presented to The Faculty of The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Berkeley, California February 8, 2010

Committee Signatures

Sr. Marianne Farina, C.S.C., Coordinator Fr. Edward Krasevac, O.P., 1st Reader Dr. Marga Vega, 2nd Reader

Date Date Date

† For my wife Alyssa Jane il miglior fabbro


CONTENTS Introduction...........................................................................................................................................1 Chapter I: The Elements of Moral Action ........................................................................................4 1. The Moral Act Generally Considered ..............................................................................4 2. Object in Aquinas ................................................................................................................8 3. Use of Object in Moral Matters.......................................................................................11 4. Relating the Moral Object to the Structure of Moral Acts..........................................15 5. The Structure of the Moral Act .......................................................................................20 Chapter II: The Objective Specification of Moral Action ............................................................22 1. The End of the Moral Act Generally Considered ........................................................22 2. Which End Specifies the Moral Act?..............................................................................26 3. Remote Ends ......................................................................................................................27 4. Proximate Ends..................................................................................................................29 5. Resolution ...........................................................................................................................32 6. Summary .............................................................................................................................35 Chapter III: The Context of STh. II-II, q. 64 .................................................................................37 Chapter IV: Steven Long....................................................................................................................43 1. Long on Cajetan .................................................................................................................43 2. Long on Double Effect ....................................................................................................47 3. Assessing Long ..................................................................................................................52 Chapter V: Thomas Cavanaugh ........................................................................................................59 1. Cavanaugh on the Moral Act ...........................................................................................59 2. Cavanaugh on Double Effect Situations .......................................................................67 3. Evaluating Cavanaugh’s Theory ......................................................................................72 Chapter VI: The Account of Double Effect ..................................................................................76 1. Preliminary Remarks .........................................................................................................76 2. Three Paradigmatic Cases ................................................................................................77 3. Aquinas’ Criteria: The Heart of the Matter ...................................................................80 4. The Common Principles of the Three Cases ................................................................85 5. Three Residual Difficulties ...............................................................................................86 6. Recapitulation.....................................................................................................................94 7. A Final Test Case: Ectopic Pregnancy ...........................................................................95 Conclusion .........................................................................................................................................103 Bibliography .......................................................................................................................................109


INTRODUCTION A considerable challenge is found in efforts to adequately assess the morality of the most difficult situations of human action wherein evil is necessarily tied to choosing a good. The Thomistic tradition has long employed the principles implicit in Aquinas’ teaching concerning legitimate homicidal self defense to provide criteria for what is morally permissible in such situations. The discussion among Thomists about how to properly apply these principles to situations of double effect continues to percolate in contemporary scholarship. Not only is there dispute regarding the application of double effect reasoning, but there are useful reconsiderations of the constitutive moral principles of double effect reasoning. This thesis endeavors to clarify these specifically Thomistic principles which govern what is to be done when certain human actions inevitably entail that some objectively moral evil is instrumentally tied to realizing an intended good, by both examining seminal text from Aquinas and turning to certain contemporary commentators who aid in elucidating his texts. The first chapter of this thesis explicates Aquinas’ normative principles of moral action as found both in his writing and as clarified by certain scholars following him. Understanding these principles will aid in interpreting Aquinas’ treatment of lethal selfdefense, his paradigmatic case wherein evil is instrumentally tied to realizing an intended good. Concepts which contribute to the moral specification of human actions will be considered: the interior aspect of “intention” and its proper object, namely the end, which is the ‘form’ of the moral act, and the exterior aspect which is the ‘chosen means,’ the ‘matter’ of the act with its circumstances. Examining these parts according to a natural teleological structure illuminates the principles of human action.


The second chapter explains which moral object— of electio or intentio— is formal to the other. Since the end gives the formal ratio to an object, this chapter considers the notion of ‘end’ present in both the object of choice and of intention, and then determines which end is contained by the other. The third chapter presents the specific situation of homicidal self defense in the context of STh II-II q. 64. The general problem implicit in these situations of self-defensive killing is what is to be done when specific human actions inevitably entail that some evil is instrumentally tied to realizing some good. In light of these principles, the thought of two contemporary ethical scholars is then examined. First, the position of Stephen Long is considered.1 He argues that Aquinas holds that only the ‘remote end’ of the intention has moral significance, and further, that the ‘chosen means’ may be deliberately chosen as permissibly evil in double effect reasoning situations. Next, the thought of Thomas Cavanaugh is examined and disputed.2 He affirms the idea that the ‘chosen means’ may also be considered under a ratio of ‘proximate end.’ He concludes that choosing the defensive means which necessarily entail the death of the aggressor is not morally permissible, specifically in virtue of Aquinas’ position that the right to take life belongs to the state alone and not to any private citizen, and generally because of his view of the evil effect’s relation to the ‘chosen means.’ This chapter will also deal with the question of whether the evil effect is per accidens to the ratio of the ‘chosen means,’ even if the evil effect is inevitable.
Steven A. Long, The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act (Naples: Sapientia Press, 2007); Steven A. Long, “A Response to Jensen on the Moral Object,” Nova et Vetera 3 (2005): 101-8; Steven A. Long, “A Brief Disquisition Regarding the Nature of the Object of the Moral Act According to St. Thomas Aquinas,” The Thomist, no. 67 (2003): 45-71. 2 Thomas Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006); Thomas Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account of Double Effect,” The Thomist 61 (1997): 107-22.


The primary reasons for focusing on these specific contemporary authors are twofold. First, both provide a principled and close reading of STh II-II, q. 64, art. 7 as a starting point in their analyses of the situation of double effect. This parallels the method of this work, wherein much time is taken to establish Aquinas’ wider principles of action theory, so as to enable the close reading of STh II-II, q. 64, art. 7 in chapter VI. Second, it will be shown that these authors correctly take as the central issue of double effect reasoning the chosen mean’s relationship to the proximate end and also emphasize the connected issue of how an evil effect of an action is related to these means.3 Nevertheless, it will be argued that their works flank the exact understanding of these principles of double effect: Cavanaugh take the chosen means to have too great an influence in specifying the moral object, and Long trivializes the role of the chosen means based on how he understands the remote end to specify. The final chapter of this thesis argues that the evil effect in the double effect situation, though caused by the means, is only related per accidens to the means morally considered, and explains how the 'chosen means' have an intrinsic ordering to their good end. The solution is founded on the previous clarification of the teleological structure of human acts; it also establishes a correct understanding of the moral object and its relationship to the intention of the agent. This proposed theoretical solution will then be applied to a number of contemporary cases, which bring the principles of this thesis to full light.

3 Admittedly there is a much larger discussion of double effect happening with widely acclaimed authors (such as Nagel, Kenney, and Anscombe) weighing in on these issues. Nevertheless, Long and Cavanaugh’s thought fit particularly well with the areas of emphasis in this thesis. The work of Kenney and Anscombe, and indeed the larger discussion, will be incorporated inasmuch as they are relevant to certain points of discussion in this work.


CHAPTER I: THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL ACTION This chapter will attempt to account for the natural structure of human action and the corresponding order of understanding which accompanies “the essential unity, suppleness, and teleological realism”1 of the moral act. This chapter will present the key elements of Aquinas’ theory on moral action in their teleological framework so as to give a context for the difficulties considered later in the paper.2

1. The Moral Act Generally Considered
The key elements of the moral act in the Thomistic tradition must be considered first, in order to understand their respective contributions to the moral quality of the action. Moral action, like actions of nature in general, follows a structure of motion towards an end.3 Moral acts, or ‘human acts,’4 are acts which occur following knowledge-based choices on the part of the agent. For Aquinas, human intention (intentio) pertains to the end of the acts and choice (electio) to the means to that end.5 Understanding an object as good is not a sufficient condition for choosing the good. The process of the intellect judging something worthy of action is called deliberation, and the following act of will, Aquinas generally calls “deliberated willing.”6 Indeed, the mind

Teleological Grammar, xvii. The English translations of Aquinas are taken from the English Dominican Fathers and the Latin from the Corpus Thomisticum, both available in electronic format (unless otherwise noted). (1) St. Thomas Aquinas, Opera Omnia, transl. by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benziger Bros., 1947), Folio Views e-book. (2) S. Thomae de Aquino, Opera Omnia, ed. by Enrique Alarcón, (Pamplona, Spain: Ad Universitatis Studiorum, 2001), html (accessed September 25, 2009). 3 C.f. Duarte Sousa-Lara, “Aquinas On the Object of the Moral Act,” Josephinum Journal of Theology 15, no. 2 (2008): 275: “If natural agents act by determination of their proper form, intellectual agents propose to themselves, under the aspect of the good, the ends toward which they tend.” 4 STh I-II, q. 1, a. 3, cor. 5 STh I-II, q. 12, art. 1 and 4. ‘Means’ is the standard but loose translation of “id quod est ad finem.” The means are human actions, cf. STh I-II, q. 4, art. 13: “electio semer est humanorum actuum.” This is distinguished from the modern technical sense of ‘means’ which limits itself to implements, procedures, instruments and the like. Such means are participatively called means. See John Finnis, “Object and Intention in Moral Judgments According to Aquinas,” The Thomist 55 (1991): 10. 6 Cf. STh I-II, q. 8 art. 1 and 2; q. 19 art. 3.

1 Long,


apprehends many orders of goods, but the starting point of moral knowledge is the kind of knowledge wherein the good is considered simply (absolute).7 At this stage the agent recognizes a good to be such, though they may, as Pilsner puts it, “never proceed from attraction to action.”8 The good specifies the will, and the mind initiates the movement of the will by presenting its object to it.9 Thus the known object is already some particular good: “it is a kind of truth that such-and-such is good for so-and-so.”10 If a human action is to occur, the agent must see a good as something personally desirable.11 This is a significant transition because the agent decisively commits to the end.12 The good apprehended by the agent is seen as a good for the agent, “a good that reason judges to be fulfilling of the kind of agent [it is].”13 This desire for the end begins the process of practical reasoning because the end is the reason for willing the means,14 although the end is the last thing arrived at in an action in the order of execution or achievement.15 There are two things to note. First, for the present purposes, the notion of end as a terminus is general enough to include both ultimate termini as well as intermediate ends

STh I-II, q.12, art.1, ad. 4. Aquinas holds that the will is the tendency of the intellect towards the good (the proper object of the intellect is truth). Thus for a “human being to will to act it is necessary that the will be presented with an object conceived by the intellect as good.” For more on this see Scott MacDonald, “Ultimate Ends in Practical Reasoning: Aquinas’ Aristotelian Moral Psychology and Anscombe’s Fallacy,” The Philosophical Review, 100, no. 1 (1991):31-66. 8 Joseph Pilsner, The Specification of Human Action in St. Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 10. 9 STh I-II, q. 9, art. 1. See also: Ralph McInerny, Ethica Thomistica (Washington D.C.: CUA Press, 1997), 71. 10 STh I-II, q. 9, art. 1. 11 STh Q. 12, art. 1, cor. C.f. Sousa-Lara, “Aquinas on Object,” 275: “The object of the human act is always a practical good, which is proposed in its formality (ratio boni) and measured in its morality (commensuratio) by the practical reason.” 12 To state it in the terms of Pilsner. Pilsner, 12. 13 McInerny, 83. The end thus is seen as something attainable. Cf. STh I-II q.12 art. 1. 14 STh I-II, q.12, art. 4, cor. 15 STh I-II, q.11, art. 3, cor. Cf. McInerny, 71. Hence the moralist is concerned more with this efficient order of causality, because it is this order which brings about real moral acts.


which in some way are ordered to remote ends.16 In this sense, the agent can will multiple ends simultaneously.17 Secondly, in this account, there can certainly be real interest in an end prior to the ensuing choice of the means, but there is intention only when and insofar as the agent has settled on achieving the end though some means, still to be determined.18 Aquinas emphasizes this point in a text to which he repeatedly refers: Intention is an act of the will in regard to the end. Now the will stands in a threefold relation to the end. First, absolutely; and thus we have "volition," whereby we will absolutely to have health, and so forth. Secondly, it considers the end as its place of rest; and thus "enjoyment" regards the end. Thirdly, it considers the end as the term towards which something is ordained; and thus "intention" regards the end. For when we speak of intending to have health, we mean not only that we have it, but that we will have it by means of something else.19 Intention views the good as something which will be possessed via means.20 This point will become more salient in examining choice and its relationship to intention in one and the same act of will: “the movement of the will to the end and its movement to the means are one and the same thing.”21 The movement of the will towards the means is ‘choice,’ “a certain movement of the soul towards the good which is chosen.”22 Aquinas explains: Choice is nevertheless not an act of the will taken absolutely but in its relation to reason, because there appears in choice what is proper to reason: the comparing of one with the other or the putting of one before the other. This is, of course, found in the act of the will from the influence of reason: reason proposes something to the will, not as useful simply, but as the more useful to an end.23
This complexity will be considered in the next chapter. STh I-II, q.12, art. 4. 18 This point is made by John Finnis, “Object and Intention,” 7. 19 STh I-II, q.12, art.1, ad.4. See also De Veritate. 22, 13c, and ad.16; St. Thomas Aquinas, Opera Omnia, transl. by Robert Mulligan, (Chicago: Regnery, 1952–54), in Folio Views e-book. 20 See STh I-I, q.83, art. 3, cor. 21 STh I-II, q.12, art. 4, cor. 22 STh I-II, q.12, art. 1. 23 De Ver. 22, 15c.
16 17 Cf.


Choice is both of the will and of reason, yet primarily of the will, because through choice the agent moves to pick the means to the end. Finnis helpfully states that choice is the “decisive preferring of one alternative to another or others.”24 Reason has “left something open” even if it is nothing more than ‘Means A’ or ‘not A.’25 The act of will occurs in the preference given to certain means, or better, in the decisive choosing of the means that are seen as best ordered to the end.26 The reason is still present in this action of choice because there is “a practical judgment or judgments affirming the suitability of an option or options eventually rejected.”27 This is the proposal of reason which considers the means not as useful simply, but as the more useful to an end. This begins to clarify the relationship between the means and the end by showing how the intention is related to choice. Finnis explains: ...if we said that one’s intentions included options which one not only never carries out but never even adopted, or benefits which one never made the point of any choice, we would defy not only our common speech, but also a primary element in St. Thomas' account of intention.28 Simplex voluntas concerns a bonum universale or some particular good of the same order, i.e. “that such-and-such is good for so-and so.”29 This order of consideration is prior to intention. Intention further sees the good as something to attain through means. Here “through” does not signify merely some physical efficiency, like a pool stick pushing a cue ball, but rather a relationship of the means to the end: “intending signifies an ordinance to

Finnis, “Object and Intention,” 5. See also STh I-II, q.13, art. 4; q.15, art. 3, ad. 3. Finnis, “Object and Intention,” 5. 26 STh I-II, q.15, art. 3, ad. 3. The term in Aquinas for denoting the act of will after the deliberation is ‘consent.’ This distinction is not as important as that of end/means because here the ‘means chosen’ and the ‘means consented to’ are identical. 27 Finnis, “Object and Intention,” 7. 28 Ibid. 29 McInerny, 71.
24 25 Cf.


the end just insofar as there is an end to which the means are referred.”30 This is a distinction within one and the same act of will, as Aquinas states.31 A difficulty appears in simply distinguishing the means and the end this way, since these definitions designate distinct moral elements. Namely, ‘means’ (ad finem) designates precisely a reality ordered to the end, and, as such, is other than the end. Hence the following will examine how Aquinas provides a richer account of ‘object’ whereby the means and end can be better understood as one act of the will.

2. Object in Aquinas
Aquinas explicates his concept of ‘object’ by clarifying the formal distinction between the end and the means, and also by showing how to understand them as parts of the same reality which is a human action. In order to fully grasp his understanding of the ‘object of choice,’ it is important to first consider the working understanding of ‘object’ he assumes. The meaning of ‘object’ in Aquinas is fairly technical, however, and explaining it requires a momentary deviation from the world of moral philosophy. The original etymological sense of ‘object’ has broad philosophical application. The noun obiectum originates from the past participle of the verb obiicio. This verb means “to throw or put before or in the way,” “to place up against,” or “to be situated near or opposite to.”32 Aquinas uses this sense of object to distinguish certain realities from their powers or dispositions. He considers objects as “that to which a power, faculty, or action relates.”33

De Ver., 22, 13c. STh I-II, q.12, art. 4, cor. The general philosophical principle at work here is that motion is continuous. In any motion the movement from A to C is analytically divisible into multiple parts (A,B,C, etc.), though in reality the motion is one: “idem motus est qui per medium transit ad terminum, in rebus naturalibus.” This point is perhaps more commensurately defended by a consideration of the object of choice and its connection to the principle that the unity of an act is on account of the unity of its object, as will be shown. 32 Oxford Latin Dictionary (1976), 1212-13. Cf. Plisner, 73. 33 For a consideration of this general sense as well as other basic applications in Aquinas of this term, see Pilsner, 70-91.
30 31


However, when Aquinas considers objects more exactly, he makes the important distinction that objects contain a formal and a material aspect.34 It will be easier to understand this distinction with regard to moral acts by first considering how it applies in less complex contexts. An excellent text pertaining to this is found in De Virtutibus: In the object there is something considered as formal and something considered as material. What is formal in the object is that according to which the object is referred to the power or habit; material is that in which this [formal aspect] is founded: so if we speak of the object of the power of vision its formal object is color (or something of this sort), for in so far as something is colored, it is visible; but what is material in the object is that in which the formal, the color, is found. From this it is clear that that a power or habit is referred to the formal aspect (ratio) of the object per se, and to that which is material in the object per accidens. And since what is per accidens does not differentiate something, but only what is per se, therefore, the material does not diversify the power or habit, but only the formal.35 Central to this text is the appropriation of Aristotle's treatment of sense in De Anima II. There Aristotle examines the external senses in order to find what exactly is sensed by the five senses. Ordinarily when one identifies a sensible, a substance is named: one might say they are smelling or seeing a rose. Aristotle observes that, strictly speaking, this is not correct. In particular, the only quality which is strictly seen by the eye is color; odor is the quality which is smelt. The idea here is that the substance of a rose or an orange cannot be strictly arrived at from any one sensation alone. A sign of this is that different things can appear the same to sight or smell, etc,36 thus the sensible thing, considered precisely according to the mode of the sense which is sensing it, is referred to that power as a sensible object.37 The realities which are specifically associated with the power or habit are formally

2, 4. 2, 4. Pilsner’s translation. 36 Plisner, 93. This is obviously not considering the ‘common sensibles’ which can be sensed by more than one sense, such as size, shape, number, or motion. However an explanation of this kind of sensible is not necessary for the purposes of this work. Cf. De Anima 418a. 37 Aquinas argues in other texts that absurdities would follow if, in the case of color, some other quality were said to define vision. If substantial form were to specify powers, then there would need to be different sense powers for different kinds of substances. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s
35 DeVir.,

34 DeVir.,


and properly what make that reality an object of that sense or power. At the same time, the reality taken as a whole is material in reference to the power or habit. In other words, the underlying foundational reality of the object is that wherein the power or habit can relate to the formal ratio of the object,38 i.e. the object precisely as it is sensed according to that power properly and per se.39 It is correct to say that a rose is what is smelled, inasmuch as the substance of the rose underlies its scent which is smelled in the strict sense. An added complexity in the case of the object of sight necessitates a distinction which will come into play when considering the moral object. Aquinas posits that what is proper to the visible object cannot be described completely unless light is included in the account along with color. Light, Aquinas claims, acts as the formal aspect for color just as color is the formal aspect of the body in which the color adheres.40 The nature of light is formal to the colored body, because it enables something visible in potency to be visible in actuality by rendering the medium capable of receiving color. But in what sense does this make light formal to color? Aquinas posits that whenever two things concur in a unity, one stands as formal to the other.41 In this case, light is active, because light is always visible, but color is only visible with light.42 Hence light adds a formal ratio, synchronous with color, which together constitutes the visual object; that is, the visible object precisely as such.43 Aquinas states that different formal rationes enable sensibles to be uniformly considered
Ethics. 6, lc, 1, n.14. St. Thomas Aquinas, Opera Omnia, Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics, transl. by C.I. Litzinger, (Library of Living Catholic Thought, Chicago: Regnery, 1964), in Folio Views e-book. 38 “Ratio” has a number of meanings for Aquinas. Here it is being used in a more determinate sense than the simple English translation ‘reason’ suggests. Deferrari defines it as: “the formal relationship of a thing to a faculty or to the precise aspect under which it is object.” See Roy Deferrari, A Latin-English Dictionary of St. Thomas Aquinas (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1986), 713; also Pilsner, 95. 39 Pilsner notes various places in Aquinas where this principle is stated such as STh I-I, q.59, a. 2, ra. 4; STh I-I, q.59, a.4, cor.; STh I-II, q. 54, a. 2, ra. 1. Cf. Pilsner, 96. 40 II Sent., d. 27, q. 1, a. 3, ra 1; see also Comm. De Sensu lc. 6, n. 4. Both of these texts can be found in the Corpus Thomisticum. 41 Cf. Pilsner, 98. See STh I-II, q. 13, a. 1, cor. 42 De Malo, q. 2, a. 2, ad. 5. Aquinas, Corpus Thomisticum. 43 De Malo, q. 2, a. 2, ra 11; see also III Sent., d. 23, q. 2, a. 4a, cor. Aquinas, Corpus Thomisticum.


which according to the above account are opposed; under such a ratio they are referred to the intellect considering them under one common ratio of being or truth.44 The nature of formal objects begins to emerge from such considerations. Namely, the formal ratio of an object gives unity, definition, perfection, and proper categorization to its related power.45 The formal ratio of the object gives unity to a power because many things, materially speaking, are considered as one under it. This is obvious with regard to light and color, but it also extends to many things which are visible.46 Additionally, the formal ratio defines a power because the ratio's relation to the power is unique. Because the definition gives a species-making difference, the formal ratio gives a basis for per se classification.47 Hence also the power is completely realized and its actuality perfected insofar as the object’s formal ratio is actual, as sight is considered imperfect when color is poorly perceived.

