A critic of utilitarianism, in a paper entitled “Innocence and Consequentialism” Laing argues that Singer cannot without contradicting himself reject baby farming (a thought experiment that involves mass-producing deliberately brain damaged children for live birth for the greater good of organ harvesting) and at the same time hold on to his “personism” a term coined by Jenny Teichman to describe his fluctuating (and Laing says, discriminatory) theory of human moral value. His explanation that baby farming undermines attitudes of care (...) and concern for the very young, can be applied to babies and the unborn (non-persons on his view) and contradicts positions that he adopts elsewhere in his work. (shrink)
I argue that we should reject all traditional forms of act-consequentialism if moral rationalism is true. (Moral rationalism, as I define it, holds that if S is morally required to perform x, then S has decisive reason, all things considered, to perform x.) I argue that moral rationalism in conjunction with a certain conception of practical reasons (viz., the teleological conception of reasons) compels us to accept act-consequentialism. I give a presumptive argument in favor of moral rationalism. And (...) I argue that act-consequentialism is best construed as a theory that ranks outcomes, not according to their impersonal value, but according to how much reason each agent has to desire that they obtain. (shrink)
The standard form of act-consequentialism requires us to perform the action with the best consequences; it allows choice between moral options only on those rare occasions when several actions produce equally good results. This paper argues for moral options and thus against act-consequentialism. The argument turns on the insight that some valuable things cannot exist unless our moral system allows options. One such thing is the opportunity for individuals to enact plans for their life from among alternatives. Because (...) planning one’s life has value, and because it requires moral options, a world governed by a moral system that admits of options is better than one governed by act-consequentialism. The paper argues that these facts entail that morality admits of a significant number of moral options; act-consequentialism is false. (shrink)
The central problem for normative ethics is the conflict between a consequentialist view--that morality requires promoting the good of all--and a belief that the rights of the individual place significant constraints on what may be done to help others. Standard interpretations see Kant as rejecting all forms of consequentialism, and defending a theory which is fundamentally duty-based and agent-centered. Certain actions, like sacrificing the innocent, are categorically forbidden. In this original and controversial work, Cummiskey argues that there is no (...) defensible basis for this view, that Kant's own arguments actually entail a consequentialist conclusion. But this new form of consequentialism which follows from Kant's theories has a distinctly Kantian tone. The capacity of rational action is prior to the value of happiness; thus providing justification for the view that rational nature is more important than mere pleasures and pains. (shrink)
In contemporary philosophy, substantive moral theories are typically classified as either consequentialist or deontological. Standard consequentialist theories insist, roughly, that agents must always act so as to produce the best available outcomes overall. Standard deontological theories, by contrast, maintain that there are some circumstances where one is permitted but not required to produce the best overall results, and still other circumstances in which one is positively forbidden to to do. Classical utilitarianism is the most familiar consequentialist view, but it is (...) widely regarded as an inadequate account of morality. Although Professor Scheffler agrees with this assessment, he also believes that consequentialism seems initially plausible, and that there is a persistent air of paradox surrounding typical deontological views. In this book, therefore, he undertakes to reconsider the rejection of consequentialism. He argues that it is possible to provide a rationale for the view that agents need not always produce the best possible overall outcomes, and this motivates one departure from consequentialism; but he shows that it is surprisingly difficult to provide a satisfactory rationale for the view that there are times when agents must not produce the best possible overall outcomes. He goes on to argue for a hitherto neglected type of moral conception, according to which agents are always permitted, but not always required, to produce the best outcomes. (shrink)
Tim Mulgan presents a penetrating examination of consequentialism: the theory that human behavior must be judged in terms of the goodness or badness of its consequences. The problem with consequentialism is that it seems unreasonably demanding, leaving us no room for our own aims and interests. In response, Mulgan offers his own, more practical version of consequentialism--one that will surely appeal to philosophers and laypersons alike.
Objective consequentialism is often criticized because it is impossible to know which of our actions will have the best consequences. Why exactly does this undermine objective consequentialism? I offer a new link between the claim that our knowledge of the future is limited and the rejection of objective consequentialism: that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ and we cannot produce the best consequences available to us. I support this apparently paradoxical contention by way of an analogy. I cannot beat Karpov (...) at chess in spite of the fact that I can make each of many series of moves, at least one of which would beat him. I then respond to a series of objections. In the process I develop an account of the ‘can’ of ability. I conclude with some remarks about the bearing this attack has on subjective consequentialism. (shrink)
This is a book on morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, I defend a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons.
There are two distinct views on how to formulate an objective consequentialist account of the deontic status of actions, actualism and possibilism. On an actualist account, what matters to the deontic status of actions is only the value of the outcome an action would have, if performed. By contrast, a possibilist account also takes into account the value of the outcomes that an action could have. These two views come apart in their deontic verdicts when an agent is imperfect in (...) an avoidable way, viz., when agent brings about less good than she could. In this paper, I offer an argument against actualism that draws on the connection between moral obligation and practical reasons. (shrink)
Frank Jackson has put forward a famous thought experiment of a physician who has to decide on the correct treatment for her patient. Subjective consequentialism tells the physician to do what intuitively seems to be the right action, whereas objective consequentialism fails to guide the physician’s action. I suppose that objective consequentialists want to supplement their theory so that it guides the physician’s action towards what intuitively seems to be the right treatment. Since this treatment is wrong according (...) to objective consequentialism, objective consequentialists have to license it without calling it right. I consider eight strategies to spell out the idea of licensing the intuitively right treatment and argue that objective consequentialism is on the horns of what I call the licensing dilemma : Either the physician’s action is not guided towards the intuitively right treatment. Or the guidance towards the intuitively right treatment is ad hoc in some respect or the other. (shrink)
Two meanings of "subjective consequentialism" are distinguished: conscious deliberation with the aim of producing maximally-good consequences, versus acting in ways that, given one's evidence set and reasoning capabilities, is subjectively most likely to maximize expected consequences. The latter is opposed to "objective consequentialism," which demands that we act in ways that actually produce the best total consequences. Peter Railton's arguments for a version of objective consequentialism confuse the two subjective forms, and are only effective against the first. (...) After reviewing the arguments of Eric Wiland and Frances Howard-Snyder against objective consequentialism, two of Railton's arguments which might seem to count against the second form of subjective consequentialism are shown to be ineffective. This leaves subjective consequentialism as a viable theory to replace objective consequentialism with. (shrink)
What are the appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In this enlightening work, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question. He then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory which, in part, asserts that acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justified rules. In the end, he considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for several current controversies in practical ethics, making this clearly written, engaging book the best overall statement of this approach to ethics.
