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It's All Good...Not

by Tony M.

We have a very lengthy and somewhat frustrating discussion dealing in part with the nature of evil acts, especially with regard to intrinsically evil acts and acts that constitute choosing the lesser of 2 evils, here. One of the things that made the discussion more difficult was that we ran into a lack of agreement about 2 items: what does it mean to call an act evil as opposed to intrinsically evil, and what do we mean by “intention” when we talk about intending the consequence of an act. This becomes particularly significant in the context of determining whether an act falls into the analysis of the principle of double effect, or PDE.

Just to refresh memories, the PDE standard stands on 3 more fundamental principles: (1) there are things that are morally evil, and things that are evil without being morally evil; (2) there are moral evils that are intrinsically wrong and moral evils that are not intrinsically wrong, and (3) It is wrong to do a morally evil act no matter what else applies, including (but not limited to) the consequences. What I want is to pick apart the first 2 in order to shed some light on how the PDE can be applied successfully.

First, apparently we had some disagreement about how we want to refer to things that are evil, or about what the language that people generally use actually means. I am not going to engage in a great national-wide survey of how we speak of these to prove a specific usage is THE right one, all I want to do is establish a reasonable set of distinctions about these, which people may agree fit with the way people talk a fair amount of the time – close even if not perfect. Do we use “evil” and “bad” and “wrong” interchangeably? There is a lot of overlap, but they are not full, perfect synonyms. When we say “that tree falling on your house was bad luck”, we are pointing to some bad happening that is not something that anyone is at fault for. We probably wouldn’t refer to it as “evil”, (though philosophers might), and we certainly wouldn’t call it a “wrong” of the tree, the house, or you. It isn’t wrong of the tree to fall on your house, and it isn’t wrong of you that your house was in the way, and it wasn’t wrong of the house to be built where the tree landed. “Bad” and “evil” perhaps are closer to synonyms – they both refer to what we would consider the opposite of “good.”

Philosophically, the good is considered under the notion of “the desirable”. That which is desirable for its own sake is good. (That which is desired ONLY on account of something else is properly “useful”, and is “good” derivatively by reason of its usefulness – it is a “good” tool or means.) Bad, then, is that which is undesirable for its own sake – if it weren’t for the sake of something else that is good, you would not sit still for the bad. We might say bad is the negation of good.

But there are two kinds of opposition: contrary, and contradictory. Or in the sphere of the good, there are the opposites of negation and privation. To have a watermelon on a hot day is a good, to not have one is a negation (there isn’t a good there). To have two arms is a good, to have no arms is not merely a negation, it is a privation. “Evil,” then, is the opposite of good in the sense of privation: not only a negation (there isn’t a good present) but more, it is the lack of a good that belongs there. We don’t say “that’s evil fortune”, because there is no naturally belonging good there when you have good fortune. So, bad is a more general term, as it encompasses the undesirable both in the mere non-presence of good things where there isn’t any proper orderly rightness about them, and the non-presence of good things that are part of a proper order.

“Wrong” is a lot like evil, it only belongs to the sorts of situations where there could be a right, proper order - to privations. But it seems to have a special connotation in regards to actions. We do say “his actions are wrong”, or even “he hit the ball wrong, and it went off sideways”, meaning he failed to connect with it the proper way to hit it straight. We also say of a person who is ill: “He has something wrong with him.” Clearly indicates a privation of health. In terms of privation, wrongness and evil seem the same. In terms of properly human actions, i.e. actions that are properly voluntary, though, “wrong” takes on a slightly different notion than “evil”, I think. This comes out in our speech in that we never say (at least, not speaking well) that an action that is wrong is the one that we ought to do, but we do say that an action that causes certain kinds of evil is sometimes the one we ought to do – as when a doctor prescribes an ill-tasting medicine. The taste is an evil - a physical evil, something of itself undesirable – though it has nothing to do with the moral order, because its repugnance is only a physical undesirability, not morally disordered. And when the doctor prescribes this thing that presents a physical evil, he is not acting wrongly but RIGHTLY. So in the moral sphere “wrong” is also the opposite of “right”, and in this sense of moral human actions it is different from “evil.” We always want the person to do the right thing not the wrong act, even when the right thing is to act so as to cause the lesser of two evils.

This also comes out in our saying “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Two morally wrong actions simply add to the undesirableness of the total, their wrongness cannot offset each other to make a morally satisfying whole. If two siblings each stole $5.00 from each other at the same time, as a parent you don’t say “well, the world has been righted by their offsetting wrongs”. No, you punish BOTH of them. Sure, the condition of the property has been righted, the disorders in ownership have been offset, but the moral conditions have not, they are both “in the wrong” and remain in the wrong until they receive just retribution and repent. Similarly, you can justify acting for a lesser evil by saying you avoid a greater evil, but you cannot justify acting wrongly by saying you avoid a greater wrong act – it merely means that you are guilty of a lesser sin, not that you erase the guilt because you are not guilty of the greater sin. So: it is conceivable to characterize an action as causing an evil even when it is a morally good act, but we do not call an action a good act when it is wrong: in the sphere of voluntary acts there are evils that are not moral evils, whereas all wrong acts are morally disordered. The confusion comes in when we say “do an evil” meaning not an act whose moral character is disordered, but to “do an act which has an evil effect.” This confuses the issue because the “doing” is what has the moral character (right or wrong), whereas the effect itself does not wholly determine the moral character. It would be better, for this discussion, to always be clear on whether by “evil” you mean the character of the doing or the character of the effect. And since in the sphere of moral acts “wrong” is normally applied only to the character of the act and not the effect, I would prefer if we separated “evil effect” from “wrong action” by those expressions.

These points obviously are important for carrying out any PDE determination. For clarity, the requisite conditions of a morally good act under PDE are as follows:
1 The act of its own inherent nature must be morally good or at least indifferent. The rest of the conditions are conditions on the EFFECTS of the act.

2 The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary – he “wills” it only to the extent of intending the good effect which is inseparable from the bad.

3 The good effect must be produced by the action independently of the bad effect, not BY the bad effect.

4 The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the evil effect (proportionality between the good and evil effects foreseen.)

It is necessary for there to be the possibility of foreseeable evil effects of morally good acts in order for PDE to even begin to be an acceptable standard of moral actions. These evil effects must, then, be evils without being _morally_ wrong - they are evils not as disorders in the will that voluntarily consents to the act, but evils of another order (like the physical evil of the bitter medicine that makes you nauseous – the doctor’s will is rightly ordered, good, even though one part of the sum total of effects is evil.) So when we use the expression “evil effects” we are indicating a separation between the will and the evil, indicating that the will may be not intending those effects.

So, the distinction between evils that can be foreseen without being intended and disorders in the willing of the act is essential. Therefore, when we present scenarios like “blockaded even though he knows that thousands of women and children will die of starvation”, we must accept that saying a consequence is foreseen simply and accepted does not speak to whether it is an effect that is intended. If it did determine that, we would have to ditch PDE altogether, and we could never do _any_ acts that we foresee having bad effects – no spanking children who do wrong things, no taking evil-tasting medicine, no foregoing treats now so you can save up for later, no allowing someone to sin when you can forcibly stop them. The world would be a morally incomprehensible place.

Next stop: distinction between the object of the act and intention.

Comments (175)

Ummmmm, except when you're taking the bad-tasting medicine, you're just making yourself a little nauseous, not causing the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children.

You think there might be a small difference?

I don't think it ultimately makes a big difference whether or not I *want* all those women and children to die. If I know that they *will* die as a result of my action, it's wrong. Period.

I agree it doesn't make a big difference if the action you are talking about is an intrinsically wrong act, and not an evil effect. If you are saying it doesn't matter even if it is specifically an evil effect and not an intrinsically wrong act, then you are denying both the principle of double effect itself, and you are undermining the possibility of warfare of any sort being moral. Oh, and the possibility of moral analysis for ANY ACTION OF ANY SORT that has evil effects. Like, driving to church, because it puts smog into the air.

Well, actually, warfare of any sort doesn't automatically involve killing non-combatants or innocents. For example, when the Anglo-Saxons fought to repel invading Vikings in some battle, the Anglo-Saxons didn't need to anticipate killing innocents.

OK, Lydia, I will grant you that there were old-time isolated battles that can be fought without involving civilians. But even with the type of scenario you mention, a whole war like that usually involves either (if you lose the battle) a retreat into a city so that you've got walls around you (and then you've endangered civilians, which is an evil), or you have to pursue the unjust aggressor when he loses the battle and runs away to a town.

I guess somewhere someone could imagine a war fought solely in open countryside away from farms, villages and cities, only between soldiers. I don't think you are proposing that this is the ONLY way a nation can pursue a war, either offensive or defensive. Defensive, especially, gets problematic, because if the enemy gets around your army sitting in a field and enters your city, what, are you going to surrender immediately because you cannot attack his army in your own city, since there are civilians present?

Well, hold on now: Civilians _present_ isn't even remotely the same thing as _harming civilians_. It's one thing to know that civilians will likely be harmed _accidentally_. It's quite another to do something that has harming civilians as its own direct, obvious, and easily foreseen effect.

There's also a huge difference between being the aggressor and being a defender who is worried about what the aggressor is going to do. Any time another person's wrong act is the actual cause of the harm, that places a pretty big wall between me and what is done. Example: If a Jew is running away from the Nazis, it's not wrong for him to run into a bookstore and try to hide, simply because the Nazis are following him and are likely to figure out where he went and harm the bookseller.

Lydia, this may be getting way off topic, but why does it matter that "another person's wrong act is the actual cause of the harm"? In your example, what if the pursuer were not a Nazi, but a man-eating tiger? Would the person have just as much right to run into the bookstore, endangering the bookseller? I'd say yes, because the Nazi pursuer's moral responsibility doesn't cancel out or in any way affect the responsibility the pursued has - in a case like this.

Your example and my question are relevant to certain counter-terrorism arguments: "It's not our fault we accidentally killed these people, because we were defending ourselves against unjust aggression, so it's really the aggressor's fault."

It appears that I will have to tackle the difference between intending an effect and permitting an effect - a very important part of PDE. But it will have to wait until tonight. For the moment, can I just ask: Lydia, do you accept the notion of the distinction between evil effects foreseen and not intended even when you do the act that brings them, and evil effects actually intended (that is, even granting that telling which is present in a specific case presents its own difficulties).

Civilians _present_ isn't even remotely the same thing as _harming civilians_. It's one thing to know that civilians will likely be harmed _accidentally_. It's quite another to do something that has harming civilians as its own direct, obvious, and easily foreseen effect.

The issue is your use of "accidentally" for one option, and then "direct, obvious, and easily foreseen" for the other. Because "accidentally" is usually put in opposition to "intentional", not in opposition to "easily foreseen". PDE is intended to deal with effects that are foreseen, even foreseen with near certainly.

If the enemy army has occupied your city, and you attempt to get them out, you are going to have to do things that will unfortunately put civilians at risk: shooting arrows (or bullets) where the enemy is concentrated but where a civilian or 2 may also be is one way. Are you saying that you cannot take an action like that shooting of arrows unless you are morally certain that there are no reasonable prospect of civilians being hit by arrows? The alternative is to pursue battle with the enemy so that you are ONLY doing something in direct contact, directly against specific enemy soldiers and never an act that targets them en masse: sword to sword, spear-in-hand to shield, knife to bayonet, so that there is nothing to "go astray". No projectile weapons of any kind anywhere near civilians, ever.

No, but I don't consider a civilian's getting in the way of an arrow to be either direct or obvious. It's not like I'm shooting arrows randomly. I'm shooting them _at_ the enemy. There's a huge gap between "knowing with moral certainty that X won't happen" and "X is a direct, obvious, and easily foreseen effect of my action." Again, look at the word "risk" that you use.

It seems to me that under many circumstances, people's dying of starvation inside a besieged city is not just a _risk_ of the siege. It is rather a direct consequence of the siege and is, in fact, one of the ways in which the siege puts pressure on the commanders to surrender.

Aaron, it's actually _hugely_ important if the other person's morally wrong action is the direct cause of the harm. Here's why: Many attempted moral dilemmas follow roughly this pattern: If you don't kill this one child, a terrorist will kill everyone in the world. Or one could vary it--If you don't stop feeding your child until your child dies, a terrorist will kill a million people. You get the point. If an indirect consequence of my action which is in fact the direct and intended result of the evil action of another is to be blamed on _me_, then there is no way out of a moral dilemma, and there are no intrinsically wrong acts which I must never do, even when someone's gun is to someone else's head. In that case, the terrorist's act of killing everyone in the world is somehow _my_ act, because I refused to kill the child and, as I foresaw, he kept his promise and killed everyone else.

Lydia, it seems that you're assuming some kind of law of conservation of responsibility: If you're responsible for killing the innocent person, then the terrorist who put you in that situation must not be, and vice versa. I don't think there's any such conservation law. You and the terrorist are responsible, and your responsibility does not diminish the terrorist's responsibility or vice versa. The moral philosopher Michael Neumann has mentioned, in popular articles on terrorism, that moral philosophers tend to believe that blame can be spread around to lots of persons. That doesn't make such a view correct, of course, just "respectable." I think it makes a lot of sense.

In any case, I was talking about the morality of the person who's the proximate cause of the evil: in your examples, the person who kills the child to save many more, or the Jew who, fleeing the Nazi, runs into a store, endangering the owner. Focusing on that person's moral dilemma, I still don't see any relevance in the moral agency of the distal cause of the evil (i.e., the Nazi or the terrorist). To take your latest example - which seems to me just a repetition of the first - suppose instead that you had to kill a child to prevent an asteroid from colliding with the earth. For your moral dilemma, why does it matter whether it's an asteroid or a terrorist? (If it matters any, you can assume that the terrorist has already set the bomb's timer, so the bomb's exploding doesn't depend any further on the terrorist's "free will.") In either case, the distal cause is not your fault.

I think maybe you didn't understand my comment or I didn't understand yours. It seems to me that your reply didn't address the point I tried to make, but maybe I just misunderstood your reply.

1 The act of its own inherent nature must be morally good or at least indifferent. The rest of the conditions are conditions on the EFFECTS of the act.

When referring to weapons that have a direction and roughly defined target area, the nature of the act depends entirely on the target(s). A few weapons don't have these restrictions and are intrinsically immoral any time they are used, an example being biological weapons. For weapons that have a direction and target, the nature of the target(s) determines the moral category. Firing a gun is not intrinsically immoral, but firing it at an innocent person with the foreseen result of killing them is attempted or actual murder. So your only option is to drastically undermine their status as innocents or people, an appeal to the weapon used in this case isn't sufficient to declare the act morally indifferent.

3 The good effect must be produced by the action independently of the bad effect, not BY the bad effect.

I don't understand this point. For example, if someone induces vomiting in order to get poison out of your stomach the bad effect is causing the good effect.

Next stop: distinction between the object of the act and intention.

Next stop: be prepared for a mushroom-shaped cloud and the heat of a thousand suns.

I disagree that I would have any "responsibility" whatsoever in the terrorist example. I didn't set up the situation with malicious intent of killing innocent lives. The terrorist did all of that, then he attempted to use me. No guilt rests with me if I choose not to commit, personally, an evil act. Nadda. Zilch. None.

In any case, I was talking about the morality of the person who's the proximate cause of the evil: in your examples, the person who kills the child to save many more, or the Jew who, fleeing the Nazi, runs into a store, endangering the owner.

Aaron, I think I did understand your comment. Notice that if the Nazis don't actually do anything to the bookseller (for example, if they don't figure out what store the fleeing Jew ran into, or if they don't happen to find the Jew's hiding place), there is no direct, evil act done. Mere situational "endangerment" is not an evil in the same sense that shooting a child in the head is an evil, the latter being a direct act of moral evil. The proximate cause of any evil actually done in the end by the Nazis to the bookseller is none other than the Nazis.

But I do doubt that we'll see eye to eye on any of this, because I don't regard the person the terrorist tries to induce to kill the child as being *in any way*, shape, or form responsible for the evil act the terrorist does (killing a million people or whatever) in response to the refusal to kill the child.

If one believes that any foreseen bad effects of one’s act is itself an intentional act, which is exactly the position of Lydia et al., then any act that has any foreseen bad effects will be ipso facto morally illicit; for it is not allowed that evil be done so that good may come from it.

Therefore, if a child runs in front of your car, and the only way to avoid hitting him is to swerve into a parked car, you shouldn’t do that, because that would be intentionally damaging someone else’s property, which is wrong. So instead of being a vandal you should just hit the brakes and hope for the best, even though you know that the distance is too short and that the child will be killed. Oh well, no one ever said acting morally would be easy.

George R., I almost said don't be an ass, but I restrained myself.

Seriously though, don't be an ass. OBVIOUSLY we prioritize moral actions, otherwise why would there be differing penalties for different crimes in this society? (Besides which it's just dumb to describe hitting the parked car as "vandalism" in this emergency situation.) We're discussing scenarios where some would argue that it can be right to cause someone's death if some greater good will come of it. There's no comparison.

And where did I ever say that hitting a parked car is intrinsically wrong? Nope. Never did. In fact, it's pretty much a paradigm case of something that's wrong all else being equal or depending on the situation.

Because "accidentally" is usually put in opposition to "intentional", not in opposition to "easily foreseen".

I think her "direct, obvious and easily foreseen" is the equivalent of your blockade scenario in which "he knows that thousands of women and children will die of starvation."

PDE is intended to deal with effects that are foreseen, even foreseen with near certainly [sic].

Well, how certain is "near"? If it's so certain that "thousands of women and children will die of starvation," then PDE's off the table.

Go, Elephant.

Step2, I must say the suspense is killing me.

George, I know you won't understand this, but presenting a caricature of Lydia's position makes you irrelevant.

Well, how certain is "near"? If it's so certain that "thousands of women and children will die of starvation," then PDE's off the table.

So how many people is it permissible to starve? Five hundred, one hundred, eighteen? Where is the cutoff? If PDE isn't valid, I don't see why even one death is on the table. If I sedate a terminal patient to decrease his pain even though I know it will shorten his life but I have no intention or desire of shortening his life (it is merely foreseen,) that is permissible. What I think people are overlooking is that the lesser of two evils idea is much more fundamental, and is always the grounding of PDE. PDE is probably just a special case of lesser evil.

So the underlying assumptions in all this are necessity and proportionality, since I'm only choosing among bad options because no good ones aren't available, and because some things are less bad than others. No one could licitly do something that might cause thousands of deaths unless the result of not so acting were thought to bring about a proportionate evil, but not necessarily an equal number of anything.

But I actually think putting the focus on war and mass death easily distorts the issues Tony has raised. There are evils that don't cause death that one might refuse to allow to be permitted to just one person (if it were in his power) even if it were possible in theory that the consequence would be the death of thousands of people. Theology is in play here, and even most non-religious have accounts of a higher power and fate and such that rule many things off the table at the outset.

Mark, I would say that if you know that this will happen to _thousands_, that means that you know that it will happen to _at least one_ as a result of your blockade with something nigh unto certainty. There isn't any inconsistency in what Bill has said nor any inclination to treat thousands as more important morally than one. It's just that the "thousands" thing makes it absolutely clear that we aren't dealing with some mere possibility or accident.

Lydia, not sure what you mean. I didn't understand what high numbers have to do with PDE.

Oh, I see. You can't kill thousands without intention he's saying. But I wasn't thinking about inconsistency, and I'm not sure that's true in any case in light of what I've said about necessity. It seems he's making an assumption about needless agressive action with no necessity. That would of course be morally wrong.

Boy, you guys need to lighten up. You should know ol’ George doesn’t mean anything personal by his little scenarios.

And where did I ever say that hitting a parked car is intrinsically wrong? Nope. Never did.

Hitting a parked car is not intrinsically wrong. However, intentionally destroying someone else’s car is. Now according to my thinking, of course, there would be no intentional destruction at all in this scenario. But according to your reasoning, to wit, that anything foreseen is intentional, it would be an act of intentional destruction to swerve into a parked car, and, therefore, it should not be done. But it should be done, of course. That’s the whole point of the illustration.

George, I know you won't understand this, but presenting a caricature of Lydia's position makes you irrelevant.

You mean I was relevant before I caricatured Lydia’s position? Thanks for saying so, Bill.

George, I totally disagree that intentionally destroying someone else's empty car is intrinsically wrong. If you presented me with one of those doomsday scenarios that consequentialists love in which the whole world is going to be destroyed and all the people in it unless I blow up my neighbor's empty car, I will say to you, "Hand me the red button" without hesitation.

But according to your reasoning, to wit, that anything foreseen is intentional,

I coulda sworn that up above I gave an explicit counterexample to the claim that "anything foreseen is intentional" when I talked about my not being responsible for what a terrorist does (even if I can foresee that he will do it) in response to my carrying out some unavoidable duty such as feeding a child so the child doesn't die.

We won’t solve this issue without talking about what we mean by a moral act, the nature of it, the object of it, and the intention.

A human moral act requires that the actor knows what the act is (including its conditions / circumstances) and then voluntarily chooses it. Without knowledge (i.e. operation of the intellect) and then choice (operation of the will) it isn’t a free voluntary human act with moral responsibility. Then the will chooses on the basis of the act understood with its apprehended object and its intended purpose (purpose, end, goal, intention – for this discussion I would treat all 4 of these as equivalent).

The nature of an act cannot be specified without stating the object of the act. The object is to the physical activity as the form is to the matter of a natural being: it “informs” the physical activity with its moral coherence, gives the combination of physical activity and internal choice and command of the will its specific moral nature. Suppose you stab someone. We don’t know yet what the object of the act is, so we cannot say what the act’s nature is. If the object is “destroy the internal organs”, the nature of the act becomes (at least partly) specified, it is an act of causing fatal injuries, a mortal blow – a homicidal sort of act. We still don’t know whether the act is a good act, because there are morally good acts of killing and morally wrong acts of killing. Killing in order to defend an innocent person would be good. The “in order to” is, of course, the less immediate INTENTION of the act. So, the intended goal is distinct from the object of the act.