3. Use of Object in Moral Matters
Aquinas states that: “in moral matters, an object constitutes the species, not according to that which is material in it, but according to the formal ratio of the object.”48 In De Malo, he expounds on this formal ratio: Since an act receives its species from its object, the act will be specified from some ratio of this object [insofar as the act is] compared with one active principle, [which the act] would be specified from were [the act] to be compared with another [active principle]. For ‘to perceive color’ and ‘to perceive sound’ are acts diverse with respect to species if they are referred to the senses, because [color and sound] are sensible according to themselves; not however if they are referred to the intellect; because they are understood
Malo, q. 2, a.4, cor.; STh I-I, q. 80, ad 2. follows Plisner, 101. 46 See STh I-I, q. 3, cor. and STh I-II, q. 8, ad 4, cor. These texts drive home the idea that diverse things, materially and substantially, are still able to be taken under one formal ratio. 47 To see a sophisticated table illustrating how human powers are divided per se by their formal objects, see Pilsner, 100. 48 De Malo q. 9, art. 3, ad 10. See Pilsner, 102 for a listing of other places in Aquinas where he attributes moral specification to the formal ratio of the object. The following is by no means meant to give a complete survey of how Aquinas employs the concept of ‘object’ in his moral philosophy; indeed, his usage is broad. Rather, it simply touches on the meanings of ‘object’ which come to bear on Aquinas’ understanding of moral action. See Pilsner, 70-91 for such a general survey.
45 This 44 De


by the intellect under one common ratio of object, namely of being or of truth...If human acts are considered...acts will be differing by species in so far as they are acts of reason, although they will not be differing insofar as they are acts of some other power; as ‘to have intercourse with one’s own wife’ and ‘to have intercourse with a woman not one’s wife’ are acts having objects with a difference according to something pertaining to the rule of reason; for ‘one’s own’ and ‘not one’s own’ are determined according to the rule of reason; which differences, nevertheless, are accidentally related if they are compared to the generative power or even the concupiscible power. And therefore to have relations with one’s own [wife] and with a woman who is not one’s own [wife] differ by species insofar as they are acts of reason, but not, however, insofar as they are generative or concupiscible acts.49 In this text, Aquinas first makes a familiar point about the nature of the formal aspect of the object: one single thing can be related to differing powers insofar as it relates to those powers according to its formal ratio, making three different objects formally. Next, significantly, Aquinas goes on to apply this principle to human acts. Insofar as an act such as ‘having intercourse with a woman’ is simply looked at as a generative act, the act of ‘having intercourse with a woman’ is not understood in its totality but rather just as it is the principle of the act of generation. According to this point of view, ‘to have intercourse with one’s own wife’ and ‘to have intercourse with a woman not one’s wife’ are indistinguishable. Insofar as both acts of intercourse appeal to the concupiscible appetite, that is, that they involve “the same psychosomatic dynamisms and performances,” again they do not differ.50 According to these perspectives, which consider the two actions on the level of the natural occurrence, one cannot formally distinguish the acts morally.51 The relevant ratio for distinguishing the two acts is the agent’s relation to the object, as the woman can be a wife or not. For Aquinas, intercourse is ordered to the generation and upbringing of children, goods which are properly pursued and safeguarded in marriage. Thus

Malo, q. 2, a. 2, ra 1. Pilsner’s translation. “Object and Intention,” 22. 51 That there are obviously two women possibly being considered or one woman in two states is morally accidental.
50 Finnis,

49 De


the proper confine of intercourse is the presence of the connubial state.52 Here ‘one’s own,’ that is, ‘married,’ is the integral aspect of this action insofar as it is voluntary; it is “essential to this object of the will as it is compared to right reason regarding temperance.”53 In other words, one knows if this act of intercourse is good or bad (intemperate) when one knows if the woman is his wife or not. Here it is adequate to observe how multiple factors come into play when determining a moral object, in a manner similar to the case of the visible. Other examples in Aquinas merit attention because of how they clarify his teaching. For example, liberality disposes one to not be inordinately attached to money so they might be generous in giving. Justice disposes one to give on account of obligation, for example, to repay a debt. Aquinas identifies money as the object of both acts. No violation of the principle ‘different moral acts have diverse objects’ occurs, because “there are diverse rationes of the object.”54 It is particularly noteworthy here how something which is physically one thing can have two (or more) formal aspects, each of which constitute a different object.55 The proper ratio of money in one case is “donatable” and in the other is “tender.”56 A second type of case presents the reverse situation. The sin of pride has many possible objects, for example, one’s own wealth or knowledge. To account for this, Aquinas proposes a broad sense of object: “...nothing prohibits us finding in diverse formal ratio of an object, by which a sin receives its this way pride seeks ‘excellence’ concerning diverse things.”57 Many different things are considered as one object of a human action in virtue of pride’s formal ratio which can be attributed to them.

52 Pilsner, 53 Ibid. 54 III


Sent., d. 27, q. 2, a. 4b, cor. 107. 56 Ibid. 57 STh I-II, q. 72, a. 1, ad. 3. See also STh II-II, q. 162, a. 2, cor.
55 Pilsner,


A third worthwhile consideration in Aquinas is his treatment of the virtue of faith, perhaps the place where he most carefully utilizes the formal ratio to determine a moral object. Faith presents a number of difficulties. First, the theological virtues all refer to the same ‘object,’ that is, to God.58 This calls into question the essential difference between the virtues. Aquinas answers this question with remarkable clarity. He says, “virtues and powers do not differ by objects according to a real difference in the object, but according to diverse rationes of their object: which rationes indeed formally complete that object.”59 Each virtue attains to God in diverse ways, as ‘highest good’ in the case of charity, as ‘difficult to obtain’ with hope, and ‘first truth’ with faith. What makes these specific acts of faith possible is this additional formal ratio which completes the ratio of faith precisely from the “real distinguishing features” of the substance. Aquinas considers another difficulty concerning the object of faith, insofar as God is considered ‘first truth.’ It is manifest that Christians commit to many other tenets which are not directly about God. Aquinas’ definition of faith seems to be lacking in this regard. His reply consists in an argument directly from the nature of the formal ratio of an object: “nothing is able to be under some power or habit or even an act, unless by means of the formal ratio of the object.”60 He goes on to cite how color is not seen but through light, color’s formal ratio. Because the object of faith is ‘God as first truth,’ nothing can come under faith unless it “stands under this first truth.”61 The many tenets of the faith are only materially so considered, as their object is still ‘first truth,’ and by extension, these other

I-II, q. 62, a. 2, cor. Sent., d. 26, q. 2, a. 3a, ra. 60 STh II-II, q. 1, a. 3, cor. See also Pilsner, 111. In this text, Pilsner compares how Aquinas deals with the similarities of faith and beatific vision, which also has God as ‘first truth.’ He goes on to show how Aquinas further develops the ratio of the object of faith as ‘not appearing’ versus ‘appearing’ to the beatific vision. 61 STh II-II, q. 1, a. 3, cor.
59 III

58 STh


tenets insofar as “first truth authenticates them, and not for any other reason.”62 Again, it is seen how a formal object can be obtained through a consideration of its genus and number of differences, each specifying the object more until the proper object is obtained.63

4. Relating the Moral Object to the Structure of Moral Acts
Aquinas’ general notion of ‘object’ and his subsequent application of the notion to certain moral matters allow for directly relating this notion to the structure of the moral act. In an important text in Summa Theologiae I-II, Aquinas connects the formal ratio of the object to the means-to-end relationship: The movement of the will to the end and to the means can be considered in two ways. First, according as the will is moved to each of the aforesaid absolutely and in itself. And thus there are really two movements of the will to them. Secondly, it may be considered accordingly as the will is moved to the means for the sake of the end: and thus the movement of the will to the end and its movement to the means are one and the same thing. For when I say: “I wish to take medicine for the sake of health,” I signify no more than one movement of my will. And this is because the end is the reason for willing the means. Now the object, and that by reason of which it is an object, come under the same act; thus it is the same act of sight that perceives color and light, as stated above (Q8, A3, ad 2).64 This two-fold consideration of how the will tends towards the means and the end merits careful attention. The first consideration is that in which the will “absolutely” tends towards the good in the strict sense, that is, as an intellectual good. This is an operation of the will which was

Pilsner, 110. Aquinas’ position on the formal object of faith is perhaps further developed in a passage where Aquinas considers the heretic who holds the very same position as the believer (such as the existence of the Trinity). Aquinas argues that, because faith’s proper formal ratio includes the attestation to ‘first truth’ precisely as ‘manifested in the doctrine of the Church,’ the heretic does not share the same formal ratio about the position of common belief. See STh II-II, q. 5, a. 3, ad. 1. What is clear at this point is that the formal ratio of an object can be seen as composed of several defining aspects, each of which contributes to this ratio’s final and complete form. 63 It is once again true that while the object is formal with respect to the act performed, the sense of ‘formal’ is ‘most determining and defining’ of the act. Thus this does not deny a material dimension even with the object itself. C.f. Long, Teleological Grammar, 13 and Sousa-Lara, “Aquinas on Object,” 274-275. 64 STh I-II, q.12, a.4, cor.


considered previously, namely, “willing (voluntas) considered simply (absolute).”65 From this perspective, a second act of will would need to occur whereby the means would be sought. The second way of considering the will’s movement is of particular interest here. When considering the means to the end, there is one reality being considered where some good is had in some specific way: “we do not say that we intend health simply because we are interested in it as a desirable end, but only when and because we will to get it though something else.”66 In this sense the act of the will concerning the means to the end is one act. In particular, the end stands as a term to the means. Aquinas states this explicitly later in the article: The means in relation to the end are as the mid-space to the terminus. Now it is all the same movement that passes through the mid-space to the terminus, in natural things. Therefore in things pertaining to the will, the intention of the end is the same movement as the willing of the means.67 Having established a unified ratio considering both the end and the means, Aquinas goes on to correlate this perspective to his notion of object. Here the means are taken as the object, and the end is that “by reason of which it is an object.” In other words, the means are specified by the end which gives the means their proper ratio. This relationship might be expressed in the following: (a) means : (b) end :: (a') object : (b') that by reason of which a ' : b' From this, it seems possible to simply equate the relationship of the means (a) to the object (a'). If the means (a) are seen as a continuous midpoint to the end (b), then ‘that by reason of which something is an object’ is included with the object as its terminus. Considering the example in the above text in conjunction with principles already discussed makes this clearer. The visible object is not completely accounted for unless light is included in the account
65 STh 66

I-II, q.12, a.1, ra. 4. STh I-II, q.12, art. 1, ad. 4. 67 Ibid.


along with color. Again, light adds the formal ratio to color and provides the difference whereby that color can be considered ‘visible.’ In the case of the moral act, a similar relationship is present, because it is the end whereby the means are intelligible as such. Aquinas affirms this later in the same article: “...the end is the formal object in willing the means; they are one and the same object.”68 There is more to this, as Aquinas indicates in the second respondeo: “The end, considered as a thing, and the means to that end, are distinct objects of the will. But in so far as the end is the formal object in willing the means, they are one and the same object.”69 He appears to be extending the terminology of object to include the means and the end. According to this perspective, “there are really two acts of the will” which are “distinct objects.” This allowance appears strange. Aquinas has just argued that to be an object in moral acts is to be determined by what is formally willed—which is clearly the end. Resolution of this perplexity requires looking once again at the notion of ‘object’ as it pertains to the means. There are two ways Aquinas attributes his notion of ‘object’ to the means: first by identifying the means as the object of choice, secondly, and more significantly, by identifying the means with the object of the exterior act, which stands to the will as a quasi-end. Aquinas states in numerous places that the means are the object of choice: ... [T]he proper object of choice is the means to the end: and this, as such, is in the nature of that good which is called useful: wherefore since good, as such, is the object of the appetite, it follows that choice is principally an act of the appetitive power.70 This explanation employs a familiar use of ‘object.’ Just as the object of the end of the will (absolutely understood) is the good, correspondingly, as the means bring about the end they
STh I-II, q.12, art. 4. STh I-II, q.12, art. 1, ad. 3. 70 STh I-II, q.83, art. 3, ad. 1. See also STh I-II, q.13, art. 5, cor. and De Ver. 22, 15.
68 69


are useful. Both the end and the means relate to the will according to the distinct rationes of the good under which they are considered. The object of choice are those goods—the means—useful for attaining the end. The addition of the formal ratio of the useful good to the object of choice hones in on what is worthwhile about the means. This argument leaves something significant unexplained, that is, the relationship between the object of the intention and the object of choice. For it gives two orders of explanation when considering the moral act, each emphasizing different aspects of the act. This is a fairly weak account because it does little to show the principle whereby the two orders are coordinated; thus to understand the object of choice it is necessary to dig deeper. For this purpose, it is good to consider the object of choice in connection with the moral ‘exterior act.’ The ‘exterior act’ for Aquinas is a fairly straightforward component of moral action, the “state of affairs to be realized in the world…of one’s choice.”71 Moral choices are often about which72 exterior means are to be taken to achieve some end, as taking medicine is one means to achieve health. Because of this general sense in which the exterior acts are the realization of the interior acts of choice, Aquinas occasionally will refer to the exterior act as an object.73 The object of the exterior act is of interest because, in many cases, if the means are going to be effective, the object of the exterior act must be brought about.74 In this way, the

Joseph Boyle, “Praeter Intentionem in Aquinas,” The Thomist 42 (1978): 653. For a fuller study of the meaning of ‘exterior act’ in Aquinas see Duarte Sousa-Lara, “Aquinas on Exterior and Interior Acts,” Josephinum Journal of Theology 15 (2008): 277-316. 72 See Pilsner, 144 for a study of Aquinas’ idea of ‘material circa quam.’ 73 See for example De Malo, q.2 , a. 3, ra. 1; II Sent., D. 40, q. 1, a. 3, ra. 6; STh I-II, q. 20, art. 1. ra. 1; Pilsner, 80. 74 Cf. Boyle, 653.


exterior act stands as a quasi-end to the agent intending the act.75 Aquinas states this most clearly in the following: Objects, in relation to external acts, have the character of matter “about which”; but, in relation to the interior act of the will, they have the character of end... even terms of movement specify movements, insofar as term has the character of end.76 This is significant because the object of the exterior act and the object of choice share an identical reality, albeit with different perspectives:77 “in the former case, it is a state of affairs to be realized in the outside world of one’s choices whereas the latter is a state of affairs selected from alternatives as more useful for achieving one’s intended end.”78 Various texts provide evidence that objects intended can be and often are the means to some further end: “For intention is not only of the last end...but also of an intermediary end. Now a man intends at the same time both the proximate and the last end, as the mixing of a medicine and the giving of health.”79 Here, as discussed explicitly in the following article, the use of medicine is precisely the means to health. Clearly the use of medicine is not only a means, but also something prepared and intermediately intended. This is in accord with the general nature of movement where the terminus of the movement can be considered either from the very last terminus of the movement or intermediary termini which are the beginning of one part of the motion or the end of the other; “...thus in the movement from

Cf. STh. I-II, q.73, art. 3, ra. 1: “Although the object is the matter about which an act is concerned, yet it has the character of an end, in so far as the intention of the agent is fixed on it, as stated above (Q72, A3, ad 2). Now the form of a moral act depends on the end, as was shown above (Q72, A6; Q18, A6).” 76 STh I-II, q. 72, art. 3, ad. 2; See also STh I-II, q. 20, art. 4. 77 Duarte Sousa-Lara argues that it is better to understand the exterior act not merely as a res physica but rather as “the concrete realization of electio which includes both an elicited act of the will and the acts commanded by the will to the other powers for the act’s realization.” Hence the exterior act in this sense is an “incarnated” electio. In this manner, Aquinas also sometimes refers the relationship of intentio and electio as an “interior” and “exterior” aspect of action. See Sousa-Lara “Exterior and Interior Acts,” 297-298, 302-303, 313, 316. 78 Boyle, 653. 79 STh I-II, q. 12, art. 3.


A to C through B, C is the last terminus, while B is a terminus, but not the last. And intention can be both.”80 Presently then, (at least) two objects (of electio and intentio) are accounted for in moral action. Both objects, as such, are related to intention and have the character of an end. Recalling Aquinas’ principle that ‘whenever two things concur in a unity, one stands as formal to the other,’81 it is remains to be seen which end will be contained by the other.

5. The Structure of the Moral Act
At this point in the survey of the structure of moral action, a review is in order. Aquinas elegantly provides this review in question eighteen, article six of the Summa: Accordingly a fourfold goodness may be considered in a human action. First, that which, as an action, it derives from its genus; because as much as it has of action and being so much has it of goodness, as stated above (A1). Secondly, it has goodness according to its species; which is derived from its suitable object. Thirdly, it has goodness from its circumstances, in respect, as it were, of its accidents.82 Fourthly, it has goodness from its end, to which it is compared as to the cause of its goodness.83 The internal and external aspects of the act are not separable; rather, they are a two-fold dimension of one concrete action. The act of the will is an interior willing of the good such that means are striven towards, a “dynamic interiority that inspires and moves.”84 The good is intended, and means are chosen to fulfill that end. The exterior act is the manifestation of choice materially, and it is determined further by circumstances. It is “the work of choice” to order these things “to the point of executing the action to culminate it in its fruitio.”85 Hence

STh I-II, q. 12, art. 2. Cf. Pilsner, 98. See STh I-II, q. 13, a. 1, cor. 82 This further specification is critical only in exceptional cases. Sacrilegious theft is an example where the sacredness of the thing stolen makes the act sin against God, but if the circumstances were different, it would be a sin against justice. For a further discussion of circumstances and their role in specifying moral acts, see Pilsner, 172-198. 83 STh I-II, q.18, art. 6, cor. 84 Servais Pinckaers, The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology, ed. John Berkman and C.S. Titus, trans. Mary Thomas Noble (Washington D.C.: CUA Press, 2004), 204. 85 Ibid.
80 81


these two aspects of the moral act are “ordered to each other as form and matter, we might say as soul and body.”86 The proximate end adds a further complexity by introducing a discrete step in the action, but only inasmuch as there is something to be done in its own right to bring about the end. For Aquinas, human intention pertains to the end of the acts and choice to the means to that end.87 The exterior act is the manifestation of this choice and materially constitutes the means which will bring the act to fruition. The intention of the agent and the object one chooses communicate their moral quality to each other.88 Again, the basis for the consideration of moral acts is the “defining form of the whole act, inclusive of both the relation to the end which is sought by the agent in terms of what is choiceworthy, and the act performed itself with its integral nature and its per se teleological order.”89

Pinckaers, 205. Long, “Response to Jensen,” 107. 88 Cf. Pinckaers, 204. 89 Long, Teleological Grammar, 18.
86 87



1. The End of the Moral Act Generally Considered
In the first chapter of this paper two main objects (the objects of electio and intentio) were shown to be integral to moral acts. It remains to be explained, however, what the order is of these objects or which of the objects is formal to the other. Because the end gives the formal ratio to an object, this chapter will consider the notion of ‘end’ present in both the object of choice and the object of intention to determine which end is contained or ‘subsumed’ by the other. In his first teaching on the specification of human acts in Summa Theologia I-II, Aquinas flatly states: “moral acts properly receive their species from end(s) (finis).”1 He manifests this understanding through a comparison to the natural order. In particular, the specification of the moral act can be compared to two more general specifications which happen in the natural order: the specification of the substantial form in corporeal creatures, and that of intrinsic motions in natural bodies.2 Specification of the substantial form in natural creatures, as was explained, occurs on the basic level by being the “formal” constituent of the corporeal composite being, as well as by being the secondary substantial “species” which is the essence of the creature. With regard to human actions, the end stands to the moral act analogously as both form and species: “the form, however, of the moral from the end,”3 and “the end perfects the being and species [of the moral act].”4

STh I-II, q. 1, a. 3, cor. For a listing of texts of Aquinas restating this principle, see Pilsner, 47. As opposed to violent or extrinsic motions. 3 STh I-II, q. 73, a. 3, ra1. See also STh I-II, q. 1, a. 2 where Aquinas argues “it is necessary that the [moral agent] be determined to something definite, which has the character of an end.” 4 STh I-II, q. 72, a. 3, ad. 1.
1 2


Pilsner summarizes this: “Just as substantial form is the basis of being and kind for corporeal creatures, so the end is the basis for the being and kind of a human action.”5 That the end is a basis for the moral act makes it analogous to the substantial form of creatures, which causes their existence and essence.6 Just as the substantial form is the principle determining a creature’s species, so also the end contains the formal aspect (ratio) which specifies human acts to be good or evil.7 Hence the analogy between substantial form/species and end argues for the end’s importance in determining the moral act qua existing and qua determining its character. A second comparison of moral acts to the motions in natural bodies serves more directly to distinguish certain crucial features of the function of the end. The connection between the motion of bodies and the moral act is quite strong; Aquinas argues that human actions are actually a kind of motion. Here the end is the term of such a motion: “every motion receives a species from its term. But the term of the act of willing is the end.”8 This argues that a human action is a motion specified by its end. Identifying moral acts as motions is of further interest because it shows how moral actions relate to another principle of motion: namely, that motion is specified by an active principle. Aquinas explains: Natural active principles are always determined to the same act, and therefore, diverse species in natural actions are observed not only according to their objects, which are ends or terms, but also according to active principles, as heating and cooling are distinguished by species according to the hot and the cold. But active principles in voluntary actions are not related from necessity to one thing…it is clear that sins do not differ in species
Pilsner, 51. Ibid. This qualification may be made to the above claim: that the analogous formal functionality of the end of human acts and substantial composition do not implicate an identity shared in the kind of composites formed. As was stated in Chapter I, moral acts are strictly speaking accidents of the human person. 7 Cf. STh II-II, q. 47, a. 11, cor. The end places the moral acts into their particular subspecies. The end of the act is the principle whereby one would not only distinguish that some act was good, but would further identify it as an act of defensive killing, or some other act of homicide, such as suicide. 8 II Sent, d. 38, q. 1, a. 5, sc. 1.
5 6


according to the diverse active or motive causes, but only according to the diversity of final cause.9 When the natural motion of bodies and the motion of voluntary acts are examined from the point of view of action, there is a “critical difference in the specification of natural motions and human actions: the former can be specified by active principles while the latter cannot.”10 In the natural motion of heating, the motion of the heated is towards having heat as a single fixed end. Human actions are dissimilar because they are manifold; they are moved by and towards diverse ends. This is exemplified by the passions, the closest analogy to natural motions in human beings. The same passion can move people to diverse actions, and conversely, different passions can move people to the same actions.11 Because no principle in human action determines actively, as the active principles determine natural bodies to a determinate end, human action is specified by a determinate final cause, which is to say, its end. This conclusion, however, brings up a major question: “…if no strict equivalent to an ‘active’ cause in motion can be found in human action, then what can be said to play the active cause’s role in the voluntary realm?”12 Aquinas answers this question in one of his most direct considerations of the role of the end in the specification of human action: For since movements are, in a way, divided into action and passion, each of these receives its species from an act; action indeed from the act which is the principle of acting, and passion from the act which is the terminus of the movement. Wherefore heating, as an action, is nothing else than a certain movement proceeding from heat, while heating as a passion is nothing else than a movement towards heat…And either way, human acts, whether they be considered as actions, or as passions, receive their species from the end. For human acts can be considered in both ways, since man moves himself, and is moved by himself.13
9 STh

I-II, q. 72, a. 3, cor. 54. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., 55. 13 STh I-II, q. 1, a. 3, cor.
10 Pilsner,


Aquinas states the basic principle that both human acts and natural motions can be considered as actions and passions. Considered as passions, natural motions and human actions are specified in the same way, by arriving at the terminus by which they are moved. Again, a natural motion considered as action is moving actively on account of the nature moving it. A human action, quite differently, has as its active principle the end which the agent pursues. But how is the end of human action active? The answer to this question is based on the basic principle described earlier: “acts are called human, inasmuch as they proceed from a deliberate will. Now the object of the will is the good and the end.”14 The arguments for these principles are the familiar and yet decisive reasons that human actions are separated and distinct from other kinds of movement. It is “because of the mastery human agents have over their action, a condition made possible by intellect and will.”15 Pilsner states in the clearest terms what the implications are from this argument: “ends actively specify human actions because, when ends are known by intelligent beings, these ends can directly attract their wills.”16 Steven Long well articulates the general conclusion of this chapter: “the most formal part of the moral object [is] the relation to reason. For the relation to reason is a reference to…a determination relative to the end sought by the agent; neither [the moral] object nor moral species will be knowable without reference to teleology.”17

56. Cf. STh I-II, q. 1, a. 1, cor. 56. 17 Long, Teleological Grammar, 24. Long understands in principle the importance of the primacy of the end in determining the moral act. It will be shown in a further section, however, that he fails to distinguish kinds of ends, or at least he looks at them univocally as remote ends, which derails his efforts in actually pinning down the account of the moral act.
16 Pilsner,

14 Ibid.

15 Pilsner,


2. Which End Specifies the Moral Act?
A serious incongruity arises from the prior conclusion. For that which is formal to the moral act, namely the end, is determined by reason. Yet reason is not determined to one end, as evident by the fact that diverse and even opposed ends vie for the will. From this incongruity arises the complexity of pinning down what precisely is the proper end of the moral act. There are two varieties of complex cases of moral specification: 1) acts where the end the agent wills is not attained directly but only through other ends and 2) acts that clearly are single actions yet still contain two ends. The first example leads straightaway to the following considerations; the second will be returned to later. A knotty example of the first division is the doctor’s intention to heal his patient through various procedural steps of a medical treatment.18 In this situation, the doctor diagnoses that a patient’s body is distended and then wills the reduction of the patient’s body to normal. This requires a purge, arrived at through the administration of a potion. In order for this administration to take place, the potion must be prepared with various instruments. Pilsner presents the following diagram of the actions just to make sure the situation is clear: (1) Procuring of instruments → (2) Preparation of potion → (3) Purging of patient → (4) Reduction of body size → (5) healthy patient19 Given the complexity of this model, the central question is still: “Which end specifies the action?”20 In various texts Aquinas implicitly or directly answers this question with a variety of examples, in which he makes a division between what is proximate or remote: the mixing of medicine (proximate) for the sake of health (remote),21 dissembling or lying for the sake of

18 This example is found in numerous places in Aquinas: In Phys., Bk. 2, Lc. 5, n. 6; In Meta. Bk 5. lc. 2, n. 9; and SCG 3, c.16, n. 5., in Corpus Thomisticum. 19 Pilsner, 217. 20 Ibid. 21 STh I-II, q. 12, a. 3, cor.


gain or glory,22 use of a vice for the sake of leading someone else into sin,23 acting bravely or giving alms for the sake of love of God.24 This amounts to the same division identified in the last chapter, because the object of choice which is the proximate end is also the means which are ordered to a remote end. This applies to the example of mixing medicine for the sake of health.25 This is, to a certain extent, a matter of emphasis. Aquinas even characterizes the remote end as formal in certain texts, while in others he confidently assigns priority to the proximate end. This sort of situation is ordinarily not problematic because he usually makes clear either that he is using such relative terms ad hoc, or he provides a suitable setting, such as a quodlibetal question, to explain the priority of his various uses of the relative terms. No singular text of this sort exists on the subject of the priority of ends of human acts, thus seemingly incompatible sets of texts must be considered aporitically in search of a principle.

