Skip Content

We Don't Torture: Moral Resolve and the Doctrine of Double Effect

Philosophical Lecture, delivered by Professor Richard Holton, on 3 June 2015 (venue: The British Academy).

‘We don’t torture’ announced both Bush and Obama. But what Bush meant as a statement of fact, Obama meant as a resolution. Exploring this example, this lecture examined how moral resolutions work to overcome the rationalizations that temptation engenders. This in turn shone light on the nature of our moral concepts. Resolutions are typically framed using intentional notions (torture; murder; theft). Reflection on the reasons for this reveals what is right, and what is wrong, about the doctrine of double effect.

About the speaker:
Richard Holton was educated at Oxford and Princeton, and has taught in many places, most recently MIT and Cambridge. He is the author of Willing, Wanting Waiting (OUP 2009). His current work is mainly in philosophy of mind, moral psychology and the philosophy of law.

More about the Philosophical Lectures