This is Chapter 5 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I argue that those who wish to accommodate typical instances of supererogation and agent-centered options must deny that moral reasons are morally overriding and accept both that the reason that agents have to promote their own self-interest is a non-moral reason and that this reason can, and sometimes does, prevent the moral reason that they have to sacrifice their self-interest so as to do more (...) to promote the interests of others from generating a moral requirement. Furthermore, I argue that given that an act’s deontic status of both moral and non-moral reasons, the consequentialist must adopt dual-ranking act-consequentialism. I then defend dual-ranking act-consequentialism against a number of objections. (shrink)
According to the moral standards most of us accept and live by, morality generally permits us to refrain from promoting the good of others and instead engage in non-harmful projects of our own choice. This aspect of so-called ‘ordinary morality’ has turned out to be very difficult to justify. Recently, though, various authors, including Bernard Williams and Samuel Scheffler, have proposed “Integrity Theories” that would vindicate this aspect of ordinary morality, at least in part. They are generated by treating as (...) a default some moral theory, like consequentialism, that demands that we do a great deal of good. The theory is then modified so as to make room for individuals to pursue the projects they value most deeply, and perhaps their trivial interests as well—i.e., so as to respect individual integrity. This paper presupposes that Integrity Theories are correct and that, for the reasons given by others, they can explain why morality should grant us agent-centered prerogatives to pursue our own projects and interests. The goal is to extend this work in two respects. First, it will be shown that previous authors have not paid sufficient attention to ordinary morality’s conflicting pronouncements about agent-centered prerogatives. Second, it is argued that Integrity Theories can vindicate those conflicting intuitions by positing a special kind of obligations, relievable obligations. (shrink)
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 offer a qualified defense of the view that consists in showing that it meets Bradley’s criteria for being a version of satisficing consequentialism that is ‘worth considering’. Specifically, it is a version of SC that solves certain problems for maximizing consequentialism and yet does not permit the gratuitous prevention of goodness. (shrink)
Ought Implies Kant defends Kantianism via a critical examination of consequentialism. The latter is shown to be untenable on epistemic grounds; meanwhile, the charge that Kantianism is really consequentialism in disguise is refuted. The book also presents a novel interpretation of Kantianism as according direct duties to other animals.
Consequentialism collects, for the first time, both the main classical sources and the central contemporary expressions of this important position. Edited and introduced by Stephen Darwall, these readings are essential for anyone interested in normative ethics.
What do we owe to our descendants? How do we balance their needs against our own? Tim Mulgan develops a new theory of our obligations to future generations, based on a new rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual reproduction. He also brings together several different contemporary philosophical discussions, including the demands of morality and international justice. His aim is to produce a coherent, intuitively plausible moral theory that is not unreasonably demanding, even when extended to cover future people. While (...) the book focuses on developing this new account, there are also substantial discussions of alternative views, especially contract-based accounts of intergenerational justice and competing forms of consequentialism. (shrink)
An idea that has attracted a lot of attention lately is the thought that consequentialism is a theory characterized basically by its agent neutrality.1 The idea, however, has also met with skepticism. In particular, it has been argued that agent neutrality cannot be what separates consequentialism from other types of theories of reasons for action, since there can be agent-neutral non-consequentialist theories as well as agent-relative consequentialist theories. I will argue in this paper that this last claim is (...) false. The paper is divided into four sections. Section one specifies two senses in which consequentialism is agent-neutral. Section two and three examine and reject, respectively, the claim that there are agent-relative consequentialist views as well as agent-neutral non-consequentialist views. I end the paper with some remarks on the plausibility, or better, the implausibility of characterizing consequentialism in terms other than agent neutrality. (shrink)
In Goodness and Justice, Joseph Mendola develops a unified moral theory that defends the hedonism of classical utilitarianism while evading utilitarianism's familiar difficulties by two modifications. His theory incorporates a new form of consequentialism. When, as is common, someone is engaged in conflicting group acts, it requires that one perform the role in that group that is most beneficent. The theory holds that overall value is distribution-sensitive, ceding maximum weight to the well-being of the worst-off sections of sentient lives. (...) It is properly congruent with commonsense intuition and required by the true metaphysics of value, by the unconstituted natural good found in our world. (shrink)
Michael Clark has recently argued that the slippery slope argument against voluntary euthanasia is ‘entirely consequentialist’ and that its use to justify continued prohibition of voluntary euthanasia involves a failure to treat patients who request assistance in ending their lives as ends in themselves. This article agues that in fact the slippery slope is consistent with most forms of deontology, and that it need not involve any violation of the principle that people should be treated as ends, depending upon how (...) that principle is construed. It is concluded that supporters of voluntary euthanasia cannot dismiss the slippery slope argument on the basis of deontological principles but must take seriously the consequences that it postulates and engage in factual argument about their likely extent and about the likely effectiveness of any proposed safeguards. (shrink)
I argue that rule consequentialism sometimes requires us to act in ways that we lack sufficient reason to act. And this presents a dilemma for Parfit. Either Parfit should concede that we should reject rule consequentialism (and, hence, Triple Theory, which implies it) despite the putatively strong reasons that he believes we have for accepting the view or he should deny that morality has the importance he attributes to it. For if morality is such that we sometimes have (...) decisive reason to act wrongly, then what we should be concerned with, practically speaking, is not with the morality of our actions, but with whether our actions are supported by sufficient reasons. We could, then, for all intents and purposes just ignore morality and focus on what we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. So if my arguments are cogent, they show that Parfit’s Triple Theory is either false or relatively unimportant in that we can, for all intents and purposes, simply ignore its requirements and just do whatever it is that we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. (shrink)
The paper interprets Kant’s neglected argument at FOUNDATIONS 401 as consisting of these two premises and conclusion: (1) It follows from consequentialism that in a natural paradise people would not be obligated to be morally good. (2) But this is absurd; one ought to be morally good no matter what. Therefore, consequentialism is false. It is shown that this argument is a powerful one, mainly by showing that independent grounds support (2) and that (1) may survive a number (...) of strong possible objections. One that it does not appear to survive, though, is that the paradise envisioned is not logically possible. (shrink)
Frances Howard-Snyder argues that objective consequentialism should be rejected because it violates the principle of ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ in asking us to do what we cannot. In this comment I suggest that Howard-Snyder does not take sufficiently seriously the chief defence of objective consequentialism, which reformulates it so that it applies only to actions we can perform. Nonetheless, I argue that there are arguments relating to ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ which discredit objective consequentialism even if it (...) is thus reformulated. These arguments also cause problems for a reformulated version of subjective consequentialism. (shrink)
Consequentialism is a general approach to understanding the nature of morality that seems to entail a certain view of the world in time. This entailment raises specific problems for the approach. The first seems to lead to the conclusion that every actual act is right – an unacceptable result for any moral theory. The second calls into question the idea that consequentialism is an approach to morality, for it leads to the conclusion that this approach produces a theory (...) whose truth does not depend in any way on the nature of rational beings or value. (shrink)
