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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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  1. added 2020-05-03
    The Rejection of Consequentializing.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    Consequentialists say we may always promote the good. Deontologists object: not if that means killing one to save five. “Consequentializers” reply: this act is wrong, but it isn’t for the best, since killing is worse than letting die. I argue that this reply undercuts the “compellingness” of consequentialism, which comes from an outcome-based view of action that collapses the distinction between killing and letting die.
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  2. added 2020-04-20
    Agent-Relative Consequentialism and Collective Self-Defeat.Matthew Hammerton - forthcoming - Utilitas:1-7.
    Andrew Forcehimes and Luke Semrau argue that agent-relative consequentialism is implausible because in some circumstances it classes an act as impermissible yet holds that the outcome of all agents performing that impermissible act is preferable. I argue that their problem is closely related to Derek Parfit's problem of ‘direct collective self-defeat’ and show how Parfit's plausible solution to his problem can be adapted to solve their problem.
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  3. added 2020-01-10
    Deontic Constraints Are Maximizing Rules.Matthew Hammerton - forthcoming - Journal of Value Inquiry:1-18.
    Deontic constraints prohibit an agent performing acts of a certain type even when doing so will prevent more instances of that act being performed by others. In this article I show how deontic constraints can be interpreted as either maximizing or non-maximizing rules. I then argue that they should be interpreted as maximizing rules because interpreting them as non-maximizing rules results in a problem with moral advice. Given this conclusion, a strong case can be made that consequentialism provides the best (...)
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  4. added 2019-09-15
    Freedom From Responsibility: Agent-Neutral Consequentialism and the Bodhisattva Ideal.Christian Coseru - 2016 - In Rick Repetti (ed.), Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will. New York: Routledge. pp. 92-105.
    This paper argues that influential Mahāyāna ethicists, such as Śāntideva, who allow for moral rules to be proscribed under the expediency of a compassionate aim, seriously compromise the very notion of moral responsibility. The central thesis is that moral responsibility is intelligible only in relation to conceptions of freedom and human dignity that reflect a participation in, and sharing of, interpersonal relationships. The central thesis of the paper is that revisionary strategies, which seek to explain agency in event-causal terms, set (...)
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  5. added 2019-07-09
    Other‐Sacrificing Options.Benjamin Lange - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    I argue that you can be permitted to discount the interests of your adversaries even though doing so would be impartially suboptimal. This means that, in addition to the kinds of moral options that the literature traditionally recognises, there exist what I call other-sacrificing options. I explore the idea that you cannot discount the interests of your adversaries as much as you can favour the interests of your intimates; if this is correct, then there is an asymmetry between negative partiality (...)
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  6. added 2019-06-29
    Relativized Rankings.Matthew Hammerton - forthcoming - In Douglas W. Portmore (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In traditional consequentialism the good is position-neutral. A single evaluative ranking of states is correct for everyone, everywhere regardless of their position. Recently, position-relative forms of consequentialism have been developed. These allow for the correct rankings of states to depend on connections that hold between the state being evaluated and the position of the evaluator. For example, perhaps being an agent who acts in a certain state requires me to rank that state differently from someone else who lacks this connection. (...)
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  7. added 2019-06-06
    Agent-Neutral Reasons: Are They for Everyone?: B. C. Postow.B. C. Postow - 1997 - Utilitas 9 (2):249-257.
    According to both deontologists and consequentialists, if there is a reason to promote the general happiness – or to promote any other state of affairs unrelated to one's own projects or self-interest – then the reason must apply to everyone. This view seems almost self-evident; to challenge it is to challenge the way we think of moral reasons. I contend, however, that the view depends on the unwarranted assumption that the only way to restrict the application scope of a reason (...)
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  8. added 2019-06-06
    Neutral Versus Relative: A Reply to Broome, and McNaughton and Rawling: John Skorupski.John Skorupski - 1996 - Utilitas 8 (2):235-248.
  9. added 2019-06-05
    Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism.Douglas W. Portmore (ed.) - forthcoming - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    This handbook will contain approximately thirty previously unpublished contributions by important philosophers, covering what’s happening in the field of consequentialism today and pointing to new directions for future research.
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  10. added 2019-06-05
    Book Reviews Portmore , Douglas . Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 266. $74.00 (Paper). [REVIEW]Frances Howard-Snyder - 2012 - Ethics 123 (1):179-183.
  11. added 2019-06-05
    The Structure of Commonsense Morality: Consequentialist or Non-Consequentialist?Douglas William Portmore - 1998 - Dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara
    In this dissertation, I argue that commonsense morality is best understood as an agent-relative consequentialist theory, that is, as a theory according to which agents ought always to bring about what is, from their own individual perspective, the best available state of affairs. I argue that the agent-relative consequentialist can provide the most plausible explanation for why it is wrong to commit a rights violation even in order to prevent a number of other agents from committing comparable rights violations: agents (...)
