Consequentialism, group acts, and trolleys

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):64–87 (2005)
Its relentless pursuit of the good provides act-consequentialism with one sort of intuitive ethical rationale. But more indirect forms of consequentialism promise more intuitive normative implications, for instance the evil of even beneficent murders. I favor a middle way which combines the intuitive rationale of act-consequentialism and the intuitive normative implications of the best indirect forms. Multiple-Act Consequentialism or ‘MAC’ requires direct consequentialist evaluation of the options of group agents. It holds that one should only defect from a group act with good consequences if one can achieve better consequences by the defecting act alone than the entire group act achieves, and that when different beneficent group acts of which one is part specify roles which conflict, one should follow the role in the group act with better consequences. This paper develops MAC as a solution to the Trolley Problem. Section 1 concerns the relative advantages of direct and indirect consequentialisms. Section 2 develops MAC by a focus on competing conceptions of group agency. Section 3 applies MAC to the Trolley Problem
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