The character of the objective act – making the act as such wrong or not – is based on the objectively chosen act, not based on the subject acting and his attitude about the chosen act. If you chose the act of abortion, the chosen act is objectively determined by the act being ordered to the death of the baby. The desires and wishes of the actor, say, wishing it were not necessary are irrelevant to whether his action is ordered toward killing the baby.

One way to help distinguish object and intention is that the object of the act is causally contiguous with the activity itself, whereas the goal is (often) separated from the act by time, space, and additional causal elements. If the act is successfully completed (not short-circuited, impeded or stopped mid-way) the object in-fruition should be present at completion of the act itself. If the object is to cause fatal injury, when you are done stabbing the fatal injuries will be there - the formal element cannot be remote from the act of which it constitutes the form, but the goal can. If it is possible to imagine a separation between the act as completed and X, then X is not the object but something else (usually the end, purpose). When you spray water at a fire, the object is to lay down water on the burning surface. That may not actually put the fire out (especially if it is an electrical fire) but when you are done with the act of spraying, you have put water on the burning surface. Generally, then, we can think of the object as the immediate _reason_ for the physical activity, making it a human act. See this site, pages 217 and following: http://www.pcj.edu/journal/essays/15_2_Murphy.pdf

The potentially more remote goal, purpose, or intention of the act helps determine the moral quality of the act (good or bad), because a good moral act has to have all three: good (or neutral) object, good circumstances, and good intention. But it does not specify the nature of the act itself.

Borrowing heavily from this site :

There are three fonts of morality: 1. Intention, 2. moral object, 3. Circumstances.

The first font (first in time) is the intention of an end or purpose for which the act will be chosen. After the moral agent determines what he intends to accomplish, he selects an act so as to lead toward that intention. The second font is not the moral object all by itself, but the chosen act, with its inherent moral meaning (i.e. the moral species or moral nature of the act), as determined by the moral object. The circumstances are all the other aspects: the identity of the actor, the place, time, other persons and physical things being acted on – all of which determine the moral weight of the reasonably anticipated good and bad consequences of the act, considering the consequences as distinct from the act itself come to completion in its object.

Now the intention is grounded in the subject, the person who acts. A person can choose from any of various possible intentions to adhere to as desired and selected, upon which he can act. The intention is not grounded in the act, but in the person who acts. Of course, a person will generally choose an act that he believes will accomplish his purpose. But it is to be observed that a wide range of intended ends accompany the acts of human persons.

By comparison, the moral object is grounded in the act chosen by the person. A person can choose from any of various possible acts. Each act has one or more moral objects, inherent to the nature of the act. Each act is intrinsically ordered toward a type of fruition, a completion in terms of a voluntary choosing, which is its moral object. This inherent ordering of an act toward its moral object constitutes the moral nature of the act. In choosing any act, the human person is in fact choosing the act AND its moral nature AND its moral object, because they are integral. It is not possible for a person to choose an act, and not be morally responsible for the nature of that act as determined by its moral object. (Any more than a person can choose to lie to a kid and not include in that choice lying to the kid’s soul.)

Example: A physician chooses an act of abortion for the purpose (intended end) of relieving the worries of child-care for the mother. He protests that his chosen act is not murder, that murder is repugnant to him, and that he intends only the relief of mother. But his good intended end is unable to change the moral nature of the act that he has chosen. Even though he chooses an act of murder as a means, not as an end, and even though he chooses that act of murder for a good intended end, the relief of worries and problems, the chosen act remains the same. Abortion is a type of murder – the taking of the life of an innocent person. And he has intentionally chosen that type of act. The death of the baby is not apart from the object, it is PART of the object: the act he engages in doesn’t reach its completion until the baby is dead, the IMMEDIATE REASON for the activity is: the death of the baby - the death is in the will directly chosen, it determines the reason for the action.

The act chosen by the human person is a deliberately chosen act. The will adheres to an intended end, and the will voluntarily chooses an act, and these choices are made in the knowledge of the circumstances of the act. The will is the source of all three fonts, but in different ways. If the will were the source of each font in the same way, then each font would be identical, in other words, there would be only one font.

End of borrowed thoughts.

So here is a scenario to test how we understand the theory. A woman and her teenage daughter are out jogging in a park. A psycho jumps out at them, knocks the daughter over (and sprains her ankle so she can't run), pulls a knife, and starts threatening the woman. The woman, though, is no pushover: she reaches into her fanny pack, pulls out a pistol, and starts to wield it. The psycho is faster than she realizes, though, and grabs her hand and wrestles her for control of the gun. They tussle for a dozen seconds, the woman realizes her assailant it stronger than she is and she is losing her grip on the gun. But she has one last second to pull the trigger, and she manages it – she kills him.

OK, obviously this is the crystal clear justified defense sort of situation – the woman was protecting her innocent daughter by killing the aggressor. The object of the act of shooting, the immediate reason, was indeed to quickly and surely damage him too greatly for him to pose any threat - i.e. inflict mortal sort of damage - but that’s not an intrinsically evil act: killing is neutral. The intention was protection of innocent life, that’s good. The circumstances support that what she did was good.

Right? Everybody aboard with that? Excellent. Oh, I forgot to mention: when she pulled the trigger, just a bare half-second before she would have lost her grip on the gun, she was between the psycho and the gun. The bullet transited her before it entered him, went through her chest, and killed her as it killed him.

Is that a CIRCUMSTANCE of the act that modifies the balance of good effects and evil effects that need to be proportionate? Or is that a condition of the act that changes the nature of the act as such – suicide AND 2nd killing? Or was it not suicide properly (since her death was never part of her goal), but did she commit murder of an innocent victim (herself) in order to get at the guilty unjust aggressor – she ignored the innocent party (herself) and treated herself as an object that did not have to be taken into account? Was her death part of the nature of the act because it was inseparable from the known conditions that determined the act as a whole? If so, she “intentionally” killed an innocent person in order to take out the psycho to protect a second innocent person.

I won’t hide the fact that I think that’s flat wrong. Her death was a known condition of the act, but (as was stated in the second paragraph of the scenario), we already knew the object of the act before we knew the bullet had to go through her to get the psycho. The immediate reason for the act was "mortal damage to the psycho so he cannot pose a threat." That’s because her object didn’t change between the moment when she started to point the gun at him, and the moment when in wrestling she found herself with a shot but only through herself. The changed circumstance is just that – a circumstance of the act, one of the three fonts of morality, but not one that specifies the nature of the act. The immediate reason constitutes the inherent rational nature of the act qua human act, its species, and her death we not part of that reason. Therefore, her death is not part of the object of the act, it does not re-cast the nature of the act itself. The act is still "killing an aggressor," the purpose / intention is still in defense of innocent life, and it is morally good in its circumstances because the proportion of good and bad effects works: without so acting the psycho would have killed both women (after raping them), by killing him only one woman died, and no rapes happened.

If PDE isn't valid, I don't see why even one death is on the table.

One death is not on the table, if your intention is to kill an innocent person.

What I think people are overlooking is that the lesser of two evils idea is much more fundamental, and is always the grounding of PDE.

If the lesser of two evils requires intentionally killing an innocent person or any other act that is forbidden always, everywhere and under any circumstances, it is not grounded in PDE because PDE doesn't apply.

So the underlying assumptions in all this are necessity and proportionality...

There is nothing necessary or proportionate about intentionally killing an innocent person because it is always, everywhere and under all circumstances forbidden.

...since I'm only choosing among bad options because no good ones aren't [sic] available, and because some things are less bad than others.

You are not required by a lack of good options to choose a bad one.

No one could licitly do something that might cause thousands of deaths unless the result of not so acting were thought to bring about a proportionate evil, but not necessarily an equal number of anything.

On autopilot now: You are not required by a lack of good options to choose a bad one.

Oh, I see. You can't kill thousands without intention he's saying.

No, that's not what I'm saying. I might test a bomb in what I took to be a vacant desert, but accidentally kill thousands of people who had taken refuge in a nearby labyrinth of caves while escaping from the People's Republic of San Francisco.

It seems he's making an assumption about needless agressive [sic] action with no necessity.

Leaving aside the redundancy of the formulation, and the question of why I would take an aggressive action if there were no need for it, it is certainly true that intentionally killing the innocent is needlessly aggressive. Oh, and wrong to boot.

I coulda sworn that up above I gave an explicit counterexample to the claim that "anything foreseen is intentional"

You did, Lydia. You just forgot that George might be reading it.

There's a huge gap between "knowing with moral certainty that X won't happen" and "X is a direct, obvious, and easily foreseen effect of my action." Again, look at the word "risk" that you use.

Yes, Lydia, there is a huge gap. That gap includes 2 types of possible situations. One is where the harm to innocents is neither the "moral certainty it won't happen" nor the "direct, and easily foreseen effect". Such as when the effect has a 5 to 20% chance of happening. Another is when the effect is not direct but is at only one remove from direct. Or two steps, but still easily foreseen.

Another case is when the effect is direct but in no way part of the reason for the act nor part of the goal and purpose of the act. Like my scenario above. I think your position winds up saying that since the woman is directly and foreseeably the cause of her death, then her death is "intentional" and makes the act wrong. I think that since her own death NEVER constitutes any part of the reason of the act, calling it "intentional" distorts the meaning of intention to something that up-ends the relationship of the will in human acts and wrecks PDE altogether, so that it becomes useless as a way of understanding moral acts.

Bill, you are simply caricaturing what I've said. I never suggested that the lesser of two evils requires intentionally killing an innocent person. Tony and I have both explained that lesser evil doesn't apply to inherent evil. And you are simply caricaturing what I've said. And no one is required by a lack of good options to choose a bad one when no action is required. I made that clear enough with the word "necessity."

Look, I know from past discussions you have some trouble with PDE. Could you just tell me what is your position on it?

I coulda sworn that up above I gave an explicit counterexample to the claim that "anything foreseen is intentional" when I talked about my not being responsible for what a terrorist does (even if I can foresee that he will do it) in response to my carrying out some unavoidable duty such as feeding a child so the child doesn't die.

But Lydia, that counterexample seemed pretty odd to me. You said "many attempted moral dilemmas follow this pattern . . ." but I'm not aware of any serious ones other than in the "what would you do" sense. Under some circumstances I might be forced to act if I thought the outcome was better than if I didn't, but surely I would not be guilty of whatever happened in any case. I would think it uncontroversial to think a person not culpable if it wasn't a voluntary act. A witty takedown of such a supposed moral choice was given by Lincoln in his Cooper Union speech: A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

So it seems a bit unrealistic to say many moral dilemmas are of this form, since no interesting ones are in my opinion. I also don't really see what is clarifying about the statement "direct, obvious, and easily foreseen effect of my action". Some terrorists in Africa have grabbed women and actually attacked our soldiers while they were in the open while firing between the womon's legs. I think they justify firing back if they must to avoid being killed by holding the terrorist guilty of the woman's death. In that case would you consider that the soldier defending himself and killing the woman isn't culpable because it wasn't a free choice? Examples like this are what makes me think using the phrase "direct, obvious, and easily foreseen" is problematic.

Lydia, I didn't think we'd get to a disagreement over the word "proximate"! In these examples, the person facing the moral dilemma is a (relatively) proximate cause in that his decision affects who dies, who is endangered, or whatever. He can choose whether or not to kill the child. His act is more proximate than the terrorist's act of putting him in that situation. This is just causality, nothing about morals.

I don't think our different definitions of "responsible" will really keep us from seeing eye to eye. Whether or not you're morally "responsible" for killing a child under duress, the outcome is at that time up to you. My whole point is that in your dilemma, it doesn't matter whether the "moral responsibility" rests with the terrorist only or with both of you. What matters is that you have the choice at that time. Just because you're not morally "responsible" for the terrorist's mass murder doesn't mean that you should not stop it by killing the child.

That said, we never will see eye to eye, because I do believe that one sometimes ought to commit what most of you call "intrinsically evil acts" in order to do good.

This whole distinction between "intentional" and "foreseen with reasonable certainty" is pretty obvious. I think we all get it. It's also exactly the point where moral arguments get stalemated, at a move and counter-move like this (referring, say, to Israeli military operations in Gaza):

"We didn't intentionally kill those non-combatants; in fact, we tried very hard not to kill them."
"So what? You knew before you acted that something like this would happen, so it doesn't matter that you didn't intend it."

This is where it always stops. So I'll get it started again, with this alternative counter-move:

"You did what you could to prevent it, but your strategy and operations depend on the fact that you will fail to prevent it. Your aim is to `restore deterrence,' but the only practical way you can really restore deterrence is to inflict suffering on non-combatants. In other words, while this secondary effect is unintended, its predicted occurrence is necessary to your decision to carry out the operation."

My question is, does this counter-move, assuming it's factually true, have any moral relevance?

Look, I know from past discussions you have some trouble with PDE. Could you just tell me what is your position on it?

I have no problem with it whatsoever. And I have no "position" on it, but try only to adhere to it. What people have been trying to get across to you is that in the case of what you call "inherent evil" (an intrinsically evil act?), PDE does not come into play because intrinsically evil acts can never be permitted. So all discussion of permitting the "lesser of two evils" is out the window. You say yourself: "Tony and I have both explained that lesser evil doesn't apply to inherent evil."

So what's the problem, since you seem to agree with Lydia, et.al.? Because then you say to her:

Under some circumstances I might be forced to act if I thought the outcome was better than if I didn't, but surely I would not be guilty of whatever happened in any case. I would think it uncontroversial to think a person not culpable if it wasn't a voluntary act.

And with that you completely eviscerate intrinsic or 'inherent' evil of any content. Surely you can see that your hypothetical act would still be voluntary, even with a gun to your head. You can choose not to do what the gunman commands. (I'm assuming here that the kind of act you mean is like that given in your Africa example, in which the soldiers shoot through the women to kill the terrorists.) For example, if a terrorist in control of you and your family says that he will let them all go but only if you choose to kill one of them, you must refuse, because intentionally killing the innocent is always forbidden. The terrorist's coercion doesn't change the nature of your act, though it might lessen culpability. As Zippy, whom you seem to despise, once put it: you may not intentionally kill one innocent to save the whole world.

There are other situations in which you might permit a lesser evil to avoid a greater one, but in no case will you be the perpetrator of that evil, or else you'd be violating that principle we Christians are supposed to agree upon: you may not do evil that good may come. PDE only applies to acts which are under normal circumstances good in themselves, but which in other circumstances might be the cause of some evil that you do not intend, but the allowing of which avoids some greater catastrophe. Dropping atomic bombs on a city full of people is not that kind of act.

The quote from Lincoln is not saying what you think, and actually supports Lydia's position.


because I do believe that one sometimes ought to commit what most of you call "intrinsically evil acts" in order to do good.

Aaron, I fear that you are right, your views are irreducibly opposed to ours. If an act is INTRINSICALLY wrong, then it is INTRINSICALLY undesirable (that's what it means to be opposite of "right" and "good") - a person who adheres to it is adhering to it even though it is _not_to_be_desired. Something that is intrinsically evil is _not_to_be_desired in any and all circumstances, even those of so-called "necessity". To desire the act even "because it is necessary" to achieve a good goal is to desire evil as such, because the sum total of the evil_act+goal is by definition a greater evil total than the situation of _not_acting plus not_achieving_good_goal.

This whole distinction between "intentional" and "foreseen with reasonable certainty" is pretty obvious.

Actually, it isn't obvious, or I would already have convinced Lydia and Bill of my point. But I will say it again:

The moral philosophers who craft and explain PDE say themselves of the evil effect ( but not an intrinsically evil act) that the kind of evil effect we are talking about is one that comes about because of your act - you are the cause. This distinguishes it from the terrorist threat that HE will kill millions if you don't kill the child. The evil effect of millions of deaths is HIS act, not yours. So you cannot register all those deaths in YOUR PDE analysis.

Secondly, they say that the evil effect must not be your intention, or at most only your intention indirectly - because you know the act carries that effect. For example, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy quotes the New Catholic Encyclopedia:

The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.

This helps explain EXACTLY what I think the difference is between Lydia's position and mine. PDE cases are situations where an evil effect comes from your action, either certainly or morally sufficiently to call the effect YOUR doing. But (in the eyes of the explainers of PDE) you don't intend the effect in any direct sense, THEY INSIST as one of the conditions that you not intend it in any direct sense. The willing of the bad effect is a secondary kind of willing - you only will it in the sense that you will the good effect that you cannot get to occur without the bad effect. But this is only applicable (a) when the evil is not an intrisically evil act, and (b) when the evil is not that by reason of which you achieve the good effect, the evil effect is not the cause of the good effect. (b) is important in showing how the indirectly voluntary willing sits in us: if your willing the good implies your willing the evil effect because the evil effect causes the good effect, then you MUST be willing the evil effect directly and as such. The conditions require that you NOT do this for a successful application of PDE. For a good PDE case, the evil effect comes about independently from the good effect. So your will is directly on the good effect, and not directly on the evil effect even though YOUR ACT CAUSES the evil effect.

And this is not like doing an intrinsically evil act like killing the child so the terrorist doesn't blow up millions. In that case, you want the terrrorist to not act, and the MEANS of getting that is by killing the child - the child's death is actually the means you use to achieve your goal. The evil is not independent of the cause of the good, it is itself the cause of the good. Therefore the evil is actually part of your direct intention. To intend an evil as the means to a good is to directly intend the evil AS SUCH, and that is wrong. Or, more generally, because the intrinsically evil act has as its immediate reason a bad object, to do the act JUST IS to directly will the evil.

George, Lydia is right: damaging someone's property is not intrinsically evil.

Lydia, George's point works just as well whether the evil is merely an evil effect or an intrinsically evil object. The underlying principle of this whole debate is: Do not intentionally do evil. Period. Do not do evil that good may come of it (which many mistake), as well as do not do evil that evil may come of it (which only psychopaths get muddled). Do not intentionally do evil.

If it is given that the evil effect is foreseen and is coming about through your act, and that it really is your responsibility, Lydia you seem to be proposing that you MUST be directly intending it, and then George's example still applies: you are intending an evil (damage to a car) to achieve a good result. Intending an evil violates the BASIC principle.

The only way to get out of that conclusion is, as George said, that the damage to the car is not directly intentional, even though it is ABSOLUTELY YOUR DOING, the effect is yours and yours alone, and it is obviously foreseen when you did it. George and I agree that this is a perfect PDE application: crashing into a car is not intrinsically evil, you don't desire the smashed car in any direct sense, and the good effect (not killing the child) is proportionate to the evil effect of your act that is foreseen. Lydia's theory seems to require saying that your crashing into the car is a situation where you foresee the evil effects, and you are the actor directly responsible for the evil effect, so that effect must be your direct intention.

Or, Lydia, do accept in this case that even though the evil effect wholly is your doing, and you knew it would happen, it is still not directly intended?

Tony, I just think the word "evil" is being used equivocally there. Sure, I intend to crash into the car. I'm not stupid. I'm sorry about the damage to the car, but "wishing it didn't happen" and "not intending it" aren't the same thing. If I said to the owner, "I didn't mean to smash your car" this would be highly unconvincing. He could reply quite understandably, "You didn't mean to smash my car, but you deliberately drove right into it? Tell me another one." Now, hopefully that conversation would never occur, because if the owner believed me about the child, he wouldn't make a song and dance about the car. Let's hope he's a good guy and understands.

Look, I have known a child who will elbow her sister good and hard and then say something like, "I wasn't trying to poke her." Well, then, what _were_ you trying to do? That's the obvious question from a parent. In one sense, I was deliberately driving into the car. It's just that I wouldn't have done that under ordinary circumstances. Saying, "I didn't intend to smash the car" has meaning only in the sense that it means, "My _goal_ wasn't to smash the car" or "I wasn't smashing the car as an end in itself" or something like that.

On your scenario about fighting with the attacker: I would assume if I heard about such a case that the mother did _not_ know that she was shooting herself. It's a melee. It's a mess. Now, if you want to put the thing into slow motion so that she knows exactly what is happening at every split second and does every physical act with full understanding, then it would be pretty dumb to shoot herself in an attempt to shoot the killer, because only by rather far-fetched luck would this do him any harm at all. More likely, she would just kill herself, stop the bullet or slow it down a great deal, and he'd get away scot free to harm her child. If, on the other hand, she knew full well that she would kill herself and that the bullet would then keep traveling and kill him, then, yes, this is highly problematic as far as suicide is concerned. A third possibility would be hoping that she would merely harm herself and would be able to be saved but would kill the murderer or disable him to the point that he was no longer dangerous. (Remembering that if he survives he may well murder her anyway.) This, again, seems unlikely though, and not something she should be betting on.

Sure, I intend to crash into the car.

[...]

Saying, "I didn't intend to smash the car" has meaning only in the sense that it means, "My _goal_ wasn't to smash the car" or "I wasn't smashing the car as an end in itself" or something like that.

If your goal wasn’t to smash the car, then neither did you intend it, not in the true sense of the word “intend” anyway.

There are two senses in which the word “intention” can be used: for those things that are not goals and those things that are. (Note, when I speak of goals I am referring both to ultimate goals [ends] and also subordinate goals [means to ends].) But it is clear that an intention that is not a goal is not the same kind of thing as one that is. Thus, we have here a clear case of equivocation, where the same term is used to signify two generically different things.

But generically different things should not be treated as if they were the same simply because they are signified by the same term. For example, a human being and a statue may both be called “a man,” but, of course, that doesn’t mean that they should both be treated the same. In fact, a statue is called a man only because it bears certain similarities to a human being, which alone is a true man. Likewise, an “intention” that is not a goal is only called an intention because it bears certain similarities to goals, which alone are intentions in the true sense of the word.

I have no problem with it [PDE] whatsoever. And I have no "position" on it, but try only to adhere to it.

