to hide from the truth.

Step 2 - another incident of even more tragic proportions was that of the Beslan School hostage crisis. But I don't think this helps you in the airplane scenario. They seem to me cases in which a prudent weighing of consequences before acting is called for, where the means of acting are not in themselves intrinsically evil (e.g., pumping in the gas). But the means can become evil if one is unscrupulous about those consequences. If, as you allege, they intended to sacrifice a number of hostages to save others, then a case can be made that they intended those deaths, rendering them morally allied to the kidnappers themselves. But that's just my quck take and not intended to speak for Zippy, who is more rigorous than I.

To sum up, I think that situations are "difficult" only in those cases where consequences and proportionality of means are at issue, not when the means are known in advance to be intrinsically evil.

Since I am providing an example which actually does involve probabilities, I don't really comprehend your refusal of it.

Fair enough. I was responding to the mischaracterization of my position as probabilist, not the specific case. It isn't probabilist, as far as I can tell. I explicitly reject probabilist restatements of it. When we act we don't choose probabilities, we choose behaviors. A behavior which subjects innocents to grave risk in an attempt to save them is (or can be) licit as far as I can tell; it is certainly very different qualitatively from killing a bunch of innocents in order to save a bunch of different people.

I think Lydia addressed the case itself as well as I possibly could. As a particular ensemble of human acts I know too little about it to really say whether killing the innocent was intrinsic to the specific chosen behaviors of tossing in the knockout gas grenades (or whatever), or to pass judgement on the intentions of the commanders. A bold rescue attempt is a very different matter from writing some innocents off as dead anyway and killing them early to get some unrelated benefit. (It may be a slam-dunk case one way or the other for all I know, but that doesn't dispel the problem of my ignorance of the particulars).

X: I also believe that Kamikaze acts are objectively wrong.

Heroic self-sacrifice could occur in several ways: Passively, if you died because you refused actively to do evil. (Mother who refuses to have an abortion and dies as a result.) Actively, if you risk death where you have some decent chance of surviving but also know you may die in trying to help someone else. (Fireman trying to save a baby.) Passively, again, where you stay at your post in some situation because you believe it to be your duty and other people come and kill you. (Mother stays in her house trying to defend her children against some sort of attack by evildoers.)

I understand everything, except the part where you say "if you risk death where you have some decent chance of surviving". It appears now we are just playing a game of probability. I suppose if you have less than a 51% chance of survival it is objectively wrong for a fireman to save a baby in a fire. I tried to apply this to Dick Cheney shooting down the plane if he had some reasonable expectation that the passengers would survive. If the fireman has a decent chance of surviving, then it is not suicide, and if the passengers have a decent chance of surviving, then it is not murder (of course in the real life example the passengers had zero chance of surviving if it was shot down).

Well, when you put the gun to my head, will it be with the intent to kill me? If so, how does my consent change that?

Yes it is, but there seems to be something profoundly different about intending to kill someone against their will and intending to kill someone when their will demands it. Isn't there something different about a terrorist sawing off someone's head and a doctor euthanizing a patient? I am thinking about how consensual sex cannot be rape (or can it?), but apparently consensual killing can be murder?

Risking death just isn't the same thing as killing yourself: it isn't the same kind of thing at the level of either intentions or specific behaviors. Taking on a "certain death" mission in which you are virtually certain to be killed by the enemy isn't the same thing as killing yourself by crashing your kamikaze plane into a ship in a specific act. In the former you act in such a way as to stay alive as long as possible; in the latter you kill yourself at a particular moment in a particular act.

They are apples and oranges morally, despite the colloquial tendency to label both kinds "suicide missions".

Murder and suicide are different, to be sure, but that doesn't make suicide into not-suicide. "Assisted suicide" can be murder, or it can be a suicide combined with a formal cooperation in a suicide, depending on who actually performs the killing act. The distinction is moot from the standpoint of objective moral evaluation though: all of the acts in question are gravely immoral.

Risking death just isn't the same thing as killing yourself: it isn't the same kind of thing at the level of either intentions or specific behaviors. Taking on a "certain death" mission in which you are virtually certain to be killed by the enemy isn't the same thing as killing yourself by crashing your kamikaze plane into a ship in a specific act. In the former you act in such a way as to stay alive as long as possible; in the latter you kill yourself at a particular moment in a particular act.

Understood.

Murder and suicide are different, to be sure, but that doesn't make suicide into not-suicide. "Assisted suicide" can be murder, or it can be a suicide combined with a formal cooperation in a suicide, depending on who actually performs the killing act. The distinction is moot from the standpoint of objective moral evaluation though: all of the acts in question are gravely immoral.

So whether you call it "murder" or "assisted suicide" hardly makes a difference then.

Thanks for the thought provoking exchange. Both you and Lydia.

Hello Zippy:

If a chosen behaviour has a double effect, how do we determine its moral object?

Sorry, should rephrase that question:

If a licit behaviour has a double effect; how do we determine its moral object?

If a chosen behaviour has a double effect, how do we determine its moral object?

"Chosen behavior" and "object" refer to the same thing. So I don't understand the question (in either its original or rephrased form).

