Multi-dimensional consequentialism

Ratio 25 (2):177-194 (2012)
Abstract
This article introduces and explores a distinction between multi-dimensional and one-dimensional consequentialist moral theories. One-dimensional consequentialists believe that an act's deontic status depends on just one aspect of the act, such as the sum total of wellbeing it produces, or the sum total of priority- or equality-adjusted wellbeing. Multi-dimensional consequentialists believe that an act's deontic status depends on more than one aspect. They may, for instance, believe that the sum total of wellbeing produced by an act and the degree to which the wellbeing is equally distributed in the population affect the act's deontic status independently of each other. These two aspects cannot be reduced into any single (composite) aspect. Wellbeing and equality are two separate considerations that cannot be merged into some novel entity that accurately reflects both intuitions. On the multi-dimensional view I defend, such clashes between separate aspects are irresolvable and are best accounted for by claiming that moral rightness and wrongness are non-binary concepts. Some acts are, literally speaking, a little bit right (because they maximise wellbeing) and a little bit wrong (because they do not maximise equality).1
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