Hmn. The last discussion I can recall on it you disputed that closing a submarine door with sailors in the compartment at the last possible to save it and the rest of the crew was immoral. Maybe my memory is incorrect.

Under some circumstances I might be forced to act if I thought the outcome was better than if I didn't, but surely I would not be guilty of whatever happened in any case. I would think it uncontroversial to think a person not culpable if it wasn't a voluntary act.

And with that you completely eviscerate intrinsic or 'inherent' evil of any content. Surely you can see that your hypothetical act would still be voluntary, even with a gun to your head.
The quote from Lincoln is not saying what you think, and actually supports Lydia's position.

It supports both our positions to the extent we are not responsible for coerced acts, but not her position generally. That was the point.

And Lydia's hypothetical doesn't eliminate the problem. The statement "I'm not responsible" is too broad. If in a hypothetical I am forced to choose between two bad options in a coercive situation by another actor when there are other better options I would choose if I could exercise my free will, I would not be responsible for not choosing the better options. But I would still be responsible for choosing the worst of the options forced upon me if I did that. So it isn't adequate to say "I'm not responsible" without specifying what I'm not responsible for. I don't just check out of the scenario as a moral decisionmaker because coercion is involved. If any of the choices are intrinsically evil then then those are not to be chosen. If all are intrinsically then inaction is to be chosen.

For example, if a terrorist in control of you and your family says that he will let them all go but only if you choose to kill one of them, you must refuse, because intentionally killing the innocent is always forbidden.

Yes, I know that. Above I said it is easy to come up with a scenario where (I tend to draw on the KGB actual methods) it would be not only permissible but obligatory to let thousands die rather than be forced to harm --not even kill-- another because of the intrinsic evil involved. Maybe you missed that.

The terrorist's coercion doesn't change the nature of your act, though it might lessen culpability.

Of course, coercion doesn't change the nature of the act. The problem is that we have a different view on acts generally. You don't accept in a clear way the dictum “Of two evils the lesser is always to be chosen,” by Kempis which can be traced all the way back at least to Augustine and forward to the Humanae Vitae. Hypotheticals in your mind always seem to involve the idea that I could sacrifice myself. When self-sacrifice will resolve a choice and lesser evil is done, I should surely take it. But if it involves sacrificing others you seem to imply that inaction solves it. Self-sacrifice and other-sacrifice are wildly different things.

As Zippy, whom you seem to despise, once put it: you may not intentionally kill one innocent to save the whole world.

I don't despise Zippy. I went very, very rough on his views, no question. He goes very rough on others in the same way, and my perception is that he doesn't get much of a critique so I provided it. I don't despise him or even dislike him. Zippy is right in that statement as far as it goes, but what intention means is the question right now and surely it is clear by now that repeating "you may not intentionally kill" doesn't resolve it.

Tony, I just think the word "evil" is being used equivocally there.

Well, I tried to clarify one way to NOT equivocate on "evil", by using (for this discussion) the terms "evil effect" (when the effect is apart from the object of the act) and "wrong act" or "wrong object of the act".

But from your following points, I think the equivocation is all on "intention". And that's where I focused my attention: directly intending and indirectly intending, to distinguish the senses.

George is right that intention can be used about things that are goals and things that are not. The things that are not are things that are intended only indirectly.

To draw out the distinction more fully: at least in the views of philosophers like St. Thomas and others who affirm the meaning of intrinsically wrong acts, and who speak carefully about the "nature of the act", they identify the "object of the act" as the aspect that constitutes its formal identity, determining its species. They go on to say that WHAT THAT IS, is the immediate intention, the state of affairs immediately upon the completion of the act if the act is not obstructed or short-circuited. Thus it is distinguished from goals that are remote intentions that are separated from the action by time, place, or intervening acts and causes. If your act is abortion, the act isn't complete until the baby is dead, so the death of the baby constitutes the object, is not some side-line accretion of the act.

Indirectly intended means something else. The object of the act is NEVER indirectly intended, it is always directly intended. So, if something is indirectly intended, it CAN'T be the object of the act.

Now, if you want to put the thing into slow motion so that she knows exactly what is happening at every split second and does every physical act with full understanding, then it would be pretty dumb to shoot herself in an attempt to shoot the killer, because only by rather far-fetched luck would this do him any harm at all. More likely, she would just kill herself, stop the bullet or slow it down a great deal, and he'd get away scot free to harm her child.

My scenario has the mother fully and completely aware that the gun is pointing toward her. She knows it, and she is aware what that means when she pulls the trigger. Next, the bullet is a steel jacket bullet, at close range it will go through her AND the psycho, no problem (that's from my FBI buddy). And the gun (slight change in scenario) is pointed at her belly, so it doesn't have to avoid her ribs and shoulder blades: time slows down for her and she is instantly aware that at this moment she has an extremely good chance of killing or incapacitating the attacker.

That's the scenario. She knows the bullet will damage her vital organs greatly, enough to cause her own death unless she is very lucky. She knows with moral certainty that it will do the same to the attacker. She has no reasonable doubts that she can stop the guy this way.

If, on the other hand, she knew full well that she would kill herself and that the bullet would then keep traveling and kill him, then, yes, this is highly problematic as far as suicide is concerned. A third possibility would be hoping that she would merely harm herself and would be able to be saved but would kill the murderer or disable him to the point that he was no longer dangerous.

She knew full well that the bullet is going to cause the same kind of damage to her as to the guy. In both cases it is likely to be a mortal wound (but for medical attention - no certainty either way there), of such a nature that her daughter will be able to manage the situation after. Either the attacker will be dead, or so severely injured that he will be in no shape to attack, and the daughter can get the gun at that point.

There is absolutely NO rational way to ascribe her injuries to any direct intention. She doesn't want to have a bullet in her in ANY sense other than the sense of putting the bullet in the attacker. The object of the act isn't "injure me so the psycho's plan is foiled", or even "injure me". Anyone who says "injure me" is the object of the act is just not understanding what we mean by object. And her injury certainly is not any sort of remote goal. It is wholly and precisely what is meant by "indirectly intended". And things that are indirectly intended are morally permissible - as is crashing the car.

It is irrelevant that the injury to herself comes prior to the injury to the attacker. Before or after is not the determining factor. Looking at the PDE criteria, what is required is that the good effect (the goal intended) does not come to be "by reason of" the evil effect. And that obtains here: injuring herself is not what causes the injury to the psycho. (If it were, she would not have had to wrestle with the gun, she could have just shot herself in the leg - injury to herself would have caused injury to the attacker - which is absurd of course). It is not because the shot injures her that the shot succeeds in its object of injuring the attacker - nothing about "injure attacker" formally calls for "injure yourself first". Injuring her isn't any formal component of the act, and isn't any part of her direct intention. So the PDE condition is met.

A telling problem with the "suicide" objection: if the daughter gets medical professionals immediately and they save the mother, there is absolutely no sense in which the mother will feel for even a split moment that "her intentions were obstructed." So there is no sense whatsoever that her death is part of her direct intention.

George, I am pretty sure you cannot make headway with Lydia and Bill without taking note of the distinction between direct intention and indirect intention.

Everyone here (except Aaron apparently) should agree, I think, that the object of the act MUST be directly intended. Insofar as the act is a voluntary human act, and has its species determined by the object chosen, the object MUST be directly intended. So it MUST be morally good or neutral for a good act. The ultimate goal is also directly intended. PDE insists that the evil effects (apart from the object) that are permitted must be not directly intended. It also insists that it is OK that they are indirectly intended, because "indirectly intended" means, precisely, those effects (other than the object of the act) that are not desirable for themselves but you know you are going to get by choosing the act.

To refuse to accept that sense of indirectly intended effects is to repudiate PDE altogether.

Destroying the car is an evil effect of crashing into it, which is an effect of swerving to avoid the kid. Destroying the car is in no way directly intended. It is however a known (at the time) effect of the act of swerving away from the kid. If it is indirectly intended, then you have a valid application of PDE. If the fact that you knew the effect would happen because of your action and you chose to swerve anyway implies that you directly intended the evil effect, then the act is immoral, because

It Is Wrong To Directly Intend Evil.

A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

The quote from Lincoln is not saying what you think, and actually supports Lydia's position.

Bill, I just realized you must think I missed Lincoln's satire. But of course I didn't. No, my point was that Lincoln was pointing out how self-evidently bizarre it is to think "you will be a murderer" could be true in that circumstance. I believe that the statement induced convulsive laughter. My point was that Lydia using a logically identical hypothetical as evidence of a clear view vis-a-vis foresight and intention isn't very helpful.

It supports both our positions to the extent we are not responsible for coerced acts, but not her position generally. That was the point.

Mark, I don't think your example is going to clarify the debate sufficiently. The usual take on coercion is that it reduces freedom and responsibility and culpability, not that it eradicates it. Without eradicating culpability, you cannot make your thesis work out of a coercion example.

Overall, the idea behind examples with coercion and other attempts is to create a scenario that involves "necessity". Coercion only has a relative necessity, though, not an unqualified necessity. So it contains its own ambiguity and does not clarify the principles at stake. It is even more unhelpful to say:

Under some circumstances I might be forced to act if I thought the outcome was better than if I didn't, but surely I would not be guilty of whatever happened in any case. I would think it uncontroversial to think a person not culpable if it wasn't a voluntary act.

because that equivocates on "force" even more. If a person ought to choose good over evil, and the greater good over the lesser good, then he is to choose A over B when he discerns that A is much better than B. For him to say "I was forced to choose A over B" is to obscure the difference between force and voluntary acts, because choosing A over B precisely due to A being better is just what we think is a successfully voluntary act.

So, while we sometimes use obscuring language when we say "I was forced to choose the lesser of 2 evil effects", we should try to avoid that kind of obfuscation in these debates. You freely chose it. What you were not free about was that the only acts available (neutral in their objects, so not intrinsically evil) were acts that had ill some effects, you were not free to find and choose an act that had good effects and no ill effects because no such acts were available.

Mark, I don't think your example is going to clarify the debate sufficiently. The usual take on coercion is that it reduces freedom and responsibility and culpability, not that it eradicates it. Without eradicating culpability, you cannot make your thesis work out of a coercion example.

I agree with you as far as I understand you Tony. I think you missed my point. I was questioning the mileage gotten out a trivial example as evidence of something I thought was taken to imply more.

Still, in the example in question, isn't the meaning of "freely choosing" just a stand-in for the disagreement over "intention"? I don't see how that helps, but I didn't take myself to be introducing a thesis that differed from yours, and I think your last paragraph is a summary of my own earlier one that applied to this.

George, I am pretty sure you cannot make headway with Lydia and Bill without taking note of the distinction between direct intention and indirect intention.

Tony, I think that people recognize that there is some distinction, but they don't think it changes things one way or another. It seems that they consider it to be some sort of casuistic ploy to get people to believe that what is evil is really not evil. Therefore, they don't take the distinction seriously, and they deny that any real distinction exists at all.

But Tony, I forgot to say that when I said "It supports both our positions to the extent we are not responsible for coerced acts, but not her position generally," I was speaking of Lincoln's guffaw-inducing bit where he said "and you will be a murderer." I figured out too late that Bill must have thought I missed Lincoln's satire and thought it did imply one would be a murderer for the actions of another against his will that follow from another's act. Of course it wouldn't, and Lincoln dispatched that idea including its relevant context for saying it with great brevity. But it doesn't mean that I check out as a moral actor from the scenario because I'm not responsible for an individual consequence in the scenario was all I was saying.

Tony, I think that people recognize that there is some distinction, but they don't think it changes things one way or another. It seems that they consider it to be some sort of casuistic ploy to get people to believe that what is evil is really not evil. Therefore, they don't take the distinction seriously, and they deny that any real distinction exists at all.

I think you're right George.

But it doesn't mean that I check out as a moral actor from the scenario because I'm not responsible for an individual consequence in the scenario was all I was saying.

Let me state it differently and see if I gather your point. When the terrorist tells me "either you kill little Janie there or I will blow up the city", you don't cease to be a moral actor merely because you refuse to do the action he wants you to do. You considered the act he demanded, you thought about the act, you realized it was intrinsically wrong, and you rejected that action. That's not failing to be a moral actor, that's being a moral actor who acts by choosing to refuse one specific proposal.

Further, you continue to be a moral actor by continuing to consider "what else can I do to prevent the deaths of all those people." You consider using subterfuge, so you have a chance at surprise or at confusing the terrorist. You consider an outright attack on him. You consider telling him his shoe-laces are untied. You keep on working on what might be usable to save those lives, because you are a moral actor. If you were to simply walk away and the terrorist blows up the people, you might actually be responsible in a very partial sense, not because you are in ANY sense responsible for choosing to set off the bomb, but because you are responsible for NOT attempting to dream up some course of action that might have saved some lives. The fact that the terrorist only presents you with 2 options ("kill the child or let the city be ruined") doesn't mean that those are YOUR only 2 options to consider, and once you have chosen between them that's all you do. No, you have the duty to consider all the reasonable options within reach.

Yes, that's it exactly Tony.

I think I have an answer to the PDE question I asked above. Anybody wanna check my work?

The situation: You carry out military operations targeting combatants, trying to avoid harm to others, which is nevertheless inevitable and foreseen. However, your motivation is to "restore deterrence," and you know that only the "side effect" of civilian harm - which, again, you try to avoid during the operations - will suffice to deter. Double effect, or no?

My answer: No, the harm to non-combatants is not a secondary effect in a double-effect situation, even though you tried to avoid it. The primary effect - or rather, the most relevant primary effect - is not the neutralization of combatants, but rather the restoration of deterrence. This point is crucial. While the neutralization of combatants is desirable in itself, you would not have carried out the operation in the way you did for that effect alone. Therefore, condition three in Tony's list is not satisfied, and the operation as conducted cannot be justified by PDE.

Is my reasoning correct? If so, then I think Israel's Operation Cast Lead was unjustifiable by PDE, and was a case of "doing evil so that good may come of it." (I'm phrasing that in terms of your moral framework; I wouldn't describe it that way, personally.) I think that a lot of similar operations are unjustifiable (from your point of view) for the same reason. The excuse that you're targeting non-combatants and trying to avoid harm to others is not a valid PDE justification.

Uh, yeah, Aaron, allegedly the whole motivation is to terrorize the civilian population, which is allegedly the only way one will bring about deterrence, so that's why one carries out an operation in such a way as to be super-careful to avoid civilian deaths. Makes sense to me. Actually, it doesn't make sense to me *at all*. But that's because I don't think your facts are right, which would take us afield.

Lydia, does a surgeon intend evil when he cuts a patient?

Of course not.

The same is true of the mother in my scenario. She does not intend evil. The damage to her body is exactly parallel (morally) to the damage to a patient under a surgeon's knife. Cuts ARE damage, but the damage is beside the direct intention of the act of surgery. The bullet DOES damage the woman, but the damage is completely aside from the direct intention of the act.

Aaron, if the long range goal can only be achieved by reason of civilian deaths, and if the civilian deaths come about through your choice of acts, the of COURSE the civilian deaths are part of the direct intention. Everything that is causally required for the goal is directly intended. The civilian deaths are required for the goal - the deaths THEMSELVES contribute to deterrence - so they are part of the direct intention loop.

There is absolutely NO rational way to ascribe her injuries to any direct intention. She doesn't want to have a bullet in her in ANY sense other than the sense of putting the bullet in the attacker.

This is absolutely nuts. What an evolution this place has undergone. Everything tends toward dissolution though, W4 not excepted. At least George R ("no one directly intended to kill civilians at Hiroshima") can feel at home again.

Well Bill, we brought aboard Jeffrey S., and he _just_ put up a post about how he was convinced away from any form of consequentialism by Zippy, you, and me. And I'm still here. So cheer up. :-)

Tony, there is no way, Jose, that the mother's injuries are *anything like* the cuts in a patient caused by a surgeon trying to help the patient. C'mon, just think of the crucial disanalogy: The surgeon is trying to help _that patient_. The mother is causing death to herself, knowingly and by the direct causal effect of her pulling the trigger, in order to kill someone else.

I can't help thinking that you might find this extremely poor surgeon analogy much more difficult to maintain psychologically if the mother were killing someone else--say, her daughter--in a similar scenario. Say she shoots through her daughter's belly with the same type of steel bullet which, you say, she has good reason to believe will go through and kill the bad guy as well, and the alternative is that he remains free to rampage about and kill the mother! Or even, if that doesn't grab you, to kill and wreak havoc upon some larger number of people. The mother's life is neither more nor less valuable than the daughter's. It's difficult for me to see why it isn't just as wrong for the mother to shoot herself to death to save her daughter as it would be to shoot her daughter to death to save herself and/or others. Or how either of these can be even remotely analogized to the act of a surgeon.

OK, you think that the woman intends her injuries from the bullet. Show me how the surgeon does not intend the injuries to skin, muscle, blood vessels, peritoneum from his knife. But remember, the eventual outcome of health is a GOAL, not the nature of the act.

Or how either of these can be even remotely analogized to the act of a surgeon.

Because you insist on keeping the thought on the view at 10,000 feet, instead of actually trying to analyze the surgeon's act. Sure, the surgeon doesn't want a dead patient, he wants a healthy patient. But the ACT HE CHOOSES is surgery, which involves slicing up the patient's skin, etc. Those things are physical evils. His chosen act includes, within the act itself, causing physical evils. They aren't even post-act EFFECTS of the surgeon's act, they ARE the act. And yet you insist that the surgeon's act is good.

Show me how the surgeon doesn't intend the evils of sliced up skin, muscles, and capillaries.

Along the way, show me how Samson doesn't intend to kill himself.

Samson probably did. In fact, almost certainly. Where is it written that every act of every (admittedly brave) Israelite military leader in slaying his enemies is something we have to endorse morally?

I have no problem with saying that the surgeon in one sense intends (as a means to an end) the cuts in the skin. But it's not wrong for him to cut the person's skin because he's trying to save *that person's* life by so doing. The cuts in the skin are a not-intrinsically-wrong means to the end of saving that person's life, all of which involves treating the patient himself as an end and not as a means.

Knowingly shooting X fatally in order to kill bad-guy Y and save potential victim Z isn't even remotely similar.

Aaron, if the long range goal can only be achieved by reason of civilian deaths, and if the civilian deaths come about through your choice of acts, the of COURSE the civilian deaths are part of the direct intention. Everything that is causally required for the goal is directly intended. The civilian deaths are required for the goal - the deaths THEMSELVES contribute to deterrence - so they are part of the direct intention loop.

Well Aaron, if you're of the opinion that our moral theories correspond to reality somewhat imperfectly, then that's two of us. The best that moral philosophy can do is set rough boundaries at the extremes to clarify things as best we can. There is a reason philosophers use wildly extreme thought experiments such as "torturing babies for fun." The conception of war here oscillates between ancient tournament style war and guerilla war where the line between combatants and non-combatants is intentionally blurred, and in the Palestinian and terrorist cases often so that one side will be demoralized by guilt over the result because of their goodness. It's a rotten world we live in.

It does point out the problem that many necessary things to a government's proper execution of its duties probably don't fit into the pattern of moral theorizing as understood by some. There is no substitute for the moral vision of good men determining what is best according to the circumstances as he sees them. The problem is that gross evils may also occur by inaction as evil is caused by aggressive evil actors that are unopposed.

I think your point is what good is theorizing beyond a certain point if it rules out necessary things to a cultures survival, or something like that. If that is your point, you aren't the only one who thinks this debate if pushed too far is somewhat unrealistic. The first rule of ethical theory is that it isn't a black box that can tell us what to do in a given circumstance. It establishes the principles involved and the extremes to clarify as much as is possible. The rest is up to the actors to call on their consciences and their God to guide them through bad and worse choices when they will be attacked mercilessly no matter what they do.

But the ACT HE CHOOSES is surgery, which involves slicing up the patient's skin, etc. Those things are physical evils.

I was in a class onetime when a surgeon who was a student said that there was a reason medical students practice on animals to start out. Because it was unreasonable to expect that a person's revulsion to cutting into human skin could be suppressed without repeated practice of cutting into skin of those with whom we don't identify. Only after being desensitized and hardened to this experience by repeated skin cutting could they really have much hope of suppressing their thoughts about the proximate act of cutting into a human body to get at the greater good.

I have no problem with saying that the surgeon in one sense intends (as a means to an end) the cuts in the skin. But it's not wrong for him to cut the person's skin because he's trying to save *that person's* life by so doing. The cuts in the skin are a not-intrinsically-wrong means to the end of saving that person's life,

Let me recall the third condition under which an act that causes evil may be morally permissible:

3 The good effect must be produced by the action independently of the bad effect, not BY the bad effect.

You're saying that the good effect is brought about by the evil - the evil thing is the means to the end, and so It's OK to do evil if good comes from it?

"Do evil" there, of course, is cutting the person. I agree that cutting is not morally evil, it is morally neutral of its own character - but the cuts are a physical evil. But THAT's not what the third condition permits. It's talking about good and evil effects, including physically good and evil effects, not moral wrongs. (The "not moral wrongs" is already taken care of in the first condition, that the act be not intrinsically wrong.)

The whole business is a problem because of the principle "do not do evil", which includes "do not do evil that good may come of it." The clarification of the principle holds 2 things, that you can't ever do moral evil (i.e. an intrinsically wrong act) for any reason, including a good goal. And that you can't INTEND evil, including merely physical evil, when the good goal comes about by reason of the evil effect.

What you have just said is that it is OK for the surgeon to INTEND to cause physical evil that good may come of it.

If that is OK, then I don't need anything further (like good ole' PDE) to justify the mother's action. Causing her death is causing a physical evil, but not a moral evil. It is OK to cause her death if good will come of it.

The character of the objective act – making the act as such wrong or not – is based on the objectively chosen act, not based on the subject acting and his attitude about the chosen act. If you chose the act of killing innocent persons, the chosen act is objectively determined by the act being ordered to the death of the innocent person. The desires and wishes of the actor, say, wishing it were not necessary are irrelevant to whether his action is ordered toward killing the innocent person.

