Normative Ethics > Consequentialism > Varieties of Consequentialism > Agent-Neutral and Agent-Relative Consequentialism
Edited by Douglas W. Portmore (Arizona State University)
|Summary||Consequentialists hold that the permissibility of actions is a function of how their outcomes rank. On maximizing versions of consequentialism that function is such that a subject S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome ranks higher than X's outcome on S's ranking. Now, whereas agent-neutral consequentialists hold that outcomes rank the same for each agent, agent-relative consequentialists hold that there is potentially a different ranking for each agent. So let's consider examples of each type theory. First, consider act-utilitarianism (AU), which is a version of agent-neutral consequentialism. AU holds that one outcome ranks higher than another if and only if it contains more aggregate utility. So, on AU, a subject S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome contains more aggregate utility than X's outcome does. Next consider ethical egoism (EE), which is a version of agent-relative consequentialism. On EE, different agents will potentially rank the same set of outcomes differently. Suppose, for instance, that there are just two outcomes: O1 and O2. In O1, you have 10 units of utility and I have 5. In O2, things are reversed: you have 5 and I have 10. EE holds that, on your ranking, O1 outranks O2. But, on my ranking, O2 outranks O1. So, on EE, S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome contains more utility for S.|
|Key works||Influential early papers include Sen 1983, Sen 1983, Regan 1983, and Dreier 1993. To understand the current state of the debate, see Schroeder 2007, Brown 2011, Dreier 2011, and Portmore 2011.|
|Introductions||For a general introduction to the issue of consequentializing, see Portmore 2009.|
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