Richard Hare argues that the fundamental assumptions of Kant's ethical system should have led Kant to utilitarianism, had Kant not confused a norm's generality with its universality, and hence adopted rigorist, deontological norms. Several authors, including Jens Timmermann, have argued contra Hare that the gap between Kantian and utilitarian/consequentialist ethics is fundamental and cannot be bridged. This article shows that Timmermann's claims rely on a systematic failure to separate normative and metaethical aspects of each view, and that Hare's attempt to (...) bridge the gap between Kantian and consequentialist ethics is immune to Timmermann's criticisms. Furthermore, the term “Kantian ethics” is often misleading, and should typically be qualified as either “Kantian rationalism” or “Kantian deontology” in order to avoid confusions of the sort Timmermann falls into. (shrink)
In the 1960’s, Lars Bergström and Hector-Neri Castañeda noticed a problem with alternative acts and consequentialism. The source of the problem is that some performable acts are versions of other performable acts and the versions need not have the same consequences as the originals. Therefore, if all performable acts are among the agent’s alternatives, act consequentialism yields deontic paradoxes. A standard response is to restrict the application of act consequentialism to certain relevant alternative sets. Many proposals are (...) based on some variation of maximalism, that is, the view that act consequentialism should only be applied to maximally specific acts. In this paper, I argue that maximalism cannot yield the right prescriptions in some cases where one can either (i) form at once the intention to do an immediate act and form at a later time the intention to do a succeeding act or (ii) form at once the intention to do both acts and where the consequences of (i) and (ii) differ in value. Maximalism also violates normative invariance, that is, the condition that if an act is performable in a situation, then the normative status of the act does not depend on what acts are performed in the situation. Instead of maximalism, I propose that the relevant alternatives should be the exhaustive combinations of acts the agent can jointly perform without performing any other act in the situation. In this way, one avoids the problem of act versions without violating normative invariance. Another advantage is that one can adequately differentiate between possibilities like (i) and (ii). (shrink)
Consequentialism, one of the major theories of normative ethics, maintains that the moral rightness of an act is determined solely by the act's consequences and its alternatives. The traditional form of consequentialism is one-dimensional, in that the rightness of an act is a function of a single moral aspect, such as the sum total of wellbeing it produces. In this book Martin Peterson introduces a new type of consequentialist theory: multidimensional consequentialism. According to this theory, an act's (...) moral rightness depends on several separate dimensions, including individual wellbeing, equality and risk. Peterson's novel approach shows that moral views about equality and risk that were previously thought to be mutually incompatible can be rendered compatible, and his precise theoretical discussion helps the reader to understand better the distinction between consequentialist and non-consequentialist theories. His book will interest a wide range of readers in ethics. (shrink)
In this anthology, distinguished scholars--Thomas Nagel, T.M. Scanlon, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Samuela Scheffler, Conrad D. Johnson, Bernard Williams, Peter Railton, Amartya Sen, Philippa Foot, and Derek Parfit-- debate arguments for and against the moral doctrine of consequentialism to present a complete view of this important topic in moral philosophy.
It seems that the debate between objective and subjective consequentialists might be resolved by appealing to the ought implies can principle. Howard-Snyder has suggested that if one does not know how to do something, cannot do it, and thus one cannot have an obligation to do it. I argue that this depends on an overly rich conception of ability, and that we need to look beyond the ought implies can principle to answer the question. Once we do so, it appears (...) that Prichard might have been at least partly right when he claimed that obligations are tryings. I go some way to defending a diluted version of Prichard's view. (shrink)
Most plausible moral theories must address problems of partial acceptance or partial compliance. The aim of this paper is to examine some proposed ways of dealing with partial acceptance problems as well as to introduce a new Rule Utilitarian suggestion. Here I survey three forms of Rule Utilitarianism, each of which represents a distinct approach to solving partial acceptance issues. I examine Fixed Rate, Variable Rate, and Optimum Rate Rule Utilitarianism, and argue that a new approach, Maximizing Expectation Rate Rule (...) Utilitarianism, better solves partial acceptance problems. (shrink)
This is a book about moral reasoning: how we actually reason and how we ought to reason. It defends a form of "rule" utilitarianism whereby we must sometimes judge and act in moral questions in accordance with generally accepted rules, so long as the existence of those rules is justified by the good they bring about. The author opposes the currently more fashionable view that it is always right for the individual to do that which produces the most good. Among (...) the salient topics covered are: an account of the utilitarian function in society of generally accepted moral rules; a discussion of how we interpret existing moral rules and create new ones; and a defense of "rule" utilitarianism against the charge that it either commits one to irrational rule worship, or collapses into a form of "act" utilitarianism. (shrink)
This is a series of essays critical of the utilitarian bioethics now dominating contemporary discussion. Analysing questions of moral theory as well as applied ethics this book aims to supply essays on matters as diverse as beginning and end-of-life issues as well as animal rights, the act-omission distinction and the principle of double effect in caring in medical ethics.
In On What Matters Derek Parfit argues that we need to make a significant reassessment of the relationship between some central positions in moral philosophy, because, contrary to received opinion, Kantians, contractualists and consequentialists are all 'climbing the same mountain on different sides'. In Parfit's view Kant's own attempt to outline an account of moral obligation fails, but when it is modified in ways entirely congenial to his thinking, a defensible Kantian contractualism can be produced, which survives the objections which (...) are fatal for Kant's own theory. This form of contractualism would then lead rational agents to choose consequentialist moral principles. I argue that Parfit significantly misrepresents Kant's project in moral philosophy, and that no genuinely Kantian moral theory could issue in a form of consequentialism. (shrink)
This essay argues, flouting paradox, that Mill was a utilitarian but not a consequentialist. First, it contends that there is logical space for a view that deserves to be called utilitarian despite its rejection of consequentialism; second, that this logical space is, in fact, occupied by John Stuart Mill. The key to understanding Mill's unorthodox utilitarianism and the role it plays in his moral philosophy is to appreciate his sentimentalist metaethics—especially his account of wrongness in terms of fitting guilt (...) and resentment. Mill recognizes a fundamental moral asymmetry between the agent and others, which conflicts intractably with a presupposition of consequentialism. This allows him to differentiate three potentially conflicting evaluative spheres: morality, prudence, and aesthetics. This essay's account of Mill's utilitarianism coheres with his defense of individual liberty and his embrace of supererogation, both of which elude traditional interpretations. (shrink)
Consequentialism broadly speaking is the idea that the moral rightness and wrongness of a thing (an act, a policy, an institution) is determined by the quality of its consequences. A prominent version is act consequentialism, which holds one morally always ought to do an act whose outcome is no worse than the outcome of any other act one might have done instead. This doctrine has little content—no commitment is involved as to how one should evaluate consequences—but is still (...) highly controversial. What is called common-sense morality or CSM—moral views it is supposed many people embrace—rejects consequentialism as both too demanding and too permissive. Too permissive, because CSM includes constraints, rules one should not break even if doing so would produce the best attainable outcome. Too demanding, because CSM includes options. The demands of CSM mostly involve refraining from harming others in certain ways, and provided one observes these constraints, one is morally at liberty to do whatever one chooses, whether or not that produces the best outcome. In most situations, according to CSM, morality allow one many options, alternative acts one is morally permitted to do. (shrink)