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  12. added 2019-04-26
    Douglas W. Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality , Pp. Xx + 266.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (4):551-554.
  13. added 2018-11-09
    Consequentialism, Constraints, and Good-Relative-To.Jussi Suikkanen - 2008 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (1):1-9.
    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.
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  14. added 2018-05-09
    Distinguishing Agent-Relativity From Agent-Neutrality.Matthew Hammerton - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):239-250.
    The agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction is one of the most important in contemporary moral theory. Yet, providing an adequate formal account of it has proven difficult. In this article I defend a new formal account of the distinction, one that avoids various problems faced by other accounts. My account is based on an influential account of the distinction developed by McNaughton and Rawling. I argue that their approach is on the right track but that it succumbs to two serious objections. I then (...)
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  15. added 2018-04-25
    Agent-Relativity and the Foundations of Moral Theory.Matthew Hammerton - 2017 - Dissertation, Australian National University
  16. added 2018-03-12
    What Pedro Could Do.Christopher Woodard - manuscript
    This paper discusses Bernard Williams's famous case of Jim and the Indians. It contrasts two ways of diagnosing the alleged errors of Act Utilitarianism in considering this case. One approach suggests that Act Utilitarianism fails to appreciate the importance of what Jim does; it fails to understand the significance of Jim's agency. This paper favours an alternative diagnosis, according to which Act Utilitarianism fails to appreciate the importance of what Pedro could do; it fails to understand the significance of Pedro's (...)
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  17. added 2017-07-12
    Neutrality, Partiality, and Meaning in Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2017 - De Ethica 4 (3):7-25.
    Discussion of whether values and norms are neutral or not has mainly appeared in works on the nature of prudential rationality and morality. Little systematic has yet appeared in the up and coming field of the meaning of life. What are the respects in which the value of meaningfulness is neutral or, in contrast, partial, relational, or ‘biased’? In this article, I focus strictly on answering this question. First, I aim to identify the salient, and perhaps exhaustive, respects in which (...)
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  18. added 2017-03-16
    Beyond Consequentialism.Alan Thomas - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly:pqv045.
  19. added 2017-03-16
    Why Consequentialism’s "Compelling Idea" Is Not.Paul Hurley - 2017 - Social Theory and Practice 43 (1):29-54.
    Many consequentialists take their theory to be anchored by a deeply intuitive idea, the “Compelling Idea” that it is always permissible to promote the best outcome. I demonstrate that this Idea is not, in fact, intuitive at all either in its agent-neutral or its evaluator-relative form. There are deeply intuitive ideas concerning the relationship of deontic to telic evaluation, but the Compelling Idea is at best a controversial interpretation of such ideas, not itself one of them. Because there is no (...)
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  20. added 2017-03-16
    Against Securitism, the New Breed of Actualism in Consequentialist Thought.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2016 - Utilitas 28 (2):164-178.
    In Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, Douglas Portmore introduces a novel position regarding the actualist securitism – a position he argues is theoretically superior to the standard views in both the actualist and possibilist camps. After distinguishing the two camps through an examination of the original Procrastinate case, I present Portmore's securitism and its implications regarding his modified Procrastinate case. I level two serious objections against securitism: that it implausibly implies that morality is radically more demanding for the virtuous (...)
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  21. added 2017-03-16
    Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, by Douglas W. Portmore.E. Mason - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1363-1368.
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  22. added 2017-03-16
    10. Douglas Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality Douglas Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality (Pp. 179-183). [REVIEW]Henry S. Richardson, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, Peter Singer, Karen Jones, Sergio Tenenbaum, Diana Raffman, Simon Căbulea May, Stephen C. Makin & Nancy E. Snow - 2012 - Ethics 123 (1).
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  23. added 2017-03-16
    Two Kinds of Consequentialism.Michael Smith - 2009 - Philosophical Issues 19 (1):257-272.
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  24. added 2016-12-12
    Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate.Marcia W. Baron, Philip Pettit & Michael Slote - 1997 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    During the past decade ethical theory has been in a lively state of development, and three basic approaches to ethics - Kantian ethics, consequentialism, and virtue ethics - have assumed positions of particular prominence.
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  25. added 2016-12-08
    Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.Douglas W. Portmore - 2011 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press USA.
    Commonsense Consequentialism is a book about morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, Douglas W. Portmore defends 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. Broadly construed, consequentialism is the view that an act's deontic status is determined by how its outcome ranks relative to those of the available alternatives on some evaluative ranking. Portmore argues that outcomes should be (...)
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  26. added 2016-12-08
    A Royal Road to Consequentialism?Martin Peterson - 2010 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2):153-169.
    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 (...)
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  27. added 2016-08-25
    Consequentializing and its Consequences.S. Schroeder - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1475-1497.