3. Remote Ends
On one hand, Aquinas seems to affirm Aristotle’s position that the remote ends are more formal. For example, in Book Five of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle compares two men; one who commits adultery for the sake of gaining money, the other who spends his own money to commit adultery. Aristotle states that the former is more properly considered to be greedy and the latter to be lustful.26 Aquinas explains his reasons for agreeing with Aristotle in this text: Clearly, if a vicious or evil act is ordered to another unbecoming end, from this fact it will obtain a new species of vice. This is so when a man commits adultery for the sake of gain, for example, to rob a woman or to take from
II-II, q. 111, a. 3, ad. 3. Sent, d. 21, q. 1, a. 1, ad. 2. 24 STh II-II, q. 123, a. 5; IV Sent, d. 15, q. 2, a. 1, ag., and ra 5. In these texts the same end is designated both as remote and ultimate. 25 Cf. STh I-II q. 12, a. 3. 26 Nicomachean Ethics 1130a24-28.
23 II 22 STh


her in any way whatsoever. Also it happens sometimes that a man commits adultery entirely because of concupiscence, so that he not only does not gain but rather gives something of his own and suffers a loss of his goods. A man of this sort seems to be lustful, essentially speaking (per se), since the vice of lust is strictly ordered to the satisfaction of concupiscence. But the man who commits adultery to take a woman’s goods does not seem to be lustful, absolutely speaking, because he does not intend lust as his end. He seems rather to be unjust since he sins against justice for the sake of gain.27 He reasons that one bad action is ordered to another bad action, and therefore the man committing these acts is better described by the action which meets his final purpose. In other places he shortens this explanation to the dictum “he who commits adultery for the sake of theft is more of a thief than an adulterer.”28 To state the dictum formally, lust is a proximate end which is committed for the sake of meeting the remote end of satisfying greed, the satisfaction of which is desired per se, that is, primarily and for its own sake. Aquinas makes clear in other texts that the primary importance of the remote end is not merely a principle applicable only to evil actions, but also to even the highest virtue, charity: “In all voluntary actions, that which is part of the end is formal…The act of all other virtues are ordered to the proper end of charity, which is its object, namely the highest good.”29 Clearly, charity here is the act ‘for the sake of which’ and would be the end of the virtuous man. This is the same structure of action which places primacy on the ultimate end: charity is the purpose behind and principle of order of any other act of true virtue. Indeed, Aquinas claims as much about charity in a number of texts.30 He also uses this principle to make further similar claims about other ‘directing’ virtues, such as how the vice of pride

Comm. Ethic Bk. 5, lc. 3. Pilsner, 225 for a list of where this dictum occurs in Aquinas. 29 De Vir 2, 3, cor. 30 See STh I-II, q. 13, a. 1, cor; STh II-II, q. 23, a. 8; II Sent, d. 26, q. 1, a. 4; d.38, q.1, a.2; III Sent, d. 23, q. 3, a., 1a., cor.
28 See

27 In


(charity’s co-related opposite) orders vices to its own ends and how the virtue of common justice can order other certain virtues to its end, namely the common good.31 In summary, the principle could be stated as such: the agent desires the remote end ‘principally’ and ‘per se.’ Because of this the remote end is more formal in determining the primary moral character of the action.32 Indeed, Aquinas goes so far to as to say that the remote end adds a new species (nova species) to the human act.33 This remark manifests the importance of the remote end in human acts.

4. Proximate Ends
A sustained argument for the position that the remote end is most formal in specifying human actions was given above. Aquinas, however, flatly rejects that thesis, stating: “moral matters do not receive their species from the remote end, but from the proximate end.”34 Or again: “an act which is one in number is only ordered to one proximate end, from which it has its species; but it can be ordered to many remote ends.”35 Given the starkness with which these principles are stated, it is not surprising that Aquinas provides a revaluation of the text on remote specification. To this end he looks again at the one who commits adultery for the sake of theft: Vices take their species from their proximate end, while, from their remote end, they take their genus and cause. Thus in the case of adultery committed for the sake of theft, there is the species of adultery taken from its proper end and object; but the ultimate end shows that the act of adultery is both the result of the theft, and is included under it, as an effect under its cause, or a species under its genus, as appears from what we have said about acts in general (FS, Q18, A7). Wherefore, as to the case in point also, the proximate end of heresy is adherence to one’s own false opinion, and from this it

for pride include STh II-II, q. 162, a. 2, cor; De Malo q. 8, a. 2, cor; for general justice see STh II-II, q. 58, a. 5. 32 Cf. Pilsner, 226. 33 In Comm. Ethic Bk. 5, lc. 3. 34 De Malo q. 8, a. 1, ad. 14. 35 STh I-II, q.1, a. 3, ad. 3.

31 Texts


derives its species, while its remote end reveals its cause, viz. that it arises from pride or covetousness.36 In the previously examined text concerning the adulterous thief, Aquinas clearly identified the man properly by his remote end, due to the fact that the proximate end was for the sake of the remote end. However, the above text seems to assert the opposite case: adultery has “a proper end and object,” and such vices take their “species from their proximate end.”37 In another text, which considers whether hypocrisy38 is opposed to truth, Aquinas provides another interesting example. The third objection in this particular article begins with a citation of the principle that a species of the moral act is taken from its end. The objector then proposes that the end of hypocrisy is either gain or vainglory.39 If hypocrisy is going to be opposed to the truth, proceeds the objection, it must be a species of falsity. But it is not—because it has as its end gain or vainglory. Aquinas replies by noting the respective remote and proximate ends of hypocrisy: Gain or glory is the remote end of the dissembler as also of the liar. Hence it does not take its species from this end, but from the proximate end, which is to show oneself other than one is. Wherefore it sometimes happens to a man to pretend great things of himself, for no further purpose than the mere lust of hypocrisy, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 7).40 Aquinas is replying to the assumption of the objection, that the remote end will specify the act. Gain or glory can both be the remote end of the dissembler and the liar. The upshot is that the formal difference between these two acts would be lost if glory specified the action:

II-II, q.11, a. 1, ad. 3. STh II-II, q.111, a. 3, ad. 3 also shows the same analysis. When describing the dissembler, profit or glory is the “remote end”. Nevertheless, bearing false witness is the “proximate end” from which the act has species.37 For such an example, Aquinas emphasizes, “One and the same action, insofar as it arises from the agent, is ordered to only one proximate end, from which the act has species, but may be ordered to many remote ends, of which one is the end of the other.” 38 See STh II-II q.111, a.2, cor. for the difference between dissimulation and hypocrisy. 39 As is suggested in a text by Gregory used by the objector. 40 STh II-II q.111, a.3, ad. 3.

36 STh


“this common specification would eradicate the distinction between the sins of lying and hypocrisy which Thomas has already shown to exist in the articles previous to this one.”41 The second argument in this reply argues that a person can seek hypocrisy for its own sake, without resort to a further account. This again implies specification directly from hypocrisy, without reference to other more remote ends. What is critical about the two arguments of this reply is how they “demonstrate how specification by a remote end can blur the distinction between species from proximate ends.”42 What is peculiar about the proximate end is precisely that “only proximate ends (or objects) are meant to perform this function.”43 Consider the ratio of the good, under which the proximate end is considered. The formal ratio of the proximate end is the useful good: “what I am doing here and now…what I intend to do in the most immediate sense.”44 Summa Theologia I-II q.18 verifies the important role the object of choice plays as a proximate end;45 the proximate end is the means which will bring about the end. The means chosen, as an integral whole, sufficiently and directly bring about and attain the end as a terminus. A good fighter, precisely by fighting well, attains victory. Means of this sort are properly “commanded acts…whose immediate result is the realization of the object of the intention [the proximate end]…These commanded acts are ‘proportioned’ to the object of the intention, are ‘subsumed’ under it, and share its objective moral specification.”46

Pilsner, 220. 221. 43 Ibid., emphasis is mine. 44 Edward Krasevac, O.P., “Can Effects That are Inevitable and Instrumental be Praeter Intentionem?”Angelicum 82 (2005): 84. 45 STh I-II q.18, art. 7. 46 Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 78.
41 42 Ibid.,


5. Resolution
A careful examination of Summa Theologia II-II q. 11 will finally give the framework to understand the relationship between remote and proximate ends. In this text, Aquinas considers whether heresy is a kind of unbelief: Vices take their species from their proximate end, while, from their remote end, they take their genus and cause. Thus in the case of adultery committed for the sake of theft, there is the species of adultery taken from its proper end and object; but the ultimate end shows that the act of adultery is both the result of the theft, and is included under it, as an effect under its cause, or a species under its genus, as appears from what we have said about acts in general (FS, Q18, A7). Wherefore, as to the case in point also, the proximate end of heresy is adherence to one’s own false opinion, and from this it derives its species, while its remote end reveals its cause, viz. that it arises from pride or covetousness.47 This text seems to confirm a fact established earlier in this chapter, namely, that the proximate end most determinately specifies a human action. In this case the “adherence to a false opinion” is what specifies heresy. But what is of special importance is the principle Aquinas touches on when considering the paradigmatic example of the adulterous thief: “[the] ultimate end shows that the act of adultery is both the result of the theft, and is included under it, as an effect under its cause, or a species under its genus.”48 Aquinas’ discussion of the general virtues helps clarify how the proximate end is the effect of the remote end. In Summa Theologia II-II q. 23 the first objection states: It would seem that charity is not the true form of the virtues. Because the form of a thing is either exemplar or essential. Now charity is not the exemplar form of the other virtues, since it would follow that the other virtues are of the same species as charity: nor is it the essential form of the other virtues, since then it would not be distinct from them. Therefore it is in no way the form of the virtues.49

47 STh 48

II-II, q. 11, a. 1, ad. 2. Ibid. 49 STh II-II, q. 23, art. 8, obj. 1. See also De Vir., 2, 3, ad. 1 and ad. 5.


Aquinas’ reply to this objection is very straightforward: “Charity is called the form of the other virtues not as being their exemplar or their essential form, but rather by way of efficient cause, insofar as it sets the form on all.”50 If charity were an exemplar form, it would place the virtues under the same species, because it is the nature of species under an exemplar to be participating in that by which they are exemplified. Or if charity were essential in forming virtues, charity would itself form the virtues, obfuscating the place of specific virtues or uniting them into one. However, charity is a productive cause. The work of the productive cause in the case of charity, described earlier in the article’s corpus, is that which gives order (ordinem ad finem) to its subordinate virtues towards its greater and more remote end: “because charity neither absorbs subordinate ends into itself, nor transforms them into an exact likeness, but ‘produces’ its own character in these subordinate ends…”51 Aquinas considers this last point more fully in another text: [A] thing is said to be general “virtually”…a universal cause is general in relation to all its effects, the sun, for instance, in relation to all bodies that are illumined, or transmuted by its power; and in this sense there is no need for that which is “general” to be essentially the same as those things in relation to which it is general, since cause and effect are not essentially the same…52 The general virtues are like the sun, which as a ‘general’ cause illumines or changes many things. Similarly, the general virtue of justice is called ‘general’ because of its power to direct (to give order to) many kinds of ends to itself. Similarly the remote end “can be as if a cause of the form of the proximate end (which is as if an effect).”53 This concept is key because it finally begins to reveal the principle of the relation of remote and proximate ends. That is, that the remote end is productive of both the existence and to a certain extent the character of the proximate end: “if the remote end were not
STh II-II, q. 23, art. 8, obj. 1. Pilsner, 231. 52 STh II-II, q. 58, a. 6, cor. 53 Pilsner, 231.
50 51


desired first and for its own sake, then the agent would have no need to pursue the proximate end.”54 Yet the fact that the remote end serves to be the cause of the proximate end requires that each end has its own set of intrinsic and integral constituents: “one species of action (as a kind) is often related accidentally to another species of action (as a kind).”55 The proximate end is accidentally related to the remote end in this way such that, beyond its own teleology, it is ordered to another further act. An example of this is murder. The proximate and intrinsic end of murder is the taking of innocent life. This is adequate to formally distinguish the act in its own right, for “such an end is self-sufficient for determining its species.”56 Anything added to the act, be it revenge, avarice, or even an ultimate end such as happiness is “superfluous to murder’s definition as murder,” which “even the most noble of remote ends cannot sanitize…”57 Morally evil acts are easier to explain, insofar as the natures of their respective ends are clearly distinct. But with good acts, Aquinas notes a more subtle continuity of action: “[I]f the object be of itself ordained to the end, one of these differences is an essential determination of the other. Wherefore one of these species will be contained under the other.”58 Pilsner squares this with the previous account, explaining that with these acts the agent rightly holds

Ibid., 237. 236. Aquinas affirms this accidental relationship in STh I-II, q. 18, a. 7, ad.1: “One and the same thing, considered in its substance, cannot be in two species, one of which is not subordinate to the other. But in respect of those things which are superadded to the substance, one thing can be contained under different species. Thus one and the same fruit, as to its color, is contained under one species, i.e. a white thing: and, as to its perfume, under the species of sweet-smelling things. In like manner an action which, as to its substance, is in one natural species, considered in respect to the moral conditions that are added to it, can belong to two species, as stated above.” Clearly if the analogy is going to follow through to the moral species, the “superadded” moral conditions (i.e. remote ends) are accidental to the “substance” of the moral action. 56 Pilsner, 236. 57 Ibid. See STh I-II, q. 18, a. 7, cor. Here Aquinas spells this out in the clearest terms: “Accordingly when the object is not of itself ordained to the end, the specific difference derived from the object is not an essential determination of the species derived from the end, nor is the reverse the case. Wherefore one of these species is not under the other; but then the moral action is contained under two species that are disparate, as it were. Consequently we say that he that commits theft for the sake of adultery is guilty of a twofold malice in one action.” 58 STh I-II, q. 18, a. 7, cor.
54 55 Ibid.,


a common ratio about each act, which is possible because of the proximate end’s accidental disposition to be ordered to a remote end. The agent “chooses” acts with proximate ends as means for the sake of the higher end. In this unified light they are “that single will-act of choosing this as a means to that.”59 In this way the remote end specifies each specific end, though each end has its own per se teleology, as the remote and proximate ends are unified by the one remote end and one object of the will. This is likened to the natural teleology of the means/proximate end. Joseph Boyle, considering the medical example cited previously in this chapter, articulates the ratio of the proximate end in the above account: “the use of medicine (the proximate end) is not only intended as an intermediate end but also chosen as a means.”60 This is not to deny the natural subsumption of the means under the species of the proximate and directly intended end; rather, it is to give an additional ratio to that proximate end so it may be considered as a means to those ends which are remote.

6. Summary
This chapter has endeavored to articulate Aquinas’ doctrine concerning the end of the moral act. First the moral act in general was considered, and then an extended analogy was made connecting two different kinds of specification in nature with the end’s central function in specifying moral action. This comparison led to the conclusion that ends known and desired actively specify human actions. This conclusion, however, contained a difficulty as to which ends were properly specifying, that led to a discussion comparing the role of specification which may be given respectively to proximate and remote ends in the moral act. It was argued that it is reasonable and in accord with Aquinas’ thought that the proximate end objectively specifies human acts. Lastly it was shown that the remote and
59 Ibid., 60 Boyle,

238. 652.


proximate ends play complimentary roles in the specification of human action, though there is an order amongst their respective functions. This speculative primer was necessary because in the highly controversial research done in contemporary considerations of the moral act, “the diverse reading of cases…seems to exceed the quotient of disagreement that any application of principle may occasion.”61 As will become manifest, this clarification of principles will prove very important in evaluating situations of double effect.

61 Long,

Teleological Grammar, xi.


CHAPTER III: THE CONTEXT OF STH. II-II, Q. 64 Given the above Thomistic account of human acts, the following chapters will analyze the perplexing situation of self defensive homicide. The distinctive feature of such situations is the employment of “double effect reasoning” on the part of the moral agent. Nominally, double effect reasoning (DER) consists of practical reasoning towards some choiceworthy good which is only achieved with a concomitant side-effect that is unwanted and at some level an evil.1 The principles of double effect found in contemporary moral debates are often attributed straightaway to Aquinas’ treatment of homicidal self defense found in STh. II-II q.64, art. 7. 2 To begin to reveal the import of article seven, it is useful to circumspectly examine its native context of question 64. In the buildup to article seven are found principles which manifest the paradoxical status of the situation of private homicidal self defense and point to the need for careful analysis, especially with regard to what means of defense the assailed is free to choose. Question 64 in general deals with “murder, whereby a man inflicts the greatest injury on his neighbor.”3 The question falls in the context of dealing with

1 This follows Thomas Cavanaugh’s terminology, Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account.” DER has been diversely called (1) the Principle of Double Effect (PDE) Joseph Selling, “The Problem of Reinterpreting the Principle of Double Effect,” Louvain Studies 8 (1980): 47-62, and Edward Krasevac, “The Good That We Intend and the Evil That We Do: A New Look At Praeter Intentionem in Aquinas,” Angelicum 79 (2002): 839-54, (2) the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) Warren Quinn, “Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Double Effect,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 18 (1989): 334-51 and The Doctrine of Double Effect: Philosophers Debate a Controversial Principle, ed. P.A. Woodward (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), (3) the Rule of Double Effect (RDE) Paul Ramsey, “Incommensurability and Indeterminacy in Moral Choice,” in Doing Evil to Achieve Good: Moral Choice in Conflict Situations, eds. McCormick and Ramsey, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1978), 69-144, and (4) the Schema of Double Effect Steven A. Long, “Brief Disquisition.” DER seems particularly apt for at least three reasons. First, it is not merely one principle but rather a set of respectively integral and conjunctively utilized criteria. Nor is it necessarily doctrinal in the authoritative sense, at least primarily. Finally, it is not an imposition, as schema can denote. 2 DER has appeared in a broad spectrum of debate in contemporary moral philosophy and theology. In particular, it has been a focal issue in ethical questions regarding deontological versus consequential moral norms (in all of its forms, including the more conservative proportionalism). It should be clear that the context of this thesis is entirely within the specific area of deontological ethics which accepts DER, but debates its proper interpretation and application. 3 STh II-II q. 64, Proemium.


commutative justice and the correlated ways of doing injury to one’s neighbor. Hence the grave injury of unjust killing with which the question is concerned. Article one dismisses the killing of animals as a direct moral evil, unless such creatures belong to another person, where the killing of animals is more an act of theft. 4 Article two deals with the moral possibility of homicide, establishing a condition whereby homicide can be in conformity with commutative justice. Aquinas draws an analogy to the health of the body, where it is good that a member infectious to the whole body is removed. This also holds for the sinner: “it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good.”5 The sinner is not to be killed merely because they are a sinner, but in virtue of the fact that their sin is dangerous or grievously harmful to others6 After articulating this condition, Aquinas states an important converse principle, that it is evil per se to kill a human being so long as they preserve their dignity.7 This statement deserves consideration. Article one’s argument which justifies the killing of animals is based on the natural ordering of lower creatures for the use of mankind. Killing an animal could be pertinent to achieving some higher human good. However, a person, as such, is not subservient to another person according to their “dignity,” that is, their natural equality as blameless human beings. This is a strong principle, which seems to absolutely forbid the killing of an innocent person.8 A related issue, the just appropriation of agency with regard to homicidal acts, is left unanswered in this article: Who can kill?

STh II-II q. 64, art. 1, ad.3. STh II-II q. 64, art. 2, cor. 6 Ibid. 7 STh II-II q. 64, art. 3, ad. 3. 8 That is, a person who has not lowered themselves beneath their human dignity because of sin. This reading of Aquinas is supported by Laurence Dewan, O.P., “St. Thomas, Steven Long, and Private SelfDefense,” Nova et Vetera 8, no. 1 (2010): 196-197.
4 5


Article three shows that the answer to this question follows from the principles of article two. Since it is permissible that one be killed insofar as they pose a proportionally grave threat to the community, the proper agency of homicide is the public authority, for such agency “belongs to him alone who has charge of the community’s welfare.”9 While both the state and individuals are subject to moral law, the state exists for the sake of the common good. As such, it is ordered to the maintenance of civil society. Hence to administer justice the state may take action against individuals who threaten the commonwealth in proportion to the level of threat imposed on the state. Under this scope, Aquinas extends it to include threats to officers of the commonwealth: judges, soldiers, etc. Still, clear restrictions to this principle remain which are emphasized in this article and made more evident in the following ones. First, Aquinas tacitly affirms the quote from Augustine which assigns the guilt of murder “and all the more”10 to the private person who commits homicide. This firmly excludes the majority of citizens from homicidal acts of any sort. A similar restriction is in the next article, with regard to clerics.11 Thus it is of little surprise that following this Aquinas strictly forbids the taking of one’s own life, even for the statesperson who apparently works for the common good through such means. One’s own life is a manifest good for that person, who shares in the common good of the state, and ultimately belongs to God, as the author of life. To commit suicide for a noble purpose is an injury to the otherwise innocent person.

