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Summary Maximizing consequentialism holds that an act X is permissible if and only if there is no alternative act Y that would produce more good than X would. There are several worries associated with formulating consequentialism as a maximizing theory: the resulting theory is (1) very demanding in that requires that agents always produce as much good as possible, (2) unable to accommodate supererogatory actions -- acts that are optional despite their being morally superior to other permissible alternatives, and (3) unable to allow for a wide range of moral options in that it allows for moral options only when two or more available acts are tied for first-place in terms of their production of goodness. Satisficing consequentialism is motivated in large part out of a concern to avoid (or at least to dissipate the force of) these objections. Satisficing consequentialism does so by holding that an act X is permissible if and only if its outcome is good enough.
Key works The key early works are Slote 1985 and Slote & Pettit 1984. Since the development of satisficing consequentialism, there have been several major critiques: see, for instance, Mulgan 2001 and, especially, Bradley 2006.
Introductions For a general introduction to satisficing consequentialism, see Slote & Pettit 1984.
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  1. Ben Bradley (2006). Against Satisficing Consequentialism. Utilitas 18 (2):97-108.
    The move to satisficing has been thought to help consequentialists avoid the problem of demandingness. But this is a mistake. In this article I formulate several versions of satisficing consequentialism. I show that every version is unacceptable, because every version permits agents to bring about a submaximal outcome in order to prevent a better outcome from obtaining. Some satisficers try to avoid this problem by incorporating a notion of personal sacrifice into the view. I show that these attempts are unsuccessful. (...)
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  2. Michael Byron (ed.) (2004). Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of essays explores two competing views of practical rationality. How do we think about what we plan to do? One dominant answer is that we select the best possible option available. However, a growing number of philosophers would offer a different reply. Since we are not equipped to maximize, we must often choose the next best alternative--one that is no more than satisfactory. This strategy choice is called "satisficing" (a term coined by the economist Herb Simon).
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  3. Thomas Hurka, Satisficing and Substantive Values.
    Satisficing theories, whether of rationality or morality, do not require agents to maximize the good. They demand only that agents bring about outcomes that are, in one or both of two senses, “good enough.” In the first sense, an outcome is good enough if it is above some absolute threshold of goodness; this yields a view that I will call absolute-level satisficing. In the second sense, an outcome is good enough if it is reasonably close to the best outcome the (...)
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  4. Dale Jamieson (1987). Book Review:Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. Michael Slote. [REVIEW] Ethics 98 (1):168-.
  5. Sean Mcaleer (2008). Pettit's Non-Iteration Constraint. Utilitas 20 (1):59-64.
    I discuss Philip Pettit’s argument that appreciation is not a proper response to value because it fails to satisfy the non-iteration constraint, according to which, where V is a value and R is a response to value, R-ing V must not be distinct from R-ing R-ing V. After motivating the non-iteration constraint and conceding that appreciation fails to satisfy the constraint, I argue that the consequentialist’s preferred response to value, promotion, also violates the constraint, leaving Pettit with a dilemma: if (...)
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  6. F. Scott McElreath (2006). Maximizing Act Consequentialism and Friendship. Journal of Value Inquiry 40 (4):413-420.
  7. Brian McElwee (2010). The Rights and Wrongs of Consequentialism. Philosophical Studies 151 (3):393 - 412.
    I argue that the strongest form of consequentialism is one which rejects the claim that we are morally obliged to bring about the best available consequences, but which continues to assert that what there is most reason to do is bring about the best available consequences. Such an approach promises to avoid common objections to consequentialism, such as demandingness objections. Nevertheless, the onus is on the defender of this approach either to offer her own account of what moral obligations we (...)
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  8. Paul McNamara (2004). Review: Agency and Deontic Logic. [REVIEW] Mind 113 (449):179-185.
  9. Tim Mulgan (2006). SLOTE'S SATISFICING CONSEQUENTIALISM. Ratio 6 (2):121 - 134.
    The article discusses Michael Slote's Satisficing Consequentialism, which is the view that moral agents are not required to maximise the good, but merely to produce a sufficient amount of good. It is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism is not an acceptable alternative to Maximising Consequentialism. In particular, it is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism cannot be less demanding in practice than Maximising Consequentialism without also endorsing a wide range of clearly unacceptable actions. It is then argued that Slote's inability to provide adequate (...)
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  10. Tim Mulgan (2001). How Satisficers Get Away with Murder. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (1):41 – 46.
    Traditional Consequentialism is based on a demanding principle of impartial maximization. Michael Slote's 'Satisficing Consequentialism' aims to reduce the demands of Consequentialism, by no longer requiring us to bring about the best possible outcome. This paper presents a new objection to Satisficing Consequentialism. We begin with a simple thought experiment, in which an agent must choose whether to save the lives of ten innocent people by using a sand bag or by killing an innocent person. The main aim of the (...)
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  11. Timothy Mulgan (2005). Reply to John Turri. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (4):493 – 496.
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  12. A. W. Price (1986). Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism By Michael Slote London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, 157 Pp., £14.95. [REVIEW] Philosophy 61 (238):552-.
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  13. Jason Rogers (2010). In Defense of a Version of Satisficing Consequentialism. Utilitas 22 (2):198-221.
    In this paper, I develop, motivate and offer a qualified defense of a version of satisficing consequentialism (SC). I develop the view primarily in light of objections to other versions of SC recently posed by Ben Bradley. I motivate the view by showing that it (1) accommodates the intuitions apparently supporting those objections, (2) is supported by certain ‘common sense’ moral intuitions about specific cases, and (3) captures the central ideas expressed by satisficing consequentialists in the recent literature. Finally, I (...)
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  14. S. Andrew Schroeder (2011). You Don't Have to Do What's Best! (A Problem for Consequentialists and Other Teleologists). In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, vol. 1. Oxford University Press.
    Define teleology as the view that requirements hold in virtue of facts about value or goodness. Teleological views are quite popular, and in fact some philosophers (e.g. Dreier, Smith) argue that all (plausible) moral theories can be understood teleologically. I argue, however, that certain well-known cases show that the teleologist must at minimum assume that there are certain facts that an agent ought to know, and that this means that requirements can't, in general, hold in virtue of facts about value (...)
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  15. Michael A. Slote (1985). Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. Routledge & Kegan.
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  16. Michael Slote & Philip Pettit (1984). Satisficing Consequentialism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 58:139-163+165-176.
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  17. John Turri (2005). You Can't Get Away with Murder That Easily: A Response to Timothy Mulgan. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (4):489 – 492.
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  18. Peter Vallentyne (2006). Against Maximizing Act-Consequentialism (June 30, 2008). In James Dreier (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell Publishers. 6--21.
    Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.[i] It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. Actions with (...)
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  19. Peter Vallentyne (2006). Against Maximizing Act-Consequentialism (December 2, 2010) in Moral Theories Edited by Jamie Dreier (Blackwell Publishers, 2006), Pp. 21-37. [REVIEW] In Dreier Jamie (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell Publishers.
    Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.1 It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. Actions with (...)
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