It is a curious fact about mainstream discussions of animal rights that they are dominated by consequentialist defenses thereof, when consequentialism in general has been on the wane in other areas of moral philosophy. In this paper, I describe an alternative, non‐consequentialist ethical framework (combining Kantian and virtue‐ethical elements) and argue that it grants (conscious) animals more expansive rights than consequentialist proponents of animal rights typically grant. The cornerstone of this non‐consequentialist framework is the thought that the virtuous agent (...) is s/he who has the stable and dominating disposition to treat all conscious animals, including non‐human conscious animals, as ends and not mere means. (shrink)
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 do face, or to explain why offering such a theory is ill-advised. I consider, and reject, one attempt at the second sort of strategy, put forward by Alastair Norcross, who defends a ‘scalar’ consequentialism which eschews the moral concepts of right, wrong and obligation, and limits itself to claims about what is better and worse. I go on to raise some considerations which suggest that no systematic consequentialist theory of our moral obligations will be plausible, and propose instead that consequentialism should have a more informal and indirect role in shaping what we take our moral obligations to be. (shrink)
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. I conclude that, if satisficing consequentialism is to remain a position worth considering, satisficers must show (i) that the move to satisficing is necessary to solve some problem, whether it be the demandingness problem or some other problem, and (ii) that there is a version of the view that does not permit the gratuitous prevention of goodness. (shrink)
The theory of morality we can call full rule-consequentialism selects rules solely in terms of the goodness of their consequences and then claims that these rules determine which kinds of acts are morally wrong. George Berkeley was arguably the first rule-consequentialist. He wrote, “In framing the general laws of nature, it is granted we must be entirely guided by the public good of mankind, but not in the ordinary moral actions of our lives. … The rule is framed with (...) respect to the good of mankind; but our practice must be always shaped immediately by the rule.” (Berkeley 1712, section 31) Writers often classed as rule-consequentialists include Austin 1832; Harrod 1936; Toulmin 1950; Urmson 1953; Harrison 1953; Mabbott 1953; Singer 1955; 1961; and most prominently Brandt 1959; 1963; 1967; 1979; 1989; 1996; and Harsanyi 1977; 1982; 1993. See also Rawls 1955; Hospers 1972; Haslett 1987; 1994, ch. 1; 2000; Attfield 1987, 103-12; Barrow 1991, ch. 6; Johnson 1991; Riley 1998; 2000; Shaw 1999; and Hooker 2000. Whether J. S. Mill's ethics was rule-consequentialist is controversial (Urmson 1953; Crisp 1997, 102-33). (shrink)
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 maximally valuable consequences are not always permissible. The second main objection to maximizing act consequentialism is that it mistakenly holds that morality requires us to maximize value. Morality, I shall argue, only requires that we satisfice (promote sufficiently) value, and thus leaves us a greater range of options than maximizing act consequentialism recognizes. (shrink)
Computer and information ethics, as well as other fields of applied ethics, need ethical theories which coherently unify deontological and consequentialist aspects of ethical analysis. The proposed theory of just consequentialism emphasizes consequences of policies within the constraints of justice. This makes just consequentialism a practical and theoretically sound approach to ethical problems of computer and information ethics.
Sidgwick's defence of esoteric morality has been heavily criticized, for example in Bernard Williams's condemnation of it as 'Government House utilitarianism.' It is also at odds with the idea of morality defended by Kant, Rawls, Bernard Gert, Brad Hooker, and T.M. Scanlon. Yet it does seem to be an implication of consequentialism that it is sometimes right to do in secret what it would not be right to do openly, or to advocate publicly. We defend Sidgwick on this issue, (...) and show that accepting the possibility of esoteric morality makes it possible to explain why we should accept consequentialism, even while we may feel disapproval towards some of its implications. (shrink)
The popularity of rule-consequentialism among philosophers has waxed and waned. Waned, mostly; at least lately. The idea that the morality that ought to claim allegiance is the ideal code of rules whose acceptance by everybody would bring about best consequences became the object of careful analysis about half a century ago, in the writings of J. J. C. Smart, John Rawls, David Lyons, Richard Brandt, Richard Hare, and others.1 They considered utilitarian versions of rule consequentialism but discovered flaws (...) in the view that attach to the wider consequentialist doctrine. In the eyes of many, the flaws were decisive. Brad Hooker has produced brilliant work that unsettles this complacent consensus.2 Over a period of several years he has produced a sustained and powerful defense of a version of rule consequentialism that does not obviously succumb to the criticisms that have been thought to render this doctrine a nonstarter. He acknowledges intellectual debts to Richard Brandt. But Hooker avoid certain excrescences in Brandt’s efforts to conceive of morality as an ideal code of rules. Most notably, Hooker eschews Brandt’s misguided attempt to derive some version of rule utilitarianism from an underlying commitment to some form of contractualism. Moreover, Hooker has worked to articulate a version of rule consequentialism in sufficient detail that one can see how the different parts of the doctrine hang together and how the best version of the.. (shrink)
Retributivism is commonly taken as an alternative to a consequentialist justification of punishment. It has recently been suggested, however, that retributivism can be recast as a consequentialist theory. This suggestion is shown to be untenable. The temptation to advance it is traced to an ``intrinsic good'' claim prominent in retributive thinking. This claim is examined, and is argued to be of little help in coping with the difficulties besetting the retributive theory, as well as clashing with a ``desert'' claim equally (...) central to that theory. (shrink)
(Forthcoming in Social Theory and Practice, 2002) Richard J. Arneson A notable achievement of T.M. <span class='Hi'>Scanlon</span>'s What We Owe to Each Other1 is its sustained critique of welfarist consequentialism.2 Consequentialism is the doctrine that one morally ought always to do an act, of the alternatives, that brings about a state of affairs that is no less good than any other one could bring about. Welfarism is the view that what makes a state of affairs better or worse (...) is some increasing function of the welfare for persons realized in it. I shall argue that <span class='Hi'>Scanlon</span>’s critique, though containing much of interest, fails on its own terms. (shrink)
Virtue consequentialism has been held by many prominent philosophers, but has never been properly formulated. I criticize Julia Driver's formulation of virtue consequentialism and offer an alternative. I maintain that according to the best version of virtue consequentialism, attributions of virtue are really disguised comparisons between two character traits, and the consequences of a trait in non-actual circumstances may affect its actual status as a virtue or vice. Such a view best enables the consequentialist to account for (...) moral luck, unexemplified virtues, and virtues and vices involving the prevention of goodness and badness. (shrink)
This paper has been extracted from a book manuscript that attempts to interpret Gandhi’s ethics of nonviolence ahimsa) in terms of virtue theory. The first section addresses the issue of virtue theory’s relationship to consequentialism and concludes that there is no way to avoid the fact that the virtues developed because of their consequences. Therefore, I will join Gandhi’s virtue ethics with P. J. Ivanhoe’s character consequentialism. Particularly significant in distinguishing utilitarianism from virtue theory is the relationship of (...) means to ends. Character consequentialism will insist that moral ends are always internally related to the virtues as means. In the second section I will explicate the distinction between enabling and substantive virtues, discuss the enabling virtues of self-control, patience, and courage, and conclude that the virtue of nonviolence forms an alliance with these enabling virtues. (shrink)
: This essay attempts to show that sophisticated consequentialism is able to accommodate the concerns that have traditionally been raised by feminist writers in ethics. Those concerns have primarily to do with the fact that consequentialism is seen as both too demanding of the individual and neglectful of the agent's special obligations to family and friends. Here, I argue that instrumental justification for partiality can be provided, for example, even though an attitude of partiality is not characterized itself (...) in instrumental terms. (shrink)
A critical examination of Parfit's attempt to reconcile Kantian contractualism with consequentialism, which disputes his contention that the contracting parties would lack decisive reasons to choose principles that ground prohibitions against harming of the sort to which non-consequentialists have been attracted. 1.
