It is a classic maxim that:
- He who intends the end intends the means.
Here is a problem. I take a pill to relieve a headache. Unbeknownst to me, the pill relieves the headache by means of numbing certain pain receptors I know nothing about. Plainly, I don't intend to numb these pain receptors, since I don't know anything about them. So I intend the end but don't intend the means.
One might weaken (1):
- He who intends the end intends the known means.
Moreover, there are cases where two causal pathways are known to causally contribute to an end, but only one is intended. For instance, take the classic case of bombing the enemy HQ in order to end the war sooner, while accepting that civilians on the streets around the HQ will die. Suppose, for instance, that ne expects that the destruction of the enemy HQ in itself hastens the end of the war by a month, but that the deaths of the civilians are expected to hasten the end of the war by another month. The bombing can still be legitimate, as long as one only intends the first of these two means. In fact, it can still be legitimate even if the deaths of the civilians are a greater effect. Imagine that one is planning to bomb the enemy HQ because it hastens the end of the war by a month and one has prudently decided that the proportionality condition in the Principle of Double Effect holds. An analyst then announces that the deaths of the civilians will hasten the end of the war by another two months. Surely the analyst's announcement shouldn't stop one from bombing.
Now the last case may seem a bit unfair. We might say: there are two causal pathways to hastening the end of the war, but only one of them is the means to it. But if we say that, then by "means" we mean "intended means" and (1) becomes:
- He who intends the end intends the intended means.
I suggest a very simple alternative repair to (1). Just replace a definite article by an indefinite one:
- He who intends the end intends a means.
(I would expect that (1) would be a translation of some Latin maxim. Latin doesn't have articles, so whatever Latin would be behind (1) might well be understandable as (4).)
Now go back to the original pill case. I don't intend to numb my pain receptors. So what means do I intend? Answer: I don't intend any specific means—I simply intend whatever means it is by which the pill relieves headaches. That's why my intentions don't need to change when I learn how the pill works.
Now consider this wackier case. Suppose that I learn that the way the headache relief pill works is this. There is a homunculus inside me that has the power to relieve my headaches. When I take the pill, I cause horrific pain (much greater than my headache) to the homunculus, and he rushes to relieve my headache, afraid that if he doesn't, I'll take another dose. If I am right that given a normal story about how pain relief works, I need not be intending to numb pain receptors, likewise in this story I needn't be intending to torture the homunculus, even though I know about the homunculus and his pain. However, I do intend whatever means it is by which the pill relieves headaches. And that means is in fact horrific pain for the homunculus. I accomplish my means, and so my accomplishment in fact includes horrific pain for the homunculus. And it is really bad when one's accomplishment is known to have horrific pain for someone else as a part of it.