STh II-II q. 64, art. 3, cor. STh II-II q. 64, art. 3, sc. 11 STh II-II q. 64, art. 4, ad. 1. Clerics are not permitted to commit homicide for two reasons: their lot is to do the work of God as articulated by Jesus Christ, who submitted to his killers, and also because they are entrusted with the work of the new covenant, which does not prescribe the corporal penalty of death. Clearly, the understanding Aquinas has for clerics is based on theological principles, but in the reply to the first objection, he also argues from a broader principle. He notes, “God works in all things without exception whatever is right, yet in each one according to its mode. Wherefore everyone should imitate God in that which is specially becoming to him.”
9 10


In addition to the argument of the pursuit of the good of society, Aquinas provides another: [E]verything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can. Wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself. Hence suicide is always a mortal sin, as being contrary to the natural law and to charity.12 The fundamental feature of all created things is to seek their respective good and to love that good. Love of self is a prerequisite to seeking further goods.13 Suicide, therefore, is a fundamental affront to the basic desire to remain in being. Because the human person for Aquinas is a natural being created in the likeness of God, suicide is also an affront to charity, whereby one refers love to God. This principle of proper self-love completes the range of reasons not only against suicide but against any kind of innocent killing. There is a natural culmination of the sequence of question 67 in article six, which once again absolutely forbids the killing of the innocent. Arguments from nature, justice, and charity cement the enormity of such a crime. Homicide is a grave evil with regard to the individual and to the relationship the individual has to the whole. Even a sinner is to be loved according to his nature, and his killing is made licit “in relation to the common good, which is corrupted by sin.”14 The converse implication of this, as stated by Dewan, is “no one, just or sinner, is a killable object, just in himself.”15 Within these articles, the question of private homicidal self defense surfaces. Article two establishes that a criminal can be the object of a good act of homicide. Article three argues that the agent preserving the common good through killing this sinner cannot be a private person, which, according to article four excludes clerics. Article five excludes suicide.
STh II-II, q. 64, art. 5. Cf. STh II-II, q. 64, art. 5. 14 STh II-II, q. 64, art. 6. 15 Dewan, 197. Emphasis is his.
12 13


Thus, as is stated in article six, an innocent person is never justly killed, and it is apparent that the private killing of a human is per se malum. The tension of the moral situation thus found in article seven is profound: the private person’s most incontrovertible good—their life—is unnaturally and unjustly threatened. Yet, as a private person they absolutely do not have the right to kill their assailant. Clearly they can intend to save themselves, but by what means? Aquinas’ concentrated treatment of this moral puzzle is in the respondeo of STh II-II q. 64, art. 7: Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (II-II, q. 43, a. 3; III, q. 12, a. 1). Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in “being,” as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defense, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation his defense will be lawful, because according to the jurist, “it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense.” Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self defense in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s. But as it is unlawful to take a man’s life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (A3), it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self defense, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self defense, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin if they be moved by private animosity.16 Aquinas argues for the possibility of defense from the principle that a private person lawfully intends the preservation of their life, a natural good. Concretely this means that the private citizen may intend to save their own life from the assailant, taking the necessary means to do so. This particular act of self defensive life-saving will entail the result of the

STh II-II, q. 64, art. 7, cor.


aggressor’s death.17 Thus two results exist even when the defense is done “moderately” and not out of proportion to the end (non sit proportionatus fini). ‘Proportional to the end’ here means doing nothing more than what is necessary to preserve life. The evil outcome is not the cause of the good effect, but results from the use of proportionate means.18 Thus, the private person is not blameworthy for his lethal self defense if he intends only to save his life in a moderate way, such that the death of the assailant is praeter intentionem. So goes a peripheral explanation of this text in Aquinas, which leaves many details to examine and questions to solve. What does the intention to preserve life permissibly entail? How is the death of the assailant outside of the intention? What is “moderate” about homicidal self defense? These questions hang on a proper understanding of how the chosen means, the object of choice, is related to the intention of saving oneself. Two contemporary authors, Steven Long and Thomas Cavanaugh, agree that this is the fundamental issue.

17 Admittedly, Aquinas’ account seems generic enough to imagine situations other than this one. These possible situations will be examined later in the thesis. See also Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’ Account,” 115; also Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 80 provides a classification of paradigm cases. 18 From this arises the commonly described “four principles of double effect,” but the description above is not yet formally equated with any of the various formulations of double effect.


CHAPTER IV: STEVEN A. LONG Steven A. Long offers an explanation of STh II-II, q. 64, art.7 based on a principled vision of moral action as found in Aquinas. His reading of Aquinas on the issue of double effect is derived from the ‘teleological grammar’ inherent in any moral act.1 His viewpoint does much to show the need to measure the situation of double effect by standard moral reasoning, with all its intricacies and structures, before attempting to understand double effect, so that there is overall cogency in accounting for the moral act.2 Nevertheless, it will be argued that his broader understanding of the moral act, i.e. his teleological grammar, is flawed and over simplified—as it were, not expressive enough. This is true chiefly with his understanding of ‘object’ and ‘end.’ Long’s explanation of double effect, the “proving ground” of his broader theory, is proportionately imperfect, as it hangs on this larger understanding of these components.3

1. Long on Cajetan
Working through Long’s account of homicidal self defense and showing how it follows from his general theory of moral action will reveal his understanding of object and intention.4 In Long’s main work devoted to DER, he begins his explanation of the situation of double effect by examining and setting aside the “misleading or incorrect” traditional reading of Aquinas by Cajetan.5 Cajetan’s interpretation of STh II-II, q. 64, art.7 is as follows:
Long, Teleological Grammar, xviii. His work is based on “one coherent analysis, which never requires anything like a special schema of ‘double effect’ but which simply pertains to a particular category of acts in a distinctive fashion. Even in those cases wherein the standard conditions of what is called the ‘principle of double effect’ apply, it nonetheless remains the case that the intelligibility of these standard conditions is wholly a function of St. Thomas’s one teleological schema for understanding the object and moral species of acts.” 2 Dealing with Long’s work here is, as it were, a consequent verification of the relevance of the work of the first three chapters of the thesis. 3 Long, Teleological Grammar, 39. 4 Long is very deliberate to trace his explanation of homicidal self defense to his broader theory. Examining his work in this order is a truncated segue to considering his view on object and intention. 5 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 56.


For the end and the means to the end fall under the intention as is clear with a doctor who intends health through a draught or diet. But that which as a consequence follows from the necessity of the end does not fall under the intention, but arises existing outside the intention, as is clear from the weakening of the body that follows from healing medicine. Likewise in two different ways it may be licit to kill, that of the public person and the private: for the public person, as for instance the solider, orders the death of the enemy as a means to the end subordinated to the common good as is said in the text, but the private person does not intend to kill that he may be saved, but intends to save himself not depriving himself of defense—even though the death of the other should necessarily follow from this defense. And so in this way the latter (the private person) kills per accidens, while the former (the public officer), kills per se.6 He argues from the difference of the intentions in the case of public and private defense. The solider desires the death of the enemy as the very means whereby the common good is served. 7 The citizen simply desires to defend themselves, though the death of the assailant is a necessary consequence of defense. Hence the killing is indirect and not intended. Long’s disagreement with Cajetan is primarily based on his construal of the moral object. However, he explains his disagreement by first granting what he seems to think is a trivial point: “Surely in a sense it is true that lethality is not essential to the simple intention of the end of defense, for defense as such does not always require use of a lethal means.”8 Killing, as such, is not a means to preserving life. Nevertheless, Long argues that “it is by no means clear that lethality as such cannot specify an act that is defensive in its intent.”9 This is because, as he states, when a moral object is naturally ordered to the end, “the species
Thomas de Vio Cajetan, Commentaria in Summam Theololgicam s. Thomas Aquinatis, In Opera omnia issu Leonis XIII P.M., Vol. 7, (Rome: Editori di San Thommaso 1892). Long’s translation. 7 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 54. It is noteworthy to observe a puzzling aspect of his interpretation of the above text. Long reads the above as stating “the defender does not seek to kill as an end, unlike the executioner (the killing is an essential part of the penalty whose just imposition is an end of the executioner’s preparation and action), not even as a means.” An odd reading indeed, as Cajetan nowhere speaks of the public person as intending to “kill as an end.” Rather, Cajetan states that the death of the enemy is “a means to the end subordinated to the common good,” which is clearly how Aquinas views the matter. Never for the public person does Aquinas or Cajetan use the language of “killing” as the proper good of intention; rather, is always some positive good (justice) which is that for the sake of which the killing is directly taken as a means. This initial misreading by Long seems to precipitate further misunderstanding in his reading of Cajetan. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.


derived from the object is contained within the species derived from the end.”10 He seems to think that the very act of killing is defensive and is “contained within the species of the end,” consequently binding killing essentially to the account of the moral act. He develops his position as follows. Long presents an alternative account of the “consequence” of homicidal self defense which includes “the idea of means.”11 In this account the means of defense (a lethal act) is “the species of the object…contained within the species of the end…[which] may be said to follow from the end.”12 The means follow from the end because the end is what is strictly speaking intended; the deadly means are chosen following the intention of the end. This is obviously a very loose sense of consequence which is at odds with Cajetan, who places the end and means under the intention, but not the consequences. Long’s reading of Cajetan is that “the deliberate use of lethal means is not only considered to be a side effect, but as a corollary it is held not to be part of the object of the act performed.”13 For Long this amounts to “indifferently embracing end and means” as the primary moral object.14 This claim of course depends on Long’s understanding of how intention “chiefly and properly” regards the end.15 Long’s verification of this principle in the text of Aquinas is not very extensive, but the reading is plausible. In STh I-II, q. 18, art. 6, Aquinas argues that the moral act takes its species from its end, because the interior act of the will is concerned with the end. Aquinas has shown prior to this that the object specifies the moral act, and so here he considers whether the species derived from the end is contained under the species derived from the object, as under its genus, or conversely. The answer is in fact the converse, that the moral
Ibid. Ibid. 12 Ibid., 55. 13 Ibid., 56. Emphasis is his. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid., 55.
10 11


species taken from the object is contained by the species taken from the end. Long examines a text in Aquinas which argues that the moral species of the end, if it is formal to the means taken (i.e. the moral object), contains the species taken from the means in the manner a universal mover contains the more specific motions under it.16 The example Aquinas provides is the soldier who, by fighting well, has a direct causal relation to the victory obtained. In a certain important sense, Aquinas sees the victory as the direct achievement of fighting well; in this sense the object of victory subsumes fighting well. Long takes this to be of paramount significance: “this kind of action, wherein the object is essentially ordered to the end of the will, is the very unit of currency for Thomas’s consideration of human acts.”17 For Long, the simplicity of these acts is foundational: “before we understand complex acts we must understand simple ones, for complex acts are composed of simple acts.”18 In these simple acts, “there is but one [morally] defining species and that is derived from the end, of which the species of the object is an essential determination.”19 In another text Long explains how the species derived from the end is compared to the object. In general, there is “a relation and proportion to the end which is included in the object of the external act.”20 This relation is that of matter to form, because “the end is formal with respect to its object” when the object of choice is proportioned to its end.21 The result is that “the species derived from the end [i.e. the remote intention] is…defining” of the moral action.22 Long argues that this conclusion is (more or less) formally stated in those places

STh I-II, q. 18, art. 6. Long, Teleological Grammar, 26. Emphasis is his. 18 Ibid. 19 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 58. 20 Ibid., 59; See Cf. STh I-II, q. 18, art. 4, ad. 2. 21 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 61; STh I-II, q. 18, art. 7. 22 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 59.
16 17


where Aquinas states that intention concerns the end and that choice concerns those things that are ordered to the end.23 This containment of objects in simple acts is distinguished from the ‘disparate’ containment of acts not per se ordered to each other. Long considers Aquinas’ paradigmatic account of adultery and theft. Adultery for Aquinas is contained enough in itself that it is not directly aimed to other acts, such as theft. Long argues for only two possible cases: “either the object is by its nature ordered to the end, or it is not.”24 If the object is not ordered to its end, there are two moral actions, or more accurately, “two moral acts and two species.”25 The “per se unit of analysis of moral action” for Long is the simple case when the object is naturally ordered to its end.26 The force of this for Long is that “the most containing, formal, and defining moral species is derived from the end.”27 The significance for Long of this last set of claims will be fully brought to light in his analysis of double effect.

2. Long on Double Effect
Having considered this theoretical background, it can now be considered how these principles bear on Long’s understanding of double effect. In reviewing the text of STh II-II q. 64, art. 7, Long considers Aquinas’ statement, “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention.”28 He remarks, “The primary sense of intention pertains to the end, and pertains to the end even prior to the

23 Long states this in Long, Teleological Grammar, 29, and ibid., 41. Cf. Steven Jensen, “A Long Discussion Regarding Steven A. Long’s Discussion of the Moral Species,” The Thomist 67 (2003): 625. See STh I-II, q. 13, art. 4; STh I-II, q. 12, art. 4, ad. 3; STh I-II, q. 13, intro. 24 Teleological Grammar, 58. 25 Ibid., 59. 26 Ibid., 30. 27 Ibid., 31. 28 Ibid., 41. Long’s translation.


determination of the means.”29 Long recapitulates his understanding of intentionality and goes on to apply it to self defense. He states: One should carefully observe that according to St. Thomas, ‘we can have intention of the end without having determined the means which are the object of choice.’ Per se the term ‘intention’ for St. Thomas designates the end simpliciter or the end as acquired by the means, but in either case principally the end. Whereas per se, for St. Thomas, ‘choice’ designates the movement of the will to the means.30 These comments about the means, i.e. the object of choice, open up a further explanation which leads straight away to prater intentionem and the situation of homicidal self defense: Of course, in a sense, even in a simple act, wherein the object is naturally ordered to the end, one may say that because the will goes out toward the end through the means that the will ‘intends’ the means: but this is a secondary and analogous use of ‘intend’…Because the will moves toward the end through the act as chosen means, the will does move toward the means: but it moves toward the act as chosen means as caused by the intention for the sake of which the act is chosen. For this reason—that the primary intention is the cause of choosing of the act—the motion of the will to the means is only in a secondary and analogous sense spoken of as intended.31 In this text Long argues that the chosen means are secondarily and, for his purposes, trivially designated as intended. The will principally is ordered to the intention as an end, and the means causally result because of this movement. The converse implication is that “in the per se instance of human action, where an action is naturally, per se ordered to the end, the most formal, defining, containing species is derived from the end.”32 Hence the object “merely specifies the act within this fundamental moral type or species.”33 Long takes Aquinas to present the situation of homicidal self defense as a per se action, based on Aquinas’ insistence in article seven that what is outside the intention does not give species.

Ibid. Ibid. 31 Ibid., 41-42. 32 Ibid., 43. For another text where Long presents this view on intention, see Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 50. 33 Long, Teleological Grammar, 43.
29 30


This general argument seems to be further verified by Aquinas’ reply to the fourth objection in that article where he distinguishes between homicidal self defense and committing adultery for the sake of theft, the latter actions not being per se ordered to each other.34 With all this in mind, Long begins to establish his position on praeter intentionem and homicidal self defense. In what he has identified as the per se case of human action, “the case in which the object is naturally and per se ordered to the end,” acts take their species according to what is intended (the end) and not according to what is beside the intention (that which is not the end).”35 In other words, ‘that which is not the end’ is his elemental definition of praeter intentionem: “The object is, literally, praeter intentionem in the sense that… [it] is ‘other than’ the end.”36 Following Aquinas’ statement that what is beside the intention is accidental, Long maintains that the object therefore gives only accidental specification to the moral act: “it is not the object which gives the moral character of the act in the per se case.”37 Directly from these principles follows Long’s reading of Aquinas on homicidal self defense that “the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other the slaying of the aggressor.” Just as intention is of the end, so also the end of selfdefense is “saving one’s life,” states Long. This intention, then will morally define the act “if and only if the act is per se ordered to the end.”38 But what sort of act is of this order? Long begins to answer this question by considering what is in proportion to the end of defense. First, if other non-homicidal means can be taken to save oneself, or if the

Ibid., 49. Ibid., 43. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid., 44.
34 35


defense involves undue risk to others, then there is no need to kill.39 While these examples are not provided in Aquinas, they certainly are reasonable. Presenting these circumstances of exception leads the way to the important case, wherein only lethal means to preserve one’s life is available to the assailed. Long begins an exposition of this case by arguing for a reading of Aquinas which supports his position. Specifically, he turns to the text where Aquinas states that it is not necessary for salvation that one omit the act of moderate self-defense in order to avoid killing the assailant. Does this text mean ‘in order to avoid any accidental killing,’ as in an unforeseen consequence with respect to the efforts of defense? No, states Long: “if the act of moderate defense is per se ordered to defense—is proportionate rather than disproportionate—then its defining and determining species will be that of defense.”40 In other words, there is no reason based on Long’s principles to categorically exclude the case of moderate defense by way of foreseen means. Long must square his interpretation with Aquinas’ statement that “it is not lawful to intend to kill a man in self defense.”41 Homicidal self defense is a case of human action wherein “the object is per se or naturally ordered to the end, and where the most formal and defining species is that of the end.”42 For an act of self defense to be justified, Long argues, the object of defense must “ward off an assault and secure life and safety from harm.”43 For Long, therefore, Aquinas’ statement amounts to saying “that by the very nature of the case, a private citizen cannot, in the course of self-defense, simply intend as an end, independently

Ibid., 45. Ibid., 46. 41STh II-II q. 64, Art. 7. 42 Long, Teleological Grammar, 47. 43 Ibid.
39 40


of any defensive purpose, the killing of an individual.”44 This sort of intention is different than that of the public officer, who is given power to directly pursue and kill offenders in proper circumstances: “whereas police may intend to kill, the private citizen can concern himself only with proportionate, moderate defense, and may kill only if lethal means are the sole, or assuredly the best means to ward off unjust assault.”45 This is the most distinctive aspect of Long’s reading of Aquinas: in the most extreme attack, a means of defense can be chosen precisely insofar as it is homicidal. “Precisely what St. Thomas does not mean by saying that the private citizen may not intend to kill in selfdefense is that he may never deliberately choose lethal means as ordained to defense: for intention and choice are distinct.”46 If there is a less severe means of defense, Long grants that one is obliged to use it rather than homicidal means. However, in cases where defense is untenable and no threat is extended to other innocents, “lethal means can be undertaken, owing to the proportion between such means and the end of defense.”47 This “deliberate lethal defense,” according to Long, is wholly consistent with the end of moderate defense. An explanation is still in order to establish the sense in which homicide is said to ‘follow’ from the act of defense. Long describes two ways: (1) purely by way of consequence and (2) by way of deliberately chosen means “wherein only such means are liable to be effective.”48 In the first case of mere consequence, Long presents the situation where the death of the assailant is unintended. A scuffle occurs, and the assailant is shoved into a sharp object which causes severe bleeding and death. According to Long, “even if one knows that this

Ibid. Ibid., 49. 46 Ibid. 47 Ibid., 48-49. 48 Ibid., 49. Long also develops this distinction later in the same work on pgs. 69-82.
44 45


effect were likely to follow from one’s act…that would not make one’s act per se ordered to or aimed toward this effect.”49 The definitive quality of these sorts of acts is that the ensuing consequence, although not essentially caused by the act, is still inextricable to the act.50 In the example of the scuffle, it is a force of the very particular circumstances of the scuffle that the assailant dies from a head injury. Yet the harm is more of an accident, unintended by the defender.51 The second case, where deliberately chosen means of homicidal defense are taken, presents a starkly different manner in which homicide is said to ‘follow’ from the act of defense. For Long, the means are properly said to be chosen, and not intended as an end; in this way the means are praeter intentionem. But how does this make them follow from the intention? Unfortunately, Long never fully develops an answer. He does, however, state that the means follow from the intention inasmuch as intention is said of the means.52 In other words, by analogy the means are said to be intended, with original reference to the intention of the end. In this sense Long implies that the chosen means, insofar as they are intended, follow in priority of account to the intention of the end.

3. Assessing Long
Having presented Long’s explanation of homicidal self defense in depth and his view on the moral structure present in such a situation in general, an evaluation of his work is in

Ibid., 50. Ibid., 72. 51 Ibid., 72-73. Long provides a clearer second example. A mountaineer hangs from a rope after falling near the top of a steep cliff and is in danger of pulling the rest of his climbing party down, as the remaining stay can only hold the non-hanging members of the climbing party. If the hanging climber cuts himself from the rope, he will save the rest of the party, but fall, likely to his death. In this case, he does not intend his death precisely as a means to save them, as his death would only ensue after he has already saved his team. In fact, in this case, the climber may still hope to live after cutting himself off, by perhaps unexpectedly falling into a tree. Long explains it this way: “while the permission of physical harm is included in the moral object materially speaking…this physical harm is not in this case (unlike that of lethal private defense) a means: for it is not one’s death which lightens the load.” 52 Ibid., 51. Again, for Long the means are chosen and outside of the intention strictly speaking.
49 50


order. First, one cannot fault the general procedure of Long’s analysis, which attempts to “offer one coherent analysis,” where the intelligibility of the controverted case of homicidal defense is “wholly a function of” a broader account of the structure of moral action.53 Specifically, he is right in identifying the need for a robust account of “the nature and implications of certain crucial principles of St. Thomas regarding the object and species of the moral act,” in order to explain categories of acts such as self defensive homicide. 54 Also, Long’s insistence that intention “chiefly and properly” is with regard to the end is not simply speaking incorrect.55 That it is the position of Aquinas is indisputable;56 additionally it was argued to be a conceptually cogent position in chapter one of this thesis. Intention of the end is the principle of the properly moral act, “because the end is the reason for willing the means.”57 Comprehending the difference between the end and the means chosen to that end hangs on understanding the difference between intention, which is of the end, and choice, which is of the means. Thus to understand the difference between intention and choice, one must admit intention is in this sense “chiefly and properly” said of the end. Also, it is accurate to affirm with Long that chosen means which are per se ordered to their end are defined by their end. It is clearly the teaching of Aquinas that the species of the end is formal to the object and contains the object, if there is a per se ordering of those means to that end.58 An example of this principle at work is the skillful fighter who, by fighting well, attains victory. His means of fighting are properly understood as commanded acts

53 Ibid., xviii. Indeed the criticisms against his theory are only possible while operating under the same premise that a broader clarification concerning the structure of moral action is needed to fully understand the situation of defensive homicide and double effect situations in general. 54 Ibid., xiii. 55 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 55. 56 For example, see STh I-II, q.12, art.1, ad.4. 57 STh I-II, q.12, art. 4, cor. 58 STh I-II q.18, art. 7.


which directly and causally result in the attainment of the object of intention.59 The means straightforwardly bring about the end. That is to say, the chosen means directly attain the end as a terminus. Long stresses the overriding significance of this text: “this kind of action, wherein the object is essentially ordered to the end of the will, is the very unit of currency for Thomas’s consideration of human acts.”60 He states the nature of these simple acts this way: “there is but one defining species and that is derived from the end, of which the species of the object is an essential determination.”61 Because of this excessively limited formulation, he begins to veer off course. In this text, Aquinas is not concerned with establishing that the means are defined by the end if they are per se ordinatus, he is explaining how the object of choice is said to be proportioned to the end, and in this sense, is “subsumed” under the intention, sharing its specification. But to frame the object in these terms is not “one defining species” of the object exclusively; the object of choice, as was argued, has an additional ratio as a proximate end achieved in order to arrive at the remote end of the intention. The work of the first half of this thesis provides strong evidence for this position.62 Aquinas’ teaching on objective specification and its morally significant role reinforces this point. He states: “in moral matters, an object constitutes the species, not according to that which is material in it, but according to the formal ratio of the object.”63 One thing can have significantly different rationes based on how it is related formally to the object. The paradigmatic example is the act of intercourse differentiated not on the level of natural

Cf. Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 78. Long, Teleological Grammar, 26. 61 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 58. 62 Both insofar as it is Aquinas’ thought and also conceptually coherent. 63 De Malo q. 9, art. 3, ad 10.
59 60


occurrence but by the agent’s relation to the object. Or again, the sin of pride has a variety of objects which can specify the same sin because of the agent’s ratio concerning those objects. How does this relate specifically to the structure of the moral act? In STh I-II, q. 12, art. 4 Aquinas provides a two-fold analysis of how the will tends towards the means and the end. The first way in which the will tends towards the good is simply as an intellectual good.64 The second way the will is said to be moved, to the means for the sake of the end, is of particular moral significance. Here the means to the end are considered as one significant reality, a good achieved in some specific way. This is a unified ratio concerning the object of the end and the means. This is the same viewpoint on which Long lays emphasis. However, it was shown that this is only one way the means are treated in Aquinas. There is an equally significant way in which Aquinas attributes the notion of object to the means. Just as the object of the end of the will simply speaking is the good, so also insofar as the means bring about the end they are useful. Hence both the end and the means are objects of the will according to respective rationes of the good they represent. By this account, then, it was argued that both the object of intention and the object of choice are morally relevant inasmuch as they are orientations of the will. This is borne out to an even greater degree by recalling that if the act of choice is going to reach fruition, an exterior act must be brought about, which stands as a quasi-end of the act. This exterior act, however, is identical with the act of choice, notwithstanding their different rationes. Thus it would appear that both the objects of intention and choice bear on the moral significance of human acts. Even in light of these distinctions, Long thinks he can maintain his position: “Of course, in a sense, even in a simple act…one may say that because the will goes out toward the end through the means that the will ‘intends’ the means: but this is a secondary and analogous
In this sense there will need to be a second act of will if means are to be chosen so as to practically achieve the good.