Consequentialism is often charged with being self-defeating, for if a person attempts to apply it, she may quite predictably produce worse outcomes than if she applied some other moral theory. Many consequentialists have replied that this criticism rests on a false assumption, confusing consequentialism’s criterion of the rightness of an act with its position on decision procedures. Consequentialism, on this view, does not dictate that we should be always calculating which of the available acts leads to the (...) most good, but instead advises us to decide what to do in whichever manner it is that will lead to the best outcome. Whilst it is typically afforded only a small note in any text on consequentialism, this reply has deep implications for the practical application of consequentialism, perhaps entailing that a consequentialist should eschew calculation altogether. (shrink)
It is a particular pleasure to be able to participate in this symposium in honor of Amartya Sen. We agree on a wide range of topics, but I will focus here on an area of relative disagreement. Sen is much more attracted to consequentialism than I am, and the main topic of my paper will be the particular version of consequentialism that he has articulated and the reasons why he is drawn to this view.
Consequentialism is usually thought to be unable to accommodate many of our commonsense moral intuitions. In particular, it has seemed incompatible with the intuition that agents should not violate someone's rights even in order to prevent numerous others from committing comparable rights violations. Nevertheless, I argue that a certain form of consequentialism can accommodate this intuition: agent-relative consequentialism--the view according to which agents ought always to bring about what is, from their own individual perspective, the best available (...) outcome. Moreover, I argue that the consequentialist's agent-focused account of the impermissibility of such preventive violations is more plausible than the deontologist's victim-focused account. Contrary to Frances Kamm, I argue that agent-relative consequentialism can adequately deal with single-agent cases, cases where an agent would have to commit one rights violation now in order to minimize her commissions of such rights violations over time. (shrink)
A theory is agent neutral if it gives every agent the same set of aims and agent relative otherwise. Most philosophers take act-consequentialism to be agent-neutral, but I argue that at the heart of consequentialism is the idea that all acts are morally permissible in virtue of their propensity to promote value and that, given this, it is possible to have a theory that is both agent-relative and act-consequentialist. Furthermore, I demonstrate that agent-relative act-consequentialism can avoid the (...) counterintuitive implications associated with utilitarianism while maintaining the compelling idea that it is never wrong to bring about the best outcome. (shrink)
My theory of biocentric consequentialism is first shown not to be significantly inegalitarian, despite not advocating treating all creatures equally. I then respond to Carter's objections concerning population, species extinctions, the supposed minimax implication, endangered interests, autonomy and thought-experiments. Biocentric consequentialism is capable of supporting a sustainable human population at a level compatible with preserving most non-human species, as opposed to catastrophic population increases or catastrophic decimation. Nor is it undermined by the mere conceivable possibility of counter-intuitive implications. (...) While Carter shows that value-pluralism need not be riddled with contradictions, his version still introduces some, and faces further problems. Thus consequentialist theories may be needed to sift our values, at least if our values are commensurable. Carter's apparent suggestion that monistic theories such as biocentric consequentialism can never be harnessed to rich theories of value and must each myopically give undue prominence to a single value is questioned. (shrink)
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 reasons for moral satisficing stems from a mistaken analogy between rationality and morals. The sense of 'good enough' which is relevant to morality is one which focusses on the effort an agent puts in, rather than on the outcome she produces. However, replacing outcomes with efforts would undermine Slote's Consequentialist project. Finally, it is suggested that similar problems will be faced by others who seek to construct essentially Consequentialist theories which are not unduly demanding. (shrink)
Consequentialism ought not to make an impact, explicit or implicit, on every decision. All it ought generally to enjoy is what I describe as a virtual presence in the deliberation that produces decisions. [...] The argument that we have conducted suggests that the virtuous agent ought in general to remain faithful to his or her instincts and ingrained habits, only occasionally breaking with them in the name of promoting the best consequences.
Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
The paper proposes a new version of direct act consequentialism that will provide the same evaluations of the rightness of acts as indirect disposition, motive or character consequentialism, thus reconciling the coherence of direct consequentialism with the plausible results in cases of indirect consequentialism. This is achieved by seeing that adopting certain kinds of moral dispositions causally constrains our future acts, so that the maximizing acts ruled out by the disposition can no longer be chosen. Thus (...) when we act we do the best we can, which is all that is required for rightness according to act consequentialism. (shrink)
The duty to keep promises has many aspects associated with deontological moral theories. The duty to keep promises is non-welfarist, in that the obligation to keep a promise need not be conditional on there being a net benefit from keeping the promise—indeed need not be conditional on there being at least someone who would benefit from its being kept. The duty to keep promises is more closely connected to autonomy than directly to welfare: agents have moral powers to give themselves (...) certain obligations to others. And these moral powers, which enable promisors to create agent- relative obligations to promisees, correlate with rights the promisees acquire in the process, such as rights to waive the duty or insist on its performance. As a result of promises, promisees acquire (not only rights but also) a special status: the promisees are the ones wronged when promises to them that they have not waived are not kept. One more aspect of the duty to keep promises that is associated with deontological moral theories is that what actions the duty requires is at least partly backward-looking: what actions the duty requires depends on facts about the past, namely facts about what promises were made and then waived or not. This paper surveys these aspects of the duty to keep promises and then explores whether rule-consequentialism can be reconciled with them. (shrink)
In this article we argue that the worries about whether a consequentialist agent will be alienated from those who are special to her go deeper than has so far been appreciated. Rather than pointing to a problem with the consequentialist agent's motives or purposes, we argue that the problem facing a consequentialist agent in the case of friendship concerns the nature of the psychological disposition which such an agent would have and how this kind of disposition sits with those which (...) are commonly thought proper to relations of friendship. To the extent that we are right, then, the rejoinders which indirect consequentialists have offered to the problem of alienation are ill directed and so do not succeed in meeting the real problem. In articulating what we see as the source of the alienation problem which friendship poses for consequentialism, we also hope to clarify the general distinction between dispositions and motives and to show how certain kinds of guiding internalized normative dispositions help us to define and therefore distinguish between various types of relationships. Undertaking this task may also help to identify some of the crucial issues for an adequate moral psychology of friendship and its place in any plausible ethical theory. (shrink)
