Intention versus Negligence
There are some situations in life in which people set out to accomplish certain goals and they realize their aims exactly as planned. They set out to go to the library and they arrive at the library. They set out to steal a book and they steal a book. Obviously, the aims are sometimes good, sometimes bad. But very often people get where they want to go. These are case of intentional conduct, of setting one's sights on realizing a particular target, whether the goal be socially desirable (going to the library) or criminal (stealing a book).
In many situations, however, we accomplish both good and bad-- not as the object of our intentions but as the unwitting side effects of our conduct. Imagine that someone drops a wallet full of cash, a starving mother then finds it and uses the funds to save the lives of her three children. Losing the wallet was an accident, and good came of it. Or suppose that a pharmacist mislabels a bottle of poison as a nutritional food supplement and then casually leaves a package of the bottles in the back of his store. A street person finds the bottles of poison and after reading the labels, drinks the poison and dies. Mislabeling the bottle was an accident, more or less, but great harm came of it.
The person who dropped his wallet might feel good that his money was applied to a good purpose, but it would be odd for him to claim credit--to expect praise and appreciation from others--for saving the lives of the three children. But the pharmacist who mislabeled the poison might be responsible, both morally and legally, for the death of the