use of ‘intend.65 Here Long argues that because the primary signification of intention is based on the intention of the end, the extension of the definition of intention to the means is morally irrelevant. Contrary to this, it has been shown how the will, even in a simple act, is said to move towards the means as an object of choice. Moreover, the work of the second chapter of this thesis provided a significant additional argument by examining the object of choice in terms of it being a proximate end. While it is true to say imprecisely that both the remote end and proximate end have moral relevance, it is better to look at their relationship to each other. The remote end, desired for its own sake, is the productive cause of the proximate end, which is undertaken for the further purpose. But this “general” sense of causality by no means entails that the remote end strictly speaking constitutes the proximate one.66 Rather, it would seem necessary that the proximate end have its own intrinsic constitution whereby it is able to be viewed as ordered to the remote end.67 By analyzing these two perspectives one can see how both the remote end and the proximate end give species, but in a certain order.68 The proximate end, contra Long, does gives moral species: by adding a ratio of functionality to the action as a useful good. Beyond these objections to the principles of Steven Long’s theory are significant issues in his resulting attempt to explain the situation of defensive homicide. To reiterate, he holds that as long as action is moderately ordered to defense, one can deliberately choose those means. If homicide is the only way for the assailed to save their life from the assailant,

Long, Teleological Grammar, 41-42. See also ibid., 48, 85; Long, “Response to Jensen,” 103. Cf. STh II-II, q. 58, art. 6, cor. 67 Again the example is the administration of medicine (a discrete activity), yet which is clearly chosen as a means to health. 68 There is no reason to think that the object of choice is not morally significant just because it is derivatively named.
65 66


it may be deliberately and directly chosen.69 To borrow the phrase from Steven Jensen, this is an ‘unacceptable conclusion’ leading to the justification of “many wrong actions…on the basis of good intentions.”70 Indeed, in the example of homicidal self defense, a direct evil, private homicide, is chosen for the sake of defense. This is clearly opposed to the Pauline principle which forbids evil that good may come of it. While it is very likely that Long himself would be completely opposed to making such an evil justification, the problem is that his position amounts to such. Long does have a reply for this, but it is weak. He argues that homicide, as such, is not forbidden in the moral life under a negative precept, the way that adultery or suicide is categorically forbidden due to the intrinsic evil which defines these acts. 71 Hence he claims the pubic officer “may intend to kill,” whereas the private citizen, “can concern himself only with proportionate, moderate defense, and may kill only if lethal means are the sole, or assuredly the best means to ward off unjust assault.”72 This claim fails on two counts. First, homicide is forbidden as a per se good for the public official. Rather, acts of homicide belong to the public authority only insofar as homicide “belongs to him alone who has charge of the community's welfare.”73 This obviously shows that the common good is the end of homicide, and that such means may only be taken insofar as justice and social order are maintained precisely through an act of homicide.74 Secondly, it is clear that in the buildup of question 64, homicide of any sort is vehemently forbidden except under the pretense of preserving the common good. As Aquinas argues, even a sinner is to be loved according to his nature, and his killing is made
Long, Teleological Grammar, 48-49. Jensen, “A Long Discussion,” 626. 71 Long, Teleological Grammar, 50. See also ibid., 71. 72 Ibid., 47. 73 STh, q. 64, art. 3, cor. 74 For further explication on this point, see Jensen, “A Long Discussion,” 639-642.
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licit “in relation to the common good, which is corrupted by sin.”75 Again, Aquinas is in agreement with Augustine who assigns the guilt of murder “and all the more”76 to the private person who intentionally commits homicide. This firmly excludes the majority of citizens from homicidal acts, as either an object of intention or an object of choice. Long’s explanation involving negative precepts also obfuscates any meaningful way the death of the assailant is said to be praeter intentionem. Indeed, praeter intentionem becomes a redundant term in Long’s definition of object. Long himself seems to accept this: “the object is praeter intentionem in the sense that the object is not the end, and the species of the object is an essential determination of the species derived from the end.”77 But the ‘object,’ designated as such, is other than Long’s sense of ‘end' which determines the object. At the very least, it would be odd for Aquinas to introduce a technical term such as praeter intentionem if the term’s meaning is found in more common words in many other texts.78 These are the serious problems of Long’s account of the situation of self-defensive killing and his broader theory on moral action. Nevertheless, it is good that he does direct his work to the right issue, namely, of properly defining the teleological structure inherent to moral action. In this way, much of his argument has a close semblance to the account provided in this thesis.

STh II-II, q. 64, art. 6. STh II-II q. 64, art. 3, cor. 77 Long, “Brief Disquisition,” 60. 78 Furthermore, as has been pointed out, such an account obscures how homicide is said to “follow” from the act of defense. Cf. Jensen, “A Long Discussion,” 638.
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CHAPTER V: THOMAS CAVANAUGH 1. Cavanaugh on the Moral Act As argued both in the initial work of the thesis and the chapter considering Stephen Long, there are fundamentally correlated ethical principles which must be considered in judging the moral goodness of a human act: chiefly, both the object of choice and the object of intention give species. Thomas Cavanaugh concurs with the general arguments for these principles, yet his understanding of how force must be proportionatus fini causes him to misunderstand the moral principles in his reading of Aquinas on self defense. Considering Aquinas’ “elaborate account of the goodness and badness of human actions,” Cavanaugh states that “for the sake of understanding his statement in q.64, a. 7, it is not necessary to articulate his entire analysis.”1 This being said, he admits that Aquinas’ understanding on “the relation of the intention of the end to the moral analysis” requires special consideration.2 Thus he turns to STh I-II, q.12, a. 1, which states: “intention, just as the very word implies, means to tend to something [in aliquid tendere].”3 Cavanaugh explains that because the will moves the powers of the soul to their respective ends, intention is an act of the will. Specifically intention is an act of the will with respect to the end, as a terminus towards which a thing is ordained.4 By now, this understanding is familiar; Cavanaugh correctly notes that the agent intends “the complex end through means” and that “intent bears on ends and means. Moreover intent has moral relevance.”5

Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 113. Ibid. 3 “[I]ntentio, sicut ipsum nomen sonat, significat in aliquid tendere.” 4 Cf. STh I-II q. 12, art. 1, ad. 4. 5 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 8.
1 2


Every aspect of the moral action has moral relevance for Cavanaugh.6 In moral acts, “the lack of such integrity vitiates what otherwise is morally good.”7 Cavanaugh follows Aquinas in presenting three moral criteria: “what the agent does (the deed or object), the circumstances in which the agent does it (the when, where, how, to whom, and with what), and the end or the reason for which the agent acts.”8 Cavanaugh does not thoroughly consider these terms in their own right before he goes on to consider praeter intentionem in Aquinas’ writings.9 Nevertheless, his understanding of these terms, taken largely from Elizabeth Anscombe, does affect his understanding of Aquinas’s theory. Thus it is good to examines how he arrives at definitions of these terms in other areas of his writing, before returning to his account of 64.7. Cavanaugh begins by examining what indicates intention, following Anscombe. In her work Intention, she argues that an agent’s acceptance of the question ‘why did you do --?,’ in reference to what happens when that agent acts, serves to indicate that what happened is intentional (under the description framed in the question).10 Here the question does not have some special meaning, but “what is unique is that to which one applies the question.”11 In other words, the agent knows both the question and its cause without further observation,

6 Taken from Aquinas’ dictum “bonum ex integra causa, maulum ex quocunque defectu,” found in STh I-II q. 19, art. 6, ad. 1. As stated in both Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 113 and Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 8. Although this principle is prima facie obvious, the following will argue that Cavanaugh takes it to strongly, specifically with regard to the role the chosen means play in the moral act, but in an antipodal manner to that of Steven Long. 7 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 113. Cavanaugh sees Aquinas’ evaluation of acts akin to the jeweler’s criteria in assessing a diamond’s value, evaluated in terms of cut, clarity, and color. Cavanaugh observes that “defects in any one of these aspects diminish and, when severe, render an otherwise priceless diamond worthless.” 8 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 8-9. Cf. STh I-II q. 18, art. 1. Notably, this is a simpler division that what Aquinas provides in STh I-II q. 18, art. 6. Cavanaugh, however, does not note this difference. 9 This is the case in both Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” and Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, although in the latter treatise he does return to the terms, but not in a direct effort to understand Aquinas’ theory. 10 G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention 2nd Ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 9-15. 11 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 60.


but will answer ‘why’ according to a unique application of the question.12 The intentional differs from the foreseen in the way that effects and their correlated causes which one knows without investigation differ from effects and their correlated causes which one knows only via observation and deduction.13Cavanaugh provides an example to clarify this distinction.14 If one asks their neighbor why they are cutting the lawn and they respond ‘to spruce up the yard,’ this answer indicates intention. However, if one asks the neighbor why they are sweating, they answer, ‘Oh, I didn’t notice that, I guess it goes with sprucing things up’; this indicates a foreseen consequence. If they answer they are sweating to lose weight, this would indicate an intentional state of affairs. Definitions of intention and foresight are proposed by Cavanaugh in light of these and similar considerations. Intention is “an agent’s volitional commitment to effecting a goal as planned.”15 Foresight is “a cognitive realization of what will occur given certain causal relations.”16 Intention differs from foresight because it “takes advantage” of certain causal relations indicated in foresight to effect a goal through volitional commitment.17 Intentions are formed through the process of deliberation. Hence one key consideration in an account of intent is the process of the agent in arriving at an intention: “intention remains inchoate and partial until the agent discovers, chooses, and intends the means to affect the end.”18

Ibid., 61. Ibid. Anscombe’s example is a person’s eyelid twitching. One knows, without further observation, that their eyelid is twitching; one does not know without observation why one’s eyelid twitches unless their own twitches. The difference is between the two states of knowledge: in one the cause of the twitching can only be further investigated, and in the other the eyelid twitch is known by simple introspection. The distinction is not between what can and cannot be know without observation. Rather, “one distinguishes how the agent does know the question.” 14 Ibid., 97. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid.
12 13


Cavanaugh incorporates this intentional succession with his understanding of ‘means.’ “Intention of the end leads an agent to deliberate about effective means.”19 If the deliberation is successful, the appropriate means are chosen, giving intention the “complete form, end x by means y.”20 Cavanaugh has no problem admitting that often various means must be undertaken to fully realize the end: “these means themselves serve as intermediate ends relative to other means.”21 For Cavanaugh, the important elements to distinguish are not “the intention of the end (the final in a series)” which “issues in deliberation concerning means which, in turn being intended lead to…serving as intermediate ends relative to other means, and so on.”22 Rather, the distinction of importance is between intention, which “issues in deliberation” and foresight, which is “a belief.”23 A foreseen effect may be considered in deliberation, but as such it does not cause deliberation. This difference, as was noted, separates intention from foresight. Importantly, “this point holds even when the means discovered by deliberation effect a foreseen outcome.”24 It holds because while it is true that means are a cause, they are a cause used by the agent. Hence such means indicate “a governing agency not denoted by ‘cause’.”25 Specifically, means relate to the intended end through deliberation. The agent chooses specifically something which will cause the end based on its causal properties.26 So also, intentions concerning ends cause further intentions concerning means, via deliberation. This cements the grouping of the chosen means and the end, as both intended rather than

Ibid., 98. Ibid., 99. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. In this same text, Cavanaugh also has no difficulty extending the term intention to the means, calling such means “intended means.” 23 Ibid. 24 Ibid., 100. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid.
19 20


foreseen: “for foresight of an outcome does not cause one to have other intentions, bearing on that outcome, or, for that matter, upon any effect whatsoever.”27 For Cavanaugh the intended/foreseen distinction is the best key to discerning the relevant volitional (“committed” in Cavanaugh’s terms) component of the moral action. In another place in his work, he takes time to consider the cogency of this division compared to alternatives28 of intention and ‘permitted’ 29 side effects, 30 direct and indirect,31 and intentional and unintended.32 Of these sets, Cavanaugh takes intended/foreseen as providing the most clarification to the situation of double effect. How the intended/foreseen distinction is relevant to the situation of double effect becomes more evident only after considering another distinction which Cavanaugh makes, namely, that the distinction also does not differentiate what one intends to effect versus what one does not intend to effect.33 Even given the intended/foreseen distinction, if an agent intends an end just insofar as they take means to achieve that end, they also “foresee that he will cause x by y-ing,” and so that agent “cannot be said to intend not to effect x unless he takes means not to effect

Ibid., 101. Cavanaugh admittedly considers these alternative terms having already dealt with the situation of double effect reasoning, and so he speaks of the distinctions as being relevant to verifying his DER theory. But as a matter of fact these considerations are also useful in delineating the general framework of his action theory. 29 Also, “allowing” or “accepting.” See ibid., 78 for a list of authors utilizing these terms. 30 Ibid., 75. For an example of a scholar who makes an ethical division in these terms see: S. Levy, “The Principle of Double Effect,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 20 (1986): 29-40. The advantage of ‘foreseen’ over ‘side effect’ for him is that not all side effects are foreseen, and so ‘side effect’ is ambiguous. He claims the language of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ choice and intention is misleading, “for what is at issue…is not a contrast between what one causes (or allows) as an agent and what one causes (or allows) simply.” 31Rather the morally relevant contrast is one “within one’s agency—a contrast between what one causes or allows with intent and what one causes (or allows) with foresight without intent.” Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 76. Quite to the contrary, the final chapter of this thesis will show this is a morally relevant difference. 32 The terminology ‘unintended’ used by some scholars to speak about a foreseen effect of an action is also problematic, for two reasons. First because unintended often connotes an accident or a mistake. Along the same lines, unintended ambiguously denotes “both intending-not-to-x and not-intending to x.” Accordingly “it is best not to characterize the foreseen effect as being unintentional” but rather as not intended. Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 81. Cavanaugh follows John Finnis on this point. John Finnis, “Intention and SideEffects,” in Liability and Responsibility, eds. R. Rey and C. Morris, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 32-64. 33 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 81.
27 28


x.”34 His understanding is clarified by examining “the problem of closeness.” Presenting this problem and examining Cavanaugh’s response moves straightaway to his understanding of intentional commitment, which bears directly on his theory of double effect. He considers the work of Philippa Foot, who drolly manifests the problem of closeness in her spelunker scenario.35 In this scenario, a party of cave explorers faces certain death if they do not remove a problematic impediment to their way out: a stuck fat explorer. The only means presented to removing this spelunker is a stick of dynamite strong enough to blow the man to kingdom come, but not strong enough to breach the thick cave wall. Of course, the difficulty is in the correlation of an evil, the death of the fat man, to the good of the team of explorers, survival; the two elements of the action are very ‘close.’ Foot argues that it is impermissible to use the dynamite. For her, justified cases are only those wherein the evil connected with the act is removed from what the agent does.36 Cavanaugh substantially agrees that this is the way to go: “the i/f distinction holds that in the cases in which the bad effect is thought to be intended, the harm is too close to what the agent does.”37 At the same time, he qualifies his agreement and states the need for “something more definite than the spatial metaphor of closeness.”38

Ibid. Cavanaugh provides an illustrative example of a submariner who foresees the certain death of some other crew members as the result of closing off a flooded section of the submarine in order to save the ship. Although he “need not intend to kill the crew members” he nevertheless cannot “thereby claim to intend not to kill those submariners.” 35 Philippa Foot, “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect,” Virtues and Vices (1978): 19-32. 36 “[S]uppose that the trapped explorers were to argue that the death of the fat man might be taken as a merely foreseen consequence of the act of blowing him up (‘We didn’t want to kill him…only to blow him up into small pieces’ or even ‘only to blast him out of the cave.’)…What is to be the criterion of ‘closeness’ if we say that anything very close to what we are literally aiming at counts as if part of our aim?” Foot, 21-22. 37 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 83. 38 Ibid., 84.


For Cavanaugh, a successful response to the problem of closeness will “contrast the necessarily intended with the possibly but not necessarily intended (the foreseen).39 Intention requires a “volitional commitment to a plan of action…foresight does not.”40 This volitional commitment is manifested most basically by the “conceptual necessity” which delimits what is “too close to one’s intent to be counted as foreseen.”41 This conceptual necessity is delineated as follows: “if one’s intent conceptually includes the effect, then one intends that effect.”42 Cavanaugh grants that it is an indisputable limit demarcating what is too close to the intention to be counted as merely foreseen. Nevertheless, he states that it is a very narrow delineation that neglects to consider further intentions beyond what is able to be ‘conceptually analyzed.’ Given the general structure of intention previously described as “an agent’s volitional commitment to effecting a goal as planned,”43 how does one cross the threshold into the territory of foresight?44 While intention ‘takes advantage’ of certain causal relations to achieve an end, this is merely indicated in foresight.45 Hence to round out his theory of intention and foresight, Cavanaugh returns to Anscombe’s consideration of the agent’s practical process in arriving at an intention.46 As was stated, Anscombe proposes that intention is knowing without observation. This is meant to be understood as practical knowledge, because the knowledge is not caused

Ibid., 85. Cavanaugh moves to his own explanation of the problem of closeness only after dismissing a rival position which proposes to solve the same problem. This position, that of Joseph Boyle, will be taken up in the last part of the thesis, and thus Cavanaugh’s objections will be dealt with then. 40 Ibid., 107. 41 Ibid., 90. 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid., 97. 44 Ibid. 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid. Alternatively, Cavanaugh defines foresight as indicating “that the agent know or believes something about the side effect” Intention refers “to the end and the means while ‘foreseen’ refers to side effects.” Cf. ibid., 75.


by something it knows (via observation), but rather by knowing which causes what it knows.47 Cavanaugh describes the difference in these kinds of knowledge as differing “in terms of their direction of fit.”48 ‘Directions of fit’ show how the world and the mind relate as standards of measurement for each other. In speculative truths, the mind does or does not conform to the world, hence speculative truths are spoken of as true or false. In practical truths, knowing the agent’s intent is the standard “to which the world lives up or of which the world falls short.”49 Intent defines what happens in terms of success or failure.50 This sort of knowledge then, informs the actual physical performance which arrives at the intention. Cavanaugh tacitly agrees with Anscombe that when one wants to know what a person intends, they “usually need only cursorily look at what she does. This ability is a function of the nature of language as common.”51 Intention “informs the physical performance executed in terms of it such that if one’s intent were to differ, one’s physical conduct would also characteristically vary.”52 At this point in his argument, Cavanaugh returns to foresight. Compared to intention, it is speculative; it “neither defines one’s act nor informs one’s conduct.”53 In fact, two acts otherwise similar which differ as foreseen or not need not vary in terms of their physical description. The person not foreseeing their sweating while mowing the lawn does not change their mowing the lawn. If they do simply observe their sweating while mowing the lawn, all things being equal, they will not change their action.
Ibid., 102. I.e. because it is practiced or caused by the agent, it is known. To return to the example, the man mowing his lawn only sees he sweats because it is pointed out to him; this indicates he did not intend to sweat. If he intended to sweat he would state a reason, such as his hopes to lose weight. 48 Ibid., 103. In the first instance, the man is said to have ‘speculative knowledge’ of his sweating, as a fact or state of affairs. In the second case, his sweating is known because it is intended, in this sense it is ‘practical knowledge 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid., 104. 51 Ibid., 103, ft. 14. 52 Ibid., 105. 53 Ibid.


In summary, Cavanaugh identifies intention as a commitment to practical action which is measurable by exterior acts and orderable to further actions. Though his account of intention ventures far from the immediate text of Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae, his understanding of these terms directly bears on how he defines what is outside of the intention, and consequently on his broader analysis of double effect situations.54 2. Cavanaugh on Double Effect Situations Thomas Cavanaugh’s reading of STh q. 64, art. 7 as well as his broader theory of double effect both hang on his understanding of praeter intentionem. Specifically, he proposes that self-defensive homicide is only morally permissible when it is risked. ‘Risk’ for Cavanaugh is related to his broader theory as a consequence of an action which is foreseen, but in no way intended. For him, a risked, foreseen consequence has some accidental connection to the end and means to that end. Because what is praeter intentionem is also said to be per accidens, therefore the risked consequence is praeter intentionem. The following will examine how he unfolds this theory.55 First, Cavanaugh presents the example of the ironworker: “one might think that it is ethical for an ironworker knowingly to risk his life doing dangerous work while one would not think that it is ethical for the ironworker knowingly to do work from which his death would follow inevitably.”56 Cavanaugh takes this example to be self-evidently plausible, as there are many other trades such as ironworking where risk is part in parcel with the very nature of the work. Yet at the same time, there are few jobs where risk of death is the norm. Aquinas presents such an exception in STh q. 64, art. 7 with the case of the judge’s minister.
Indeed, while I will go on to show that Cavanaugh argues his theory of DER is in concord with Aquinas, the preceding should make it clear that he does not derive the distinctive elements of his understanding of DER from Aquinas in any rigorous manner. 55 Cavanaugh’s work on his theory of double effect presented in both Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” and Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 1-14 is nearly identical (in many places nearly verbatim), so the following cites from both of these texts indiscriminatingly. 56 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 108.


Contrasting this case with that of homicidal self defense enables Cavanaugh to connect his idea of risk to homicidal self defense. As is stated in the corpus of article seven, the one who has public authority can intend to use force against his aggressor if the action is referred to the common good and not motivated by private animosity. Contrasted to this, the private individual may justify homicidal self defense “as long as it results from the use of minimal force and is not intentional.”57 Both the statesperson and the private person are required to use just as much force as is proportionatus fini. Cavanaugh takes this to mean “the force must be minimal,”58 that is, not more than necessary for the preservation of life. Cavanaugh explains that a force used which is proportionatus fini, “corresponds to a larger set of possible responses.” In the example of defense with a broadsword, its ‘proportioned end’ corresponds to a neck-severing stroke. 59 Thus, according to Cavanaugh, using the sword is equivalent to one’s proximate intent to “take his assailant’s life.”60 The agent free to choose this response from a larger set of possible responses is the public individual. The situation is different, however, for the private person: “minimal force does not include cases in which such force corresponds to an intention to take the life of the attacker.”61 The private person cannot intend to take life; hence he cannot take means which are proportioned to taking life: “a neck-severing sword stroke is such a means.”62 Although Cavanaugh does not explicitly state such, it is clear that his understanding is related to the previously considered problem of closeness. With the use of the

Ibid., 114. Ibid. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid. 61 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 114. 62 “Suppose that I am a private individual. Both I and my assailant have swords. We begin to fight with them. I realize that my aggressor has far greater endurance than I and that the only way I can preserve my life is to kill him, say by cutting off his head. According to Thomas, I cannot do so because I cannot intentionally kill him. I, as a private individual, would not be permitted so to defend myself.” Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 115.
57 58


broadsword, the death of the assailant is ‘too close’ to the means by which the assailed may be saved. Specifically, in Cavanaugh’s terms, ‘defense with broadsword’ corresponds with the conceptual necessity of the concomitant ‘death of the assailant,’ which is “too close to one’s intent to be counted as foreseen.”63 As Cavanaugh states “if one’s intent conceptually includes the effect, then one intends that effect.”64 Cavanaugh’s explanation of the sword amounts to this: “a weapon is an instrument. As an instrument it admits of characteristic ends…one of the ends to which sword makers fashion swords is the taking of human life. Presumably, a sword not fit for that taking of another’s life is not much of a sword.”65 Here Cavanaugh returns to his view of intention66 which univocally reaches out to the means intentionally. Hence, “one may not maintain that his assailant’s death results accidently from the employment of a sword.”67 For Cavanaugh, death characteristically results from one whose “physical performance” indicates such an intention; “if one’s intent were to differ, one’s physical conduct would also characteristically vary.”68 With decapitation excluded from the options of self defense, there remains for Cavanaugh only defense where homicide is wholly accidental69 and defense where homicide is risked. But as scratching and biting will surely do little to little to stop an assailant with a broadsword, the better alternative would be to risk the assailant’s life. Cavanaugh thinks

Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 90. Ibid. 65 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 115. 66 “[A]n agent’s volitional commitment to effecting a goal as planned.” Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 97. 67 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 115. 68 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 105. For example, it is uncharacteristic of shoving that by shoving an attacker he stumbles into a curb, falls over, and dies of a brain injury. This event could happen accidentally. 69 Ibid., 115. Examples include “pushing, shoving, pulling, scratching, biting, kicking, gouging, and generally being a great nuisance to an aggressor.” By using such means “one’s attacker could not charge one with endangering another’s life.”
63 64


there is an important middle ground between intentionally homicidal defense and accidentally homicidal defense. Risked homicide, or homicide which generally results from endangering life, differs from accidental homicide because of foresight. When a death results accidentally in the course of defense, the assailant cannot be said to be responsibly taking means which when enacted ordinarily result in death; the death is a ‘surprise.’ When one knowingly endangers the assailant’s life, they foresee this possibility, and therefore are ethically responsible for the ensuing death if it happens.70 Does this kind of responsibility differ from the responsibility one takes when they intentionally kill?71 In seeking an answer to this broader question, Cavanaugh examines a more particular one: “does one intend to take one’s own life when one endangers one’s own life?”72 He argues that would be at least an “eccentric theory” to suppose that anyone who imperils their own life intends their death.73 So also, he sees “no reason” to hold that knowingly endangering another’s life requires a requisite intention for their death.74 This bears on the situation of self defense: “I choose to risk his life rather than forfeit my own, and such a choice on my part is ethically assessable.”75 While beheading is not a permissible option in the example of the broadsword, using it as an object of defense “indicates I am more willing to preserve my life than I am to forgo hazarding the assailant’s.”76 In this sense, he sees the use of potentially homicidal means of self defense to be possible.

Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 116. Ibid. 72 Ibid. 73 In his answer, he elaborates on the ironworker example: “Soldiers, stuntmen, race-car drivers, police officers, firefighters, and construction workers knowing endanger their lives.” He argues this does not mean they intend their death, even if perhaps some of the circumstances they encounter they could possibly wrongly endanger their life. 74 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 116. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid.
70 71


He understands Aquinas to hold a position similar to his. A private individual clearly cannot intend to kill his assailant. Nor would it be realistic to frame homicidal self defense as accidental, for the means of accidental defense (fist, elbows, etc.) are clearly not adequately defensive when the assailant is homicidal.77 Thus Cavanaugh reasons that Aquinas must be speaking about a case where the assailed will take the means to defend themselves “with such force that the aggressor’s death, if it results, would be one of the foreseeable characteristic consequences” of the act of self defense.78 This would exclude the use of necessarily homicidal self defense because it would be dissonant to both risk a person’s life and at the same time foresee their death by one and the same means.79 Because foresight for Cavanaugh is a morally appraisable component of action, but not a part of the act which ordinarily specifies the act as good or evil, this explanation justifies a proportional ‘risked’ defense against a homicidal assailant. Cavanaugh argues that evidence for this position is implied in Aquinas’ assertion in the forth objection that “the act of fornication or of adultery is not ordered to the conservation of one’s own life out of necessity as is the act from which sometimes [quandoque] follows homicide.”80 The use of “sometimes” indicates for Cavanaugh the cases of self defense where homicide is not a necessary consequence. Framing things this way does in fact seem to exclude the case of inevitably homicidal self defense “for such a consequence would not be said to follow ‘sometimes’.”81

77 Kenney suggests this alternative in Anthony Kenney, The Anatomy of the Soul: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Mind. (England: Harper and Row, 1973), 140. Cavanaugh argues, that if this is the kind of concept Aquinas is endorsing, he has introduced an “unwieldy concept” of freeing the agent from any responsibility for the consequences which flow from his actions, and one which does not even assuredly provide a defense. Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 111-112. 78 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 117. 79 Ibid., 119. 80 STh II-II, q. 64, art.7, ad. 4. 81 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 117.


3. Evaluating Cavanaugh’s Theory Unfortunately, there are problems straightaway with the plausibility of Cavanaugh’s reading of STh, II-II 64.7, and the fallout of this leads to problems which put his entire theory of moral action into question. First of all, there is ample evidence in 64.7 of a plausible alternative reading to Cavanaugh’s “novel” reading. In the article in question Aquinas repeatedly states that it is permissible that homicidal defense may be taken in the proper circumstances.82 He does not speak about the permissibility of “risking” homicide, but rather about the permissibility of homicide occurring in the course of defense, provided it is not intended. Cajetan or Long’s reading prima facie seems to be better supported by the text: evidently Aquinas is arguing that moderate self defense may entail homicide even if it is not directly intended. There is no explicit language of “risk” anywhere in Aquinas, and it is not even implied except insofar as Cavanaugh argues, by the use of “quandoque” in the reply to the forth objection. It would be odd for Aquinas to leave out this revelatory distinction until the very end of the article. A more plausible reading than Cavanaugh’s can be found by reexamining this text which states that the act of fornication or adultery is not necessarily directed to the preservation of one’s own life, as is the act whence sometimes results in the taking of a man’s life. The problem Aquinas addresses here is whether homicide resulting from self defense is the same in kind as the act of committing adultery to save one’s life. His answer is ‘no,’ because adultery is not ever directly ordered to saving life, homicide sometimes is. Here it seems wholly reasonable to take the ‘sometimes’ as referring to the case of homicidal self defense, which is precisely the particular way the assailed’s life is preserved in the article at hand. In other words, there are many ways one may defend themselves from an

STh. II-II, q. 64, art. 2, SC and Cor.


assailant, and what is proportional to that end will vary with the circumstances. Sometimes (rarely) what is proportional to self defense is an act which results in the death of the assailant. In 64. 7, then, there is no convincing reason to accept Cavanaugh’s reading. In fact, the examples given in 64. 7 seem to support a reading contrary to Cavanaugh’s.83 The minister of the judge is a particularly telling example. Here this statesperson is being assailed by robbers, who need not even be moved by more than private animosity. The statesperson may directly intend homicide provided it is referred to the common good. Aquinas clearly declares that both the statesperson and the private person have the right to their life, and that they are free to take means to defend this good. One intends homicide in service to the state, the other simply to save themselves, unintended effects notwithstanding. All this is textural evidence that the ‘hard case’ of directly affecting homicide as a result of defense is indeed not only relevant but pivotal to Aquinas’s understanding. Still, Cavanaugh’s theory of ‘risking’ the homicide need not be scrapped altogether. In fact, it seems quite reasonable, towards articulating a comprehensive account of permissible private self defensive acts, to include the situation where the proportional defense is more than, say, running away on the one hand or defensive homicide on the other. In this middle ground, one might include acts where proportional defense consists in taking means which risk the
83 Furthermore, a contextual consideration of article seven as related to the rest of article sixty four seems to give grounds for an alternative reading. As I have shown, question 64 provides a set of principles placing great emphasis on the absolute right to life the innocent have, and yet the absolute exclusivity the state has to intend to kill. In the case of the state taking the life of a criminal, the death of that criminal is precisely the intention of the state because it is by the death of that criminal that peace is restored to the community. There is no conversation of ‘risk’ as to the means of establishing justice. Rather, the question is concerning the manner in which the state may intend homicide if it is the proportionate means to procuring the common good. If 64. 7 is understood as a continuation of the problematic which is dealt with in the earlier text, the question would be concerned with the manner in which the private person may intend homicide if it is proportionate to providing means of preserving the private good of their life. If Aquinas holds that the state is free to take the means to procure justice on the basis of the common good, it is at least plausible to think that Aquinas’ work in 64. 7 similarly holds the private person is free to take means of procuring the good of saving their life, which would include means of defense with homicidal effects. Such a reading would preserve the two principles emphasized in the build up of q. 64.


assailant’s life. Concrete examples come to mind: an assailant breaking into a home and threatening the residents with machetes would indeed be deterred by a shotgun blow to the knee. Such a shot would possibly not kill, but such an effect certainly is risked. However, it must be pointed out that Cavanaugh formulates his reading of 64.7 and his theory of double effect reasoning on a theory of intentionality which categorically excludes the moral permissibility of a private person defending oneself if the defense entails the death of the assailant. In this way, his theory is inadequate, because it amounts to a denial of the private person’s right to preserve their life. In fact, it is ultimately unpredictable to hold that the only permissible means which one may take as defense against a homicidal assailant are ones where there is a variable element of ‘risk.’ Such a chancy account surely suffers the same objection as that of Kenney’s theory that homicide is an accident of defense; namely, it is morally “unwieldy,” with a critical aspect of the action ambiguous by definition. Ultimately this serious difficulty is the result of a failure to provide a correct account of intention and of the moral act in general. While a full rebuttal of Cavanaugh/Anscombe’s action theory is beyond the purposes of this work, a brief one is worthwhile. In short, intentionality is oversimplified in Cavanaugh’s account. It is generally right to say that intention is “an agent’s volitional commitment to effecting a goal as planned.”84 However, this leaves one important element of the definition unclear: to what precisely the agent is committing.85 What is the agent’s ratio of his chosen means? Articulating the ratio is critical because just as the definition gives a species-making difference, the formal ratio gives a basis from per se classification of a moral
Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 97. Clearly the agent commits to taking means which are proportionately effective towards that end. But does this commitment require intending every aspect of the means? Surely not, because there are accidental aspects of any means which are clearly irrelevant to the agent. That my broadsword (used in an act of defense) has red stitching as opposed to black stitching is indifferent to the sword’s effectiveness as a means of defense. This is admittedly a frivolous example, but it points to a necessity which was argued for at the beginning of the paper: articulating precisely what ratio the agent has about the chosen means.
84 85


action. The specific difference which the chosen means adds to the formal ratio is the useful good. It is in this respect that the means are chosen for bringing about the end. It is also on the basis of this principle that the means are said to be proportionate to the intended end. With this, it is possible to reassess Cavanaugh’s claim that an agent, by intending an end and taking means to achieve that end, if they “foresee that he will cause x by y-ing,” necessarily “cannot be said to intend not to effect x unless he takes means not to effect x.”86 Cavanaugh’s claim restated is that an agent necessarily intends a side effect, if in the course of taking certain means to choosing some end, one foresees that side effect. For him this is “too close to one’s intent to be counted as foreseen.”87 If the above counter argument is correct, Cavanaugh’s argument fails at the root by not recognizing how the formal ratio of the chosen means is per se definitive of the act’s objective specification. The ‘problem’ of closeness is not a real problem; it disappears in light of an exact articulation of human action insofar as it is morally definitive.88

Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 81. Ibid., 90. 88 Nevertheless, I will return to this point in the next chapter as Cavanaugh’s (and others) “physicalism” deserves reconsideration in light of the full-fledged explanation I will provide of the situation of double effect.
86 87



1. Preliminary Remarks
This chapter will directly analyze Aquinas’ theory on homicidal self defense both in his own terms and insofar as certain later commentators and scholars supplement his thought. It will conclude with an examination of how this theory has implications for a more general theory of double effect reasoning and consideration of certain test cases. A useful preliminary comment with which Cajetan begins his commentary before directly offering his interpretation of the text of Aquinas provides a starting point. Cajetan observes that the term ‘intention’ encompasses both the end and the means to that end. This is a deceivingly simple formulation of a rather sophisticated point. To fully appreciate it, it is necessary to review an understanding of the terms ‘means,’ ‘end,’ and ‘intention’ which enable him to state the principle as he does. As was noted in the first chapter, Aquinas understands the will’s movement to the good as one movement encompassing both the end and the means: “we do not say we intend health simply because we are interested in it as a desirable end, but only when we get it though something else.”1 Specifically, the end stands to the means as a terminus stands to a mid-point.2 In this sense the will’s act is continuous and has a unified ratio. To incorporate this idea with Aquinas’ notion of object, the means should be understood as an object which receives its ratio from the end, that by which they are objectified. A sick person is not said to be made healthy by a doctor until they are treated for their illness, and that treatment is only intelligible through the doctor’s intention to bring about health. Here health, the good intended, is the “formal object.” Insofar as the act is considered formally, the end and the

1 2

STh I-II q. 12, art. 1, ad. 4. Ibid.


means “are one and the same object.”3 This analysis gives a general elucidation of how the means and the end are able to be said to ‘fall under the intention.’ Such an understanding bears on Cajetan’s statement (which deals directly with the text of Aquinas) that one act can have two effects, one of which is beside the intention. This leads to the principle that the effects which result from the act are other than the intention both with respect to the intention of the means and the end. This point will be an important one to return to in the analysis of this article. As mentioned before, Aquinas states that the act of self defense is one act, with two effects. The noteworthy difference between this kind of act and normative human action is that two effects result from the act taking place—one intended and the other not intended (praeter intentionem). One effect is good—the assailed’s life is saved, while the other is evil— the death of the assailant. But in what way specifically does the evil effect result from the act?

2. Three Paradigmatic Cases
To better understand how Aquinas’ criteria serve to explain permissible defensive homicide, it is good to first distinguish three types of paradigmatic cases which may (or may not) be relevant cases of praeter intentionem.4 This is a problematical division, as both Long and Cavanaugh were shown to understand that Aquinas’ principles apply only to certain test cases which he does not clearly distinguish. However, a reasonable division can be made based on the differing degrees of ‘closeness’ or instrumentality of the evil effect to the

3 4

STh I-II q. 12, art. 4, ad. 2. Here I follow Fr. Krasevac in this classification. Cf. Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 85.


directly intended good.5 These test cases can be inspected by the set of criteria6 which Aquinas provides to judge what options of defense are permissible for the assailed. The first case is the one to which Thomas Cavanaugh devotes his time, where the death of the assailant (or generally, the evil effect) is a ‘risk’ of defense. In this way the evil effect is in no way intentionally connected to the means chosen. At most it is foreseen as a possible posterior result of the action happening, and is in no way instrumental in achieving the good sought after. Cavanaugh’s example is using a sword to fend off blows from the assailant but not capitalizing on the sword’s potential to decapitate them. If in the course of blocking, the assailed’s sword slips and kills the assailant, the assailed could claim such an effect was ‘risked.’ Since this purely passive sword use is somewhat implausible, a second example from Krasevac is useful.7 He describes the use of a baseball bat to ward off an assailant. Such a blunt means of defense likely would not kill an assailant skillful with the sword. Because of the off chance that the person defending themselves could make a killing blow to the head, one could say the death of the assailant is ‘risked.8 The second category of cases is that wherein the evil effect follows inevitably from the means of defense, but is still not instrumental to the attainment of the intended defense.

The inevitability of the evil effect is a supplementary (but consequent) sign of the connection of the evil act to the intention. In fact, Stephen Long groups the first two categories together. C.f. Long, Teleological Grammar, 50. 6 Such as that the good be worth preserving, and that the means be proportional or moderate towards achieving the end. 7 Found in Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 80. Another example encountered in this thesis is the mountaineer who dangles perilously from a great height, relying on a single remaining stay which not only holds him but the rest of his party. Here it seems clear that the climber is sacrificing his life for the good of the climbing party. Of course, he could cut himself off as an act of despair and so his act would be vitiated of its moral goodness according to the second criteria. But presuming his good will, the act is ordered to a genuine and immediate good of easing the weight of the party and preventing their mutual fatality. The act of cutting oneself from the rope is clearly what saves the group, and the death which likely follows not at all integrated necessarily into the action. In fact, it is totally posterior. Proof of this lies in the possibility that the climber may miraculously survive if he perhaps crashes into a barn full of fresh hay at the base of the mountain.. This example is considered in Long, Teleological Grammar, 72. 8 Of course, this is all still somewhat circumstantial; if it is Babe Ruth defending himself with a baseball bat, the ‘risk’ is so imminent that one could question if his defense falls into this category.


Here again the evil effect is foreseen but is posterior to the actual attainment of the good. An example would be pushing the homicidal assailant off the edge of a towering cliff. Here, the assailed is saved as soon as the other is falling; the assailed may even thereafter observe the assailant fall to their death. Clearly in such a case, the evil effect is going to result from the choice of the agent, but not come to be in such a way as to be integrally important to the good sought after.9 Cavanaugh would likely not accept this kind of case because the effect is necessarily tied to effecting the planned goal. The third category includes the most severe means of defense and in general the most direct way the evil effect is tied to the intention. In this situation, the evil effect would follow both inevitably and instrumentally from the means taken to achieve the good intention. Cavanaugh again provides an example, where the assailant uses the broadsword to decapitate their assailant after they realize this would be their singular option to save themselves. Here the decapitation is how the assailant is stopped and also how the defense is obtained.10 However, it should be preliminarily noted that the precise way in which the evil effect is instrumental is ambiguous in this sense: it is undetermined if the evil effect is instrumental, beyond the act as physically described (i.e. on the level of the genus naturae). The question remains whether the agent in this case intends the evil effect precisely as such.11

9 A non-defensive example found in this thesis is the situation of the submariners: a submarine’s hull is breeched, and in order to save the vessel the compromised section of the vessel must be sealed immediately, trapping submariners. The death-dealing act of sealing the door does not directly kill the men. This situation is considered in Long, Teleological Grammar, 93-95 and Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 82-83. 10 Another vivid example is provided by Stephen Long. Having only an instant to stop an axe-bearing assailant reaching towards the neck of one’s own child, “none other but a shot to the head will so incapacitate the nervous system as to assure that the axe does not slay or maim” the child. Putting aside the circumstantial difference of defending one’s family versus self defense, it is still a useful example of how the evil effect of the defensive means inevitably takes the form of an instrument in bringing about the end. Long, Teleological Grammar, 50. 11 Philippa Foot’s quandary of the spelunkers also fits with this third set of cases. The fat spelunker impedes the sole exit passage of his cave swimming crew, with floodwaters inopportunely threatening to inundate the cavern in short order. To this end, the only remaining option is to utilize a stick of dynamite, which is too weak to free the solid rock surrounding the man, but will blow the hapless fat man to bits.


What must next be examined are the criteria which Aquinas provides in the remainder of q.64, art. 7. Forming an account of these criteria as stated in Aquinas, as well as clarified when needed by later scholars, will serve to tell which of these three cases is morally permissible. It is noteworthy that Cajetan moves straightaway to the consideration of the difference between the statesperson and the private person as a means to seeing what the private person permissibly intends. This certainly gets to resolving the tension built up in question 64.12 However, Aquinas’ approach, which provides a nested set of criteria before arriving at his proposed solution, is more judicious. The force of Cajetan’s explanation will be more evident by first examining these criteria, which include the good sought by the assailed, proportionate or moderate chosen means to procure that good, and the role of foresight to these chosen means.

3. Aquinas’ Criteria: The Heart of the Matter
Immediately after Aquinas affirms the basic structure of the act of defensive homicide, namely that such an act has the conspicuous difference from ordinary acts by having both a good effect and an evil one, he explains this act is lawful on the basis that the intention is to “save one’s life,” which is “natural.” This is clearly a reference to the doctrine established earlier in question 64, stated in response to the issue of suicide, but pertinent to the preservation of any human life: “[E]everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can.”13 The fundamental feature of all created things is to seek their respective good, and to love that good. The foundation for this desire is rooted even more deeply in the love which all beings

12 13

That is, it immediately justifies private self defense even if this action entails homicide. STh II-II q. 67, art. 5, cor.


have for themselves by nature.14 Consequently, the innocent person defending themselves blamelessly lays claim to this good. After this, Aquinas goes on to explain a second criteria which must be present in the defense if it is to be lawful. Not only must the good of maintaining life be intended, but also the act whereby this good is maintained must be “proportioned to the end (proportionatus fini).” Here the chosen means are clearly understood as the act which is proportioned to the end. To fully understand the meaning of this term, it is necessary to re-examine how the means and end are related to the intention, and how the means is proportioned to the end. While it is generally true that the end and the means are formally one object, it has been shown that Aquinas also considers them as two distinct objects, as two acts of the will. With this perspective, the means are considered the object of choice and provide a further ratio of the useful good objectively specifying the act. The object of choice, however, terminates in some exterior act which stands as a quasi-end to the agent intending the act. In this way the exterior act has the aspect of being an end for the agent. 15 The object of choice is related to the object of intention insofar as the former is considered as a proximate end sought after for the sake the remote end; the remote end stands as a cause of the proximate end. In certain morally evil acts this is in a weak sense, as one act is not properly said to be ordered to the other. Adultery, by definition, is other than the act of theft, and each of these acts is understood to have their own disparate set of integrally constitual elements.16

14 15

STh II-II q .64, a 6. Love of self is a prerequisite good maintained prior to seeking further goods. Again, the object of choice is this reality considered just insofar as this reality is useful in obtaining

the end.

Cf. STh I-II q. 18, art. 7, ad. 1 For Aquinas, there is a two-fold evil committed if adultery is committed to aid in an act of theft, as one act is accidental to the other.


Morally good acts, however, are such that if the object is per se ordained to obtaining the end, this proximate object is simply a determination of the latter.17 Insofar as the object of choice is a means chosen towards achieving a remote end there is one act of the will— one common ratio about the action—because one object is per se ordinatus to the other. In the example of the solider who fights well, his victory is precisely obtained by his successful fighting. The means chosen, as an integral whole, sufficiently and directly bring about and attain the end as a terminus. An object of choice of this kind is understood as a “commanded act…whose immediate result is the realization of the object of the intention [the proximate end].”18 Hence in this way the force ought to be judged as proportional to the end or not. Do the chosen means of defense by their very nature, i.e. per se, obtain the good of defense? If they do, they are the realization of the good sought after, a good which is clearly permissible. If they by their very nature bring about the good, by their definition they clearly are proportional to that end, as a mid-space is proportional with a terminus.19 Again, in an act which is ‘duly proportional,’ the object of choice shares a common ratio with the object of intention, because the very realization of the object achieves the end by nature of what the object is. Thus when Aquinas speaks of an act which is proportioned to the end of self defense, he designates acts which by their nature realize a per se defensive act; he is granting that homicidal means can per se be defensive. If an act of homicide is duly proportion to achieving self defense, it is permissibly chosen because the intention which it realizes is a manifest good. The fact that the force is deadly is per accidens and is an effect of the force that puts the
STh I-II q. 18, art. 7, ad. 1 “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 78. 19 Again, Aquinas believes an action can be examined abstractly as kinds (secundum speciem), or how they actually exist in reality (secundum individuum). In examining an action according to the second perspective, when one end is precisely sought for the sake of another end (and per se attains to that end), the relation of the ends is no longer accidental, but essential. C.f. Pilsner, 234-238.
17 18 Krasevac,


life out of danger. Here the evil effect of death is an “immediate and natural consequence; but it is praeter intentionem.”20 This helps explain how the ‘chosen means’ take their ratio from the good of the end. In the above DER situation, the defender’s ‘proximate end’ is determined by what they are trying to achieve in their commanded acts. The grounds for allowing the means to take on this ratio are due to the fact that they naturally have an immediate effect of bringing about the effect which is the end of defense. It is precisely insofar as they are considered as a means of defense that they are relevant to the defensive agent. Aquinas’ example of what is out of proportion to the act of defense, “using more than necessary violence,” is straightforwardly explained given the above account. In the act of self defense, the assailed takes violent means of defense because it is necessary for them if they are going to sufficiently defend themselves. Such “necessary violence” is by its nature ordered to preserving life. If the violence taken is intentionally beyond the purpose of defense, homicide is unlawfully sought as a good in itself which morally reprehensible: it is an act of murder. In contrast, the person lawfully defending themselves has no interest in the death of the assailant, but only an intention of protecting themselves.21 The ensuing comparison to the intention of the public authority found in Aquinas’ text affirms this reading. Commutative justice allows for the state to take action against threats against the state, and Aquinas extends this to include threats to persons of the commonwealth “who while intending to kill a man in self defense, refer this to the public

Boyle, 662. The term ‘moderate defense’ for Aquinas is clearly then a function of ‘proportional defense.’ A proportional defense is moderate because it achieves just what is intended, and not anything of excess. Aquinas’ statement that it is not necessary that “a man omit the act of moderate self defense in order to avoid killing the other man” is based, as he explicitly stated, on the intrinsic goodness of life which the person under attack is striving to preserve. Committing an act specifically intended to preserve this good is lawful and ‘moderate’ exactly in these terms. If this act entails homicide amidst the immediate realization of the good of defense, homicide need not be avoided, because the act is also properly understood as defending innocent life.
20 21


good”22 In this situation of self defense, the assailed intends to defensively kill because violence to their person is also violence to the state. Steven Long remarks that this amounts to an act of deputization for the statesperson.23 In other words, this sort of killing has the character of a penalty issued to the assailant. Such a penalty is directly intended because of the immediacy and particular gravity of the threat, but also because of the implied injustice of the threat.24 The order of intention for the statesperson is direct. The public authority intends homicide and in this regard is like the executioner. The death of the assailant is precisely what is referred to the public good, because the death of the assailant re-establishes equilibrium in the society. The killing is justified not as though it was an end in itself, but it is an end sought in the sense that the act is directly accomplished though killing: “(he) who seeks to perform this act of justice intends to kill as a definitory part of the end of performing an act of justice.”25 A more formal analysis of this situation is as follows. The chosen means taken by the statesperson are directly intended to be homicidal and defensive in quality. This homicidal defense is the object of the act; it is, at once, what is determined by the end and that whereby the end is accomplished. The end of the defense is the survival of the public person for the common good and is the reason by which the means are justified. Stating the situation in these terms shows all the more how direct intention operates in explaining this case of defense. The question of 64. 7 concerns the manner in which the private person may or may not intend homicide if it is proportionate to providing the means of preserving the good of their life. Through bringing up the example of the statesperson defending themselves in 64.
STh II-II, q. 64, art. 7. Long, Teleological Grammar, 58. 24 This is one of the commonly given justifications for the death penalty in Aquinas’ writings. See, for example, Aquinas’ commentary on the fifth commandment reprinted in pgs. 93-94 of The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas, The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. Joseph B. Collins (Manilla: Sing-Tala, 1939). 25 Long, “Response to Jensen,” 106.
22 23


7, Aquinas indicates that the case of private homicidal self defense is comparable to the issues dealt with earlier in question 64. For Aquinas, the statesperson is free to take the means to procure justice on the basis of the common good; similarly the private person is free to take means of procuring the good of saving their life, including means of defense with homicidal effects, with the important difference that such an effect is not intended. As was pointed out in the chapter on Thomas Cavanaugh, the example Aquinas provides of the judge’s minister is telling. The assailant of the judge’s minister need not even be moved by more than private animosity. This text is remarkable in that the exterior act in this situation is conceivably the same as that involving the private person—one can easily conceive of a situation where a private person is similarly assailed. Both the statesperson and the private person have the right to their life, and the right to lawfully take means to defend this good. What differs between the two is their intention. The statesperson intends homicide in addition to defense, seeing that their defense is in fact a good of the commonwealth. The private person simply acts to defend themselves, despite the evil effects that ensue.