Does the real difference between non-consequentialist and consequentialist theories lie in their approach to value? Non-consequentialist theories are thought either to allow a different kind of value (namely, agent-relative value) or to advocate a different response to value ('honouring' rather than 'promoting'). One objection to this idea implies that all normative theories are describable as consequentialist. But then the distinction between honouring and promoting collapses into the distinction between relative and neutral value. A proper description of non-consequentialist theories can only (...) be achieved by including a distinction between temporal relativity and neutrality in addition to the distinction between agent-relativity and agent-neutrality. (shrink)
Recent work on consequentialism has revealed it to be more flexible than previously thought. Consequentialists have shown how their theory can accommodate certain features with which it has long been considered incompatible, such as agent-centered constraints. This flexibility is usually thought to work in consequentialism’s favor. I want to cast doubt on this assumption. I begin by putting forward the strongest statement of consequentialism’s flexibility: the claim that, whatever set of intuitions the best nonconsequentialist theory accommodates, we (...) can construct a consequentialist theory that can do the same while still retaining whatever is compelling about consequentialism. I argue that if this is true then most likely the non-consequentialist theory with which we started will turn out to have that same compelling feature. So while this extreme flexibility, if indeed consequentialism has it (a question I leave to the side), makes consequentialism more appealing, it makes non-consequentialism more appealing too. (shrink)
Because the moral philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas is egoistic while modern consequentialism is impartialistic, it might at first appear that the former cannot, while the latter can, provide a common value on the basis of which inter-personal conflicts may be settled morally. On the contrary, in this paper I intend to argue not only that Aquinas' theory does provide just such a common value, but that it is more true to say of modern consequentialism than of Thomism (...) that it gives in to the partiality of different interests and fails to provide a robust common value on the basis of which disagreements may be settled morally. This is so primarily because the egoism of Aquinas represents a fundamental commitment to personal moral development which is absent from modern teleological theories. (shrink)
Lenman's ‘argument from cluelessness’ against consequentialism is that a significant percentage of the consequences of our actions are wholly unknowable, so that when it comes to assessing the moral quality of our actions, we are without a clue. I distinguish the argument from cluelessness from traditional epistemic objections to consequentialism. The argument from cluelessness should be no more problematic for consequentialism than the argument from epistemological scepticism should be for metaphysical realism. This puts those who would reject (...)consequentialism on the ground of cluelessness in an awkward philosophical position. (shrink)
I take friendship to be a practical and emotional relationship marked by mutual and (more-or-less) equal goodwill, liking, and pleasure. Friendship can exist between siblings, lovers, parent and adult child, as well as between otherwise unrelated people. Some friendships are valued chiefly for their usefulness. Such friendships are instrumental or means friendships. Other friendships are valued chiefly for their own sakes. Such friendships are non-instrumental or end friendships. In this paper I am concerned only with end friendships, and the challenge (...) they pose to consequentialism. (shrink)
Over the last few decades, there has been an increasing interest in global consequentialism. Where act-consequentialism assesses acts in terms of their consequences, global consequentialism goes much further, assessing acts, rules, motives — and everything else — in terms of the relevant consequences. Compared to act-consequentialism it offers a number of advantages: it is more expressive, it is a simpler theory, and it captures some of the benefits of ruleconsequentialism without the corresponding drawbacks. In this paper, (...) I explore the four different approaches to global consequentialism made by Parfit, Pettit and Smith, Kagan, and Feldman. I break these up into their constituent components, demonstrating the space of possible global consequentialist theories, and I present two new theories within this space. (shrink)
In this paper I will develop the argument that a cognitivist and virtue ethical approach to moral reasons is the only approach that can sustain a non-alienated relation to one’s character and ethical commitments. [Thomas, 2005] As a corollary of this claim, I will argue that moral reasons must be understood as reasonably partial. A view of this kind can, nevertheless, recognise the existence of general and positive obligations to humanity. Doing so does not undermine the view by leading to (...) a highly demanding view of morality. Indeed, it offers a defence against the view that an analogy between obligations of immediate rescue to particular individuals and general and positive obligations to humanity leads to the conclusion that morality is highly demanding. The plan of this paper is as follows. The first section sets out the main elements of a cognitivist and virtue ethical approach to moral reasons. The second applies it to the test case of an argument that claims that one way in which one seeks to lead a non-alienated ethical life, a life of integrity, is incompatible with the requirements of consequentialism given certain very general facts about the moral state of the world. [Ashford, 2000] My.. (shrink)
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 maximally valuable consequences are not always permissible. The second main objection to maximizing act consequentialism is that it mistakenly holds that morality requires us to maximize value. Morality, I shall argue, only requires that we satisfice (promote sufficiently) value, and thus leaves us a greater range of options than maximizing act consequentialism recognizes. The issues discussed are, of course, highly complex, and space limitations prevent me from addressing them fully. Thus, the argument presented should be understood merely as the outline of an argument. (shrink)
Frances Howard-Snyder has argued that objective consequentialism violates the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. In most situations, she claims, we cannot produce the best consequences available, although objective consequentialism says that we ought to do so. Here I try to show that Howard-Snyder's argument is unsound. The claim that we typically cannot produce the best consequences available is doubtful. And even if there is a sense of ‘producing the best consequences’ in which we cannot do so, (...) objective consequentialism does not entail that we ought, in this sense, to produce the best consequences. (shrink)
Abstract: In her recent book Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity, Christine Korsgaard does a wonderful job developing her Kantian account of normativity and the rational necessity of morality. Korsgaard's account of normativity, however, has received its fair share of attention. In this discussion, the focus is on the resulting moral theory and, in particular, on Korsgaard's reason for rejecting consequentialist moral theories. The article suggests that we assume that Korsgaard's vindication of Kantian rationalism is successful and ask whether, nonetheless, her (...) account is consistent with consequentialism. It suggests further that we grant that moral reasons are not based on substantive principles, and that they must instead emerge from the purely formal principles of practical reason. Can consequentialist principles nonetheless emerge from the formal constraints of practical reason? Why can't a consequentialist embrace Korsgaard's account of self-constitution and normativity? (shrink)
To consequentialise a moral theory means to account for moral phenomena usually described in nonconsequentialist terms, such as rights, duties, and virtues, in a consequentialist framework. This paper seeks to show that all moral theories can be consequentialised. The paper distinguishes between different interpretations of the consequentialiser’s thesis, and emphasises the need for a cardinal ranking of acts. The paper also offers a new answer as to why consequentialising moral theories is important: This yields crucial methodological insights about how to (...) pursue ethical inquires. (shrink)
Is there a justification of concern for one's own integrity that agent-neutral consequentialism cannot explain? In addressing this question, it is important to be clear about what is meant by 'agent-neutral', 'consequentialism', and 'integrity'. Let 'consequentialism' be constituted by the following two theses.