By comparison, the moral object is grounded in the act chosen by the person. A person can choose from any of various possible acts. Each act has one or more moral objects, inherent to the nature of the act. Each act is intrinsically ordered toward a type of fruition, a completion in terms of a voluntary choosing, which is its moral object. This inherent ordering of an act toward its moral object constitutes the moral nature of the act. In choosing any act, the human person is in fact choosing the act AND its moral nature AND its moral object, because they are integral. It is not possible for a person to choose an act, and not be morally responsible for the nature of that act as determined by its moral object.

Example: A general chooses an act of using a WMD on a civilian population for the purpose (intended end) of reducing the projected suffering of an invasion or lengthy blockade. He protests that his chosen act is not murder, that murder is repugnant to him, and that he intends only a quick surrender and generous peace terms. But his good intended end is unable to change the moral nature of the act that he has chosen. Even though he chooses an act of mass civilian casualties as a means, not as an end, and even though he chooses that act of mass civilian casualties for a good intended end, the chosen act remains the same. Mass civilian killing is a type of murder – the taking of the life of an innocent person. And he has intentionally chosen that type of act. The death of the innocent person is not apart from the object, it is PART of the object: the act he engages in doesn’t reach its completion until the civilians are dead, the IMMEDIATE REASON for the activity is to cause the death of innocent civilians - the death is in the will directly chosen, it determines the reason for the action.

...if the long range goal (of regime change) can only be achieved by reason of civilian deaths, and if the civilian deaths come about through your choice of acts, the of COURSE the civilian deaths are part of the direct intention. Everything that is causally required for the goal is directly intended. The civilian deaths are required for the goal - the deaths THEMSELVES contribute to regime change - so they are part of the direct intention loop.

Well, no, because the direct killing of an innocent person--herself--isn't just a physical evil but rather is a moral evil. It's obviously just playing with terms to call it a mere physical evil.

It's quite obvious that there is no problem bringing about some mere "physical evil" deliberately as a means to a good end. A fireman who deliberately destroys a door in order to get into a burning building is destroying the door _on purpose_, but it's no biggie. It's just a door, and he isn't doing so wantonly. If, on the other hand, the fireman took his axe and hacked through, say, a living child in order to save five more children, then that would be wrong. Because it's always wrong to chop up living children with an axe. Just as it's always wrong to shoot yourself to death. I find all of this pretty straightforward.

Step2 and I were posting simultaneously. My previous comment is directed to Tony's comment, not Step2's.

It's quite obvious that there is no problem bringing about some mere "physical evil" deliberately as a means to a good end.

Well, that's not what what a tradition of at least 1500 years of thinking about the matter has said. The entire development of PDE was in order to figure out why it was OK to cause even mere physical evils for the sake of good when the Biblical injunction is "do not do evil that good may come of it."

Lydia, instead of keeping on insisting that the mother's act constitutes "direct killing of an innocent person", can you please at least attempt to address the nitty gritty specifics of the difficult moral analysis: what is the object of her act? what is the nature of her act, what is the purpose? and what is an effect that does not alter the nature of the act but may affect the moral quality in the way conditions and circumstances do? I think you will find that properly considered, her death constitutes no part of the nature of the act.

The mother's life is neither more nor less valuable than the daughter's.

The mother's act has the moral benefit of self-sacrifice, that is why he thinks it negates the prohibition against suicide. Generally speaking, the more a thought experiment depends upon an emergency as the background, the less informative it is for real life scenarios.

How about the case where a soldier jumps on a live hand-grenade in order to save the lives of his friends. Intentional self-slaughter?

So, nobody on Tony's and George's side is going to address the question of the mother's killing by shooting through the daughter to save herself (or to save some larger group of people) in a switched scenario?

Is Step2 right? Is this because self-sacrifice is considered okay but not sacrificing someone else? But that doesn't seem to square with the analysis given. If the mother's act of shooting herself fatally, knowingly, can be counted as "not intended" on the analysis given, one _ought_ to be able to switch it and let her sacrifice her daughter to save herself or others under similar circumstances.

I think there is a reason that Christ spoke of giving your life for another, rather than giving another for yet another. Or was the latter in the Apocrypha?

Mark, ol' buddy, look at the analysis we've been given. We've been told that the mother's shooting herself is *not intended* and is therefore *not wrong* even though she knows quite well that she is going to die, even though she puts the gun to her stomach and pulls the trigger, and even though, evidently, the only way for her to shoot the bad guy is to send the bullet traveling through herself, thus causing her death, first. But that's okay because it's allegedly *not intended*. It's just the way she has to do it to kill the bad guy, and she'd be quite happy if her life could be saved, which evidently is supposed to be enough to make it *not intended*, hence morally okay. If you can find a principled way *in that analysis* to justify the mother's deliberately shooting herself but not switching it and doing the same to the daughter to save herself (or others), let me know, 'kay?

She knows quite well that she is willing to die. If Tony meant she knew that she would die then that was a part of his thought experiment, and that changes things. I would say she is willing to die but doesn't wish to die, and that is quite a difference.

What an evolution this place has undergone. Everything tends toward dissolution though, W4 not excepted.

Ah, cheer up Bill. You know darn good and well you could serve on the same ethics board as Tony and probably seldom disagree on actual future actions. What is at stake in this intramural debate on ethics is almost entirely backward looking. The ability to pass judgement on events after they have already occurred. That is why I made note of the remoteness of the WWII example. What is at stake is the ability to assign guilt after the fact, not to prevent future actions.

The Israelis could likely use this type of great theoretical moral judgment to know what they can and can't do in dealing with an apocalyptic madman nearing the achievement of the atomic bomb who intentionally spread his facilities over numerous populated areas. But I won't hold my breath waiting for how your view of such matters might help them other than to duck and cover.

Put it this way Lydia. If she pulls the trigger and kills the bad guy, and she realizes afterwards that though she is wounded she isn't dead, or dead yet, do you expect her to fire again to finish the job? If she intended her own death wouldn't she?

The mother's act has the moral benefit of self-sacrifice, that is why he thinks it negates the prohibition against suicide.

There is of course a self-sacrifice element, but you will find that I nowhere relied on it. Because I don't think it is critical to understanding the morality.

But that doesn't seem to square with the analysis given.

Exactly. It's irrelevant to my point.

If you chose the act of killing innocent persons, the chosen act is objectively determined by the act being ordered to the death of the innocent person. The desires and wishes of the actor, say, wishing it were not necessary are irrelevant to whether his action is ordered toward killing the innocent person.

Did ANYBODY go and read the link I made to the article on "AQUINAS ON THE OBJECT AND EVALUATION OF THE MORAL ACT"? It deals with that.

Briefly, the "chosen act" is the physical activity combined with the object of the act, where the object is understood (from various necessary perspectives in order to have a full picture) as the form of the act, where the physical activity is the matter of the act; as the ratio (latin, not mathematical) of the act, the concept upon which the acting person is choosing to act; the immediate reason of the act; and the immediate state of completion at the end of the act if the act is in fact completed as chosen. Since the "form" of the act is that which involves the will, (which operates in choosing upon the options presented by the intellect), the object is itself notional. So, even though we insist on it be objective rather than subjective, it is objective within the context of an intelligent agent choosing.

(The easiest way to see the difference is the old example of the man Sam who, in an arranged marriage, marries Betty, one of a pair of twins. Betty's twin Sally kidnaps her and sleeps with her husband the first night. If you were to judge "objectively" by the physically objective facts, Sam sleeps with someone who is not his wife, so he commits adultery. Morally, however, that is not what we say. Morally, the act which he CHOSE is to sleep with his wife, because the object of the act in his intellect and will was sex with his wife. The option he acted on, insofar as known and as presented to his will by the intellect was "sleeping with Betty," and he chose it AS sleeping with Betty. Objectively, understood rightly for moral purposes, he did not commit adultery. The nature of the act is absolutely NOT determined by how Sam feels about Betty, or whether he wishes Betty were Sally, it is determined by the will choosing the option posed before it as known by the intellect. Since that option as known was presented as Betty and not Sally, sex with Betty was the object of the act. [Please don't mistake this with the idea that he is "guilty of adultery with very little guilt", because he is NOT guilty, his will is completely rectified, correctly ordered, and has nothing to repent of, nothing to be amended in.])

death of the innocent person is not apart from the object, it is PART of the object: the act he engages in doesn’t reach its completion until the civilians are dead, the IMMEDIATE REASON for the activity is to cause the death of innocent civilians - the death is in the will directly chosen, it determines the reason for the action.

Yes, understanding the object in terms of the ratio of the act also helps clarify the meaning of the object and nature of the act. In the WMD situation, the deaths of the civilians is precisely what leads to the quick end of the war, so if the general had the option of dropping the bomb where no civilians were killed, he would reject it (given his immediate reason, as being inappropriate for his goal. Thus the deaths are indeed included in the object of the act.

But you cannot call the mother's immediate reason for her act "her death". That's insane. Her death _as_such does not serve the purpose, the goal, in the least, so there is no reason for her to choose an act whose formal aspect is "kill myself". Nothing about her death contributes to her purpose, so it could not be present to her will as an attractive object, as an attractive immediate reason for shooting. So it is wrong to formulate and state the object of her act as "her death".

Properly stated, her immediate reason is to shoot the attacker, or maybe "deliver immediately incapacitating damage to the attacker". Just as the surgeon needs a hole in the body to get at the appendix, so also the woman needs a hole through her body to get the bullet to the attacker. FORMALLY, she doesn't need the bullet to pass through her body to have that happen, she only needs the bullet to pass from the gun to the attacker. So having it pass through her body is incidental to the object of the act. Her intervening location is a circumstance of the act, which must be included in the total analysis but is not the formal aspect of the act. Just as the surgeon hopes that the hole he makes is not one that kills the patient, the mother HOPES that she survives the shooting. It is absolutely and fundamentally contradictory to say that she hopes to survive

and that her object is the death of an innocent person. Since we know for sure that she hopes that the bullet wound is not fatal, then we must accept the necessary conclusion that the object does not include "kill an innocent person."

The only difference between the mother and the doctor is the estimation of the probability of the subject surviving the hole made in the body. Most of the time the surgeon doesn't want to operate if the probability of the cutting and slicing will kill is high. But every once in a while, the options are (1) cut the guy open even though the likelihood of his surviving it is low, or (2) let him die. Acting to cut in even though the surgeon is relatively sure (say above 70%) that the guy's body can't take it is OK if the likelihood of his dying if you DON'T cut in is even lower, say 95%. This is more like the mother's situation: likelihood that she will survive 10 more seconds if the attacker gets the gun is near 0. Likelihood of her surviving her gunshot wound in the belly is probably only a little better, but is uncertain.

But that probability only matters if shooting her body is not the object of the act - just as for the doctor the object is not "create a hole in the body" but rather "get at the diseased organ". Creating a hole is evil, because the body is not designed to have such holes. Getting at the diseased organ is not evil. The OBJECT is access to the organ, not the hole.

If Tony meant she knew that she would die then that was a part of his thought experiment, and that changes things.

I misspoke. I meant if Tony meant she intended to die and that is what is in dispute. I stand beside my 9:13 comment. step2 is right that the principle of self-sacrifice is what allows her to shoot herself, but she doesn't wish to die in any case.

Now if you have some crazy thought experiment where she knows her daughter wouldn't die if she shot through her, at that point the thought experiment has jumped the shark. If it were possible to know that with confidence theoretically one could make the case that it is possible, but in the real world it isn't and we don't have the right to endanger recklessly others on the wild hope that they'll survive and benefit ourselves. But I don't need to know with any certainty that I'll live since self-sacrifice is permissible.

I've got it. It is permissible to shoot her daughter if she's from the planet Krypton and her mother adopted her after finding her in a space capsule in a remote field. So she bounces the bullet off her daughters toned abs with certainty that she won't be harmed in any way and will kill the bad guy on the ricochet. She's a pool shark too. My thought experiment, my rules.

George R. brings up the old hand grenade chestnut. As a military history buff, I've researched a lot of these cases and can offer some further details:

1. Although a soldier does put himself at a high risk of dying, quite a few soldiers have been known to survive and even heal well enough to live on into old age(albeit with often permanent damage). So death is not certain.

2. Some of the soldiers who survived probably did so because they took some measure to lessen the impact of their injury, e.g. using a flak jacket or a helmet to cover the grenade. Of course these things can't guarantee that the soldier will not die, but they indicate an intention to live in spite of the odds.

This is different from self-sacrifice scenarios where the character knows with 100% certainty that he is going to die.

Let me give you an example from a Star Trek episode called The Doomsday Machine. (Spoiler warning, if anyone cares.) A mysterious planet-eater is on track to destroy inhabited planets, but the Enterprise can't figure out a way to stop it because the hull is immune to phaser blasts. One character decides to take a shuttlecraft down its throat, partly in hopes that it will have some effect on the machine, but also partly because he's psychologically shattered that he lost his crew to it and says "I should have died with them." So yes, here we are dealing with an intention to die, but for the moment let's just focus on the fact that what he did was 100% guaranteed to kill him, because that's the main factor I want to pinpoint in this scenario.

By contrast, Kirk decides to set a bigger ship on course to be swallowed by the eater and rigs it so that it will blow up once inside. But he builds in a 30-second delay and tells Scotty to use that window and beam him safely aboard the Enterprise before the other ship explodes. This is the dialogue between Kirk and Spock when Kirk announces his plan:

SPOCK: Captain, you're getting dangerously close to the planet killer.

KIRK: I intend to get a lot closer. I'm going to ram her right down that thing's throat.


SPOCK: Jim, you'll be killed, just like Decker.


KIRK: No. No, I don't intend to die, Mister Spock. We've rigged a delay detonation device. You'll have thirty seconds to beam me aboard the Enterprise before the Constellation's impulse engines blow.


SPOCK: Your chances of survival are not promising. We don't even know if the explosion will be powerful enough.


KIRK: A calculated risk, Mister Spock.


There's the phrase: "calculated risk."

Oh, forgot to add that the drama is heightened by the fact that the transportation device is acting dodgy, so it's not guaranteed to beam Kirk safely aboard. So he is cutting it very fine, but he decides he'll take the chance. (And yes, of course the transportation device malfunctions at the precise moment Kirk tells Scotty to beam him aboard, and yes, of course Scotty works frantically and manages to get it working again, and yes, of course this happens only at the very very last minute before the ship explodes.)

Very true Masked One about jumping on a grenade. Survivals of shootings are even far, far higher. But I'll bet Ol' George knows that and I don't see how it changes anything relevant. No one wishes to die apart from the suicidal, and that is a special case.

Mark, Tony admits that nothing in his analysis relied on the self-sacrifice element. I would go so far as to say that his analysis should countenance sacrificing the daughter in an exactly similar fashion. So, Tony: Is it okay for the mother to do the exact same thing to her daughter in order to kill the bad guy and prevent him from killing other people?

It is absolutely and fundamentally contradictory to say that she hopes to survive and that her object is the death of an innocent person. Since we know for sure that she hopes that the bullet wound is not fatal, then we must accept the necessary conclusion that the object does not include "kill an innocent person."

It is unbelievable that you are saying that what she hopes for or "really intends", is in fact the object. How is this hope or wish known by her intellect? I'll make this easy for you, she actually has two objects: the attempted killing of herself and the attempted killing of her attacker. The nature of the act is that she plans to use an intrinsically wrong act to produce a good consequence.

Lydia, I once asked Zippy very nearly that question. The situation posed was slightly different: the mother was being held at gunpoint as a shield by a kidnapper, and he has a bomb rigged to kill her kid and a bunch of others in another room. The FBI SWAT team can shoot the kidnapper only through her, and if they don't the kidnapper is going to grab his switch and blow the kids up. The mother wants her child to survive, so she begs the SWAT guys to shoot - even though the bullet has to go through her.

My point here is that the woman isn't asking to die, that isn't her object, and if the SWAT guy shoots, his object isn't to kill her either. As Mark says, if the SWAT guy shoots, kills the kidnapper, and finds the mother still alive, he doesn't shoot her. Nor does he say "dang, I screwed that up, she's still alive." So killing innocent life cannot be the object.

The reason I brought up THIS example instead of the mother shooting through her daughter is this: in both of my cases, the person being shot through consents to it. I don't know exactly how that this consent is critical, but it seems to be. For the grenade jumping, the soldier can jump on the grenade. (Are we all agreed on that?) Can the soldier grab his neighbor and throw HIM on the grenade? Ummm....I don't think that's quite as good. Do you agree that there is a moral difference there? If there is a moral difference between throwing yourself on the grenade, and throwing someone else on the grenade, then consent appears to matter.

Do you agree that there is a moral difference there? If there is a moral difference between throwing yourself on the grenade, and throwing someone else on the grenade, then consent appears to matter.

That is an appeal to self-sacrifice which you claimed didn't apply. Unless you think it is morally licit to consent to being killed without any known benefit to others.

Mark, my example wasn't meant to show that moral theories don't correspond to reality. I was interested in the example in itself, because there's a lot of discourse on it that always seems to get stuck in the same place. But I definitely do not believe that any moral theory or moral code corresponds to reality. By "theory" or "code" I mean something that claims to tell you how to answer all particular moral questions. That includes in particular Catholic moral doctrine, religious codes, and also all consequentialist theories. In fact, I think all currently existing moral theories are monstrous, if applied as intended. It's better to have no theory at all than a monstrous one.

"Most people are monstrously good." -Robert Walser

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

Consequently, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "there are certain specific kinds of behaviour that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil".

The reason why a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed, is that the human act depends on its object, whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God, to the One who "alone is good", and thus brings about the perfection of the person.

But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an "autonomous morality" ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action. Some authors do not take into sufficient consideration the fact that the will is involved in the concrete choices which it makes: these choices are a condition of its moral goodness and its being ordered to the ultimate end of the person. Others are inspired by a notion of freedom which prescinds from the actual conditions of its exercise, from its objective reference to the truth about the good, and from its determination through choices of concrete kinds of behaviour.

Dwelling on the set of individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions which permit an act that will or could produce both good and evil, creates academic anxiety. Acting 'for the best' in most mundane circumstances, is often done intuitively and thus without much deliberation.

I know it's wrong to steal. And in 'normal circumstances', I wouldn't commit that sin. But if I were destitute (whether through my own fault or not), I don't think I'd agonize at all over stealing bread to feed my family. No PDE considerations would guide my conduct in that event.

(Excuse me dragging the debate down to a banal level.)

How is this hope or wish known by her intellect?

Ohhhhh, nooo. I never said that the hope or wish constitute the object. All I suggested is that the hope or wish help US to understand what the object is, they are indicators, pointers, for knowing where to look for the object. Because the object JUST IS something in the will of the of the actor choosing, and there is NOTHING in the will of the will of the mother that corresponds to any kind of adherence to "my death". There just isn't. Her death cannot be the object without that. If the mother shoots and finds that the gut wound to her is not as incapacitating as she expected (even though the attacker is out of commission), she has ABSOLUTELY no reason to continue the activity further, she has ACHIEVED the object of the act. If she has achieved the object of the act without her death, then her death is IN NO WAY included in the object of the act.

Think about that. If there were no wrestling with the gun, she shot at the guy and missed with the first shot, we would say that she failed of her objective, and she would shoot again. If she shot him on the first shot and only got his arm, and he didn't stop attacking, AGAIN we would say that she had not accomplished her object, and she would shoot again. If she stops him cold, she drops the gun and thinks "success". So, when she is wrestling with the gun, shoots, stops the attacker cold, and is writhing on the ground with her own gut wound, she thinks "success" for the VERY SAME REASON, the reason is totally and completely bound up in taking out the attacker. She doesn't attempt to grab the gun again and finish herself off for crying out loud!!!!!

That is an appeal to self-sacrifice which you claimed didn't apply. Unless you think it is morally licit to consent to being killed without any known benefit to others.

Step2, do YOU think that the self-sacrifice in throwing yourself on the grenade changes the nature of the act from something morally wrong to something morally permissible? If so, why?

'Cause I don't. I think that the self-sacrifice merely aspect shows what the nature of the act was all along - that your own death never was your object.

I think it matters. I think it's equivalent to scenarios where you're in a group of people watching somebody in danger, and you try to force some other member of the group to help the person instead of going yourself. Provided you're equipped to do that, this is morally wrong. The grenade example is just a particularly high-stakes version of that scenario.

'Cause I don't. I think that the self-sacrifice merely aspect shows what the nature of the act was all along - that your own death never was your object.

I guess I'm confused, Tony. Sometimes you seem to be saying that it's different because of consent, but at other points you seem to be saying that it isn't. My point is that your analysis would seem to indicate that consent is not at all necessary, since your whole point is that the mother can "get out of" the charge of suicide on the grounds that that isn't her hope or desire, hence it isn't her intent. At that point, you should be done. Hence, consent shd. be irrelevant.

I'm happy to bring consent into the matter at some level if we're not talking about a situation where you know with overwhelmingly high probability that you are causing the person's death by a direct action of your own. If we're not talking about that type of situation and the person isn't already at risk, then I can see where you shouldn't increase someone else's risk without consent. If the person *is* already at risk and you are actually _decreasing_ his risk of death by your action, then you are trying to save him, you are treating him as an end and not as a means, and his consent is not necessary. If we *are* talking about such a situation, where you know the person is *being killed*, then as far as I'm concerned, consent has nothing to do with it, because self-killing is always wrong anyway; consent doesn't make it okay.

I think Masked has it.

Lydia, I haven't thought through the grenade thing totally, but maybe what I and ME are noticing is something more like fittingness. It is more fitting for me to jump on the grenade than to push someone else on it (assuming both are soldiers). Just as it is generally more fitting for the Master Sergeant to yell "follow me, men" than it is for him to say "get out there and fight." Even though technically he may have the absolute right to do the second. Even though there are probably times when based purely technical capacities (that have nothing to do with leadership) the Master Sergeant ought to stay back and let someone else take the point - maybe a faster runner, or someone who has better night vision, or someone who is a better on-the-move marksman.