Substituting into the first question I get "If a chosen behavior has a double effect, how do we determine its moral chosen behavior?" Substituting into the second, I get "If a licit behavior has a double effect, how do we determine its moral chosen behavior?"

I really have no idea what the questions are asking.

"Chosen behavior" and "object" refer to the same thing.


Nope; thats the problem.

(Gotta go to work, will reply further later)

Isn't there something different about a terrorist sawing off someone's head and a doctor euthanizing a patient?

No.

I am thinking about how consensual sex cannot be rape (or can it?)...

As long as the "consent" was not extorted, I assume not.

...but apparently consensual killing can be murder?

You can consent to sex (under certain circumstances), because sex is a good kind of thing. You cannot consent to being murdered because it is a bad kind of thing. For God's sake, do you realize what you're asking? You're proposing the possibility of morally licit consensual murder. Consent to an evil does not render it good.

This would be fun if it weren't so bizaare.

Me:
"Chosen behavior" and "object" refer to the same thing.

SP:
Nope; thats the problem.

Veritatis Splendour:
The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour.

I really have no idea what the questions are asking

I knew you wouldn’t; that’s why I asked the questions.

Here, I’ll give you a few examples to help you understand. As an experiment I asked my 11 year old son a similar question. I timed how long it would take him to get the correct answer. 12 seconds.

He has no knowledge of any moral philosophy.

Determine the moral object of A’s acts:

1) A decides to have sex with a woman in a motel. Determine the moral object of A’s act.
2) A certain beneficial drug is known to kill a certain portion of the patients; Doctor A administers the drug to Patient B and Patient B dies.
3) A; jumps on a live hand grenade, shielding bystanders from the effect of the explosion.
4) Zippy opens a door and sees two men standing with knives pointed at each others chests. Suddenly A plunges the knife into B and B drops dead on the floor. Determine the moral object of A’s act.
5) A gives a large some of money to the poor. The public adore him for it.
6) A takes a very attractive brunette to dinner, he orders the best champagne and they have a lot to drink.

Hint (Veritatis Splendor, Section 78)

Correct Answer: Next Post.

Yep, X, there is no major moral difference between murder and assisted suicide. Did you really expect a bunch of conservatives to say otherwise?

Consensual sex can be rape--with a child. I think there's a pretty deep moral truth to the notion of "statutory rape."

In all cases there isn't enough information about what specific behavior the acting subject is choosing. The object of an act is the concrete behavior chosen by the acting subject.

Big deal.

Sorry; this one does not have the answers, but I thought I would give you a few more hints.

Veritatis Splendour:
The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour.

And a few more bits from the same document.

In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person.

By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order,

Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person.

This one’s for Mr Luse ; just in case he thinks I glossed over his comments:
(It’s not meant with any malice, It’s quoted as is from the text and may imply sentiments I don’t have)

Certainly there is need to take into account both the intention — as Jesus forcefully insisted in clear disagreement with the scribes and Pharisees, who prescribed in great detail certain outward practices without paying attention to the heart (cf. Mk 7:20-21; Mt 15:19) — and the goods obtained and the evils avoided as a result of a particular act.

SP: we are in violent agreement on all those points. An otherwise good act can be made evil by an evil intention. The object (chosen behavior) of the acting subject can only be understood as the behavior he is choosing, not as a physical process. Moral agents have a responsibility to take into account the goods obtained and the evils avoided in every act. Etc, etc.

What is mysterious to me at present is why you seem to think any of this is in any way contrary to anything I've said, ever.

It would be notable for you to quote something I said and quote whatever it is in VS that you think contravenes it (as I did for you when you denied that the object of an act is the choice of a specific kind of behavior).

Can you objectively determine the behaviour he is choosing?

It would be notable for you to quote something I said and quote whatever it is in VS that you think contravenes it (as I did for you when you denied that the object of an act is the choice of a specific kind of behavior).

Here's one;

Zippy:
"The object of an act is the concrete behavior chosen by the acting subject"

VS:
" Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person."
(The object is in the intention)

"By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order"
The object is not in the concrete act)

I've got to go to bed now.

VS describes the object both as the choice of specific behavior and as the "proximate end of a deliberate decision". So JPII is referring to the same thing with both of those descriptions. (VS does not use the word "intention" to define or refer to the object, ever). You make a choice to behave in a certain way; you behave in that certain way. The chosen behavior is referred to as the "proximate end" in that one phrase: it is the thing you do once you've made the choice to do it. If you take it all wildly out of context and use the word "object" the way we use it colloquially instead of how JPII uses it, it might be possible to infer (though it isn't explicit) that you have to take intentions other than the choice of specific behavior into account in order to apprehend the object of the act. But that wouldn't be reading the document, that would be attempting to bend it to say the opposite of what it takes great pains to say.

The object is the concrete act. A concrete act is not a process or event of the merely physical order. (See my comment above about running a red light).

You are making exactly the error that JPII criticizes in VS: by promoting a straw-man of the understanding of the object of the act to which you object, not as a concrete choice of a specific kind of behavior by an incarnate acting subject, but a straw-man understanding which treats the object as nothing but a physical process or event, you go on to infer that an act cannot possibly be condemned (in the case of intrinsically evil acts) based solely on the specific behavior chosen by the acting subject. At bottom the error you are making is in asserting a dualism which is contrary to the Catholic understanding of the human person as an incarnate being who acts in a manner inseparable from the embodied aspect of his acts.

