Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Ethics

Have some philosophers criticized consequentialism?

Elizabeth Anscombe (1910–2001) in a 1958 article, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” coined the term “consequentialism” when she criticized twentieth century versions of utilitarianism that did not distinguish between intended and unintended consequences. Anscombe argued that only intended consequences have moral value.

Anscombe is also famous for her defense of Thomas Aquinas’ (c. 1225–1274) doctrine of double effect (DDE). According to DDE, an action is morally permissible if it has known bad consequences but it is not the intention or goal of the person performing the action to bring about those consequences. In Jesuit moral reasoning about performing craniotomies (operations to crush a baby’s skull so that the baby can be extracted to save its mother’s life), DDE has been used. If it is not the obstetrician’s goal to kill the baby but merely to extract it, craniotomies are deemed permissible.


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