Double Effect and Terror Bombing

In Miguel Hoeltje, Thomas Spitzley & Wolfgang Spohn (eds.), Was dürfen wir glauben? Was sollen wir tun? Sektionsbeiträge des achten internationalen Kongresses der Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie e.V. DuEPublico (2013)
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I argue against the Doctrine of Double Effect’s explanation of the moral difference between terror bombing and strategic bombing. I show that the standard thought-experiment of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber which dominates this debate is underdetermined in three crucial respects: (1) the non-psychological worlds of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber; (2) the psychologies of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber; and (3) the structure of the thought-experiment, especially in relation to its similarity with the Trolley Problem. (1) If the two worlds are not identical, then it may be these differences between the two worlds and not the Doctrine of Double Effect to explain the moral difference; (2a) if Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber have the same causal beliefs, then why does Terror Bomber set out to kill the children? It may then be this unwarranted and immoral choice and not the Doctrine of Double Effect that explains the moral difference; (2b) if the two have different causal beliefs, then we can’t rule out the counterfactual that, had Strategic Bomber had the same beliefs as Terror Bomber, she would have also acted as Terror Bomber did. Finally, (3) the Strategic Bomber scenario could also be constructed so as to be structurally equivalent to the Fat Man scenario in the Trolley Problem: but then the Doctrine of Double Effect would give different answers to two symmetrical cases.

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Ezio Di Nucci
University of Copenhagen


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