You can consent to sex (under certain circumstances), because sex is a good kind of thing. You cannot consent to being murdered because it is a bad kind of thing. For God's sake, do you realize what you're asking? You're proposing the possibility of morally licit consensual murder. Consent to an evil does not render it good.

I was only suggesting that murder is wrongfully defined, at least from a libertarian point of view. Murder, in this case, would be killing someone against his or her will. Once somebody consents to being killed, it is no longer murder, by definition. This is why I used the example of rape, because once sex is consensual it is by definition not rape. The reason statutory rape is rape, is because we assume that young children are not mature enough to consent. At least from the point of libertarianism, anything that is consensual by definition cannot be evil.

When you say that under certain circumstances sex is a good thing, I think this implies that under no circumstances is death a good thing. Since death is never good, it is impossible to consent to being killed, where as since sex can be a good thing, it is possible to consent to sex. Maybe this is correct. Maybe it is a serious character flaw to want to die rather than live with extreme pain and suffering.

I understand that this is not your point of view and it is not Zippy's point of view. Lydia also explained that there is no moral difference between assisted suicide and murder. I simply wanted to know how to define murder. I am not trying to propose anything really. I am just trying to understand. I think the explanations have been great and I appreciate the responses.

The libertarian is definitely wrong that nothing consensual can be wrong. I think the creativity of our own age in coming up with horrors to which people consent should have shown that if reality checks could do anything to convince people. And I do not only mean death. Germany, in particular, has shown us in the last couple of years an example of the abyss to which that position leads. The person in question was prosecuted despite protesting that his victim had consented. At the moment, I don't feel like going into particulars if the allusion doesn't suffice to bring the case to mind.

At the moment, I don't feel like going into particulars if the allusion doesn't suffice to bring the case to mind.

No need to. I understand your point.

If I don't see the red light I am not choosing to run the red light, even if what physically happened is I ran the red light. My act might be something like "driving inattentively", but "run the red light" isn't the object of my act unless it is the behavior I chose.

I am having a difficult time understanding the difference between choosing and intending. In the example above, if I do not see the red light it is not possible for me to choose to run the red light, nor is it possible for me to intend to run the red light. In order for me to do either of these, I have to know that there is a red light.

Now suppose I am in a rush to get somewhere, I see the red light and I choose to run it. I think it is obvious in this case that I intended to run the red light. Even if I attempted to argue that my intention was only to arrive at my destination on time, you would argue that this is sheer nonsense because in order to arrive at my destination on time I had to run the red light, which means I had to intend to run the red light. It is impossible for me to intend to do one without intending to do the other. This appears to me to be the same situation with the Cheney scenario because it is impossible to intend to prevent the terrorist attack without intending to murder the passengers; the two are inseparable.

I am having a difficult time understanding the difference between choosing and intending.

The term "intended" is overloaded by related concepts in colloquial use. Many moral theology books have been written examining the concept of intention; and in general free will is a big and controversial subject in analytic philosophy. (So is the color green, for that matter. The color green is what philosophers call a qualia, and much ink of various colors has been spilled discussing qualia, a subject matter related to consciousness).

In an overloaded sense everything that you choose is intended. It is never licit to either intend or choose evil though, so it isn't clear what the point is to distinguishing them too finely.

The real kicker is, when it comes to justifying acts by appeal to double-effect (which can only apply when among other things an act is not intrinsically evil in the chosen behavior itself), discerning what is not intended. E.g. withdrawal from Iraq might in fact and foreseeably cause genocide, but that doesn't mean that genocide is (necessarily, though it might be) intended by the officer who orders the withdrawal. Refusing to drop an atom bomb on Hiroshima may well result in greater loss of (different) lives in a land invasion, but that doesn't mean that the POTUS who refuses to drop the bomb intends those deaths.

E.g. withdrawal from Iraq might in fact and foreseeably cause genocide, but that doesn't mean that genocide is (necessarily, though it might be) intended by the officer who orders the withdrawal.

Lets assume then that two people want to withdraw from Iraq and they both know that withdrawing from Iraq will result in genocide. The first person, however, simply wants to end what they feel is an unjust war, the second person, on the other hand, wants to incite genocide. Here it appears that the choice is the same (withdrawal from Iraq), the foreseeablity is the same (genocide will occur), but the intent is different (end an unjust war; incite genocide).

I am correct then that only one of these people are doing evil?

I am correct then that only one of these people are doing evil?

Pretty much. There isn't anything intrinsic to the behavior of withdrawing from Iraq that makes it necessarily and in itself an act of genocide. So it isn't intrinsically evil, and it may be licit under double effect. For the guy who is doing it with the intent of triggering genocide it is clearly immoral. For the other guy it may be morally licit.

I sketched a decision tree for this kind of thing some time ago which may be helpful, or at least mildly amusing.

Pretty much. There isn't anything intrinsic to the behavior of withdrawing from Iraq that makes it necessarily and in itself an act of genocide. So it isn't intrinsically evil, and it may be licit under double effect. For the guy who is doing it with the intent of triggering genocide it is clearly immoral. For the other guy it may be morally licit.

