Aristotle’s Voluntary/Deliberate Distinction, Double-effect Reasoning, and Ethical Relevance

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Cavanaugh, Thomas A.
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I articulate Aristotle’s account of the voluntary with a view to weighing in on a contemporary ethical debate concerning the moral relevance of the intended/foreseen (i/f) distinction. Natural lawyers employ the i/f distinction to contrast consequentially comparable acts with different intentional structures. They propose that consequentially comparable acts of, for example, terror and tactical bombing morally differ based on their diverse structures of intention. Opponents of DER hold that one best captures the widely acknowledged intuitive appeal of the distinction by contrasting agents, not acts. These thinkers hold that the terror bomber differs from the tactical bomber while terror and tactical bombing do not differ ethically. Aristotle’s accounts of the voluntary and the deliberately decided upon provide grounds for the ethical relevance of the i/f distinction as applied to both acts and agents.