4. The Common Principles of the Three Cases
In all three cases, the good of life is what is intended by the agent, and the acts undertaken to achieve that end are proportional, that is, they naturally and per se effect the outcome of saving life. On these grounds there appears no essential moral difference amongst paradigmatic cases of defense as described previously.26 The differences between the cases, namely the connectedness of the evil effect to the means chosen, are entirely outside of the intention of the agent, who cares only to choose a life-saving action. Consequently, there appears no reason to deny that the genus naturae of the means may be instrumental to the death of the assailant, if at the same time it is instrumental to the

This follows Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 81.


defense of the assailed. This later causal relationship is clearly what is of interest for the assailed. Krasevac puts it this way: “[the ‘chosen means’] moral directedness is determined by the object of the act— that to which the intention is directed, and which is at least one of the per se outcomes of the agent’s commanded acts.”27 The effect of death, considered precisely as deadly, is not the relevant ratio for the defender and is praeter intentionem. Indeed if the defense could be successfully undertaken and not be deadly, one would be obligated to choose those means. Rather, deadly defensive means are chosen because they are the only available means naturally ordered to the legitimate good of defense. Thus the only genuinely significant difference for the agent defending themselves in these three cases is the degree of foresight they have concerning the connection of the evil effect to the means of defense. In certain cases they will observe that the evil is likely and worth the risk. In the most severe case, they will observe that as far as the res physica appears, they are making a direct killing blow. However, they will importantly see that blow is also an act of defense and will only carry out the act because they see the per se ordination of such act to the legitimate good of living to which they lay claim.28

5. Three Residual Difficulties
A consideration of three difficulties serves to clarify the position of this thesis. The first is an objection about the way the defending person’s intention is ordered, originating in Pascal and revived by Cavanaugh. This is related to the second difficulty, the problem of
Krasevac, “Inevitable and Instrumental,” 82. Again, ‘directing’ the intention here is not based on a subjective decision, but on the fact that the means have a natural foundation which allows them to be considered under two rationes, one of which is relevant to the moral agent and to which they are concerned with or ‘directed’ towards. Emphasis his. 28 There is no suggestion in the theory of Aquinas that a commensurate evil may be chosen if it effects a good. Hence, Cavanaugh and Long’s thought are of relevance to this thesis and not the work of proportionalism, which posits such a latter case could conceivably be lawful. According to the moral theory being argued, such reasoning is unlawful and, at any rate, completely foreign to Thomistic thought. For a seminal example of proportionalist thinking see P. Knauer, “The Hermeneutic Function of the Principle of Double Effect,” Natural Law Forum 12 (1967): 132-62. For a careful argument against the proportionalist see Sousa-Lara, “Exterior and Interior Acts,” 295-298.


‘closeness.’ The third difficulty is the so-called ‘deputization’ of the private person, offered as an explanation which need not resort to double effect reasoning. 1) Cavanaugh brings up the infamous grande methode de diriger l’intention in the seventh letter of Pascal’s Les provinciales.29 Here Pascal’s Jesuit proposes a method whereby one swordsman intentionally ambles about a duelling green, not intending to fight their opponent, who also happens to be taking the same stroll. Of course, if the opponent attacks, it is licit to defend oneself. To follow such logic would not be “directing one’s intention” to duelling, but to the stroll.30 The objection then runs that a similar kind of false casuistry also applies to Boyle’s theory, as it appears to claim that intention can be “withheld” from the bad effect which necessarily follows along with the good.31 The difficulty with this objection is that it conflates Pascal’s disingenuous Jesuit whose intention is to bring about acts with no intrinsic causal connection that will lead to his “defense” (which is in fact his prerogative—he wants a fight) with a situation where one legitimately needs to defend themselves. In the latter situation the only means available are directly ordered to realizing the end of self defense. In the latter case “there is nothing about the nature of intention which requires that one intend those effects which follow from one’s end.”32 Intention is an act of the will bearing on the end only insofar is it is the “term of something ordered to it, namely, the means.”33 The effects of an intended act have no place in this ordered relationship: “what is neither ordered to the intended end nor a part of the good which specifies this order does not fall within the intention.”34 Here Boyle makes two crucial

Blaise Pascal, Les provincials (Paris: Editions de Cluny, 1943), 243. A detailed discussion of this argument with respect to its fairness and influence can be found in Steven Toulmin and Albert Jensen, The Abuse of Casuistry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). 31 Cavanaugh, “Aquinas’s Account,” 111. 32 Joseph Boyle Jr., “Praeter Intentionem in Aquinas,” The Thomist 42 (1978), 664-665. 33 Ibid., 665. 34 Ibid., 664. Emphasis mine.
29 30


distinctions: that the means are directly ordered to that end and have the ratio of the good of the end. Each distinction deserves a closer examination. Krasevac notes, “If the use of deadly force is the only way in which the life of the one unjustly attacked can be saved, it is indeed in ‘due proportion’ to the intention of the self defense.”35 Again, the reason for this is the fact that here the defense requires the use of deadly force and it is precisely the use of force which immediately brings about the end of defense. The fact that it is deadly is per accidens, and is an effect of the force. Here the death is an “immediate and natural consequence; but it is praeter intentionem.”36 This helps explain how the ‘chosen means’ take their ratio of the good of the end. In the above DER situation, the defender’s ‘proximate end’ is determined by what they are trying to achieve in their commanded acts. The precise reason for allowing the means to take on this ratio is the fact that they naturally have an immediate effect of bringing about the effect which is the end of defense. On the level of the genus naturae the means may be instrumental to the death of the assailant, while at the same time the are instrumental to the defense of the assailed and, as intended, are its per se cause. Herein lies the weightier rebuttal of Pascal. It is not of interest for the person defending themselves that the attacker’s life is taken, rather, they are interested in their own protection from the aggressor. It is this ratio of the means as defensive which is essentially related to the intention. The death of the assailant and the protection of the defender may both well be effects of the ‘chosen means’ on the level of the genus naturae, but this fact is beside the point because the moral question is whether the means are per se ordinatus to attaining the end of the intention. The means which are per se ordinatus to this end are those

35 36

Krasevac, “The Good That We Intend,” 843. Boyle, 662.


which have the ratio of defending or aiding the ‘preservation of life,’ and when the means are considered this way, they are good and naturally chosen. Because the means are naturally ordered to the defense, it is inaccurate to characterize the intention of the agent as “described.” Finnis frames the intention in these terms: “The means are included in the proposal under the description or formality under which it serves as a means.”37 Finnis, Grisez, and Boyle, in a co-authored article, write that the action of self defense is described only in terms of “stopping the attack” and not at all as “killing the assailant.”38 Jean Porter criticizes framing the action in these terms because “as long as the agent acts in pursuit of an aim which is admittedly good…it will always be possible to describe the act in question in terms of the attainment of the good as sought, omitting any bad reference to the bad which is brought about.”39 Jensen, with Porter on this point, provides the example of the thief who steals cars and would do so with impunity if his descriptions do not include the manifest wrong of theft, as “this feature is not formally a means to his goal.”40 Jensen contends that by only requiring a conceptual connection of the means to the intention, the agent has “thereby freed himself from concerns over the real causal connections in the world.”41 Indeed it would seem that if an act can be directed as an agent sees fit, the “species of action are drained of all content.”42 It seems that a satisfactory terminology would largely abscond from talk of ‘directing’ or ‘describing’ the intention so as to avoid these subjective implications. But of course, the

John Finnis, Moral Absolutes: Tradition, Revision, and Truth (Washington D.C.: CUA Press, 1991), 68. John Finnis, Germain Grisez, and Joseph Boyle, “‘Direct’ and ‘Indirect’: A Reply to Critics of Our Action Theory,” The Thomist 65 (2001): 35. 39 Jean Porter, “’Direct’ and ‘Indirect’ in Grisez’s Moral Theory,” Theological Studies 57 (1996): 626. 40 Steven Jensen, Good and Evil Actions: A Journey Through Saint Thomas Aquinas (Washington D.C.: CUA Press, 2010), 69. 41 Ibid., 85. 42 Ibid., 300.
37 38


solution runs deeper than that. It has been pointed out numerous times that an act is intended because it is good for the agent; this is the very nature of intention. An evil, as such, is never intended or chosen in a good action. To intend aright is to be concerned with achieving some good and to choose aright is to take good means; this is precisely the reality these terms signify. ‘Directing’ intentions seems to imply a superadded subjective maneuvering on the part of the agent, superfluous to this account.43 Recounting the nature of the exterior object serves to more assuredly resolve this problem. It was argued in the first chapter of this paper that in the order of action the agent conceives a good to be sought and based on the desire for that good, takes means to achieve it. These means have some per se nature, a nature which can be described generically and objectively. These directional realities are apprehended by the agent as suitable to the agent’s purpose and thus if the object per se is ordered to achieving the intention of the agent, they are subsumed under that intention and become part of an integral human act. By this account, there is no “directing” of intention as if the object chosen does not have its own integral nature which the agent means to undertake. 44 Nor does the agent have license to form his conceptions of his intention as they please. Rather, the agent will need to objectively assess what means may be lawfully undertaken and then pursue those means. This must be an integrated process, even if evil is a natural quality of the act, tied to the good qualities. So also it goes, importantly, with homicide. Killing is lawful, as previously

43 Of course, in some sense the agent does pursue the good according to how they would ‘describe’ it as good; but the accuracy of this second-order description is a function of the objective account of the good they are pursuing. 44 What must be especially noted is that this object is not such a broadly defined thing that evil acts can be called good as a result of how the object is framed. The thief does not merely “smash a window” to “make money,” he “smashes someone else’s window,” which he has no right to, with the goal to “make money by an illegal sale.” Generally put, circumstances sometimes provide further morally relevant specification of the object thereby making unlawful the object which in some broader sense might be undertaken without impunity.


argued, in cases such as just war or in certain cases of self defense.45 What the agent perceives in these situations is the natural and direct ordination of chosen means to the good intention. Because of this, their act is permissible. Solving the problem of the evil component of the act is not as difficult as it is made out to be. The evil of the act is foreseen, but not intended. For example, the evil of the act of amputation is duly noted by the doctor, but he only acts as a doctor insofar as amputating is directly a medical act. It would be absurd to accuse the doctor of skewing his intention to merely include health, for in fact the act is defined per se as an act of health. This is not because of the doctor’s intent; it is based on what is really happening in the patient’s body. 2) The second difficulty pertains to ‘closeness’. Cavanaugh and others hold that an agent necessarily intends a side effect if in the course of taking certain means to choosing some end, they foresee that side effect. They believe it is “too close to one’s intent to be counted as foreseen.”46 The solution to the problem of closeness is not to deny the direct causal relations which the objector correctly sees in the realities chosen as means. Rather, the solution is to see how the reality under consideration is really only fully intelligible by also identifying the quality of goodness which intrinsically is part of the constitution of the object. This goodness is a real and natural goodness, one which more properly defines the object as it naturally exists in the situation of the moral action. Hence the problem of closeness disappears in the sense that it is a problem based on a false dichotomy between good and evil effects of actions. It is a non sequitur to claim that the intention is implicated with evil on the basis that an evil is associated with an action and

45 Medicine provides another good example. The doctor inflicts a physical evil on a patient by amputating, but also does the patient a medicinal good in this very act. “Amputation” is a broad term: it is lawful in this medical case; it is not lawful in others, such as torture. 46 Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 90. Here ‘closeness’ is better understood as a metaphorical term to signify the direct causal relation the side effect has to the means the agent properly chooses.


the agent perceives this reality. The death of the homicidal assailant is irrelevant to one’s defense not because it is not included in the description of defense, but because it has nothing to do with the act as defensive. 3) Throughout this thesis, there has been a constant suspension of judgment with regard to contemporary moral intuitions, in order to analyze these moral cases according to Aquinas’ integrated understanding of the principles of action. Questioning this assumption, Steven Jensen points out that the contemporary point of view regarding the lawfulness of self defensive homicide is based not on concerns of the per se moral permissibility of such actions in certain circumstances, but rather on the legal permission which has, in long standing, given deputization to the private person being assailed.47 These grounds, he argues, provide a sounder justification of defensive homicide.48 He arrives at his solution of deputization after examining Aquinas’ moral theory and concluding that he “sees no reason to suppose that Aquinas must have thought” that necessarily homicidal self defense is morally permissible. He argues that Aquinas’ account of self defense is very limited,49 and that such an account “yields few real life applications.”50 Indeed, he is cynical with regard to the role of intention in a theory of moral action. Intention for him is a “bane” and so he states “we need not hold our breath waiting for

Deadly self-defense is broadly considered legal in the United States, although the explanations vary slightly state-to-state. 48 Jensen is by no means the first to consider deputization as the better justification for defensive homicide; his understanding is traced to a suggestion by Elizabeth Anscombe. C.f. Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 218. Gregory Reichberg also has provided an argument that the legal custom of Aquinas’ day permitted deputization, however this argument is disputed by Steven Long. See Gregory Reichberg, “Aquinas on Defensive Killing: A Case of Double Effect?” The Thomist 69 (2005): 341-70; also Long, Teleological Grammar, 57. 49 Jensen essentially agrees with Cavanaugh’s reading of Aquinas. Considering the use of bullets to stop an assailant, he states “they would not stop this particular attacker unless they kill him. Killing him, then, is the means intended to stop the attacker.” Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 62. In another place he states “if we wish to include a proximate end, that is, a means, within intention, or rather within deliberation, then we must intend all the means.” Ibid., 96. 50 Ibid., 217.


someone to come up with the right formulation of intention that can account for the many cases of specification in human action…it is no panacea for the woes of action theory.”51 He proposes an alternative theory of deputization, which despite not being the solution which Aquinas provides to the problem of defensive homicide,52 is nevertheless Thomistic.53 Deputization is based on the principle that human laws only imperfectly apply to concrete situations.54 A clear example found in the Summa and considered by Jensen is the starving person, who may lawfully take a loaf of bread if this is the singular way to sustain himself.55 Because human law does not dictate when “theft” is legitimate, it is expected that a citizen will rely on their own good judgment to discern a situation where human law must be set aside in virtue of some higher principle.56 Jensen points out that this higher principle is really just a recourse to natural law.57 When dire circumstances demand action, recourse to a higher official is ideal, but based on one’s good judgment, servile submission to the law is not required. The ordinary citizen may act as a public official; they are ‘deputized.’ In the case of defensive homicide, the agent under attack realizes that assistance from a public official is not available and “acts in an official capacity and…may intend to kill in order to defend her own life.”58 Such license on the part of the assailed may only be taken in a case of imminent danger, when “necessity itself brings with it a dispensation, since necessity knows no law.”59 Although Aquinas never explicitly equates this teaching of
Ibid., 70-71. Needless to say, the entire work of this thesis argues to the contrary. Not only is a robust theory of intention centrally present in STh II-II q. 64, art. 7, but this theory is part of Aquinas’ wider action theory. 52 Jensen has no objection to doing this, but it certainly appears dubious how his work is authentically following Aquinas as to this point. 53 Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 66. 54 This teaching is found in Aquinas STh I-II, q. 96, art. 6 and II-II q. 120, art. 1. 55 Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 65; the example is found in STh II-II q. 66, art. 7 and STh II-II q. 110, art. 3, ad. 4. 56 Aquinas calls this good judgment the virtue of equity (epikeia or gnome) in STh II-II, q. 120, art. 1. 57 Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 221. 58 Ibid., 65. 59 STh I-II q. 96, art. 6.


imminent danger with the case of defensive homicide, it seems reasonable to suppose that such an exception could be written into law and provide a way out of the problem of homicidal self defense on a practical level. Thus this alternative solution cannot be faulted for the practicality of its proposal.60 It seems excessive, however, to assume that any or every case of homicidal self defense would of necessity be deputized.61 The fact that deputization is common practice today does not relegate the moral problem of private defensive homicide to obsolescence.62 Universal deputization is objectionable on the basis that it obfuscates how moral action would be described and defined in the situation of self defense. As Long states, universal deputization is a “perfect brief illustration of a theory generated precisely in order to avoid applying what is taken for St. Thomas’s object theory to his words about defense.”63

6. Recapitulation
These arguments distill a set of moral criteria, judiciously provided by Aquinas in his work on defensive homicide, which facilitate answering the questions inchoate in the situation of double effect. Tracing the well-integrated connection between double effect reasoning and Aquinas’ broader theory of human action builds a crucial infrastructure. Because so much of the argument about double effect situations would be resolved by not focusing on the criteria, but on their wellsprings, little effort has been made to crystallize the
Insofar as the state is the arbiter of the goods of the citizenry, it has the right to grant freedom to act in a certain fashion, such as providing a proviso for deputization, as a safeguard of natural goods. According to this principle, an act of homicidal self defense would both be legal and morally permissible in virtue of the dispensation which the state has given. 61 Long makes this point in Long, Teleological Grammar, 53-58. Certainly Aquinas did not think private defense was an impertinent question as evidenced by his own efforts spent on the issue in general. A second, more particular indication of its importance is the strong difference he draws in 64.7 between how the public person is free to intentionally defend homicidally and how the private person is free to defend themselves, but not via intentional killing. 62 Contra Jensen, who appears to hold that deputization is implicitly granted even when the state has no explicit law concerning it; at least, this position is not found in Aquinas. Cf. Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 211. 63 Long, Teleological Grammar, 53.


criteria. Nevertheless, with the former task undertaken, it is worthwhile to formulate them for use as sound tools of moral discernment. They are: 1. 2. 3. 4. The immediately intended object must be good.64 The evil effect may not be intended, though foreseen.65 The evil effect, as such, cannot be the means to the intended good. Positively put, The good intended must be at least of equal value to the foreseen evil effect.67

the means must be “proportioned” or per se ordinated to achieving the good.66

7. A Final Test Case: Ectopic Pregnancy
Although this thesis has completed its speculative aim of elucidating the principles of double effect in light of Aquinas’ action theory, it is worthwhile to show some of the practical force of the account given. The case of ectopic pregnancy is a very intricate case, requiring especially careful moral analysis.68 The examination of this situation begins with the fertilized egg. In an ectopic pregnancy, a fetus becomes implanted somewhere outside the uterus, including any areas of passage for the egg, such as the fallopian tubes, abdomen, ovary, or cervix.69 It is a grave situation for both mother and child because in this position the fetus will eventually rupture
Every intention is directed at a good, but what is specifically important is that the object of choice, that which is immediately and most proximately intended, is good (or at least indifferent). The object must further be integrally ordered to a morally good remote end. 65 If the agent is to act rightly, they are only to intend and pursue the good which is built into the act. The entailment of evil, though it is concomitant with the action, must not be the object of choice. The agent foreseeing this evil does not entail his intending it. 66 The agent foresees that the evil effect is not the means to the good. Furthermore, the agent sees that the chosen means are naturally or per se ordered to procuring the good intended, and nothing in excess of it. This per se order is not based on the agent’s subjective desires or point of view, but on the objective reality that the means per se bring about the intended good. These means are not simply what is perceived generically by a third party nor what exist on the level of the genus natura, but they nevertheless have a natural foundation whereby the agent sees them as “proportioned” or suitable towards their ends. The means have a further formal ratio in their account beyond how they are defined in the genus natura. 67 The agent must objectively and prudently weigh the good sought after with the evil effect. If the evil effect would be more profound than the good sought after, the act cannot be undertaken. This criterion serves to verify that the means undertaken are “moderate” even granted that they are “proportioned” to the end. 68 Certain cases of ectopic pregnancy are more accessible, both in the sense that what appears to be happening is clearer, and also that the correlated specific moral structure is easier to assess. This is an important two-fold distinction; an action can appear lucid or opaque just on the level of prima facia description and this clarity or lack thereof may be important in the moral consideration. 69 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” (accessed October 27, 2010).


its unnatural habitat, dying nearly immediately and causing the mother to suffer a severe and possibly fatal blood loss.70 Since most cases other than tubal pregnancies are rare, only such cases will be analyzed here.71 In some cases when implantation takes place unnaturally, the embryo is already dead upon discovery, and there are no moral impediments to simply intending to destructively remove dead matter.72 If the fetus is determined to be alive when the tubal pregnancy is discovered, there are four main methods of treatment:73 expectant management,74 salpingectomy, salpingostomy, and administration of Methotrexate. Investigating these treatments provides a compendious range of situations each with morally relevant differences.75