So then the question is whether or not killing the passangers is intrinsic to shooting down the plane, which you are saying without a doubt that it is. Since killing the passangers is intrinsic to shooting down the plane, it is not justified under double effect.

So then the question is whether or not killing the passangers is intrinsic to shooting down the plane, which you are saying without a doubt that it is.

Without any reasonable doubt, I think so. Though long ago and far away in this thread I did say this:

The only debatable point (from my perspective) in this whole discussion is whether killing the hostages is intrinsic to the behavior of blowing up the plane.

I did add, among other comments:

To me it just seems obvious that it is.

The reason I made the comment is because SP as a professed Catholic (or other professed Catholics) could debate me on this particular point without dissenting from Catholic doctrine; though I think the intuitive and intellectual merits on the point make pretty thin gruel. The idea that killing the hostages isn't intrinsic to the chosen behavior of blowing up the plane with them in it isn't likely to be compelling to many people who aren't into self-deception. So the debate rages over the doctrine itself rather than this factual point.

So the debate rages over the doctrine itself rather than this factual point.

That would appear to be the only objection possible.

Out of curiosity, do you believe that human intuition tends to agree with the conclusions of the doctrine, or disagree with them? If our moral intuition tends to disagree, does that mean there is something wrong with our moral intuition? Or do we even have a moral intuition?

Correct answer: The moral object of the act cannot be determined unless you ask A what he is intending to do. Facts about the circumstances do not matter. A, determines the moral object of the act not an independent observer. A behaviour that appears intrinsically evil may not necessarily be.

In the case of the man having sex with a woman in the hotel; All other things being equal if we know that the woman is his wife we say his act has a good moral object, if we know that the woman is not his wife, but his wife’s identical twin who covets him; then what? Has the act a good moral object or a bad moral object? From the observers point of view the act has a bad moral object, for the actors point of view the moral object is good.
The Catholic interpretation of the act is from the point of view of the actor. It’s not what the observer thinks; it’s what the actor thinks that he is doing.

In both cases the behaviour chosen is exactly the same to an independent observer: but the moral objects—freely chosen-- are totally different. What is acted is what is seen.

Zippy: Is behaviour act? Or is behaviour moral object+Act?

What one freely chooses is the moral object and act, by which the moral object is achieved; the means of achieving one’s moral object is reflected in the act. The physical appearance of the act is not the moral choice, though it may appear the same.

it might be possible to infer (though it isn't explicit) that you have to take intentions other than the choice of specific behavior into account in order to apprehend the object of the act

Correct;But I think my interpretation of JP2 is correct and yours contains a very subtle--but grievous--error.

What separates surgery from maiming is not the acts freely chosen(both are the same), but the freely chosen moral object as bought into being by the freely chosen act. Both acts look the same but what differentiates them is the moral object being chosen. Sometimes the act clearly reflects the moral object sometimes not. The way the act looks is not the moral object.

If a freely chosen act actuates an intrinsic good and an intrinsic evil; how do we determine the moral object of the act?

Checked it on the preview pane and it was Ok. Italics came up after I posted.Mr X, I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

This line

it might be possible to infer (though it isn't explicit) that you have to take intentions other than the choice of specific behavior into account in order to apprehend the object of the act

Should be in italics.

SP: It appears that you keep closing italics with the '/' following the 'i' rather than in front of it. At least I keep correcting them by changing "i/" to "/i".

The idea that killing the hostages isn't intrinsic to the chosen behavior of blowing up the plane with them in it isn't likely to be compelling to many people who aren't into self-deception

Causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to action of shooting down the plane but it is not the moral object; Stopping the attack is.

I'm tired so apologies. I'm certain I checked the HTML code. The post correcting the italics did not have any italic HTML's at all?

Causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to action of shooting down the plane but it is not the moral object; Stopping the attack is.

Should be changed for greater clarity:

Causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to action of shooting down the plane but it is not the chosen moral object; Stopping the attack is.

The moral object of the act cannot be determined unless you ask A what he is intending to do.

"Intending to do", if you insist on using the terminology that way, is too general and fluffy. The object of the act is the behavior that the acting subject is choosing. Other intentions - like the reasons why he is choosing that behavior, what he hopes to accompish through that behavior, etc - are NOT the object of the act. The object of the act is the chosen behavior.

We have always agreed - and I've pointed this out quite a number of times - that in order to apprehend the object of the act you have to place yourself in the perspective of the acting subject. I am getting tired of telling you that, and I am getting tired of you pretending that I haven't told you that, like, a thousand times.

When you say something like this: "The way the act looks [to a third party] is not the moral object."

... you are TALKING TO YOURSELF. NOBODY HAS CLAIMED THAT THE WAY THE ACT LOOKS IS THE OBJECT OF THE ACT. I SPECIFICALLY REJECT THAT. I HAVE ALWAYS REJECTED THAT IN EVERY DISCUSSION I HAVE EVER HAD ON THE SUBJECT AS FAR AS I RECALL, AND I MOST CERTAINLY REJECT IT NOW.

So give the bloody straw-man a rest, already.

