“Dangerous Connections”. The Problem of Closeness in the Contemporary Debate on the Principle of Double Effect

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Barbara Chyrowicz


The problem of closeness was posed by Philippa Foot in the article “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect”. Foot criticizes the classic version of the principle of double effect which distinguishes direct from indirect intention. On this basis, she considers it justified to cause bad effects which were foreseen but not intended. She believes that if we consider causing a bad effect to be justified then the way we do it is irrelevant, while the reference to the direct/indirect distinction may lead to absurd solutions in some cases that allow us to distinguish two events in one action. These constitute, respectively, the object of direct and indirect intention and they are much too close for an application of the principle of double effect, such as  when a doctor performs a craniotomy. The root of the problem of closeness is the question about the possible criterion that would allow us to determine which of the effects of an action are intended and which are merely foreseen. The starting point of the analysis of the problem of closeness in this article is the manner in which Foot outlines it in her article. In the second and more extensive part of the article, a number of contemporary attempts to solve the problem of closeness are presented, while the third section is an attempt to answer the question of why the discussion of the problem of closeness seems to remain deadlocked.


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Chyrowicz, Barbara. 2023. “‘Dangerous Connections’. The Problem of Closeness in the Contemporary Debate on the Principle of Double Effect”. Diametros 20 (78):133-64. https://doi.org/10.33392/diam.1899.
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