David Velleman (NYU, Philosophy) observes (in an email to me) that CNN is describing the Israeli killing of civilians in Gaza as “unintentional” (he didn’t give me a link, but I believe him, and no doubt one of you will supply it). He continues:
As a philosopher of action, I say that this description
The Israelis knew that they would would cause civilian casualties vastly
disproportionate to the Israeli civilian casualties that they are trying
to prevent. They have accepted those Palestinian deaths as a cost of
pursuing their ends, and hence as part of a “package deal,” all of which
is intentional on their part.
I know that the Catholic doctrine of “double effect” would excuse these
killings as unintentional. But the doctrine of double effect is bad
Look at it this way. The Israeli authorities are not trying to get their
own soldiers killed; they are trying to minimize harm to Israeli forces.
But should it turn out (god forbid) that their incursion results in
disproportionate Israeli losses, and that they antecedently knew it
would, they will rightly be held responsible for having struck a bad
bargain, intentionally incurring costs too great for the anticipated
benefits. In such a case, they would not dare to plead “double effect”.
So it is with killing of Gazan civilians, which is clearly intentional.
I’m not a philosopher of action, and I’m also not the kind of philosopher that gives common sense much weight in trying to discern the philosophical truth. But the doctrine of double effect has always seemed to me to be one of those things which is deeply counterintuitive to common sense, for reasons illustrated in Velleman’s email, and is a case where philosophers ignore that unease that common sense suggests at their peril.