What matters is whether the gunner is choosing a behavior to which killing the passengers is intrinsic. That is all that matters if he is choosing such a behavior: other intentions, choices, wishes, flowers, candies, speeches to the self, warm feelings, sleepless nights, prom dates, encyclical interpretations -- all the rest of that crap is utterly irrelevant if killing the innocent passengers is intrinsic to the chosen behavior of blowing up the plane. If in the gunner's mind he is choosing to blow up the plane with the passengers in it he is choosing to kill the passengers, and we are done. If he is sleep-flying the plane, or if he is hypnotized, or if in his understanding he isn't choosing to blow up the plane with the passengers in it but rather is on a beach with his sweetheart and instead of firing a missile he is kissing his girl, then he isn't doing evil: what happens in that case is an accident. We can't know this without getting into his head, it is true. But the scope of that knowledge of the perspective of the acting subject does not create a "fundamental option" whereby he can be choosing the specific behavior of blowing up the plane and the people in it but not be doing evil because he wishes he wasn't killing the passengers, even though he is killing the passengers.

Causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to action of shooting down the plane ...

Then we are done. The object of the act is the chosen behavior. If killing the passengers is intrinsic to the chosen behavior, then the fact that he is choosing that behavior because he wants to save people on the ground cannot turn it into a good act.

If I choose - from my own perspective - to run the red light, the object of my act is to run the red light. It is definitely not "to get to work on time"; and it isn't "to get through the intersection but not to run the red light".

SP,
Might be time to give up on the italics thing. :)

Zippy,
Could you accept that if the there had been sufficient time and resources to be creative with the weaponry and tactics, there may have been some way to disable or otherwise force the airplane to the ground without destroying it? Because if you accept that, Cheney choosing to kill the hostages was a byproduct of the unique circumstances and not an act of callous disregard for the hostages.

Here is Cheney's predicament with a slight variation: He is the armed security guard for a school, where it is his sworn duty to protect the students from harm. A terrorist captures a student on the playground and has a suicide vest pack with a dead man's switch which will detonate if he is killed. The kidnapper moves with his hostage towards the school with the declared intent of killing as many children as possible. Because of the weird angle he is at, Cheney has no shots available to him which will not kill the terrorist and thereby kill the hostage. Since his target is the terrorist and not the hostage, would it still be an intrinsically evil act? The death of the hostage would be certain and foreseen, but it would be caused by the bomb on the terrorist and not the bullet fired by Cheney.

Could you accept that if the there had been sufficient time and resources to be creative with the weaponry and tactics, there may have been some way to disable or otherwise force the airplane to the ground without destroying it?

Sure.

Because if you accept that, Cheney choosing to kill the hostages was a byproduct of the unique circumstances and not an act of callous disregard for the hostages.

So what? The decision to commit murder is often accompanied by the wish that circumstances were different so that the murder wasn't "necessary". That doesn't make it not-murder.

Since his target is the terrorist and not the hostage, would it still be an intrinsically evil act?

That is a less obvious one than the plane. Spin it a little: if Cheney controlled a remote-controlled mine field and the terrorist-with-hostage stepped on one, would he be choosing to kill the hostage if he detonated the mine? Seems so. I expect it is so in the "dead man's switch" case too. If I can tell you by name or by pointing at him which innocent hostage is going to be directly killed by the behavior I choose, I am murdering him.

If a freely chosen act actuates an intrinsic good and an intrinsic evil; how do we determine the moral object of the act?

It's over.

I can't for the life of me see why Step2's point about unique circumstances is supposed to be telling. I mean, yeah, suppose humans weren't able to be killed by bullets. Or suppose they had iron necks so that you couldn't chop their heads off with axes. These would be "circumstances" that would be relevant to whether or not it constitutes murder to shoot somebody or chop his neck full-force with an ax. So what? You can always change the circumstances if you get creative. But it's not like Cheney was in any doubt about whether the people on the plane would or wouldn't die. He _knew_ the circumstances and that blowing up a plane with a missile would kill them all.

Causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to action of shooting down the plane but it is not the moral object; Stopping the attack is.

This is how I have tried to interpret it. It is the intent behind the act that matters and Dick Cheney did intend to stop the terrorist attack. However, since causing the death of the passengers is intrinsic to the action of shooting down the plane it is necessary that Dick Cheney also intended to kill the passengers. Dick Cheney could say he did not intend to kill the passengers, but that would be simply nonsense. Here is how I am thinking of it:

1. Cheney intends A, but A necessarily requires B, thus in order to intend A, Cheney must intend B. It becomes absolutely impossible to intend A without intending B as it is absolutely impossible to intend to stop the terrorist attack without intending to blow up the plane, without intending to kill the passengers on the plane.

This is hysterical. SP has finally irritated Zippy into capitalizing an entire paragraph.

I know this is "hard", Zippy, but like SP we are "on a crusade" and must continue to "fight the good fight," and if that means escalating the conflict with capital letters, I'm with you. As a means to our end, its ferocity seems proportionate to the end. Which reminds me. Maybe we could revert from talk of the moral object to the more familiar vocabulary of means and ends. Let's think of the moral object as the chosen means to our end. I am confident SP would agree that we may not choose an evil means to a good end. This is foundation-stone stuff that all us Christians can agree on. Since intentionally killing the passengers to prevent a further evil is so obviously an evil means to a good end, I am further confident that SP will anounce once more that it's "over", only this time he'll have a different - what's the word? - intention.