But I am still wondering what you think the object of the soldier's act is when he jumps on the grenade. That's what puzzles me. Any thoughts?

To take a similar case, we have all heard old stories about some soldier in some old army who sees that there is an incoming spear or arrow or rock, or that the enemy shooter is just about to get a bullet off, and steps in front of the commander to "take a bullet for him." You can't tell me that this in an example where the object of his act is his own death. That's just not what is going on. It is not that his death is in the least part of what he is about. When he interposes his body in front of the commander, he is creating an obstacle to the bullet so that the commander's life is saved. It just so happens that the only physical obstacle he has to work with is his body. The nature of the act doesn't include death at all, the nature of the act, determined by the object, is "providing a barrier to absorb a life-threatening blow" to the commander. The intention is to keep the commander safe, and the act may or may not achieve that - the bullet or spear may go right through the soldier into the commander. But he will have met the object of the act if his body absorbs the blow first. His death has nothing to do with it.

(Side note: this is not quite like the death of Christ on the cross, or Sidney Carlton's either, where the death itself was offered in place of someone else's death. The soldier isn't acting to make his death replace the commander's.)

because self-killing is always wrong anyway; consent doesn't make it okay.

In that way of viewing the act, then my example troted out - the old, old example of Sam sleeping with the twin sister without knowing it - WOULD be adultery. That means that the physical facts (even though not known at all by the person) overcome what is in the will and chosen by the acting person, willing to DO one of the options as known to his intellect, in determining the nature of the act. So it is no longer the acting person, but the acting body, that happens to be inhabited by a soul, that we use to specify the human voluntary act.

I don't think that's what is meant by EV and Veritatis Splendor, much less the passages I gave of St. Thomas that talk about the object in the will.

So it is no longer the acting person, but the acting body, that happens to be inhabited by a soul, that we use to specify the human voluntary act.

No, I accept that it has to be "known to the intellect" to make a moral determination. What I reject is the notion their subjective denial of what they know intellectually is a sufficient objective description of the act. When she aims the gun at herself and pulls the trigger with the near certain expectation of killing herself, she is objectively doing exactly that. Saying that she wishes there was a different circumstance doesn't tell us what she is doing or what she knows will happen when she does it.

In case you don't remember, one of my favorite movie quotes of all time is "Never underestimate the power of denial." So while I am a bit confused by this appeal to self-sacrifice, which supposedly undermines the moral prohibition, I can't see any relevance to the atomic bombings and am convinced such an appeal simply obscures that issue.

Tony, I really don't think you are taking probability properly into account here. Your scenario is meant to be one where the probability is so high as to be beyond any reasonable doubt that the person (such as yourself, for example) is going to die as a result of your act, and also where you are not _lowering_ the probability of that individual's death by your act. Or so I understand it. Jumping in front of someone to try to protect him from an incoming missile can involve a reasonable level of doubt that one will actually die. The bullet or arrow might not hit any vital organs and so forth. *Aiming through* oneself or another person at a vital point is quite a different matter. I believe that M.E.'s endorsement of (at least some) incidents of jumping on a grenade is making use of this same distinction, as the Star Trek examples show as well.

It seems to me that you are blurring that distinction and trying to put everything on the *intention*. Unfortunately, if you put the burden of your moral analysis there and also apply this to cases where death is beyond all reasonable doubt, then you have no principled reason to oppose sacrificing another, and you have no principled reason to make consent crucial to your evaluation either. "I didn't intend that death" should be an all-purpose moral cleanser, if it works at all.

I deal with probabilities all day for my job. People regularly measure, take into account, and plan around things that are only .1 percent likely to happen - 1 chance in 1000. But for legal purposes, a chance less than 5% is often considered "so remote as to be negligible", in the sense that a reasonable person may reasonably not bother to take it into account below 5%. Thus, for different contexts different kinds of improbabilities make for "reasonable" decisions. For anyone who gets shot in the gut, often the wound is of its own nature a mortal one...but with modern medical marvels we actually can save such people somewhat often. The difference is not that because of modern medicine a gut gunshot wound is no long (of its own nature) mortal whereas 200 years ago it wasn't, it is that an additional circumstance, apart from the nature of the wound, changes the probability of dying from it. But in general terms, there is no important moral difference between an act whose probable outcome is death with 96% probability, or 99% probability, or 99.999% probability. So it strikes me as very odd to consider it important whether the woman thinks "I am not likely to survive this" instead of "I am almost certainly not going to survive this." If the act is immoral when she thinks it nearly certain she will die, then it is immoral if she think it quite probable that she will die.

But let's go back a step further for a moment: why does the woman want to shoot the guy? Is it because he is an evil man, a guilty person, or is it because he is attacking (attacking without any right, at that). It's the latter. So the object of shooting him (before he wrestles with the gun) is what...to kill him? No, that's not rationally ordered to the need, which is to put an end to the attack. The object formally is to stop him. Now, there are all sorts of ways you can stop someone from attacking, depending on circumstances (like, for instance, how much time you have). If you have several years, you can build a wall around your city. If you have a couple days, you can hire a bodyguard. If you have half an hour, you can call the police. If you have 5 minutes, you can run away. But if you have only 2 seconds, your options become much narrower.

The point of a bullet is that it delivers very great force, force of sufficient power as to damage the recipient so as to incapacitate him. The need to deliver that very, very quickly means that you have not the option of delivering a more measured, more carefully designed and narrowly focused force that just barely stops him. You deliver a walloping punch because the conditions are such that within the conditions, the only available method of delivering a stopping force is to deliver one that is forceful enough to readily kill. Using the kind of force as to probably kill is rational given the need, (to stop), the conditions (have to deliver it very quickly), and the end (to protect life).

Is "to kill" the object of the act? Some people say yes, some people say no. The people who say yes sometimes do so because they are thinking that the guy is attacking unjustly, he is no longer innocent, and therefore there is no objection from the principle "do not kill an innocent person". But the victim is not judge, jury, and executioner, she doesn't get to decide whether he is guilty. (What if he is an escapee from an insane asylum? The fact that he is attacking unjustly gives her a right to defend herself with force, it does not give her a right to decide how far his guilt really extends.)

The fact that the circumstances allow for the use of enough force as to be ready and likely to kill does NOT make death the object all by itself. Life-threatening force is included, is part of the object because life-threatening force is the only kind of force she has available to do the stopping, AND because threatening his life (even with very, very high probability) is proportionate to the good that is the goal. But if she had a tazer in one hand and a gun in the other, she would not be justified in using the gun first and not the tazer first: if her true object is to stop the unjust attack, the tazer is suited to the object WITHOUT as high a threat to his life.

Here's how we can tell what the object is: what happens if she incapacitates him but doesn't kill him. Say her first shot breaks his leg, and he cannot stand up. Does she say "object met", or does she say "I failed" and shoot him again? If the former, then "death" was not FORMALLY the object of the act. If the latter, then she was trying to kill not to put an end to the attack but out of revenge for attacking. The same applies to her own death, if she says she succeeded in her object when she stopped the attacker but did not kill herself (surprising her somewhat) then her death was not part of her object. That's certain. MORE certain than any other part of the moral analysis, in my opinion. And the probability she estimates for whether she WILL die does not determine the object.

Jumping in front of someone to try to protect him from an incoming missile can involve a reasonable level of doubt that one will actually die.

No, no. The more certain you are that the missile is coming in right here, the more you want to jump in front to protect the commander, not less. There are 2 probabilities: one is whether the aim of the attacker is good enough to land the missile right here the other is the probability for whether the force is likely to kill if it does get here. Assuming that the second probability stands at anything like "quite probable", it simply doesn't matter morally whether it is at 90%, 99%, or 99.9%. For all of them, the soldier's object is still to pose as an obstacle to life-threatening force reaching the commander, and is highly laudable, not an immoral act.

Tony, I just disagree. I think that the probability that you will die is highly important to what you could reasonably be said to be doing. We can see this in cases where double effect isn't even in the picture. If someone shoots himself in the foot for the heck of it, we say he's weird and has real problems, but we don't, in this day and age where he wouldn't have been expecting gangrene, say he was trying to commit suicide. If he shoots himself in the head, we say he was trying to commit suicide.

The same applies when we want to think of the action as self-sacrificial or noble. Are you _risking_ your own death, or do you know that you are _giving your life_? It depends. If you now want to back up and say that the mother who shoots herself in the gut has reasonable doubt that she will die, that's different from the way you originally presented it. Remember, you only shifted it to shooting herself in the gut because that would make it more likely that she would kill or disable him in the process. But what if we make up some bizarre scenario in which the _only way_ to stop the bad guy is to shoot oneself in the temple with a high-caliber bullet?

I myself do not believe that one can separate probability from intent. That's because one can't separate information and knowledge from intent. We know what we are doing in part by the probability we attach to what will happen if I pull this trigger right here and now.

And, as I have said before: If you want to place the entire onus here on intent and say that the mother is okay because she didn't really intend to kill herself, then you are going to have a very hard time explaining in principled terms why she couldn't do it to someone else. Consent becomes a fifth wheel at that point.

In my analysis, consent isn't a fifth wheel because you really _intend_ to risk your life. But risking yourself isn't wrong. Knowingly kill yourself is wrong. It's not at all arbitrary to say that one should have to consent to risk his life for another. But if we're justifying killing oneself on the grounds that one did it with the goal of stopping the bad guy and therefore one didn't really _intend_ to kill oneself, I see no reason at all not to apply that to killing someone else as well.

I really think this is a major problem for your theoretical approach--assuming that you are uncomfortable, as you should be, with swapping it around and shooting through your child's head to stop the bad guy.

To bring this back to this, from the main post:

Therefore, when we present scenarios like “blockaded even though he knows that thousands of women and children will die of starvation”, we must accept that saying a consequence is foreseen simply and accepted does not speak to whether it is an effect that is intended.

Let's recall that the whole context here is a situation where people are hardly consenting to lose their lives!

If someone believes (wrongly, in my opinion) that it's fine to take your own life voluntarily to sacrifice it for another, this is hardly going to help when it comes to the starvation deaths of civilians in a besieged city, much less deaths from an atomic bomb.

Presumably, that is why, Tony, your analysis did _not_ begin with ad hoc principles about consent and self-sacrifice but rather with an analysis of more general applicability--namely, "You didn't intend this to happen." But, unfortunately, it's a case of "live by the generally applicable analysis, die by the generally applicable analysis."

That's because one can't separate information and knowledge from intent.

I agree. Including if you mean by "intent" the immediate reason for the act, which is the form of the act because it "informs" the act. Information and knowledge are necessary for having an option to choose, and thus for specifying "the act" chosen. I think what I was trying to say was that a probability of 96% for X happening isn't going to change the moral content compared to a probability of 100% for X happening. Either way, X happening either IS a controlling element specifying the act, or is NOT a controlling element. Yes, if the outcome of the act has a .02% probability of someone dying, then it is hard to call the act "attempted killing". But that distinction doesn't hold between 96% and 100%.

We know what we are doing in part by the probability we attach to what will happen if I pull this trigger right here and now.

Yes, in part. But evil effects that are CERTAINLY allowed by PDE can be certainly known, absolutely sure evil effects. The fact that the effect is sure DOESN'T imply that it is intended in the (direct) sense needed for falling afoul of PDE, and thus it cannot imply that it is the (direct) intention needed to be the object of the act. The object of the act can NEVER be something only indirectly intended.

I am still baffled, just astounded, that you seem to be saying that in the 1800's, when we had something more of a general sense of what is permitted in morality, that when the US Marines that decorated and medaled (posthumously) soldiers who did things like step in front of a fusillade of bullets with the moral certainty of death to protect the commander, that the military and the citizenry at large thought that the fact of the resulting death being MORE CERTAIN implied greater bravery and greater honor, being more praiseworty, that was all wrong, that instead we should have said quite the opposite: The act was morally upright as long as he was morally uncertain of death, right up to (whatever you want to set as the limit), the act was MORE praiseworthy the more probable death was, but as soon as the limit was exceeded and he became morally certain of death the act became suicide and was gravely wrong.

That is just so weird! It fits NONE of our usual stories and standards of good behavior - not the Greeks, not the Romans, wherever you look.

But what if we make up some bizarre scenario in which the _only way_ to stop the bad guy is to shoot oneself in the temple with a high-caliber bullet?

Do you imagine the success occurring because of one's own death? Or because of the conditions that CAUSE one's own death?

Can we step back a second? The reason the Pope put out Veritatis Splendor was a series of clearly false "moral" arguments, of this form: I didn't really WANT the baby dead, and I didn't want to be committing the act of killing an innocent child, what I wanted to do is get rid of a complication for the mother. That's a good."

The Pope (obviously, rightly) says this is a false claim. Saying "you didn't want the baby dead" is belied by the fact that the act you did, slicing up a baby until it was dead, is inherently ordered to bringing about death. You kept on slicing until the baby was in bits. You didn't consider the act finished until the baby was dead. Your so-called good intention consisted precisely of the mother not having to deal with a baby because the baby was dead. The baby's death was INTRINSICALLY necessary to the purpose, and the physical act was inherently designed and ordered to the death.

Now, let's compare my example's mother and see how it fits, with [phrases like these] having to be changed out.

Saying "you didn't want to kill yourself" is belied by the fact that the act you did, shooting through yourself until [mom was dead] the attacker was shot (mom wouldn't stop if the first shot merely put a hole in her without putting a hole in the attacker, so you have to say "until the attacker was shot"), is inherently order to bringing about [mom's fatal injury] the attacker's fatal injury. You didn't consider the act finished until [you were shot] the attacker was shot. Your so-called good intention consisted precisely in the daughter being safe because [mom had a hole in her] or [mom was dead] the attacker had a hole in him.

It just doesn't work. Everywhere the explanation for why the abortionist really does intend the baby's death is applied, you have to substitute out the attacker's death or injury, not mom's. Because mom's death is not a formal part of the act, it is an evil effect.

Since mom having a fatal hole, or mom being dead, or mom being incapacitated, AS SUCH doesn't improve the daughter's safety, you cannot say a hole through mom was formally needed for the daughter's safety, which was the purpose of the act. Since the attacker being shot does not FORMALLY require as an essential intermediate step that mom be shot first mom being shot first is not a formal element of the act of shooting the attacker. Think about that: in order to shoot the attacker, an essential element is to pull the trigger. So pulling the trigger is formally part of the chosen act. Also, since having the gun pointed at the attacker is inherently necessary to shooting him, same result: you have to have "point the gun in the right direction" as a formal element in the will in order to actually be choosing to shoot the guy. But it is nonsensical to suggest that "you have to shoot mom in order to shoot the attacker", or the mother would have had to FIRST MOVE AROUND so that she was between the gun and the attacker in order to shoot him. How utterly absurd! Shooting mom is not a formal element of her act. Therefore it cannot constitute (or be a part of) the form OF the act, the object.

I consider that the position Mom does a moral act here more certain than the analysis that concludes that the principle "do not intentionally kill an innocent person" is to be understood with the meaning of "intention" that makes Mom's act immoral. Just as the Civil War soldier stepping in front of a fusillade of bullets to save the commander being more noble and praiseworthy than his stepping in front of one bullet and thus with a significant (if very small) chance of his survival.

Do you imagine the success occurring because of one's own death? Or because of the conditions that CAUSE one's own death?

Tony, I understand the distinction you are making, but it doesn't cut it for me. If the bullet has to pass through the innocent person's head, so that we can say with moral certainty that we will blow his brains out, then it doesn't become okay to do so simply because his being dead is not what's necessary for the good effect (disabling the bad guy) but merely the bullet's passing from point A to point B. If the only way for the bullet to pass from point A to point B is to pass directly through the innocent person's temple in such a fashion that it is morally certain that it will blow his brains out, we are done. D.O.N.E. And if you say that we are not done because we didn't intend the innocent person's death, then (I repeat) you have no principled reason not to apply this to some other innocent person who did not consent. You can do it to a five-year-old child or an infant.

And it isn't really like you to be evasive. Would you or wouldn't you do it to an infant? And if not, why not, given that nothing in your PDE analysis turns on the consent issue?

I don't like the idea that you can do it to a baby any more than you do Lydia. Of course I don't.

Seems to me that we are stuck: you can't tell me why it is more noble and laudable when the soldier steps in front of the general when there is HIGHER (but not morally certain) probability that he be killed, and then all of a sudden when the probability exceeds a limit it all of a sudden it becomes immoral altogether, (and why all decent societies have treated the latter as still more praiseworthy); and I won't tell you why Mom can't shoot through her child's head when she can shoot through herself. It's not like you to evade my question either, but you have.

Or, a more general question I asked a while ago: when we have the principle "do not do evil", and its son "do not do evil that good may come of it", do we mean by "evil" only moral evils, or do we mean BOTH moral evils and physical evils?

you can't tell me why it is more noble and laudable when the soldier steps in front of the general when there is HIGHER (but not morally certain) probability that he be killed, and then all of a sudden when the probability exceeds a limit it all of a sudden it becomes immoral altogether,

Actually, I'm perfectly happy to bite the bullet on this one, no pun intended. The only reason I didn't address it in my previous comment was because, frankly, my question to you seems a heck of a lot more urgent than that one. I'd like to think you'd agree with me on that.

As to your question, it's just one of those things: Bravery is laudable, but when bravery reaches the point of being literally suicidal, then there's a problem. However, because bravery is laudable and because self-sacrifice is as a general rule laudable, we as societies give the benefit of the doubt to the brave and self-sacrificing man.

Let's also please not forget that our military codes of honor and ways of thought have been in no small part formed by pagan ways of thinking, which have no problem with out and out suicide! If you read early 20th century novels, even by Christians, you see quite a lot of grappling with suicide. For example, it was a long-standing convention of the murder mystery novel that the author could have a sympathetic murderer and then cope with the psychological problem this created by having the detective tell the murderer ahead of time that he was going to report him to the police and pressure the murderer to commit suicide to avoid the dishonor of being tried and hanged! This was considered sporting. The motif and/or references to the motif come up more than once in Dorothy Sayers, for example. C.S. Lewis said that he believed suicide was wrong only by faith and revelation, that he didn't believe it could be seen by the natural light. So suicide is one of those things our culture has always had an ambivalent relationship with, and when you add to that such general sentiments as Mr. Spock's ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one") and our love of bravery, mix in situational chaos which means that we lack a lot of information for judging, you have the traditional situation you describe. I don't really find myself bothered by that at all.

As for this,

I won't tell you why Mom can't shoot through her child's head when she can shoot through herself.

Do you mean "won't tell" or "can't tell"? I mean, presumably if you have a principled reason that squares with the analysis you've already given, you should be eager to give it. But if we're to talk about ethical reductios (which I do believe in), I think "Gosh, it looks like your analysis would allow us to shoot a baby in the head with moral impunity" is a lot more of a problem than "Gosh, it looks like your analysis would lead us to blame some soldiers for a suicidal degree of bravery and self-sacrifice when their individual death was a moral certainty."

Or, a more general question I asked a while ago: when we have the principle "do not do evil", and its son "do not do evil that good may come of it", do we mean by "evil" only moral evils, or do we mean BOTH moral evils and physical evils?

We mean moral evils. If we mean physical evils at all, it would be only something like, "Do not do wanton physical damage" Or "Do not do physical harm for no good reason."

But of course shooting a baby in the head is not a mere physical evil.

And when it comes to doing physical harm *to a person*, we also have to start thinking in terms of avoiding using the person as a mere means to an end--not, for example, taking A's kidney to benefit B, without A's consent, because we think B is such a valuable person and A ought to be willing to live with one kidney.

We mean moral evils.

Why would it be, then, that in the criteria of PDE, the rule is, for that evil effect (that is not in any sense part of the act) that is foreseen, a physical evil only (because the act itself is good or neutral) that you DO NOT INTEND the evil effect?

I think maybe you are wrong about that. It's any kind of evil.

Why would it be, then, that in the criteria of PDE, the rule is, for that evil effect (that is not in any sense part of the act) that is foreseen, a physical evil only (because the act itself is good or neutral) that you DO NOT INTEND the evil effect?

You're going to need to reword that. It's a little obscure.

But perhaps instead of "we mean" I should say "I" and "the Bible." What the authors of a treatise on PDE meant, I don't claim to say.

One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, 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.

It's the Bible that says "do not do evil that good should come of it."

It is the people who developed the PDE who figured out an explanation for that that permits doing physical evil and still not running afoul of the injunction: it's when you "do" evil but you don't "intend" evil.

If you want to stick to the Bible alone, then you better just not do any evil, including physical evil. If you want to utilize the philosophers and theologians' explanation, so that you can find a justification for "doing evil" without violating the injunction, you probably need to at least understand the basis for their reasoning.

My "obscure" point was this: one of the conditions for PDE is that "you don't intend the evil effect that you bring about." By "evil effect", the PDE concept is referring to something that is a physical evil, not a moral evil. The PDE rule is that the only time you can cause a physical evil is when you don't intend it. What you are saying is that you CAN intend and do physical evils, just not wanton ones that don't have a good enough reason.

So, as far as I can tell, you simply reject the PDE concept altogether, you just don't think it holds water. That's maybe fine with our Protestant commenters, but for Catholics that probably won't sit very well, because 1500 years of Catholic theology use it and JPII and Benedict XVI are fine with it, they certainly have said nothing to overturn it. I _thought_ at the beginning you were pretty much in favor of it, (because you were pretty much in favor of the reasoning given by OTHER Catholics who agree with it in principle) so it is a surprise to me to find that you reject it.

If you want to stick to the Bible alone, then you better just not do any evil, including physical evil.

Well, no, because being a Protestant doesn't mean being incapable of reading. The verse is Romans 3:8, and it is _clearly_ referring to moral evil.

