We don't torture: Moral resolutions, temptation, and the doctrine of double effect

by Richard Holton

16 Nov 2017
Digital Object Identifier

Full text of article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 5, pp. 309-329.

Abstract: ‘We don’t torture’, announced both Bush and Obama. But what Bush meant as a statement of fact, Obama meant as a statement of resolve. Exploring this example, this article examines how moral resolutions work to overcome the rationalisations that temptation engenders. This in turn sheds light on the the nature of our moral concepts. Resolutions are typically framed using intentional notions (torture, murder, theft). Reflection on the reasons for this provides a new perspective on what is right, and what is wrong, about the doctrine of double effect.

Keywords: resolution, resolve, torture, doctrine of double effect, intentional, rationalisation.

Philosophical Lecture, read 3 June 2015 (audio recording)

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