Step2 - as a matter of factual interest (I'm pretty sure, anyway), it turns out those fighters left base without missiles attached. They would have had to attack with guns only, and were not at all confident of being able to stop the plane before it got to its target. A further complication was that they'd have had to engage it over D.C. airspace. I've wondered if it might have been possible for those fighter pilots to shoot through the cockpit windows in an effort to kill the terrorists, in hope the passengers could then regain control. I don't know the feasibility of it, of course, but Zippy might.

X - regarding that Iraq scenario, I noticed Zippy said may be morally licit for the guy who wanted to end an unjust war. Since it doesn't seem to me intrinsically evil either to leave or stay, if that fellow knew for a moral certainty that genocide would result, leaving might amount to piling one injustice atop another.

SP has finally irritated Zippy into capitalizing an entire paragraph.

It wasn't irritation (though there was some of that, I admit) as much as an attempt to get him to actually read it. I'd already said the same thing about seventeen times in this thread alone, so I knew that just typing it yet again wasn't going to work.

Means and ends talk, though, is a little fuzzier. Killing the passengers isn't in itself what causes the plane to be stopped from hitting its target. In fact I think this may be part of why this example is so contentious: the deaths of the passengers is in fact not in itself causally necessary in order to achieve the intended end. But that doesn't matter when killing the passengers is intrinsic to the chosen behavior (object of the act). So I think (though I might be convinced otherwise: this may be a product of the directly causal nature that I tend to assign to the referent of the term "means") that we are better off (in the sense of having a clearer understanding of the truth) with the full-blown doctrine rather than means-end shorthand.

...if that fellow knew for a moral certainty that genocide would result, leaving might amount to piling one injustice atop another.

Absolutely. It may be a prudential judgement and a matter of weighing the goods obtained and evils avoided in the various alternatives, but avoiding a genocide is a very high bar indeed in that evaluation. (N.B. I still have no idea what the right course of action is w.r.t. Iraq at this point).

He's rude, Luse.

How far can you go with this?

Rule #1: Murder is always and everywhere evil.
Rule #2: If you think it ain't murder, see rule #1.

I almost couldn't find Zippy's capitalized paragraph. Finally found it.

May I suggest that a distinction SP seems to be eliding is between what the subject knows and what the subject dubs his "intention." I know I'm not the first in this thread to point this out. But the really important reason to look at these things from the subject's perspective is to take into account what he knows and doesn't know. It isn't that the subject just gets to _say_, "Hey, I know I'm shooting this kid in the head, but my real intention is to kill the bad guy behind him" and we all have to say, "Oh, then that's all right." Rather, you look at it from the subject's perspective in case there's something he knows that you don't, or something he doesn't know that you do, that changes the moral nature of his act. E.g. If he knows there's no anesthetic available, or he doesn't know there's a civilian in that building.

Zippy,
I am fairly sure that you are violating your own standard in evaluating the school scenario. If the chosen behavior is to target only the terrorist (he alone is the object), what occurs as a consequence of that action cannot be considered by your own standard. Your spin of the scenario returns us back to a case where it was an indiscriminate weapon being used, so it would be an intrinsic effect of using the weapon to directly kill the hostage.

Clearly the terrorists were the precipitating actors and without them the hostages would never have been in such a precarious situation. Maybe it is not kosher to compare intrinsic evils, but if you do, intent and circumstances should be part of the comparison.

Lydia,
I wish I knew what you were referring to. I have not suggested that Cheney thought the hostages would live, just that his only options were between bad and worse, and he chose to act rather than do nothing.

SP,
All's well that ends well.

William,
That is a very interesting fact, thanks. I don't know if that helps me or hurts my position, but it makes things more complicated.

Step2:
I am fairly sure that you are violating your own standard in evaluating the school scenario.

It is a tougher call in some ways. You did that on purpose, of course. But then there will always be cases (particularly counterfactual ones) which are difficult to resolve.

If the chosen behavior is to target only the terrorist (he alone is the object [n.b. "object" here definitely does not mean what I mean by it --Z]), what occurs as a consequence of that action cannot be considered by your own standard.

It isn't commutative (or whatever) in that way, if I understand you correctly. If the act is intrinsically evil then circumstances and intentions cannot make it licit. But circumstances or intentions can always make an act evil, even if it isn't intrinsically evil. IOW, intentions and circumstances are always partly dispositive of whether or not an act is good, but they are incapable of making an evil act into a good act. The relevance of intentions and circumstances is a one-way street.

But it is more difficult as an intuitive matter to determine whether killing the hostage is intrinsic to the behavior. I'm inclined to think it is, but not nearly as strongly inclined as in the case of the airliner.

Your spin of the scenario returns us back to a case where it was an indiscriminate weapon being used...

Yes, I think the mine/airliner cases are more obvious.

Clearly the terrorists were the precipitating actors and without them the hostages would never have been in such a precarious situation.

That is true, but it definitely isn't morally relevant - in the sense of being capable of justifying the act - if the act is evil in its object.