I'm very happy to apply what I would call the PDE to things that are actually accidents. It's just that in order for me to claim that something is an accident or "not intended by me," I have to be not directly, specifically, and with moral certainty causing it by my own action. Notice, by the way, that saying, "Civilian casualties result in war, therefore, if you as the President declare war, or if as a Congressman you vote in favor of a declaration of war, you're responsible for any collateral damage that results" is _not_ what I'm talking about here. The President isn't directly causing any civilian casualties merely by declaring war. War is a general event or state. On the other hand, the commander who orders, "Go drop that fire bomb on Dresden" and the pilot who carries out the order are in a morally much more questionable state. To put it mildly.

I also think some close cousin of the PDE applies quite well in extremely dangerous surgery or other life-saving situations where the probability of the patient's death as a result of the surgery would be unacceptably high if the surgery were not absolutely necessary to save his life, but where that probability is lower than the probability that he will die if you did not do the surgery or attempt the rescue. I've mentioned this above. In that case you are doing something that may kill the patient, but you're doing it in an attempt to save the patient; you're improving his odds of survival. Hence it's acceptable knowingly to do something harmful to him, to try to prevent worse harm *to him*. This, by the way, is one place where I find the notion of treating persons as ends rather than means to be quite indispensable. If, then, you open up his skull, open up his brain, take the clip, try to put it on the aneurysm, and it bursts rather than being clipped off and he's dead in nothing flat, you can genuinely say that his death was an unintended effect of your attempt to _prevent_ exactly the sort of death that you accidentally caused, and that you knew you might well accidentally cause. You, and the patient (or his relatives), took a calculated risk, because otherwise the aneurysm was going to kill him anyway. (This moral reasoning, unfortunately, may not prevent a medical lawsuit, but that's what malpractice insurance is for.)

But if our injustice commend the justice of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust, who executes wrath? 6 (I speak according to man.) God forbid! Otherwise how shall God judge this world? 7 For if the truth of God has more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner? 8 And not rather (as we are slandered and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil that there may come good? Whose damnation is just.

I don't think the context is any clearer than my simple statement of it. Nor any less straightforward. Doesn't demand nuance and finesse. But of course, everyone agrees that life does demand that we finesse it. Everyone, including you. You just want to finesse it differently than me.

It's just that in order for me to claim that something is an accident or "not intended by me," I have to be not directly, specifically, and with moral certainty causing it by my own action.

Oh come. When the doctor cuts into the patient, the damage to the skin IS intended in your sense. The long range goal is health, but the goal doesn't change the fact that cutting him open is damage.

You know, it is just as true a moral dictum that you do not harm an innocent person as that you don't kill them. If you were to change all the scenarios with the terrorist demanding you kill a kid, to instead have him demand that you cut the kid's arm off, you wouldn't say that's OK, right? Because harm is harm, it's evil, and you cannot harm the kid, even to save someone else. Even though the harm to the kid is a lesser physical evil than the deaths you prevent. So, what makes the doctor's harming the patient OK? Well, you say it is because he intends that the patient be healed through his harming him. But of course that means he intends the harm to the patient by cutting through his tissues. And that runs afoul of the valid obligation that you not harm an innocent person.

You have protested that the doctor doesn't intend harm, but that clearly doesn't work. He knows with 100% certainty that the surgery will in fact damage the skin and muscles, and that's exactly what he intends to do. And the result isn't some mere by-product of the actual surgery, it IS the surgery. Yes, you say, but eventually the person's skin will heal, and this way the doctor can fix the other problem. Of course, I know that. But it is still true that the doctor intends harm on the way through to the good goal. The very course of action he chooses is one of harm to the patient, harm that is hopefully temporary, but temporary is real. THAT cannot be denied.

I left town Sat night and just came back. If this doesn't hit anything feel free to ignore it.

Tony, I understand you're trying not do depend on self-sacrifice but it isn't clear to me that is entirely successful (though I admit I haven't read your Aquinas link but will later,) and it seems to me self-sacrifice is sufficient to make the mother's act permissible. And that would also be why the situation can't be reversed --the mother cannot shoot the child. Would you disagree that self-sacrifice is sufficient to justify the act and exclude its reverse (killing the child)? If so, what are you gaining by avoiding the conclusion that self-sacrifice is what this turns on?

I think the idea that "self-killing is always wrong" is flawed, and is distorting parts of the debate at least. Isn't self-murder the term for suicide? I find it pretty incomprehensible that killing oneself has no possible justification, whereas killing others does. But more importantly, I find much of the traditional Christian understanding of the morality of self-sacrifice difficult to understand on that view.

It is impermissible to use others as an instrument, in we have in cases of other-sacrifice. But I can use myself as an instrument. I suppose I am always using myself as an instrument when I act, either good or bad. I can do none other. I think that step2 nailed it with the self-sacrifice element, and in fact I've made this point numerous times in the past. Is it not sufficient, or why would it be superior if we could avoid this principle? I take neighbor-love to be the highest principle, and self-sacrifice necessary to achieve it in some circumstances.

I also don't see why uncertainty of death in heroic cases solves anything. Sure, a soldier knows he could survive jumping on a grenade, and some did even before the Kevlar helmets allowed them to trap it and let it absorb the shock. But self-mutilation isn't permissible either without some greater good so I don't see how the liklihood of his hope that he won't die solves anything. Ultimately you'd have to chase this down to a belief that it could be a dud on this logic. It is the self-sacrifice, the desire not to suffer harm but the willingness to if necessary for the greater good that makes the act permissible, and even good.

But Tony got there first when he said "it is just as true a moral dictum that you do not harm an innocent person as that you don't kill them."

Lydia, what about the doctor who performs surgery on a person who is giving up a kidney to a sibling to save their life? The doctor cannot say "well, the reason I cut into them is to bring about THIS PATIENT'S health. All his cutting and all his removing of the kidney does is harm the patient. It doesn't do ANY good to him at all.

I think the idea that "self-killing is always wrong" is flawed, and is distorting parts of the debate at least. Isn't self-murder the term for suicide? I find it pretty incomprehensible that killing oneself has no possible justification, whereas killing others does. But more importantly, I find much of the traditional Christian understanding of the morality of self-sacrifice difficult to understand on that view.

Maybe I need to revise my stance about consent. Perhaps what my argument is really showing is that the mother's shooting is not of necessity (not intrinsically) a wrong act, but that it is, all taken together with the circumstances and the end intended a wrong act without the consent to the sacrifice, because the circumstance of consent or non-consent greatly alters the evaluation of the total goods to be achieved and evils suffered. That would still mean that the act as such retains my stated object of taking out the attacker, which doesn't include mom's death formally, but still provides that this can never be used when someone is refusing to be treated that way.

Yes, Tony, the doctor is _knowingly_ performing the incisions on the patient in order to heal the patient. This is not a problem, because the patient himself is being treated as an end in himself. It's been my point all along that my position is consistent in that way. It's intrinsically wrong knowingly and deliberately to _kill_ an innocent person. In contrast, there can be (highly limited) situations in which it is not wrong knowingly and deliberately to cut an incision in a person. Usually, the "end-of-the-world" scenarios are deliberately set up so that the person himself will also die if you don't kill him. That's supposed to make it harder for the non-consequentialist. Obviously, if you make a parallel to this and say, "This person himself (and everyone else) will be blown up if you don't amputate his leg," it's better *for him* to amputate his leg. One can imagine such scenarios fairly easily without even blowing up the world if, say, he's trapped by the leg in a car that's about to blow up.

Your kidney question backfires, but that's not your fault: You just didn't know that I've been ambivalent even about live kidney donation for many years, because it is such a serious degree of harm to the donor. Some, in fact, have died, though not usually on the operating table. In India they sell their kidneys to rich Westerners for ridiculously low prices like $3000. I used to think liver lobe donation was a much more minor thing but recently learned of a donor or donors who have actually died of massive bleeding on the table, where they were perfectly healthy before. This is looking to me more and more like using person A as a means to an end, which in some cases can happen even with person A's consent.

Mark's explicit endorsement of suicide in some circumstances (if I'm understanding him correctly) is noted, and it confirms what I've been saying all along. People are just hesitant to condemn suicide unequivocally.

Tony, perhaps it will help you to see how my position fits into the PDE analysis if I say this: These examples are the kinds of things that are typically brought up when one says, "It's always wrong knowingly and deliberately to kill an innocent person." In other words, they are usually intended as counterexamples to the idea that we've finally found one thing that is intrinsically wrong. "What if the only way to stop the bad guy is to shoot the baby that he's carrying?" etc.

You and I agree that it's intrinsically wrong knowingly and deliberately to kill an innocent person. You are responding to such examples by saying that somehow one really _isn't_ deliberately killing the innocent person, even though one is shooting him to death. That way, you keep the judgement on an intrinsically wrong act while saying that this doesn't fall under that heading. I, on the other hand, think that when your own action is directly and inevitably killing the innocent person, and you know this, it's simply sophistical to claim that you aren't violating the prohibition against _deliberately_ killing him. Therefore, I maintain the prohibition against murder by saying that shooting through the baby to kill the terrorist is intrinsically wrong. In which case, of course, PDE doesn't apply.

My own instinct, without having read a lot of PDE literature, is that when something is prima facie intrinsically wrong and PDE is applied to work a kind of magic and make it no longer intrinsically wrong, PDE is very likely being misapplied.

Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.

The primordial moral requirement of loving and respecting the person as an end and never as a mere means also implies, by its very nature, respect for certain fundamental goods, without which one would fall into relativism and arbitrariness.

Lydia,
With respect to the “self-sacrificing” scenarios, what people today think, and/or what they once thought, of the inherent wickedness of suicide or whether it is wicked at all is beside the point. What really matters is what necessarily follows from the assumption that it IS evil.

Therefore, the relevant question is this: Assuming for the sake of argument that suicide is inherently evil, would that be enough to cause any action also to be evil in which someone knowingly sacrificed his own life, i.e., did something that he knew was going to kill him, in order to save others? It seems to me that, given your position, the only possible answer you could give is “Yes.”

For my part, I would not want to own up to that “yes.”

Well, George, I'd rather own up to that "yes" than own up to a position which has no principled reason for not shooting a child in the head. Let's get our priorities straight, here.

Remember, it's possible to commit suicide to save others in a lot of different ways. For example, one could have oneself killed so that one's heart could be taken for a transplant for a beloved wife.

Perhaps more to the point, George: You kicked this off by what you wrote about King Ferdinand starving people to death in a besieged city which, in turn, was meant to be a defense of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, if I'm not mistaken. Tony wrote his main post with the _explicit_ example of starving people to death in a besieged city. I'm assuming that we only got to the point of discussing shooting through oneself in order to kill a bad guy by some roundabout route, but I continue to maintain that the general principles being promoted are, and always were, such as to apply to other people, not just to oneself.

George, if you can find some way _not_ to call it suicide if you shoot yourself in the head and blow your brains out, let me know, okay? "There was a bad guy behind my head, and I was hoping the bullet would go through and get him while I was at it" really doesn't cut it as far as making this a non-suicide. Again, sometimes we have to up the ante in order to make it very, very clear what we're talking about.

Assuming for the sake of argument that suicide is inherently evil, would that be enough to cause any action also to be evil in which someone knowingly sacrificed his own life, i.e., did something that he knew was going to kill him, in order to save others? It seems to me that, given your position, the only possible answer you could give is “Yes.”
Well, George, I'd rather own up to that "yes" than own up to a position which has no principled reason for not shooting a child in the head. Let's get our priorities straight, here.

OK. What about Christ? He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, with MUCH MORE THAN MERELY moral certainty, but Divine certainty, that his actions were going to bring about his death. He quite literally PUT HIMSELF in the way of the Jewish leaders in order to push them. See John 2:17, when he drove the money-changers out of the Temple. And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of your house has consumed me. The consuming was that of His death, and He intentionally set it in motion - nothing about His life was accidental. We see it here there and everywhere in the Gospel, ruffling the feathers of the priests and Pharisees, answering the high priest in such a way that he was guaranteed to be outraged. (Imagine, for a moment, Christ instead arranging the high priest to be one of the good ones just at that time, and then performing just ONE of his medium grade miracles at that moment. Then recall that Christ prepared by making sure that the high priest was NOT one of the good ones at that time.)

Further, at every single moment of His Passion He had to refrain from willing to escape the execution, for all it would have taken was mere willing it, without any needed further choice of "appropriate" or "inappropriate" means. Christ knowingly set in train the actions that led them (sinfully, of course) to want to kill him. All theologians agree that He COULD have saved the world by the most minor pain suffered for us, but He chose to set this method in motion. Of course, He did it all to save us. But that doesn't justify it in your book. His death was a voluntary sacrifice altogether.

In addition, He had to will, as the Divine first cause of everything, both the existence of his executioners and the perpetuation of their capacity to act and the present use of that power, always excepting only not causing the sinfulness of their acts. The moment He ceased to keep them alive and empowered with normal life, the could no longer have touched Him.

More to come.

"In contrast, there can be (highly limited) situations in which it is not wrong knowingly and deliberately to cut an incision in a person."

Tony,

I just downloaded that paper you linked to and have just started to make my way through it, so until I did, I wasn't going to comment; however, it seemed to me like this entire discussion boiled down this quote from Lydia. Either cutting someone in order to heal them is evil (in a philsophical sense) but not intrisically evil thanks to PDE or it's not even evil in the first place? Is that what this dispute comes down to?

And if the cuts are indeed evil, then this seems to open up a can of worms, again related to PDE, that Lydia (and Bill, and I guess I would include myself in that group) is uncomfortable with. Actually, that's a bad way of putting it -- if the cuts are evil using your reasoning, then by the same reasoning the mom could shoot herself to kill the bad guy* and this seems like a straightforward case of an action that is inherently evil (you shouldn't commit suicide even to get the bad guy).

George R.,

I think what tripped me up with your initial question was this phrase: "with full knowledge that many women and children will die of starvation as a result". When I read that I got the sense that the blockade was being cruel and starving the enemy to punish them; but what I failed to consider was the obvious fact that at any point during a blockade the enemy can respond by surrendering -- that is the whole point of the blockade. So like Tony, I should have rejected your question as one that was setting up a false dilemma. Of course, we don't really know how many Moors starved as a result of King Ferdinand's blockade, but even if it was a not insignificant number, the Moors were responsible for their fate as they could have surrendered sooner and left Spain as the King demanded. He wasn't directly killing anyone -- he was forcing the enemy to make a choice.

I admit that the situation gets more complicated when you have an enemy that is not as "integrated" with the civilians as the Moors and Japanese were -- maybe the situation in modern-day Iraq w/r/t insurgents is a better situation to run the moral dilemma case study. If the U.S. Army were to blockade Falluja because the insurgency was strong there, and tell the civilian population that they don't get food until every terrorist is handed over, would that be moral? I don't think so, because there really is a much more complicated situation between civilians and combatants in that situation and to make no distinction between the two and punish the entire city like the King did with the Moors or we might have done with Japan, seems like we would be blurring moral boundaries in a bad way. Any thoughts?

For the person who is calling yourself Pope John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, you have exactly 2 hours to do the following:

(1) apologize for calling me a liar, and do it convincingly.

(2) apologize for using the name of 2 great men, neither of whom you are, in the act of calling me a liar.

(3) Refrain from using their names as your name again.

We will not tolerate that behavior here.

If the U.S. Army were to blockade Falluja because the insurgency was strong there, and tell the civilian population that they don't get food until every terrorist is handed over, would that be moral? I don't think so, because there really is a much more complicated situation between civilians and combatants in that situation and to make no distinction between the two and punish the entire city like the King did with the Moors or we might have done with Japan, seems like we would be blurring moral boundaries in a bad way. Any thoughts?

Jeff, that fits with my thinking, too.

*I forgot this footnote in my last comment. I thought everyone might find this amusing (or crazy, take your pick). In the last Bruce Willis/Die Hard movie, known as "Live Free or Die Hard" the final scene with the bad guy and Bruce Willis involves a version of Tony's 'Mom dilemma'.

SPOILER ALERT

Bruce is being held by the bad guy, played by Timothy Olyphant (who is no Jeremy Irons) and Olyphant is threatening someone (maybe Bruce's daughter?) that he will shoot Bruce unless the daughter helps some other guy do something bad (my memory is fading on the precise details). Anyway, Bruce solves the dilemma by grabbing the gun and shooting through his shoulder, into the bad guy, killing Olyphant. Problem solved and Bruce survives to fight another day. If only real life was as easy as action movies!!!

I am the person who posted JPII's own words, and only his own words, under his name. The quotes are linked under his name.

I am not the person who posted as Benedict.

Interesting reaction. What does it suggest, that you took JPII's own words the way you did? Perhaps you have some re-thinking to do.

No, no, I took calling me a liar that way.

Oddly (from your apparent point of view), I am in complete agreement with every quote you put up. I haven't responded to them because I saw nothing to respond to - they fit exactly and perfectly with what I have been saying.

So I went back and reread the post and comments to see where the argument started to fall apart, and I found two that are worth mentioning.

The first was the unchallenged claim that killing is morally neutral. I don't think that fits well with our moral intuitions. Whether or not a killing is solvable or justified, there is some obligation to discover the moral situation of why a person died, that is why we have coroners and homicide detectives. So instead of it being neutral, it does seem to have some negative moral implications.

The second was Tony's claim that the object is found ultimately in the intent. Yet the passive knowing intellect is separate from the active desiring will, so there is no good reason to grant this claim. Why make a clear distinction between intent and object in the first place if it ends up being a hierarchy of intents? The object should be outside the intent, and as I previously conceded it must be known.

I find it pretty incomprehensible that killing oneself has no possible justification, whereas killing others does. But more importantly, I find much of the traditional Christian understanding of the morality of self-sacrifice difficult to understand on that view.

Me too, but I've enjoyed Lydia's bad cop routine too much to get involved.

- they fit exactly and perfectly with what I have been saying.

facepalm

Now, Tony, you must surely know that *no* theory of God's sustaining evil men in existence makes God responsible for the evil doings of evil men. That has precisely zero to do with the issues of the passion and whether suicide is ever wrong.

On Jesus' death: You will recall, way away upthread, that I talked about the evil will of another man intervening in the situation. Jesus was killed by the evil men who chose to kill him. He did not shoot himself in the head. He did not jump on top of a bomb and get blown up. He didn't even take poison. He did not directly, physically, kill himself in any way, shape, or form. He was killed by those who crucified him, who acted under their own free will.

Hanging around where evil men are going to plot to arrest and kill you has never been said in this thread to be intrinsically wrong. I've never said it here or elsewhere. I've never implied it. Nothing I have said entails it.

It may be in fact wrong in almost all cases as a matter of prudence, especially for those of us who lack prophetic or other special knowledge that this is what we are supposed to do as a matter of God's will. But that will vary from one situation to the next. If one uses the word "suicidal" in describing a case where say, a monk stays in his abbey in a war zone, or a missionary refuses to leave his mission, one is using it *purely metaphorically* for a highly imprudent act. One isn't literally saying that the monk committed suicide. At least, one isn't saying it unless one is confused.

There was nothing intrinsically wrong about going to Jerusalem. There was nothing intrinsically wrong about kicking out the money changers. There was nothing intrinsically wrong about saying that he was God. And so forth. If you have a duty and someone else kills you for doing that duty, you haven't done anything intrinsically wrong. Remember that I gave an example of someone who says he will blow up the whole world if you go on feeding your child? Well, this is like that. Jesus knew what he was supposed to do. And the evil men killed him. They, and they alone, are to blame for their action. They were the ones who killed Jesus. Jesus did not do anything remotely like committing suicide.

You really do need to be able to see the difference between doing things that are not wrong, things like teaching, proclaiming the word of God, etc., etc., even knowing that evil men will kill you for them, and shooting yourself in the head. Or even embracing a bomb that you are *morally certain* will blast you to smithereens. I mean, this should be pretty evident.

Ah, I just processed that bit from Mark's comment about self-killing being always wrong. Well, Mark, get used to a _little_ counterintuitiveness in your ethics. It's a lot less counterintuitive than the alleged morality of starving civilians or incinerating children with an atom bomb.

However, how's this for a fair offer? If you find me a murderer who shoots himself to death *because* he knows he is a murderer and because he believes that he deserves to die and is acting as an executioner, I will be happy to designate his act as wrong in the way that vigilantism (against a real, known murderer) is wrong rather than in the way that killing a person who has committed no crime worthy of death is wrong. Deal?

Whereas for the mother to kill herself is not vigilantism.

Y'know, I would think that pro-lifers would have gotten this all figured out about suicide long ago. That it is to be analyzed in the same way as murder.

Not John Paul or Benedict... is that you Frank??

Let me step back a moment to a more basic perspective.

For Lydia, and Bill, and the Popes, and any others who have appealed over and over again to the rule against intentionally killing an innocent person:

The issue is what is _meant_ by the rule. Pope JPII attempted to clarify the issue in terms of "the object of the act". He thus invoked a long philosophical tradition, in which the meaning of "object of the act" is developed, explained, clarified, etc. For anyone who has been trained in the Aristotelian tradition, one method of clarifying the meaning is by saying it stands to the physical activity as the form stands to the matter of a natural being. That is, the object of the act is the formal aspect of the act.

Let me talk about what may be a clarifying example for the meaning of this. Take a prisoner whom the state decides is guilty and is to be executed. This is OK under the stated principle because the guy is guilty. As long as the state is morally certain of the guilt, of course. Well, the state as a whole doesn't "decide" this, people in the state do it on behalf of the whole polity. In particular, the jury decides that he is guilty, and (depending on the jurisdiction) the judge or the jury decides the sentence, and the executioner carries out the sentence. Let's assume the latter, it's the jury that sets the sentence. Suppose the judge thinks that the guy is probably guilty, but is not morally certain that he is guilty, and he might have been inclined to argue the guilt had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, but he has nothing to hang his hat on to overturn the decision of the jury. (Assume, for example, that the jury thought X was telling the truth while the judge thought maybe X was lying. It is not the judge's office to weight that kind of determination.) He is REQUIRED to give effect to the jury's decision of guilt - he wasn't in the jury room listening to their analysis of the evidence and the reasonable way to discern the validity of competing witnesses. His office isn't the jury's office.