Indeed, these are the sorts of reasons that Act Consequentialism recognises. But we can think of act-based reasons as a limiting kind of pattern-based reason, in which the pattern P is identical to the action A. Thus the idea of pattern-based reasons is more general than the idea of act-based reasons, and we can properly understand Act Consequentialism as a theory of pattern-based reasons. If pattern-based reasons exist, they are reasons for individual agents to act. They are not (...) supposed to be reasons for group agents to act. It is controversial whether their existence depends on the existence of group agents.3 But even if it does, they are supposed to be reasons for individuals to act. It is very important not to think of them as reasons for groups to act. To help keep track of the individual agent whose reasons we are interested in, I will call her ‘the actor’. (shrink)
In this book, Bryan W. Van Norden examines early Confucianism as a form of virtue ethics and Mohism, an anti-Confucian movement, as a version of consequentialism. The philosophical methodology is analytic, in that the emphasis is on clear exegesis of the texts and a critical examination of the philosophical arguments proposed by each side. Van Norden shows that Confucianism, while similar to Aristotelianism in being a form of virtue ethics, offers different conceptions of “the good life,” the virtues, human (...) nature, and ethical cultivation. (shrink)
Rule consequentialism (RC) is the view that it is right for A to do F in C if and only if A's doing F in C is in accordance with the the set of rules which, if accepted by all, would have consequences which are better than any alternative set of rules (i.e., the ideal code). I defend RC from two related objections. The first objection claims that RC requires obedience to the ideal code even if doing so has (...) disastrous results. Though some rule consequentialists embrace a disaster-clause which permits agents to disregard some of the rules in the ideal code as a necessary means of avoiding disasters, they have not adequately explained how this clause works. I offer such an explanation and show how it fits naturally with the rest of RC. The second disaster objection asserts that even if RC can legitimately invoke a disaster-clause, it lacks principled grounds from distinguishing disasters from non-disasters. In response, I explore Hooker's suggestion that “disaster” is vague. I contend that every plausible ethical theory must invoke something similar to a disaster clause. So if “disaster” is vague, then every plausible ethical theory faces a difficulty with it. As a result, this vagueness is not a reason to prefer other theories to RC. However, I argue, contra Hooker, that the sense of “disaster” relevant to RC is not vague, and RC does indeed have principled grounds to distinguish disasters from nondisasters. (shrink)
James Lenman argues that consequentialism fails as a moral theory because it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of our actions. I agree that it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of actions, but argue that this does not count as a strike against consequentialism. I focus on the principle of indifference, which tells us to treat unforeseeable consequences as cancelling each other out, and hence value-neutral. I argue that though we cannot defend this principle independently, (...) we cannot do without it in practical rationality. Thus abandoning the principle of indifference would involve abandoning all of rationality, not just consequentialist reasoning. I suggest that we should understand the principle as P. F. Strawson understands inductive reasoning – as being part of rationality. Correspondence:c1 Elinor.Mason@colorado.edu. (shrink)
Derek Parfit, Philip Pettit and Michael Smith defend a version of consequentialism that covers everything. I argue that this version of consequentialism is false. Consequentialism, I argue, can only cover things that belong to a combination of things that agents can bring about.
Philip Pettit has argued that universalizability entails consequentialism. I criticise the argument for relying on a question-begging reading of the impartiality of universalization. A revised form of the argument can be constructed by relying on preference-satisfaction rationality, rather than on impartiality. But this revised argument succumbs to an ambiguity in the notion of a preference (or desire). I compare the revised argument to an earlier argument of Pettit’s for consequentialism that appealed to the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and (...) I raise questions about the force of appeal to notions like simplicity and rationality in moral argument. (shrink)
“Perhaps the most common objection to consequentialism is this: it is impossible to know the future…This means that you will never be absolutely certain as to what all the consequences of your act will be…there may be long term bad effects from your act, side effects that were unforeseen and indeed unforeseeable…So how can we tell which act will lead to the best results overall – counting all the results? This seems to mean that consequentialism will be unusable (...) as a moral guide to action. All the evidence available at the time of acting may have pointed to the conclusion that a given act was the right act to perform – and yet it may still turn out that what you did had horrible results, and so in fact was morally wrong. Indeed, if will never be possible to say for sure that any given act was right or wrong, since any event can continue to have further unseen effects down through history. Yet if it is impossible to tell whether any act is morally right or wrong, how can consequentialism possibly be a correct moral theory?”. (shrink)
The paper considers a hierarchical theory that combines concern for two values: individual well-being – as a fundamental, first-order value – and (distributive) fairness – as a high-order value that its exclusive function is to complete the value of individual well-being by resolving internal clashes within it that occur in interpersonal conflicts. The argument for this unique conception of high-order fairness is that fairness is morally significant in itself only regarding what matters – individual well-being – and when it matters (...) – in interpersonal conflicts in which constitutive aspects of individual well-being clash. Consequently, the proposed theory is not exposed to claim that fairness comes at the expense of welfare. This theory is considered within a consequential framework, based on the standard version and, alternatively, on a novel interpretation of consequentialism. Thus, it refutes the claim that consequentialism does not take the distinction between persons seriously. (shrink)
Abstract Finding a moral justification for humanitarian intervention has been the objective of a great deal of academic inquiry in recent years. Most of these treatments, however, make certain arguments or assumptions about the morality of humanitarian intervention without fully exploring their precise philosophical underpinnings, which has led to an increasingly disjointed body of literature. The purpose of this essay, therefore, is to suggest that the conventional arguments and assumptions made about the morality of humanitarian intervention can be encompassed in (...) what is essentially a consequentialist framework. After a brief examination of consequentialist ethics, this essay reveals a number of morally relevant factors concerning humanitarian intervention, wherein I suggest that the general consensus in the literature on these factors constitutes ?commonsense morality?. In doing so, I argue that consequentialism as a theory of the right provides the best fit with commonsense morality on humanitarian intervention. This is important not only to reveal the precise philosophical underpinnings of the debate, but also to bring ethical, prudential and political considerations together in a coherent ethical discourse. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that maximizing act-consequentialism (MAC)—the theory that holds that agents ought always to act so as to produce the best available state of affairs—can accommodate both agent-centered options and supererogatory acts. Thus I will show that MAC can accommodate the view that agents often have the moral option of either pursuing their own personal interests or sacrificing those interests for the sake of the impersonal good. And I will show that MAC can accommodate the idea (...) that certain acts are supererogatory in the sense of not being morally required even though they are what the agent has most moral reason to do. These two theses are surprising in themselves, but even more surprising is how I arrive at them. I argue that anyone generally concerned to accommodate, in some coherent fashion, our pre-theoretical moral intuitions at both the normative and meta-ethical levels will have to give a certain account of agent-centered options and supererogatory acts and that this account is the very one that allows for the maximizing act-consequentialist to accommodate both. So my paper will not only be of interest to those concerned with the tenability of consequentialism, but also to anyone interested in giving a coherent account of our pre-theoretical moral intuitions. (shrink)
This paper examines recent attempts to defend Rule-Consequentialism against a traditional objection. That objection takes the form of a dilemma, that either Rule-Consequentialism collapses into Act-Consequentialism or it is incoherent. Attempts to avoid this dilemma based on the idea that using RC has better results than using AC are rejected on the grounds that they conflate the ideas of a criterion of rightness and a decision procedure. Other strategies, Brad Hooker's prominent amongst them, involving the thought that (...) RC need contain no overarching concern to maximize the good are acknowledged to avoid the original dilemma, but lead to further problems of motivating and justifying RC in the absence of such a concern. The paper argues that Hooker's attempt to deal with these problems by using a 'Reflective Equilibrium plus method is unsuccessful. (shrink)