Lydia: that is a great point, and it took an epistemologist to tease it out. The reason the acting subject's perspective is necessary is an epistemic reason, not a deontological reason. His act doesn't depend on his willful construction of reality or his willing of what reality is through interior intentions; it merely depends on his knowledge of reality. He doesn't get to choose what reality is; but what he is choosing from his own perspective depends on his understanding of the exterior facts. (This doesn't mean that if the thinks he is doing right he is doing right: that isn't the kind of fact we are talking about here. The kind of fact we are talking about here is "there are innocent hostages on the plane", not "moral theology works in thus and such a way") If he acts with false knowledge his third-party-viewed behavior is an accident; otherwise, it is on purpose. I think that works.

Step2, this is what I'm talking about:

"Could you accept that if the there had been sufficient time and resources to be creative with the weaponry and tactics, there may have been some way to disable or otherwise force the airplane to the ground without destroying it? Because if you accept that, Cheney choosing to kill the hostages was a byproduct of the unique circumstances and not an act of callous disregard for the hostages."

The last part "because if you accept that" doesn't actually follow from the earlier part. Cheney ordered them to go shoot the plane down in the circumstances that did obtain, and that he knew obtained. He didn't order them to "be creative" and "find a way to force the airplane to the ground without destroying it." The narrative makes it clear that he knowingly told them to shoot the whole gol'darned thing down. I don't know about "callous." No doubt he wasn't a callous person and would have felt upset. But he was in fact knowingly sacrificing the lives of the subjects. That different external facts would have made it a different decision doesn't mean anything about what happened in the actual case in question.

knowingly sacrificing

Careful. S.b. "intentionally killing," right?

Yes, of course. "Sacrificing" wasn't meant to indicate "so that's okay." It was just another word for "intentionally killing while meaning well" or something like that.

Zippy,
If the relevance of intentions and circumstances is a one-way street which only gives evil the right of way, it seems to me like it is a very pessimistic standard.

Lydia,
Thanks for pointing that out. He may have had more time to disable the plane than what I think he had. Then again, maybe not. He didn't know what the next target would be.

...which only gives evil the right of way...

Evil never has the right of way in the sense of being morally permissable. But it has always been true that men of good will act under constraints which do not bind the wicked.

Zippy, I know why you capitalized. I was trying to have some fun. It didn't work.

Re your means and ends comment, a question: are you saying that the term "moral object" is more limited in its scope than "means"? That is, that the chosen behavior - shooting down the plane - is the moral object, and that the means includes this plus the certain consequences involved?

It didn't work.

Bosh. I had fun.

are you saying that the term "moral object" is more limited in its scope than "means"?

Yes, the object is in a sense more limited, but it is (or may be) also in a sense less limited.

Means are what we use to accomplish an end. We might use withdrawal from Iraq as a means to the end of causing genocide; the civil unrest which follows withdrawal is part of that means, but it isn't in the object: it isn't our own chosen behavior. So we start haggling immediately about what is intended, ignoreing the object, and this intent-only analysis "reaches back" and colors our understanding of the act itself.

To wit, in the plane scenario someone might plausibly (or implausibly) argue that killing the passengers is not per se a means to the end of stopping the attack: the deaths of the passengers do not cause the cessation of the attack, they are incidental to it. But it is irrelevant because killing the passengers is inherent in the chosen behavior of blowing up the plane: killing the passengers is intrinsic to the object independent of any causal connection to ends. (Think of the controversy over condoms and AIDS: this arises precisely because the intrinsic nature of the chosen behavior is ignored in favor of a casuistry of means and ends).

This may just be a terminological hangup on my part. But a means can definitely be more than just the object (chosen behavior); clearly we can use the acts of others as means to some end, for example. And because it can be more, it can also "sneak in" controversy over intentions into evaluation of the object. So I think object-intent-circumstances is more accurate and less subject to distortion (once you understand what object means) than means-end as a framework for analyzing human acts.

In fact any approach that is incapable of distinguishing the object is, it seems to me, going to lend itself to manipulation, because the validity of double-effect rests on the bedrock of being able to evaluate the object in itself, independent of intentions and circumstances. Without that double-effect is indistinguishable from consequentialism.

Okay. Good stuff. And I think Anscombe would be right there with you. Even though she never uses the word "object" (that I recall), it is clear from her analysis that she has it mind.

And I second the kudos to Lydia's 'what the subject knows' comment. I think she reads JPII rather well, don't you?

Finally, X asked a question I don't think got answered: Out of curiosity, do you believe that human intuition tends to agree with the conclusions of the doctrine, or disagree with them? If our moral intuition tends to disagree, does that mean there is something wrong with our moral intuition? Or do we even have a moral intuition?

The answer to the third of these is an obvious yes. The other two have to do with whether the line that you, Lydia and I have been arguing recommends itself readily to the mind.

The answer to the third of these is an obvious yes. The other two have to do with whether the line that you, Lydia and I have been arguing recommends itself readily to the mind.

I obviously believe we do have a moral intuition. In fact the reason that question was last is because I only thought of it at the end. I assumed it was true, but then realized maybe I shouldn't.

I think in many ways peoples intuition will agree with the doctrine. I do not think many people would feel slaughtering an innocent child to prevent ten people from dying would be the right course of action. Even if they did conclude it should be done, they would still feel sick about doing it. In fact, I think many people would not want to even think about something so disturbing.