Now I want to focus on the executioner, John, who is appointed to the task by lottery, from registered citizens, each year. We all are agreed, I think, that in the situation (1) where the condemned is _factually_ innocent, but has been accused, tried, convicted, and condemned all according to the best legal practice, John carrying out the sentence is not to be called "intentionally killing an innocent man." John being completely convinced of the guilt by the perfectly orderly legal process has in the mind "this man is guilty, beyond reasonable doubt." Since that guilt is what he is acting on, calling his act "intentionally killing an innocent man" is false. The object of the act is not determined by the PHYSICALLY objective fact, but the apprehended datum as acted upon.

Let's look at a few other scenarios, various options. (2) Next, suppose that like the judge, John is not morally certain that the guy is guilty. He thinks it probable, but doesn't see for himself that guilt as being morally certain. If not for his office, he would be REQUIRED not to kill the condemned: you have to have moral certainty before you set aside the principle of not intentionally killing an innocent person. But his office isn't that of obtaining moral certainty _of_his_own about the guilt, it is that of carrying out the determination based on the moral certainty of OTHERS, whose job it was to sift the evidence. If he looks at the trial record, and is sure that all the due respect for law and justice was followed, he is morally certain that he is supposed to carry out the execution. He should carry out the sentence. (Otherwise it would be definitively REQUIRED that the executioner sit in on the jury deliberations.)

(3) John is convinced that the guy really did do the killing, but he is not morally convinced that the act really ought to be determined as FIRST degree murder, he thinks it is more appropriate for it to be determined as second degree. Or, he doesn't quite think that the act comes up to the prescribed criteria for calling for the death penalty, he thinks it fits better in the criteria for life in prison. Should he carry out the execution? I think the answer is the same: his office is not that of having moral certainty that the guy did the killing, or that the act was first degree, or that it warrants the death penalty - those prudential determinations belong to others who are entrusted with those duties. John's office is to act on the (properly carried out) determinations those others made.

(4) Let's see if that changes for a situation where John really thinks the conviction was _probably_ wrong. He thinks the jury screwed up, they just didn't account for the evidence appropriately, not the way he would have anyway, and they came back with a "guilty" verdict when the guy seems more likely to have been innocent. Should he carry out the execution?

(5)I am going to change (4) slightly, maybe John is aware of evidence that was suppressed due to rules of evidence, so although for LEGAL purposes the trial went correctly, the jury just didn't have evidence that might have changed their conclusion from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "not proven beyond a reasonable doubt." But he doesn't KNOW that the jury would have changed their conviction, he just thinks it reasonably possible. Should John carry out his office and kill the person? If the answer is yes, and if the person factually innocent, is John's act "intentionally killing an innocent person"?

(6) The defendant pleads "nollo contendere" because although he did not cause the murder, he knows perfectly well that the frame-up is picture perfect and he will never be acquitted. He is willing to accept the penalty because he did actually WANT to kill the victim, and he did actually TRY to kill the victim, it just so happens someone else's act is the one that was successful. In a change of heart, he realizes what he did was gravely wrong, and he has no hope of being found innocent given the fact that he really did try to commit the murder. Through discussions with the convict after sentencing, John becomes convinced, on moral evidence of his repentance and humble accepting of the penalty, that the convict is actually not the person who caused the death. But the evidence is entirely subjective, and he has no way to even begin to make that kind of evidence be heard in an appeal. Should John carry out the sentence? If so, is he guilty of "intentionally killing an innocent person"?

Let me be clear: there are EASY cases where John should not carry out the sentence. If the trial was irregular, if the jury was clearly biased, if the prosecutor unjustly suppressed evidence of innocence, if the law is a manifestly unjust law (Jews in Germany sort), etc. In all these, John should refuse. My scenarios are a little more difficult than that.

In (2), John is uncertain on his own judgment that the guy is guilty, even though he thinks he is probably guilty. John ought to carry out the sentence. The object of the act is formally that of intentionally killing a guilty man. The formal aspect comes in because of the nature of John's office, which is to carry into effect the determination of others who have more information and the proper office of determination. This is a FORMAL status: John formally has as the object of the act "to kill a guilty person" even though he is not convinced of the guilt, because the form of JOHN's act is not specified by his estimation of facts, but by his duty to give effect to other's estimation of the facts. John's choice is best stated "to kill the person presented to me properly and justly as guilty and justly sentenced.

(3) comes in similarly: John should carry out the sentence. It is again not John's office to determine all those facts, so his choice is not "to kill on my own estimation of the facts" but "to kill based on OTHER people carrying out their determinations of capital guilt justly." The guilt is apprehended in his mind formally, based on a fair legal process fairly carried out even if the process happened to fail this particular defendant.

(4) is the same.

(5) Is more interesting: I am going to suggest that (a) if he thinks the rules of evidence are of such a nature as to be obstructing justice, John may licitly refuse to carry out the sentence, on the basis that he objects that the trial was unjust. He may licitly refuse his citizenry "duty" on conscience - the injustice of the "law" in the rules is sufficient to undo his duty to carry into effect the orders of the judge. The formal aspect for going ahead with the killing is defective, it is no longer TRUE that he is "to kill someone justly and properly presented to him AS guilty." He is no longer morally certain that the "justly and properly" is true. This is true whether the convict is really guilty, or really innocent. The actual fact is irrelevant, what is relevant is the formal nature of the act before John.

But also, (b) that John may licitly carry out the sentence IF he thinks that the rule for evidence is a just rule, it merely doesn't appear (to him) to have worked out as an effective rule for sifting the truth THIS time. In the latter case, it is my opinion that John's belief that the other evidence would have possibly but not certainly changed the jury's decision, and that the rule is generically a just rule, leaves him MORE subject to accepting the conclusion of the duly presented conviction and sentencing, than to refuse based on his purely personal opinion as to the effectiveness of the rule this time. It is more the office of judges and legislatures to determine just rules for trials and whether existing rules are effective, not John's office. It is still true that the formal nature of the act is "to kill someone duly, justly, and properly presented to him AS guilty."

(6) is the most interesting one of all. I'll let others weigh in before I speak.

Does all that help clarify the meaning of "the object of the act is to the physical activity as the FORM is to the matter of a natural being?" Normally, the meaning of "do not intentionally kill an innocent person" means you have to be morally certain of the guilt. But the nature of John's office means he does not have to be morally certain of guilt, he has to be morally certain of a just FORMAL presentation to him as of guilt. He should be confident that the judge was capable of and intending to make the trial go according to the form of a just procedure, even if he is not certain it arrived at the truth; and confident that the jury was chosen according to a procedure that is reasonable for getting unbiased juries, even if it quite by accident got a jury that (unknown to anyone) was actually biased. As a result, John will uprightly kill someone whom he is simply unsure is actually guilty, because the formal aspect of the act is not that of "killing an innocent person."

- they fit exactly and perfectly with what I have been saying.
facepalm
Yeah, that. Impenetrable.

That atrocious blockquote was supposed to second Step2's facepalm.

The second was Tony's claim that the object is found ultimately in the intent. Yet the passive knowing intellect is separate from the active desiring will, so there is no good reason to grant this claim. Why make a clear distinction between intent and object in the first place if it ends up being a hierarchy of intents? The object should be outside the intent, and as I previously conceded it must be known.

Why don't you read the relevant literature on "object of the will" and see if you can explain it to us better than what has been said so far?

In fact, I have attempted to be very careful in NOT saying that it is ultimately the intent, or in a "hierarchy of intents." That's because when I use the OTHER prescribed language of the concept, "form", you go all wonky on me because you haven't absorbed the Aristotelian form - matter distinction, and get confused on what it implies here. So I am stuck between language that is clearer in itself but you don't follow, and language that is inherently ambiguous but is more natural to you.

The form provides the ratio of the act. It explains WHAT you are about. It's what makes doing the act intelligible (even if morally wrong, it is still intelligible). That's why the mother isn't "killing herself", her death doesn't explain the act in the least, it doesn't make the act intelligible. It doesn't constitute the form of the act.

All that just to drive home the conclusion that, despite all we've been told, it is sometimes OK to deliberately kill the innocent after all.

On the one hand, we have the Magisterium, the law written in our hearts, and our lying eyes. On the other, we have torturous logorrhea and un-cited allusion to commentaries on Aristotle thrice removed, secret knowledge available only to initiates.

What shall we believe?

Tony, why would you bring in a series of scenarios in which an executioner is uncertain of the guilt of someone convicted as a murderer? Does someone investing a city think that the newborn infant who starved to death yesterday _might_ have been a murderer? Does the mother in your scenario think _maybe_ she herself should be executed? Did those who gave the order to drop the A-bomb think, with anything close to justification, that everyone in Hiroshima was a combatant?

This is similar in some ways to your example concerning the man who accidentally sleeps with his wife's twin sister. Obviously, no one is blaming him in that case, but equally obviously, he doesn't know what he is doing.

Here as well, you're talking about various situations of doubt concerning the convict's guilt.

I have asked you to stipulate throughout portions of your scenarios concerning knowledge on the part of the person doing the act, because intention and guilt can't be determined without information about the person's knowledge. Why change the subject to a situation of _faulty_ knowledge or doubt concerning guilt? Doesn't it simply obscure the issue? We could, similarly, have a discussion of what constitutes a combatant. Now there's a rich field for ambiguities and difficulties. But that's why those of us who condemn things like starving thousands to death in a city are clear that we're condemning starving those who are *unequivocally* innocent.

To put this a little more starkly: The mother's shooting herself in the head is wrong not in the sense that somehow it would be wrong if she were doing it in her sleep and *didn't know what she was doing*. It's wrong because she does know what she's doing. So it's just a change of subject to start talking about a situation where an executioner might be unknowingly killing an innocent man.

and un-cited allusion to commentaries on Aristotle thrice removed, secret knowledge available only to initiates.

Oh, yes? Now who is ly..., uh, excuse me: making up fictional stories to support a tendentious thesis?

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2012/08/what_have_i_learned_from_the_i_1.html#comment-174718

Generally, then, we can think of the object as the immediate _reason_ for the physical activity, making it a human act. See this site, pages 217 and following: http://www.pcj.edu/journal/essays/15_2_Murphy.pdf

Available only to the initiates and those who bother to read the quotes and links provided. Yes, only to THOSE people. The people who won't read them, well, they won't be initiated, will they?

Look, oh ye Not John Paul II, your namesake was trained in the Thomistic tradition, and in Church theology where that theology has spent 700 years saying that the Thomistic approach is the solid way to go about this stuff. See, for example, this doc. He chose to use some of the same terminology Thomas used in explaining human acts. Do you SERIOUSLY want to suggest that the Pope was not using the expression in a manner consistent with that tradition? I don't think he would have done that - if he wanted to make a break with that tradition, he would have done so by pointing it up with some new terminology.

So, I think we should read JPII in connection with and further clarified by the philosophical tradition, you seem to want to read him in isolation.

The only way you are going to move the argument forward is by taking what I say and showing how it contradicts the meaning of what JPII says, if that's what you think is happening. But simply citing JPII when I think I am explaining JPII's whole framework isn't going to do it.

Tony, why would you bring in a series of scenarios in which an executioner is uncertain of the guilt of someone convicted as a murderer?

I thought I made that clear: I am trying to explain the concept of "form" to those who are not familiar with it, because it helps establish what is meant by "the object of the act".

Why change the subject to a situation of _faulty_ knowledge or doubt concerning guilt?

It is insufficient (for my scenarios) to say merely that John's knowledge was inadequate. He is responsible for his intentional act, which means that he is required to have that act be based on morally adequate knowledge. What my examples do is illustrate what it means to have adequate knowledge, because my examples show the FORM of the act.

So it's just a change of subject to start talking about a situation where an executioner might be unknowingly killing an innocent man.

Partial change of subject because I wanted to get at the critical concepts through a different channel. I was NOT equating the woman't situation with John's. Not in the least.

Let me counter-ask: why have you not one SINGLE TIME taken me on and debated directly my points about the formal aspect of human acts? Is it because that is a perspective that you are very uncomfortable dealing with?

I searched the one actual magisterial document you provided for the term "object". I got zero hits.

This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial.

...secret knowledge available only to initiates.

Yup, the distinction between direct and indirect intention would seem like secret knowledge...for those who refuse to take even two seconds to understand it. For those, one the other hand, who are willing to take the time, it's not so mysterious at all. It takes effort, however, and it's far easier to just wring your hands and blubber incessantly about the "paw wittle children."

Let me counter-ask: why have you not one SINGLE TIME taken me on and debated directly my points about the formal aspect of human acts? Is it because that is a perspective that you are very uncomfortable dealing with?

I'm not sure what you mean by "uncomfortable dealing with," Tony, but you've usually chosen to work with examples, and I find myself quite capable of dealing with those examples without using terms like "form of the act." Remember, I'm not, in fact, an Aristotelian. Also, we were allegedly dealing with the notions of intent and double effect. And I _think_ the original point was supposed to have something to do with besieging a city to the point of starving innocent inhabitants. It seems to me more profitable to deal with the concrete scenarios that are in view.

Given this,


The form provides the ratio of the act. It explains WHAT you are about. It's what makes doing the act intelligible (even if morally wrong, it is still intelligible). That's why the mother isn't "killing herself", her death doesn't explain the act in the least, it doesn't make the act intelligible. It doesn't constitute the form of the act.

I have reason to think that "form" is functioning to make it okay for the mother to *shoot herself in the head which she knows will blow her brains out* (remember, we're supposed to be making it _morally certain_ that she will die), I really don't see "form" as helping over "intent."


My own opinion regarding the executioner is that as a general rule an executioner has no duty to re-try a case, and that it will only create unnecessary doubt and feelings of guilt on his own part if he tries to re-examine the evidence for every case where he is carrying out an execution. But if he somehow gets confronted with evidence that gives him rational grounds to believe the person not guilty, he should not participate in the execution. Also, that rational grounds for believing the person not guilty are *not* automatically the same as "having evidence that, had it been available to the jury, might have caused them to bring in a different verdict." If the executioner is concerned with his own conscience, it isn't necessary for him to be worrying about hypotheticals concerning what the jury might have done. After all, the jury might have been irrational in either direction. Nowadays juries seem to have "reasonable doubt" conflated with "unreasonable doubt." I can certainly imagine scenarios in which the executioner shouldn't execute the prisoner, but they are fairly unusual.

I'm not sure what you mean by "uncomfortable dealing with," Tony, but you've usually chosen to work with examples, and I find myself quite capable of dealing with those examples without using terms like "form of the act." Remember, I'm not, in fact, an Aristotelian. Also, we were allegedly dealing with the notions of intent and double effect. And I _think_ the original point was supposed to have something to do with besieging a city to the point of starving innocent inhabitants. It seems to me more profitable to deal with the concrete scenarios that are in view.

I have "worked with examples" in an attempt to illustrate the principles, because without the principles we cannot possibly be solid on how to decide in difficult cases. To wit: the mother-daughter scenario. That example can't solve our debate, because as it stands (i.e. before we try to analyze it in terms of principles), I think she does a moral act and you don't. That's also why I moved on to suggest other examples - surgeon dealing with appendicitis, and the soldier jumping in front of the general.

The "original point" was Jeff's comment about the bombing of Hiroshima, the blockade issue was a follow-up attempt to pull out more principles. The whole debate is how to deal with double-effect and the principle "do no evil", which is one half of the 2 sides of the ABSOLUTELY PRIMARY moral principle: do good, and do not do evil. These are principles, so the whole discussion cannot be just examples and nothing but.

as a general rule an executioner has no duty to re-try a case, and that it will only create unnecessary doubt and feelings of guilt on his own part if he tries to re-examine the evidence for every case where he is carrying out an execution.

I am OK with that, with a proviso that he should at least make himself sufficiently aware of the trial to the extent of being reasonably sure, as a layman, that the trial followed normal justice procedures. But that's what I was explaining in terms of principle: the reason it's OK for him not to sit in with the jury and be sure the jury was right is that the formal nature of his act is not "kill a person known to me to be guilty" but "kill a person justly presented to me AS guilty." I was stating the principled basis for exactly why your feeling about it is fine. We agree on that he ought to go ahead with those executions, the question is whether we agree on why.

I really don't see "form" as helping over "intent."

Are you OK with analyzing these moral acts in terms of the proposed three fonts of morality - the object, the intention, and the circumstances?

(remember, we're supposed to be making it _morally certain_ that she will die),

Can I ask when we changed the example to include "morally certain she will die". I think my original description was THAT the bullet went through her and killed her. My adjustment had the bullet going through abdomen instead of her chest so that she was morally certain the bullet would get to the attacker.

Be that as it may, it makes sense to understand the principles well enough to apply them BOTH to when she is not morally certain she will die, and when she is. I would suggest, with desire for correction if I don't have this right, that for nearly all the regular moral acts we do, we don't analyze the probability of a consequence in terms of numerical probability, but on a less precise scale of variation, like

almost impossible
improbable
possible, but not probable
maybe yes, maybe no (no reason to prefer positive or negative)
probable
very likely
virtually certain

I doubt that we normally do and ought to ascribe absolute mathematical certainty to consequences that follow from an a standard human act, (other than cases where there is metaphysical necessity as such), because for almost all the acts that we do, there is some possibility of an intervening cause coming along: maybe the world will be taken out by an asteroid or something. But since absolute mathematical certainty is unnecessary for moral certainty, I think it should be irrelevant for this discussion.

Would you care to discuss the moral framework for the mother's decision if her belief at the time for how likely her death was "very likely", versus "morally certain"? I don't think that the moral differences should be very large, you seem to think that the difference is the difference of saying she did a brave, noble act worthy of great praise on the one hand, and she did a gravely immoral act on the other. Why so great a moral difference, with such a modest change in her estimated likelihood of her death?

I searched the one actual magisterial document you provided for the term "object". I got zero hits.

Good gravy, Not John Paul. That particular link was not about the moral act and its nature, it was about the fact that the Magisterial Church has proclaimed the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas is to be upheld and followed as a pre-eminent model. Which is what I SAID about it:

Look, oh ye Not John Paul II, your namesake was trained in the Thomistic tradition, and in Church theology where that theology has spent 700 years saying that the Thomistic approach is the solid way to go about this stuff. See, for example, this doc.

Here is a quote from that document:

"It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same."(35) Innocent XII, followed the example of Urban in the case of the University of Louvain, in the letter in the form of a brief addressed to that university on February 6, 1694, and Benedict XIV in the letter in the form of a brief addressed on August 26, 1752, to the Dionysian College in Granada; while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: "His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error."

You are not covering yourself in glory, so far.

Of course absolute mathematical certainty isn't even on the table, because we're always talking about contingent matters. That's why I've very carefully used the more legally, morally, and (in this context) epistemically useful phrase "morally certain."

When you first brought up the scenario, I _expressly_ distinguished a situation in which she didn't know she was killing herself and one in which she (my phrase there was) "knew full well" that she was killing herself by pulling the trigger. I also questioned whether she could even be sure that such a method would kill the attacker. You insisted that it would and changed it from shooting herself in the _chest_ to shooting herself in the _stomach_, allegedly just to avoid questions about whether the bullet would be slowed down by a rib, while keeping all else equal. In other words, she was still supposed to be knowing full well that she was killing herself.

I have no problem with her shooting herself through the leg or shoulder to kill the attacker! As we get to the point of being quite sure she is killing herself (as in shooting herself in the chest or head), the problem of suicide arises. This should be obvious.

To bring up something right on the cusp of that and throw it down on the table like a gauntlet and say, "What about that" seems to me the height of obfuscation. I say that our principles and our moral intuitions are going to be clearest when the facts of the matter are the clearest! It does not _help_ us to cash out the moral principles for us deliberately to choose factually borderline cases and then point out the obvious--that factually borderline cases yield less clear moral principles and intuitions. No kidding!

As for a great moral difference between risking one's life for another and taking one's life--yes, there are these moral discontinuities in the world. To say that because probability is on a continuum moral evaluation has no notable discontinuities is simply to make an assertion that has no strong basis. You're permitted to run into a burning building to save a child. You're not permitted to blow your own head off to save a child. Yet the probability that you will die between these two lies on a continuum, and may not even be a _gigantic_ difference in probability. This doesn't really faze me in the least.

The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.

Well, Mark, get used to a _little_ counterintuitiveness in your ethics. It's a lot less counterintuitive than the alleged morality of starving civilians or incinerating children with an atom bomb.

Lydia, you're really reaching by your language about the "morality of starving civilians or incinerating children with an atom bomb." So you are for peace and love, and I am for war and death. Right.

Your position isn't morally neutral towards civilians and children. The context for ending the Japanse regime was The Rape of Nanking, for God's sake. How did it go for civilians and children in that go-round? Implicit in your argument seems to be a view that a regime that committed brutal atrocities on that scale would just go away and leave the civilians and children alone if the US hadn't ended it. That is highly doubtful.

It seems you may be operating under assumptions such as 1) either civilians and children dying aren't a problem if one can arguably absolve oneself of some sort of "direct" responsibility; 2) you think it reasonable that atrocities would have stopped and such a militaristic regime turned away from the will and means to commit such atrocities if the Japanese regime was allowed to survive by negotiated settlement; 3) passivity solves certain moral problems somehow. But you haven't argued for any of these views.

JP II:

The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.

Pius XI:

We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest. (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Studiorum Ducem, 1923)

And people wonder why things are so screwed up.

So you are for peace and love, and I am for war and death. Right.