This is an introductory talk on why I am not a consequentialist. I am not going to go into the details of consequentialist theory, or to compare and contrast different versions of consequentialism. Nor am I going to present all the reasons I am not a consequentialist, let alone all the reasons why you should not be one. All I want to do is focus on some key problems that in my view, and the view of many others, make (...)consequentialism a totally unacceptable moral theory – a theory about what is right, what is good, or obligatory, or forbidden, or permissible, or praiseworthy. So let me begin by giving a basic definition of consequentialism, one all supporters of the view can agree on. Consequentialism is the theory that the fundamental aim of morality is to maximize value. Now I was tempted to say ‘sole aim’, but some consequentialists will disagree with that. They might hold, for instance, that one of the aims of morality is to abide by certain rules, or to cultivate certain virtues. But for them, what gives obedience to a rule or the cultivation of a virtue its point is that, ultimately, such behaviour maximizes value. So although maximizing value might not be the sole aim of morality – the sole answer to the question ‘What should I do to be good?’ and similar questions – still it is the fundamental aim of morality, and all other kinds of decision, action, and so on, derive their justification by reference to it. For my purposes, then, the difference between ‘sole’ and ‘fundamental’ is merely terminological. Now the first thing that might occur to someone is a pair of simple questions. Why should anyone believe that the fundamental aim of morality is to maximize value? What intuitive force does the idea even have in the first place? These are good questions. I was a consequentialist once, and I don’t think I ever posed them to myself. I just took it as understood that since so many philosophers were consequentialists, and since so many of my fellow students were as well, then even if it were ultimately shown not to be true, the maximization thought (as I will call it) was at least the obvious place to start when one did ethics.. (shrink)
significant role for accomplishment thereby admits a ‘Trojan Horse’ (267).1 To abandon hedonism in favour of a conception of well-being that incorporates achievement is to take the first step down a slippery slope toward the collapse of the other two pillars of utilitarian morality: welfarism and consequentialism. We shall argue that Crisp’s arguments do not support these conclusions. We begin with welfarism. Crisp defines it thus: ‘Well-being is the only value. Everything good must be good for some being or (...) beings’ (264). The first part of this definition is potentially misleading, since it makes it sound as if welfarism adopts a monistic account of value, in which well-being is the only good thing. But well-being, as Crisp notes, when discussing hedonism, is best understood as consisting in a balance of good things over bad in one’s life. So understood, welfarism is silent on the issue of what things are good; it places a structural restriction on what kinds of things can be good: they must be things that are good for beings. It is a separate task to supply the content to fit this structure by determining what things are good, and welfarists differ in their answers: hedonists traditionally assert that pleasure alone is good; others add further items such as knowledge and virtue. Why is the thought that a person’s well-being depends importantly on what they accomplish a threat to welfarism? An accomplishment is judged both by its outcome or product and by the manner of the performance itself. But an activity or outcome is only an achievement if it is worthwhile, and whether it is worthwhile will depend on whether it exhibits what Crisp asserts to be ‘non-welfarist values’ (266), such as beauty, grace, importance, or style - excellences which welfarism, in Crisp’s view, cannot accommodate because they cannot be ‘cashed out in welfarist terms’, or ‘reduced to the value of well-being’ (266). Here Crisp rests his case, but it is worth trying to get clearer about the difficulties in order to see if the welfarist can meet them.. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to provide an effective counterexample to consequentialism. I assume that traditional counterexamples, such as Transplant (A doctor should kill one person and transplant her organs to five terminal patients, thereby saving their lives) and Judge (A judge should sentence to death an innocent person if he knows that an outraged mob will otherwise kill many innocent persons), are not effective, for two reasons: first, they make unrealistic assumptions and, second, they do not pass (...) the rule-consequentialist institutional test. My example (The Moral Murderer), instead, assumes a realistic empirical framework and the relevant action does not undermine basic social institutions. On the contrary, it reinforces them. In The Moral Murderer, Tom (an adult male) is morally allowed to murder a person (preferably a woman) in order to be punished to death. (shrink)
: What kinds of comparisons can legitimately be made between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Western ethical theories? Mahāyānists aspire to alleviate the suffering, promote the happiness, and advance the moral perfection of all sentient beings. This aspiration is best understood as expressing a form of universalist consequentialism. Many Indian Mahāyāna texts seem committed to claims about agent-neutrality that imply consequentialism and are not compatible with virtue ethics. Within the Mahāyāna tradition, there is some diversity of views: Asaṅga seems to (...) hold a complex and interesting version of rule consequentialism, whereas Śāntideva is closer to act consequentialism. (shrink)
We best understand Rule Consequentialism as a theory of pattern-based reasons, since it claims that we have reasons to perform some action because of the goodness of the pattern consisting of widespread performance of the same type of action in the same type of circumstances. Plausible forms of Rule Consequentialism are also pluralist, in the sense that, alongside pattern-based reasons, they recognise ordinary act-based reasons, based on the goodness of individual actions. However, Rule Consequentialist theories are distinguished from (...) other pluralist theories of pattern-based reasons by implausible claims about the relative importance of act-based and pattern-based reasons in different cases. Rule Consequentialists should give up these claims. They should either embrace some other pluralist pattern-based view, or reject pattern-based reasons altogether. Note, though, that these arguments apply only to compliance-based, rather than acceptance-based, versions of Rule Consequentialism. This suggests that these two kinds of theory are more different from each other than we might previously have realised. (shrink)
I take friendship to be a practical and emotional relationship marked by mutual and (more-or-less) equal goodwill, liking, and pleasure. Friendship can exist between siblings, lovers, parent and adult child, as well as between otherwise unrelated people. Some friendships are valued chiefly for their usefulness. Such friendships are instrumental or means friendships. Other friendships are valued chiefly for their own sakes. Such friendships are noninstrumental or end friendships. In this paper I am concerned only with end friendships, and the challenge (...) they pose to consequentialism. In an end friendship, one loves the friend as an essential part of one's system of ends, and not solely, or even primarily, as a means to an independent end - career advancement, amusement, philosophical illumination, or greater happiness in the universe. In such love, one loves the friend for the person she is, i.e., for her essential rather than incidental features. These include both her character traits - the fundamental intellectual, psychological, moral, and aesthetic qualities that constitute an individual's personality - and her unique perspective on herself and others: her view of the important and unimportant, her interest in herself and others. Thus in end friendship the friend cannot be replaced by another, for no other can have her essential features. Nor can she be replaced by a more efficient means to one's ends, or abandoned on their achievement, for it is not as a means that one 2 loves her. It is this necessary irreplaceability that most obviously marks off end friendship from means or instrumental friendship, in which the friend is replaceable.i Hence to love a friend as an end is to place a special value on her - to believe that her value is not outweighed, say, simply by the greater needs of others - or the needs of a greater number of others ("Sorry dear, there are more drowning on this end").ii End friendship (hereafter simply "friendship") is a cardinal human value.. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that consequentialism does not work as a comprehensive theory of right action. This paper does not offer a typical refutation, in that I do not claim that consequentialism is self-contradictory. One can with perfect consistency claim that the good is prior to the right and that the right consists in maximizing the good. What I claim, however, is that it is senseless to make such a claim. In particular, I attempt to show (...) that the notion of what course of action maximizes the good has no content within a consequentialist framework. Since the problem that I identify rests with maximization, this refutation does not cut across the act/rule distinction. If rule consequentialism holds that there are occasions on which one should follow a rule rather than violate the rule in an optimific way, then it is not maximizing and my arguments do not apply; if not, then it collapses into act consequentialism. I have nothing to say about nonmaximizing forms of consequentialism.1 This refutation does, however, cut across the direct/indirect distinction.2 It makes no difference whether we take consequentialism as offering a principle of decision, or a standard of right. Presumably the former would be parasitic upon the latter for its legitimacy. (shrink)