I will tell you how I think most people would think about this situation. They of course would feel both for the passengers on the plane and the civilians in the building in which the plane was intending to crash into. They would then think to themselves "the passengers on the plane will be killed" whether due to crashing into a building or being blown out of the sky. If they felt there was the slightest chance of saving the passengers on the plane they we would do anything to try and save them. However, since they have zero chance of surviving, they will reason that the only solution here is to blow up the plane and save the lives of those in the building. I do not think, in this situation, people really want to accept an "everyone dies" situation. I think this is how most people intuitively think. Am I wrong?

I think that we have a strong sense of right and wrong even if we cannot reduce it to some underlining principle. In many cases we think like consequentialist and in many cases we do not. I think people have hard time believing that doing nothing and watching everyone die is the right decision, but I also think people have a strong idea that some things are intrinsically wrong. For example, no matter how much the economy benefits from slavery, nobody is willing to say slavery is permissible if it benefits the economy.

Another question. If somebody does follow the reasoning and concludes that if one accepts the doctrine, doing nothing is the correct decision and just cannot possibly believe that is a justified conclusion, what does one do? Do they force themselves to accept it or do they reject the doctrine and find something else that coincides with their feelings? Or put another way, what comes first, the intuition or the doctrine?

Thanks for the responses.

SP,
All's well that ends well.

It didn’t end well.

Coming back a third time after I said I would leave makes me quite the hypocrite; however there was no other way I could contact the guys who supported me.

I’ll be seeking a determination on the matter from “above”. When I get it, I will post it on my neglected blog. You can find it by googling my handle.

Mr X, there is an air of despondency in your last post. Don’t give up.

K.W: Very slick, very slick. (Hat tip)

X, I maybe should say that I'm Protestant. Very Protestant, actually. So I'm doing it _all_ by moral intuition, not by doctrine. It happens that in this case my moral intuitions agree strongly with Zippy's outlining of Catholic doctrine. But I don't have the problem you outline at the end, because I'm not getting this from anybody's doctrine, per se, unless it's just my interpretation of the command to do no murder.

Your sociological point may be right about what most people would think. I think that often when a person cannot be saved, people write him off. That's an error and, consistently followed, gives us all sorts of horrors. Even in your example of a child and the 10 people. What if the child were _one of_ the ten people? Then we have this idea, "Oh, well, the child can't be saved anyway, so nothing is lost if I shoot him in the head." But I'll tell you why I think, psychologically, people would still have problems with shooting the child in the head in that case: Because it's so graphic. Pure gut-level reasoning. Not necessarily bad, but it tends to register "false negatives." That is, if your gut rebels at doing something, your gut is probably right. But if it doesn't, that doesn't mean the thing is okay to do. And the reason the gut doesn't feel the same way about shooting down the plane is that you don't have to see blood and gore all over. It seems distanced and bloodless. So even if you were killing some little girl on the plane by shooting it down with a missile, or guns, or whatever, just as surely as if you shot her in the head, it doesn't feel the same because there's that bit of distance and bloodlessness given by the technology. I think that's all there is to it, and that's why people accept it.

Which reminds me of an old, very old, Star Trek episode...(Never mind.)

...what comes first, the intuition or the doctrine?

The reason doctrines exist is because intuitions - and "feelings" even moreso - are fallible.

Mr. X - I think this is how most people intuitively think. Am I wrong?

No, I don't think so. (Of course, I'm just making an educated guess.) And the intuition will most likely vary depending on the scenario. Your innocent child scenario and the one involving the plane are likely to elicit two different responses.

...if one accepts the doctrine, [that] doing nothing is the correct decision and just cannot possibly believe that is a justified conclusion, what does one do? If one cannot believe that it is a justified conclusion, then one has not accepted the doctrine.

Do they force themselves to accept it or do they reject the doctrine and find something else that coincides with their feelings? This seems to happen with some frequency. I refer you to the foregoing thread.

what comes first, the intuition or the doctrine? In the heat of a crisis such as that in which Cheney found himself, when consequences are measured in seconds, even a man who accepts the doctrine might find himself forgetting it all in the natural desire to prevent any further loss of life. Keep in mind that when Cheney made the call, he already knew that the Towers and the Pentagon had been hit.

All I can think to do (if one accepts the doctrine) is to pray for the dead and immediately start figuring out a way to hit back. Fortunately for us, there was someone to hit. A truly intolerable scenario for most people (I assume) would be one in which the terrorists were unconnected to any other group or country. They would then be like those mass murderers who go on a killing spree and then, seeing that capture is inevitable, commit suicide, leaving us with no sense of justice fulfilled.

SP's blog is here btw.

Thank you everyone.

I think that's all there is to it

You make it sound like it's Looney Tunes.

How about adding this: but if it does, that doesn't mean the thing is not OK to do.

The repulsion in close distance is a factor that pursuit in a just war must overcome, for the just warrior never loses it.

Close distance happens in sacrifice--sacrifice in the real sense of the term, blood made sacred in the offering.

I'm the triple hypocrite for coming back, but KW and xkvsxe, you might be interested in a reply I got.

Cheerio

SP.

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