The Closeness Problem and the Doctrine of Double Effect: A Way Forward

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A major challenge to the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is the concern that an agent’s intention can be identified in such a fine-grained way as to eliminate an intention to harm from a putative example of an intended harm, and yet, the resulting case appears to be a case of impermissibility. This is the so-called “closeness problem.” Many people believe that one can address the closeness problem by adopting Warren Quinn’s version of the DDE, call it DDE*, which distinguishes between harmful direct agency and harmful indirect agency. In this paper, I first argue that Quinn’s DDE* is just as vulnerable to the closeness problem as the DDE is. Second, some might think that what we should therefore do is give up on intentions altogether and move towards some kind of non-state-of-mind, victim-based deontology. I shall argue against this move and explain why intentions are indispensable to an adequate nonconsequentialist theory. Finally, I shall propose a new way of answering the closeness problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-863
Number of pages15
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Closeness problem
  • Doctrine of Double Effect
  • Frances Kamm
  • Intentions and permissibility
  • Victim-based deontology
  • Warren Quinn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Law


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