Ibid. In 98% of ectopic pregnancies implantation occurs in the fallopian tubes. Serdar Ural, "Ectopic pregnancy," KidsHealth, May 2004 (acessesed September 27, 2010). 72 Similarly in other cases where the embryo has died but its placenta continues to bore into the fallopian tube, there is nothing objectionable about the removal of this non-human peril. Christopher Kaczor, “The Ethics of Ectopic Pregnancy: A Critical Reconsideration of Salpingostomy and Methotrexate,” The Linacere Quarterly 76, no. 3 (August 2009): 265-66. 73 Presupposing the exclusion of direct abortion, these are the other “medical” actions. Abortion, even on general moral principles, is morally reprehensible because it is the destruction of innocent life as an isolated act ordered accidently to some further act. In Evangelium Vitae, No. 58, Pope John Paul II defined abortion as the "deliberate and intentional killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth." John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Vatican Website, (accessed September 27, 2010). 74 This is not strictly speaking a treatment. In expectant management the tubal condition is simply observed and nature is allowed to take its course, with the hope that the situation will naturally resolve itself. This is a sound prognosis, as 40 to 64% of tubal pregnancies result in spontaneous abortion without resort to any form of intervention. Here the pregnancy is carefully monitored. If the embryo continues growth, and hormone levels continue to increase, a medical intervention is indicated. This procedure is clearly morally permissible, as nature is left entirely to its course until something is warranted otherwise. Double effect reasoning does not even apply. Cf. John Rock, TeLinde’s Operative Gynecology (Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1992), 420. 75 It is more germane to judiciously examine the full spread of tubal cases to determine the extent to which double effect reasoning is employed—at least initially. One common contemporary mistake is to too hastily employ the criteria without a sufficient understanding of the actual physical situation. This has realworld consequences. For example, in November 2009, Sr. Margaret McBride incurred excommunication latae sententiae for advising what disputably was a direct abortion in a dangerous pregnancy. Although she argued that her advice was not intending a direct abortion, her bishop though otherwise. One need not take sides in this argument to observe straightaway that the dispute is based on the respective parties’ varying understanding of what happened medically; at any rate, one party has wrongly judged what was in fact the medical situation. See
70 71


Salpingectomy—Removal of Fallopian Tube This medical procedure is widely considered an example of a medical situation wherein double effect reasoning is justifiably employed. Here the living fetus has implanted in the fallopian tube, and as it continues to grow it bores into the fallopian tube and places pressure on it. The procedure relieves this hazard by removal of the fallopian tube where the fetus is contained.76 The act itself is good as to its intention, on the basis that it directly counteracts the danger of bleeding without any immediate evil effect. 77 The mother’s life is preserved through the procedure directly, unlike in an abortion, which kills the fetus with the residual effect of saving the mother. Here the evil of the fetus’ death is virtually necessary,78 but nevertheless it is not instrumental and entirely posterior to the object of salpingectomy, which is the simple removal of the fallopian tube. The reason to remove the tube is also proportionate, as the child’s death is already imminent and mother’s life is greatly endangered. Hence, as Chris Kaczor notes, this procedure has “found nearly universal acceptance by those committed to the basic equality of all human beings from conception to natural death.79 Salpingostomy—Removal of the Fetus The medical disadvantage of salpingectomy is that removal of the fallopian tube diminishes the potential fertility of the woman, and can even result in sterilization if

Michael Liccione, “Excommunicating Intentions,” On the Square, First Things Online (May 2010), http:// (accessed September 28, 2010). 76 If the tubal pregnancy is discovered with heavy bleeding later in the pregnancy a medical procedure called laparotomy, a large exploratory incision, precedes the salpingectomy. Normally, however, the procedure takes place via a laparoscopy which involves two tiny incisions: one to insert a laparoscope, a tiny camera, the other to insert the instruments to remove the malignant tube. MD Guidelines, “Salpingectomy,” (accessed September 28, 2010). 77 I follow Kaczor and Long in my understanding of the moral analysis of this situation. Cf. Kaczor, 266-267, and Long, Teleological Grammar, 96. 78 It is conceivable that medical advancements could be made to preserve the life of the fetus after its removal from its mother, although none exist presently. 79 Kaczor, 267.


significant problems exist in the other fallopian tube. Because of this, in some cases the procedure of salpingostomy is considered. The procedure generally is described as beginning with an incision of the fallopian tube, followed by a second incision of the tissue attaching the fetus to the fallopian tube, and concluding with the removal of the fetus from the fallopian tube.80 In certain cases, the procedure of salpingostomy preserves the fallopian tubes and facilitates the possibility of future pregnancies.81 Contemporary ethicists are divided about the moral licitness of salpingostomy; the debate hangs on determining if the procedure is a direct abortion.82 Jensen, who is uncertain as to the permissibility of the procedure, rightly notes that it must be determined if the process of separating the embryo from the fallopian tube is death-dealing.83 That the procedure is not directly and of necessity death-dealing has been medically proven according to Kaczor. He relays medical reports where after the salpingostomy an embryo has successfully been implanted in the uterus and thereafter developed normally.84 Moreover, the evidence suggests that the procedure normally does not result in the destruction of the physical integrity of the embryo.85 This seems to confirm that, at least in general, the

“For salpingostomy, an incision is made in the antimessenteric side of the tube after injection into the ectopic itself and into the feeding vessels in the broad ligament, and then the products of conception are removed.” A.H. DeCherney, “Ectopic Pregnancy: Laparoscopic Salpingectomy Vs. Salpingostomy,” (paper presented at The First World Congress On Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility, Prague, Czech Republic, 1999), (accessed October 27, 2010) 81 Kaczor, 267. 82 Germain Grisez and Albert Moraczeweski hold that it is not intentional abortion, while Peter A. Clark and Kelly Bowring maintain that it is. See Germain Grisez, Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, the Arguments (Cleveland/New York: Corpus Books, 1970), 340-41; Albert Moraczewski, “Managing Tubal Pregnancies: Part I,” Ethics and Medics 21, no. 6 (June 1996): 1-4; Peter A. Clark, “Methotrexate and Tubal Pregnancies: Direct or Indirect Abortion?” Linacre Quarterly 67, no. 1 (2000): 7-24; Kelly Bowring, “The Moral Dilemma of Management Procedures for Ectopic Pregnancy,” in Proceedings of the Twelfth University Faculty for Life Conference at Ave Maria Law School 2002, ed. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. (Washington D.C.: University Faculty for Life, 2003): 116. 83 Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 212. 84 Kaczor, 268. There are at least two publicized medical reports of this sort. 85 Ibid., 270.


procedure is not a direct abortion.86 Hence he reasonably concludes that salpingostomy “is implicitly recognized as a morally good or indifferent action, considered by itself and independently of its effects.”87 Excision via Methotrexate Methotrexate (MTX) is an artificial analog of folic acid.88 Administered via intramuscular injection, it inhibits the growth of the layers of trophoblast tissue by which the fetus is attached to its mother. In the case of tubal pregnancy, it is such tissue which attaches the fetus and the placenta to the fallopian tube.89 The use of MTX is fraught with difficulty before the consideration of its use in a double effect situation even comes into the picture. First, the use of MTX according to how it is indicated in the vast majority of cases is straightaway morally licit, as MTX is not ordinarily indicated for use if fetal heartbeat is observed.90 Secondly, MTX is a highly toxic acid which doctors are reluctant to use based on the serious side effects unpredictably associated with its use. The possibility of side effects limits the use of the drug all the more, and also raises a moral question about the poisoning or “torture” of the fetus which the drug may cause to the fetus prior to its effectively stopping the growth of the trophoblast. Finally,

Jensen objects that although the act does not constitute a direct abortion, salpingostomy remains morally objectionable when the embryo is not implanted in the uterus, as it places the embryo in a circumstance which entails its death. However, here it seems plausible that the act is duly proportioned because it immediately saves the life of the mother with the evil effect of the death of the embryo, which presumably cannot be safely planted in the uterus. Cf. Jensen, Good and Evil Actions, 217. 87 Kaczor, 269. Ethicist are in sensibly in concord that the best outcome for this procedure in the future relies on developing techniques to both preserve the embryo post-procedure and increase the success of intrauterine implantation. 88 Kenneth Trofatter, “A Complication of Methotrexate Use for Ectopic Pregnancy,”, (accessed September 28, 2010). 89 William May, “Methotrexate and Ectopic Pregnancies,”, rssenglish-29448 (accessed September 28, 2010). 90 Kaczor, 272. Hence, MTX is used primarily in cases of ectopic pregnancy where the fetus is already dead but the “ectopic pregnancy” persists as a problem in virtue of continued growth of the trophoblast Kaczor effectively argues that the that the trophoblast is not properly an organ of the fetus in Ibid., 275-277. It is, however, an open question whether the tissue is a shared organ between the mother and the fetus.


MTX seems to work in the same way (though via different administration) as the abortafacient RU 486; this brings into question whether MTX is abortive in character.91 The answer to these final questions lies in determining whether the use of MTX is successful on the basis of direct killing of the fetus or the trophoblast. William May argues that it is the latter: “Methotrexate attacks the DNA in the trophoblastic tissue that attaches the unborn child to its site within the mother's body.”92 May argues that the fetus is “removed” from the implantation by the excision caused by the inhibition of the growth of the trophoblast. Here the death of the child is foreseen and inevitable, but not the instrumental means of alleviating the peril. Kaczor is in tentative agreement with this position, but insists that “the necessary data has not been provided” that this is what in fact medically happening.93 If in fact it is, the “torture” and “abortive” objections are non-issues. This seems to be the threshold of what can knowingly be morally discerned with the case of MTX. It is an important signpost to note, as one must be careful not to indifferently make moral judgments when the facts of the situation are obscure.94 Yet the possibilities are determinate enough that some conjecture is warranted, for if MTX were to be determined to simply kill the fetus and not directly alleviate the threat caused by the boring of the trophoblast, it would appear to be direct abortion and therefore illicit. This reversal of the current understanding is unlikely but not impossible.

MTX is not the most practically pertinent situation for the ethicist; its use is a rare issue in real life. Hence the narrow question is whether the use of MTX is permissible in the case that the ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed before a heartbeat is able to be detected (3.5-4 weeks post conception). C.f. Kaczor, 272. 92 May, “Methotrexate and Ectopic Pregnancies.” His position is also found in William May, Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life, 2nd Ed. (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2008). His former position on this issue is found in William May, “The Management of Ectopic Pregnancies: A Moral Analysis,” in The Fetal Tissue Issue: Medical and Ethical Aspects, eds. Peter J. Cataldo and Albert S. Moraczewski, O.P. (Massachusetts: The Pope Jon Center, 1994), 146. 93 Kaczor, 273. 94 Surprisingly, Long appears to make a mistake in this case. He states the use of MTX in this situation is “indistinguishable from therapeutic abortion.” Cf. Long, Teleological Grammar, 97.


Even if MTX brings about the death of the embryo before stopping the trophoblastic activity, is it securing a good end via evil means? Kaczor argues against that position,95 drawing a relevant comparison to defensive homicide. In defensive homicide, as was argued, the death dealing blow is equally and per se a life saving act. In this way, it differs from taking simply evil means for a good end. Rather, the entire moral integrity is intact and both the intention and the object have a ratio of the good. If MTX does provide per se means of alleviating the mother’s peril, it is morally permissible because both the end and the means are objectively good, morally speaking.96 Of course, he also notes, MTX could be used simply with an abortive intention, and the moral goodness of the action would be vitiated.97 Granting that the use of MXT need not amount to direct abortion, the distress caused to the fetus remains to be considered. May argued that even if the death of the fetus was not the means precisely chosen, the bodily integrity was so violated as to render the treatment illicit.98 This seems to amount to an argument that torture is directly the effect, with the further end of treatment. It seems necessary to turn to the third and fourth criteria to examine if MTX remains a directly proportional means to assuage the threat to the mother without excessively prolonging the conceivable anguish of the fetus. This author is inclined to say that based on the reports of the effectiveness of MTX, such harm is not prolonged.99 These are obscure issues, happening at an extraordinarily minute echelon, far removed from the typically observable realm of human acts. For this reason, the concrete

Kaczor, 273. That the evil effect is contemporaneous with the achievement of the good effect is accidental; in fact the respective temporality of the effects is simply accidental if the good effect is per se to the action. 97 Kaczor, 274. 98 William May, “Methotrexate and Ectopic Pregnancy,” Ethics and Medics 23, no. 3 (March 1998): 3. As noted, May has revised his position on the use of MTX. 99 However, with Kaczor and most other Catholic ethicists, I think these points on the matter are still open to debate. Cf. Kaczor, 278.
95 96


decisions made in terms of practice must be fastidiously careful. The debates about medical management and salpingectomy are considered by nearly all ethicists to be settled. However, there is still much open debate and room for learning about salpingostomy and MTX usage amongst those who hold fast to the equal dignity of human persons at every stage of life.100 It seems prudential that decisions of practice would be carried out only after the moral matters have been settled. Admittedly, this too is disputed.101 With a complex and nuanced situation such as ectopic pregnancy, the principles of DER would be entirely inept were they simply free-standing criteria applied variously to the permutations of this genuine moral dilemma; they are dependent on a wider moral understanding of which double effect reasoning are soundly understood to be a part.

100 Nor, as is relevant for the Catholic ethicist, has there been any definitive statements made by the Church settling these matters. 101 See, for example, Kaczor, 278 for a different prudential proposal based on the theory of probabilism.


CONCLUSION If there is one broadly construed ethical assertion to be taken from this work, it is the importance of articulating the architectonic ethical principles present in human action, to thereby clairify commensurate moral judgments concerning difficult cases. This is not fast work; hence, it is worthwhile to speak more directly about this methodology in consideration of this thesis’ wider bearing in ethics. Surveying the common infrastructure of moral action is the first order of business. This investigation reveals that human acts are described according to the objectivity of means and ends. The object of acts has both an interior and exterior aspect, both which are morally relevant. This thesis has striven to show that these parts can be understood to have a natural teleological structure, with a suppleness likened unto the union of soul and body. The Thomistic tradition provides a rich canon to this end. To start from this tradition is not esoteric or narrow; indeed, the tradition of Thomistic ethics has roots as far-reaching as the ethical philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.1 Kevin Flannery also points out an important feature of this ‘embodied’ view of moral action: just as with our own existence, the object is the coordinated point where the agent stands to the moral universe.2 The moral object, as it were, is where the acting person’s subjective interior movements gain traction and “hook into” the objective measures of good and evil, found in the fruition of actions of virtue and widely in the effect of such good acts in society and in the whole economy of Providence. An action theory of this sort has a
1 Contra Suzanne Uniacke who maintains Thomistic ethics is “restrictive” and a “derivative aspect of Catholic…moral theology.” Delineating the boundaries of the entirety of Aquinas’ moral reasoning as exclusively philosophical or theological is a gross oversimplification, though the proof of this is beyond the purposes of this thesis. Nevertheless, implicit evidence has been given in this thesis, insofar as the action theory presented is nearly all philosophically based. The more particular question of how double effect reasoning fits in a philosophical or theological context merits its own consideration, and will be returned to. See Suzanne M. Uniacke, “The Doctrine of Double Effect,” The Thomist 48 (1984): 188-218. 2 Kevin Flannery, S.J., “The Multifarious Moral Object of Thomas Aquinas,” The Thomist 67 (2003): 95-118.


number of qualities which are desirable in the field of ethics: wide scope, absorbing detail, authentic realism, and consistent order. In such a theory, the considerations of controverted ethical situations, as those of double effect, occur in a coherent context where there are commensurate tools to measure both the significance and nature of the problematic.3 Certain contemporary Thomists employ these commensurate tools in the situation where evil is tied with good, so as to lay out its genuine moral significance. The locus classicus of STh II-II q.64, art. 7 is their secure starting point. It provides a rich context and a principled analysis of an indisputable case of action where good is tied with evil. Though this text has been the starting point of charting a historical development of double effect reasoning as far back as Mangan and Ghoos,4 it is just recently that certain scholars (Long, Cavanaugh, Krasevac, and this author) have revived the tradition found in Cajetan which takes this text as providing a more formal source of ethical analysis. Krasevac states it this way: “Aquinas’ treatment of lethal self-defense in II-II 64.7, with its reliance on the notion of praeter intentionem, is a more supple and effective tool…than the later formulations of the Principle of Double Effect (PDE) with their fourfold criteria.”5 Indeed, the fourfold criteria have largely fallen into misuse as a mere handy problem-solving device.6 The many problems of such use has, not surprisingly, been subject to scrutiny and has precipitated many

3 Joseph Boyle Jr. makes a similar point: “[T]he PDE (principle of double effect) is a coherent doctrine of justification. But it continues to be misunderstood because the theory of agency which it presupposes is ignored. If this view of human agency is false, then the PDE must be abandoned; but if this theory of agency is true, and if the normative theory which makes use of the PDE can be defended, then the PDE is a long way toward vindication.” Joseph Boyle, Jr., “Towards Understanding the Principle of Double Effect,” Ethics 90 (1980): 538. 4 See Joseph Mangan, S.J., “An Historical Analysis of the Principle of Double Effect,” Theological Studies 10 (1949): 41-61; J. Ghoos, “L'Acte a double effet: Etude de theologie positive,” Ephemerides theologicae Louvaniensis 27 (1951): 30-52. 5 Edward Krasevac, O.P., “The Intractably Hard Cases of Lethal Defense of Life: Continuing Reflections on Praeter Intentionem,” Angelicum 87 (2010): 275. 6 To borrow the phrase from James Keenan. As he points out, it is standard fare for medical textbooks to quite simply state the four principles of double effect and apply them to justify or condemn situations in bioethics. See James F. Keenan, S.J., “The Function of the Principle of Double Effect,” Theological Studies 54 (1993): 295-296.


reformulations (and sometimes rejections) of the four criteria—to little avail because these new formulations themselves commit similar methodological errors.7 In contrast to these pyrrhic victories, others making a serious foundation with the text of Aquinas have developed, not without disagreement, an account of double effect which both contextualizes it in a wider theory of an action and shows more clearly its relevance in burgeoning contemporary conundrums such as ectopic pregnancy.8 Such a case is not evaluated according to isolated criteria, but by carefully articulating the facts of the case and extricating the inchoate moral framework of which the four criteria are themselves vehicles for bringing to the forefront of the analysis. Such an approach brings more effectively into focus the central problematic of situations of double effect: the objective way the agent is specified based on their attempts to achieve good. Given this speculative demarcation, questions certainly still remain. One notable subject for further investigation is double effect’s proper place in areas where it is frequently employed: bioethics, politics, and moral theology. How double effect reasoning formally fits in these philosophical or theological contexts merits consideration as the thesis draws to a close. As was illustrated in the case of ectopic pregnancy, the central issues for bioethicists appear to be twofold: first to understand clearly the medical situation at hand, and second, to have an adequate philosophical background to assess the ethical import of the same medical

7 For example, Alison McIntyre famously debunkes the approach which takes intuitive examples as sufficient evidence to formulate a theory of double effect. Yet in the course of his work, he fails to correctly understand the principles at work in STh II-II, q. 64, art. 7 and misreads the case of defensive homicide. Specifically, he takes Aquinas as saying an agent may intend to kill instrumentally and concludes logically (but incorrectly) that double effect reasoning cannot be part of the justification of self-defensive homicide. Alison McIntyre, “Doing Away with Double Effect,” Ethics 111 (2001): 219-255. 8 As well as perhaps other contemporary issues in medicine and politics: hunger-fast, craniotomies, sterilization, prophylactic devices, tactical bombing, etc. The point being, of course, that careful work is required to adequately comprehend any one of the many contested cases often associated with double effect before it could be argued that any given case fits with a wider theory of double effect reasoning.


situation. In the example of ectopic pregnancy, three different medical procedures each have differing moral significance, despite close similarities in procedure and purpose. Hence certain nuance is required to sufficiently determine the licit medical options. Nevertheless, because the end of medicine is the physical well-being of the human person, there is a correlation between the final ends of the doctor and the moralist; this makes the concrete judgments concerning practice (that is, how the judgment is integrated into wider use in the medical community) easier once an ethical determination has been made. One reasonably finds similar second-order principles concerning military activities; the soldier is permitted to kill if conditions are met for procuring the common good. In this case, an important specification of the moral object is happening in a distinctive way, and yet double effect reasoning is not employed because in such cases the intent to kill has been traditionally considered to be justified.9 There are undoubtedly certain military actions which are typically considered to be more directly connected to double effect reasoning: the submariner case mentioned in this thesis, tactical and terrorist bombing, nuclear weapon strategy, and indeed many other variously contested situations. Obviously the perplexity of many of these situations will not make their analysis easy; at least it can be conjectured that the solution to these cases will likely not be found in the mere application of the four double effect criteria. Rather, successful analysis of these situations will hang on plainly defining the respective specific objects of their acts in light of circumstances such as responsibility for the common good, and possibly employing double effect reasoning if certain acts entail evil concomitantly with the good they achieve. Concerning double effect reasoning’s relationship to moral theology, Elizabeth Anscombe provides this suggestion:

As was already examined in Chapter 3 consideration of STh II-II q. 64, art. 3, cor.


One thing central to moral theology ought to be a sound philosophy of act and intention, which would have to bring this subject matter into connection with the total orientation of a human life and with the virtuous and vicious habits of human beings.10 She makes a number of astute points. First is the order she articulates of philosophy to theology, as a principle. A philosophy of action is a prerequisite, something to be established soundly and then brought to the table of moral theology. Her implicit reasoning is that theology takes and builds upon what is already demonstrated in philosophy, bringing philosophy into Christianity’s “total orientation of a human life.” This echoes the teaching of Aquinas, concerning the praeambula fidei: theology “can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer.”11 Given how double effect reasoning is essentially a tool for clarifying the moral object in perplexing situations, it does not seem a stretch to maintain that double effect reasoning would be taken up into theology just as Anscombe suggests action theory is on the whole.12 Moral theology would then consider human action not merely in terms of the teleological orientation to natural flourishing of the acquired virtues, but according to one’s supernatural dignity endowed by Christ and perfected in the life to come.13

10 G.E.M Anscombe, “You can have sex without children: Christianity and the new offer,” Collected Philosophical Papers, Vol. III (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981): 91. 11 STh, I-I, q. 1, art. 5. For an example of a philosopher who supports the idea that double effect is a “preamble” of faith, see Cavanaugh, Double Effect Reasoning, 200. 12 Nevertheless, Anscombe’s proposal is a point of controversy for certain theologians. John Berkman, for example, maintains that “the principle[s] of double effect…must be moved to their rightful place, that is to be acknowledged as second-order discourse …[to] the first-order discourse of moral theology.” According to this position, a theory of double effect reasoning as is presented in this thesis “neither adequately acknowledges the theological convictions or virtues (especially wisdom) necessary to make the discernment involved in cases to which double effect is usually applied.” Although one can appreciate the sentiment of this objection, it undermines how double effect reasoning or the moral object in general would serve to clarify teachings of moral theology. It is better to say that theology deepens the philosophical understanding of the moral object and double effect reasoning, just as grace perfects nature (and therefore also presupposes nature), per STh I-I q. 2, art. 2, ad. 1. C.f. John Berkman, “How Important is the Doctrine of Double Effect for Moral Theology?” Christian Bioethics, vol. 3, no. 2 (1997): 89-114. 13 C.f. McInerny, Ethica Thomistica, 118.


This theological perspective does change the approach to certain situations of double effect—an example already referred to is that of Aquinas’ cleric, whose office forbids him from acts of homicidal self defense.14 Clerics are not permitted to commit homicide in part because they represent the work of God as expressed by Jesus Christ, who submitted himself to death, and also because they are entrusted with the work of the new covenant, which does not prescribe the corporal penalty of death. Hence there is an intersection between the philosophical conception of object taken from the natural law and a revealed precept of divine law. Not unlike the legal case described above, opposed precepts serve to clarify their respective limits. There is a higher theological principle dictating a divinely revealed boundary to the ordinary understanding concerning stewardship of one’s own life. Of course this kind of solution raises as many questions as it does answers, and it is indeed true that a systematic study of Aquinas’ moral philosophy and moral theology would be needed to begin comprehending the threshold of these sciences.15 These brief attempts to examine residual questions at best are indicators that they merit fuller attention in their own right. Certainly, the reoccurrence of challenging moral perplexities and the ongoing renewal of the tradition of Thomistic ethics will continue to provide a place for double effect reasoning in today’s world.

STh II-II q. 64, art. 4. Both theologians and philosophers have attempted to bridge this. Two examples include Jean Porter, Moral Action and Christian Ethics (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1995) and Rebecca K. DeYoung, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke, Aquinas’s Ethics: Metaphysical Foundations, Moral Theory, and Theological Context (Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 2009).
14 15


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