a clean breast of the whole thing will not be enough to remove ones
reprehensibility. The existence of such cases is not morally disturbing,
however, because we feel that the situation was not unavoidable: one
had to do something wrong in the first place to get into it. But what
if the world itself, or someone else's actions, could face a previously
innocent person with a choice between morally abominable courses
of action, and leave him no way to escape with his honor? Our
intuitions rebel at the"idea, for we feel that the constructibility of
such a case must show a contradiction in our moral views. But it is
not in itself a contradiction to say that someone can do X or not do
X, and that for him to take either course would be wrong. It merely
contradicts the supposition that ought implies can—since presumably
one ought to refrain from what is wrong, and in such a case it is
impossible to do so.
12 Given the limitations on human action, it is
naive to suppose that there is a solution to every moral problem
with which the world can face us. We have always known that the
world is a bad place. It appears that it may be an evil place as well.
This paper grew out of discussions at the Society for Ethical and Legal
Philosophy, and I am indebted to my fellow members for their help.
Straightforward considerations of national interest often tend in the
same.direction: the inadvisability of using nuclear weapons seems to be
overdetermined in this way.
These reasons, moreover, have special importance in that they are
available even to one who denies the appropriateness of utilitarian considerations in international matters. He may acknowledge limitations on what
may be done to the soldiers and civilians of other countries in pursuit of
his nation's military objectives, while denying that one country should in
general consider the interests of nationals of other countries in determining
(Privately printed.) See also her essay "War and Murder", Chapter 20
in this volume. The present paper is much indebted to these two essays
throughout. These and related subjects are extensively treated by Paul Ramsey
in The Just War ( New York, 1968). Among recent writings that bear on the
moral problem are Jonathan Bennett, "Whatever the Consequences". Analysis 26, no. 3 ( 1966):83-102; and Philippa Foot, "The Problem of Abortion and
the Doctrine of the Double Effect". The Oxford Review 5 ( 1967):5-15. Miss Anscombe's replies are "A Note on Mr. Bennett". Analysis 26, no. 3 ( 1966):208, and "Who Is Wronged?" The Oxford Review 5 ( 1967):16-17.
This counterargument was suggested by Rogers Albritton.
Someone might of course acknowledge the moral relevance of the
distinction between deliberate and nondeliberate killing, without being an