Actually, Mark, it isn't all about you. What I meant in the remark you are taking personally was this: It seems to me better to have an analysis that has a bit of counterintuitiveness that goes in the direction of always forbidding suicide (since some people find that counterintuitive) while also consistently forbidding the killing of the innocent, rather than an analysis that (as I'm afraid is the case for Tony's) has no principled grounds for forbidding the knowing killing of the innocent in all cases. That's far worse than a little counterintuitive.

However, I find the remarks you've decided to come out with in response to be rather shocking, considering that you keep saying over and over that you believe there are intrinsically wrong acts that should never be done. Take this, for instance:


either civilians and children dying aren't a problem if one can arguably absolve oneself of some sort of "direct" responsibility;

What's with the scare quotes around "direct," ol' chap, from a person who allegedly believes in intrinsically wrong acts that can never be done? What, know ye not that the people who don't believe in intrinsically wrong acts can always dream up a scenario in which they make you indirectly "responsible" for the deaths of innocents because you won't do something bad, and then they sneer at you in precisely these terms? "Oh, yeah, you just want to keep your hands clean. Let there be justice, though the heavens fall, I suppose! Huh. All sorts of women and children can die as long as your precious conscience is clear!" And so on and so forth.

What will anyone answer to that who does believe in intrinsically wrong acts? Yes, indeed. Your sneers mean nothing to me. There is such a thing as direct responsibility, and I will never deliberately kill one innocent in order, in some indirect fashion, to try to save others.

As to #2, of course I don't claim any such thing. Dropping the atomic bomb on a bunch of innocents, knowingly, is wrong, full stop, period. The end. It doesn't matter to that whether atrocities committed by the Japanese would or wouldn't be able to be stopped by other means. It is never right to do an intrinsic wrong that good may come.

As to #3, this just goes to show, once again, that your previous rejection of the importance of the distinction between action and inaction is undermining your willingness to evaluate something as intrinsically wrong. If you evaluated dropping the bomb as intrinsically wrong, you'd feel like you didn't have enough effective things to do. So you'd feel passive. So you want to sneer that "passivity doesn't solve anything." Well, once again, if one believes in intrinsically wrong acts, it does! I told you that before. Refraining from doing an intrinsically wrong act is always the right thing to do, even if that seems overly passive to some. And believe me, the war would have continued. I imagine we would still have been plenty busy. Hardly "passive," for goodness' sake. But vis a vis incinerating Hiroshima: Yah, there, I'm happy to be "passive," if that's how you're going to define the term.

It's what makes doing the act intelligible (even if morally wrong, it is still intelligible). That's why the mother isn't "killing herself", her death doesn't explain the act in the least, it doesn't make the act intelligible.

If you think your object explains why she is dead by her own hand, which is what she was certain of when she pulled the trigger, you and I have very different versions of what it means to act. Was it her pulling the trigger or someone else, some phantom consequentialist gunman who was forced to act because of the wildly implausible circumstances?

To bring up something right on the cusp of that and throw it down on the table like a gauntlet and say, "What about that" seems to me the height of obfuscation. I say that our principles and our moral intuitions are going to be clearest when the facts of the matter are the clearest! It does not _help_ us to cash out the moral principles for us deliberately to choose factually borderline cases and then point out the obvious--that factually borderline cases yield less clear moral principles and intuitions. No kidding!

I get that there are continuity issues, or rather sorites issues. I don't want to muddle this inquiry with them. I wasn't trying to.

To say that because probability is on a continuum moral evaluation has no notable discontinuities is simply to make an assertion that has no strong basis.

My argument is a little more substantive than the sorites issue. We say of a person who took a moderate risk to save someone, he did a very good thing. We say of someone who took a quite substantial risk to save someone, he did a great thing. We say of someone who took a very great risk to save another, he did a most noble and superlative thing. The explanation for the difference in what we say and think is the degree of danger. The greater the danger willingly, knowingly borne, the greater the praise and honor. If so, then that on account of which we increase the praise is the increased risk which testifies to the greater moral power. I am suggesting that since the increase in risk as such accounts for the increase in praiseworthiness, and since there is no aspect of that increase in risk that by principle changes when you get from "very likely" to "morally certain", then there must be some separate principle, some ADDITIONAL factor, that is responsible for causing the discontinuity of the moral treatment.

And I can't begin to see what that additional principle would be. Can you provide it?

To shine another light on that: in other areas, areas where the outcome isn't death but something completely different, we don't see any sort of abrupt change in moral character going from more and more and more praiseworthy to all of a sudden immoral when the outcome surpasses merely high probability and becomes morally certain. If you will get a perfect score on a test with higher and higher probability the more you study, changing that outcome to moral certainty by studying twice as much cannot turn it into some kind of wrongness. CERTAINTY can't do it. So what does? What is the cause of the switch?

It is neither the task nor the competence of the Magisterium to intervene in order to make good the lacunas of deficient philosophical discourse. Rather, it is the Magisterium's duty to respond clearly and strongly when controversial philosophical opinions threaten right understanding of what has been revealed, and when false and partial theories which sow the seed of serious error, confusing the pure and simple faith of the People of God, begin to spread more widely.

Tony, I never actually agreed that we just go up and up and up in our moral evaluation of someone who risks his life, based only on the amount of risk he is taking. At least, I don't do so. Certainly, I admire bravery, and I think that admiration of bravery is to some extent in tension with the knowledge that suicide is wrong, because bravery can at the outlying extremes turn into truly suicidal behavior.

I think it's also correct to be hesitant to assume that a person was truly behaving suicidally when discussing an emergency situation where the person had to make a decision in a split second and had strong, and laudable, impulses to help or save another person. That's one reason why these scenarios are all so artificial. If someone is acting on instinct to save a child and does something that results in his death, one of _many_ reasons that I applaud him rather than blaming him is because I don't think of this as a calculated decision involving knowledge like "I am going to die if I do this." Rather, I take it to be simply the outworking of an instinctive desire to protect.

In that case, it's that desire to protect, together with the willingness to take a risk, that I applaud, not per se the willingness to take that degree of risk. I'm never saying, "It's more praiseworthy to jump into the river when you can't swim than when you can swim," nor, "It's more praiseworthy to jump in front of a speeding semi truck than in front of a runaway horse-drawn carriage." There is, in fact, a reason why literature portrays with a certain amount of deprecatory humor characters like Sir Nigel Loring or Don Quixote who deliberately attempt to take near-suicidal risks for the sake of honor. We are impressed by their courage, but we also think they are more than a little crazy. Moral praiseworthiness does not simply grow and grow the nearer one approaches to doing something truly suicidal.

Moreover, it's just as well to bring out at this point that where there is any uncertainty about the outcome, one's own act in, say, firing a gun at oneself has got to be subject to more strict moral scrutiny than one's act in simply jumping out to try to save someone from another's act. I am _not_ saying that the latter could not under truly extreme circumstances be suicidal, though I think you and Mark exaggerate the frequency and plausibility of these circumstances.

The scenario with the mother is highly artificial and, indeed, almost silly, but the fact that _she is firing the gun_ does isolate things and make them more stark. If we are imagining this much knowledge on her part, then presumably she knows pretty exactly where the bullet is going to go, for example, since she is firing it. And it may even be that the moral implications of her firing the gun go beyond knowledge and encompass the fact that she is the one sending the missile flying in the first place--into herself.

And I can't begin to see what that additional principle would be. Can you provide it?

Aristotle's Golden Mean, which values courage but not its excess in rashness or deficiency in fear.

Step2, good try. I thought of that too. But it doesn't serve. For the mean that stands as the norm for virtue, the mean is determined according to a rational standard, and both excess and defect are defined as extreme TO THAT standard. For eating, the standard is good health. For relaxing recreation, the standard let's say is "recharging". In both cases, the standard admits of falling short and going too far. In other cases, the standard DOES NOT admit of that: love of God, for example. The virtue of charity (i.e. love of God) does not aim at a mean between excess and defect in love.

For bravery, the norm is set by the due good being protected. The greater the good, the greater the risk to be borne for its sake. That's why (for example) we expect men to risk their lives for their country, but we don't expect them to risk their lives for the team championship. Excess and defect are then measured against the goods for which the risk is borne. As long as the goods to be protected are sufficient for the goods that will be lost, you cannot run to excess on THAT score.

Furthermore, in all cases where there is a chance of running short or long and missing the mean, there is gray area in the continuum (of which Lydia rightly speaks) that is immediately adjacent to the golden spot, both above and below, where it is impossible to be definitive. If 6 oz of ice cream is perfect, 7 oz may be OK without being actually blameworthy. For this case, it seems to me that your implication is that the problem is that the golden "mean" is a highest point, immediately after which is not gray area but definitive grave wrongness.

Well, no. I've already disagreed that we should automatically evaluate people's behavior as more and more praiseworthy in direct proportion to the risk they are taking.

Think about this point: If we were to do that, there would be no distinction to be made *at all* of the sort you want to make between cases where the "evil" *itself* is the means to the good end and cases where the "evil" is merely "by the way." So, for example: Suppose that we automatically evaluated bravery as more and more praiseworthy as the risk becomes greater. In that case, why shouldn't a person in a starvation scenario be praised for allowing someone else to cut off portions of his body and eat them, with this becoming more and more praiseworthy the closer he comes to death? Or why not praise someone greatly for giving _both_ of his kidneys while he is alive and then putting himself on dialysis and hoping to survive that way?

You see? There definitely is no general principle to the effect, "Praise someone more and more the closer and closer he approaches to actually killing himself in his desire to help someone else."

Tony, I never actually agreed that we just go up and up and up in our moral evaluation of someone who risks his life, based only on the amount of risk he is taking.

Lydia, I agree, and I didn't mean to say that risk alone provides the evaluation. I was a bit unclear. I was trying to set up an isolation: all OTHER things being equal, including the condition that the good being put into risk is not greater than the good being protected (and the condition that in all cases the person is doing so for good intentions, etc. etc.), the greater the risk borne indicates the greater degree of courage and the greater the praise. It is not that the risk alone sets the evaluation, it is that we are keeping everything else that plays into the evaluation constant and varying only the risk borne. In that case the risk alone accounts for the difference in our estimation of degree of courage.

If someone is acting on instinct to save a child and does something that results in his death, one of _many_ reasons that I applaud him rather than blaming him is because I don't think of this as a calculated decision involving knowledge like "I am going to die if I do this.

I agree. (With the qualification that if the person reasonably thinks he will die without achieving the effect of saving the child because he not only can't swim but has lead shoes and hydrophobia, then it is no longer praiseworthy because it isn't a mere inability to see the future, but a lapse in rational behavior. Which is just what you were saying anyway, so we agree.) But in the accidental case, the person is acting on an object that is rationally ordered, even if he fails to estimate perfectly - that's not a moral failing.

Moral praiseworthiness does not simply grow and grow the nearer one approaches to doing something truly suicidal.

Right. It doesn't work merely if the risk grows. Praise only grows if the risk grows AND YET remains within the bounds of the good to be protected / achieved. THEN, yes, it does grow and grow the higher the risk gets. Until (for your thesis) it reaches moral certainty of death. Which is unintelligible in terms of virtue.

Ah, cross posted. Well, I think I answered your complaint. The "all other things being equal" takes only the comparison of cases where the basic act is of the same sort, is carried out with the same intentions, under the same circumstances, and ESPECIALLY that it is moral act either way (apart from how much risk is being borne), with the good at risk always not greater than the goods protected thereby.

Okay, well: If the mother shoots herself in the head (or the heart), this just isn't "taking a risk" that she will die. I guess I just don't get why and how you see this as being at all similar even to saving a swimmer or something like that. She's shooting herself in a vital spot. How is it that that does not make a difference to your evaluation of the act? How is it not merely sophistry to say "She isn't really killing herself" under these circumstances?

And, if I can ask this without seeming like _too_ much of a gadfly: What, again, could this possibly have to do with dropping an A-bomb on a city full of innocents?

Since I agreed that dropping the Bomb on Hiroshima was wrong, I am not sure it does - directly. Doesn't eliciting the required principles mean something?

I guess I just don't get why and how you see this as being at all similar even to saving a swimmer or something like that. She's shooting herself in a vital spot. How is it that that does not make a difference to your evaluation of the act?

If some evil genius rigged up some twisted pacemaker/EEG apparatus that linked her to the killer's so that mom could take out the killer by killing herself, then mom's shooting herself in the heart or head would clearly be wrong: the death of the killer is achieved precisely by mom's achieving her death. It is her DEATH that causes his death. We both agree this is wrong.

Do you think this is the SAME category of morally wrong act as my scenario where mom shoots through her gut? Or do you think that while both are wrong, one is wrong differently from the other? See, I think that they should be considered morally different sorts of acts, EVEN supposing they are both wrong.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this scenario, I just noticed: There is a train hurtling down a track where it isn't supposed to be, and 100 feet away there are 5 people on the track. You can't stop the train. Even if you were to throw yourself in front of it, it wouldn't stop. However, you can throw a switch and send it to a different track. Problem is there is a person on that one too. Do you throw the switch, or do you not? My follow-up question: If you do throw the switch, have you (a) intentionally killed the one person; (b) killed him but not intentionally, or (c) did not kill the one person who died?

It is neither the task nor the competence of the Magisterium to intervene in order to make good the lacunas of deficient philosophical discourse.

Well, that's really keen. George shows you that the Church DOES "have a philosophy for her own", and you come back implying that quotes from that very philosopher might be saddled with the description "the lacunas of deficient philosophical discourse." Did you stop to think that maybe the Pope meant other philosophers, like Kant and Hegel and Nietzsche, and Mill, and on and on to the Peter Singers of today? Not St. Thomas. Why should we take you seriously? No, don't answer that directly, answer it indirectly by giving us actual positive commentary with explanatory power. For a change.

Tony, I understand, and have always understood, the distinction on which you place so much weight about achieving some goal X precisely by means of bringing about the death of an innocent person. I get that distinction. However: I think you are taking it that if you can show that that is not the case, and if the person is not merely killing wantonly for _no_ desired good goal, then you have ipso facto shown that it's okay to kill the innocent by some direct act, as in your scenario with the mother shooting herself.

I believe, rather, that "achieving the goal precisely by means of the death of the innocent" is a _sufficient_ condition for saying that the innocent person is being murdered, but that there are other situations where someone has a good goal, kills the innocent person, and is also murdering him. Your scenario is one like that. All scenarios that involve "shooting through the baby's head to kill the bad guy" and the like are like that. It isn't _necessary_ for those acts to be intrinsically wrong that the death itself is the very means of bringing about the desired goal. That's just _one type of case_ in which someone is committing an intrinsically wrong act by directly killing an innocent person, and pointing out that the death is the very means of bringing about the desired goal is one way of helping people to see that the act is, in those cases, intrinsically wrong.

But if the mother in your scenario isn't directly and deliberately killing herself, I really do not know what to call it.

Yes, you shouldn't push the switch in the "five people on the track" scenario. You are inserting yourself causally into the situation and determining the outcome, which is that A dies instead of B-F.

Honestly, haven't you _ever_ run through this litany of scenarios before? I mean, this is kind of old hat to me. I could even bring up a few you haven't happened to bring up yet (rather to my surprise). And as I said before: They are always brought up by people who say that directly killing the innocent isn't intrinsically wrong. They are always brought up as counterexamples to that principle. You're kind of running in poor company here. I know you don't mean to be, and I know it's just the kind of legal mind you have, but I think it should give you pause.

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity.

The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.

I think you are taking it that if you can show that that is not the case, and if the person is not merely killing wantonly for _no_ desired good goal, then you have ipso facto shown that it's okay to kill the innocent by some direct act

I am trying to establish that the death of the mother is not included in the object of the act. The object is not the desired good goal. As stated above.

They are always brought up by people who say that directly killing the innocent isn't intrinsically wrong.

The most basic moral principle is "do good and avoid doing evil". Others are derivative of that. In theory, at least, we should be able to shed light light on less fundamental principles.

I submit that the principle you are relying on for ALL of the above, "directly killing the innocent is intrinsically wrong" should be capable of resolution to more basic principles and concepts. A more basic way to put it is "killing an innocent person is intrinsically wrong", but of course that formulation leaves us scratching, it is inadequate to deal with the difficulties of real moral situations that cause deaths of innocents but we know are not wrong. So we bring in qualifiers like "directly". We find that there is more than one way to attempt to represent the qualified principle in favor of life for the innocent. Using either "directly" or "intentionally" require developed and sophisticated understandings, neither one is manifest and without ambiguity. In fact, we cannot understand EITHER "directly" or "intentionally" outside of a context that brings in all of the 3 fonts of morality - object, intention, and circumstances.

I think that the principle is better stated "to cause the death of an innocent person is intrinsically wrong, where the object of the act is the death of the innocent person." I don't think that "directly" quite covers the needed meaning, at least not obviously. I have attempted to show why by showing how the concepts for all the above elements are rooted in more basic understandings, of the will and the intellect for example. I don't see how arguing, without trying to get at the fundamentals that make the higher truths true, can possibly work here. We don't disagree with the truth that you are not supposed to set about to kill innocent people. Our disagreement is deeper, and that's where we ought to be arguing.

Another George R. revelation:
http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/02/whats_black_and_white_and_misr.html#comment-101390

He makes no bones about rejecting Vatican II and the teachings of JPII. If you want to argue against the words of JPII, George R makes a good ally.

Not JPII, I have myself repudiated George's attitude toward the Church a number of times, and you are not telling us anything that isn't very well known in these circles.

All the same, Vatican II itself says that its documents, and all later Church documents, are to be interpreted in light of prior Magisterial documents. If you have one Magisterial document saying

for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest.

and a later document saying

The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.

then the later one has to be interpreted in light of the former. Unless you are at least willing to acknowledge that there is a challenge that needs to be thought through, all you are doing is proof-texting and proving that you are to be taken as a crank. I will explain it again: this site's purpose is rational, intelligent discussion, explanations of your theses and how they apply to the discussion rather than merely positing them. Proof-texting ain't it.

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity.

Actually, Mark, it isn't all about you. What I meant in the remark you are taking personally was this: It seems to me better to have an analysis that has a bit of counterintuitiveness that goes in the direction of always forbidding suicide (since some people find that counterintuitive) while also consistently forbidding the killing of the innocent, rather than an analysis that (as I'm afraid is the case for Tony's) has no principled grounds for forbidding the knowing killing of the innocent in all cases. That's far worse than a little counterintuitive.

Lydia, I didn't take it personally at all. I only took myself as a representative of the group you're speaking of. I should have said "those like me" to be more accurate to my thinking. Your point was perfectly clear, I just disagree with it.

What's with the scare quotes around "direct," ol' chap, from a person who allegedly believes in intrinsically wrong acts that can never be done?

I didn't mean anything scary, but is happens many others here have used it an awful lot and I'm not comfortable hanging much on it. I meant nothing nefarious, and it wasn't about you either. It reminds me of grade school when some child would say "hey I didn't cause that," and the teacher would say "well you didn't try to avoid it very hard either." I just am not interesting in deep theoretic discussions of what direct means because it never leads anywhere.

Your sneers mean nothing to me.

Good Lord, Lydia. I wasn't sneering at you. Take a step back. I'm sorry I came on too strong on those points. I dashed it off in a couple of minutes. But you must realize that many who see themselves as forbidding all suicide don't define it as you do, and views other than yours aren't at all novel. I recoil in horror at the very thought of it, and it has touched my life personally. The idea that I accept suicide because I have a different view that you on the definition is crazy.

Look this is a standard clash of moral views. I merely brought up the important fact that the atomic bombing of Japan was in the context of atrocities such as The Rape of Nanking, and because of that your views on the atomic bombing aren't morally neutral on the deaths of civilians and children. I think this is an important thing to keep in mind, and that is counterintuitive too.

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life

Not JPII, why is it you refuse to listen? It isn't enough to quote. You need to extend, clarify, apply.

Try answering this question, for starters: If mom gets a shot off before the attacker grabbed for the gun, got him in the leg and broke it, and she says "good, I don't have to kill the ba***rd", is the choice she went ahead with "a deliberate decision to deprive a human being of life"? If you cannot acknowledge the question has significance, you don't belong in this discussion.

I am suggesting that since the increase in risk as such accounts for the increase in praiseworthiness, and since there is no aspect of that increase in risk that by principle changes when you get from "very likely" to "morally certain", then there must be some separate principle, some ADDITIONAL factor, that is responsible for causing the discontinuity of the moral treatment.
For this case, it seems to me that your implication is that the problem is that the golden "mean" is a highest point, immediately after which is not gray area but definitive grave wrongness.

No, I consider "very likely" to be a gray area. There is what you might call a survivor problem that distorts the picture. If someone takes a very high known risk of dying and loses the gamble, it may not be praiseworthy. I think we are inclined to give praise just out of habit of respecting the dead, but it isn't as convincing as the praise bestowed on survivors. The same is true for other big gambles, if someone bets their house on obscure derivatives trades and loses then praise isn't the first thing on people's mind (i.e. Wall Street bankers).

I just am not interesting in deep theoretic discussions of what direct means because it never leads anywhere.

Not directly, but it does lead somewhere. Sorry, that was too tempting.

No, I consider "very likely" to be a gray area.

I agree with Step2 here.

I think we are inclined to give praise just out of habit of respecting the dead, but it isn't as convincing as the praise bestowed on survivors.

I don't think that's really what we are doing. Your description is inadequate. The rolls of Medal of Honor recipients, many posthumous, and the citations for them, don't look anything like talking well of John because John is dead now. Not even remotely.

if someone bets their house on obscure derivatives trades and loses then praise isn't the first thing on people's mind

Of course. But the reason for, ahhh, "praising" (???) them at lower levels of risk isn't on account of risk to begin with, so it isn't even in the category.

I am going to close this thread. The discussion has little likelihood of being fruitful beyond this point, and I don't want it to dissolve into foolishness. A thank you to those who attempted to move the discussion forward.