St. Thomas Aquinas proposed the Doctrine of Double Effect to test the morality of situations with a mixed outcome. St. Thomas posited that the result must be as good and as important as the act; that the act can't be done for a bad, ulterior motive; and that the good effect can't be a direct result of the bad one. Consider:
- You're walking down a street and someone comes at you with a knife. You kick the attacker to protect yourself. He falls down and dies.
- You're walking down a street and someone comes at you with a knife. You kick the attacker, hoping to kill him. He falls down and dies.
In both cases your life is saved but the attacker dies. Saving your life is good; your life is as important as the attacker's. When you kick the attacker in self-defense, not wanting to kill him, the Doctrine of Double Effect would hold the killing as morally permissible [source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]. However, when you try to kill the attacker by kicking him, it would not be.
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