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War Philosophy, War Moral and ethical aspects


The Principle of Double Effect has served as a guide for both statesmen and soldiers since the middle ages in determining which acts in war are morally permissible and which are not. It is used, in particular, by those who make their moral decisions on the basis of certain moral rules that concern the moral consequences of action. This Principle of Double Effect (hereafter referred to as PDE) comes into play in situations where an agent has the option of performing an act with both good and bad consequences. Advocates of PDE believe that it is morally significant whether a bad consequence is intended by the agent or merely forseen as incidental to an act that is in all other respects morally acceptable.^ Of great interest to moral philosophers discussing acts of war is how this principle applies to the deaths of persons not directly involved in the prosecution of the war. Proponents of the PDE claim that while it is morally impermissible to intentionally bring about the deaths of innocent people during combat, either as a means to a military objective or as a goal in itself, it is permissible under certain circumstances for an agent to choose a course of action which may bring about the deaths of innocent people as a forseeable consequence.