    Recently, a number of philosophers have argued that we can and should “consequentialize” non-consequentialist moral theories, putting them into a consequentialist framework. I argue that these philosophers, usually treated as a group, in fact offer three separate arguments, two of which are incompatible. I show that none represent significant threats to a committed non-consequentialist, and that the literature has suffered due to a failure to distinguish these arguments. I conclude by showing that the failure of the consequentializers’ arguments has implications (...)
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  28. added 2016-08-21
    Consequentialism.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  29. added 2016-08-20
    Consequentialism: New Directions, New Problems.Christian Seidel - 2019 - Oxford University Press.
    Consequentialism is a focal point of discussion and a driving force behind important developments in moral philosophy. Recently, the debate has shifted in focus and in style. By seeking to consequentialize rival moral theories, in particular those with agent-relative characteristics, and by framing accounts in terms of reasons rather than in terms of value, an emerging new wave consequentialism has presented - at much higher levels of abstraction - theories which proved extremely flexible and powerful in meeting long-standing and influential (...)
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  30. added 2016-08-20
    Commonsense Morality and Not Being Required to Maximize the Overall Good.Douglas W. Portmore - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 100 (2):193-213.
    On commonsense morality, there are two types of situations where an agent is not required to maximize the impersonal good. First, there are those situations where the agent is prohibited from doing so--constraints. Second, there are those situations where the agent is permitted to do so but also has the option of doing something else--options. I argue that there are three possible explanations for the absence of a moral requirement to maximize the impersonal good and that the commonsense moralist must (...)
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  31. added 2016-06-14
    Patient-Relativity in Morality.Matthew Hammerton - 2016 - Ethics 127 (1):06-26.
    It is common to distinguish moral rules, reasons, or values that are agent-relative from those that are agent-neutral. One can also distinguish moral rules, reasons, or values that are moment-relative from those that are moment-neutral. In this article, I introduce a third distinction that stands alongside these two distinctions—the distinction between moral rules, reasons, or values that are patient-relative and those that are patient-neutral. I then show how patient-relativity plays an important role in several moral theories, gives us a better (...)
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  32. added 2016-05-17
    Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation.Christopher Woodard - 2007 - Routledge.
    This book is about fundamental questions in normative ethics. It begins with the idea that we often respond to ethical theories according to how principled or pragmatic they are. It clarifies this contrast and then uses it to shed light on old debates in ethics, such as debates about the rival merits of consequentialist and deontological views. Using the idea that principled views seem most appealing in dilemmas of acquiescence, it goes on to develop a novel theory of pattern-based reasons. (...)
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  33. added 2015-04-26
    Must Kantian Contractualism and Rule-Consequentialism Converge?Brad Hooker - 2014 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 4:34-52.
    Derek Parfit’s On What Matters endorses Kantian Contractualism, the normative theory that everyone ought to follow the rules that everyone could rationally will that everyone accept. This paper explores Parfit’s argument that Kantian Contractualism converges with Rule Consequentialism. A pivotal concept in Parfit’s argument is the concept of impartiality, which he seems to equate agent-neutrality. This paper argues that equating impartiality and agent-neutrality is insufficient, since some agent-neutral considerations are silly and some are not impartial. Perhaps more importantly, there is (...)
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  34. added 2014-04-02
    Agent Neutrality is the Exclusive Feature of Consequentialism.Desheng Zong - 2000 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (4):676-693.
    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 (...)
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  35. added 2014-04-02
    Structures of Normative Theories.James Dreier - 1993 - The Monist 76 (1):22-40.
    Normative theorists like to divide normative theories into classes. One special point of focus has been to place utilitarianism into a larger class of theories which do not necessarily share its view about what is alone of impersonal intrinsic value, namely, individual human well-being, but do share another structural feature, roughly its demand that each person seek to maximize the realization of what is of impersonal intrinsic value. The larger class is distinguished from its complement in two apparently different ways. (...)
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  36. added 2014-03-30
    Value and Agent-Relative Reasons.David McNaughton & Piers Rawling - 1995 - Utilitas 7 (1):31.
    In recent years the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons has been taken by many to play a key role in distinguishing deontology from consequentialism. It is central to all universalist consequentialist theories that value is determined impersonally; the real value of any state of affairs does not depend on the point of view of the agent. No reference, therefore, to the agent or to his or her position in the world need enter into a consequentialist understanding of what makes (...)
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  37. added 2014-03-30
    Agent-Relativity and Terminological Inexactitudes.David McNaughton & Piers Rawling - 1995 - Utilitas 7 (2):319.
  38. added 2014-03-30
    Asymmetry and Self-Sacrifice.Theodore Sider - 1993 - Philosophical Studies 70 (2):117 - 132.
    Recent discussions of consequentialism have drawn our attention to the so-called “self-other” asymmetry. Various cases presented by Michael Slote and Michael Stocker are alleged to demonstrate a fundamental asymmetry between our obligations to others and ourselves.1 Moreover, these cases are taken to constitute a difficulty for consequentialism, and for the various versions of utilitarianism in particular. I agree that there is a fundamental asymmetry between our obligations to ourselves and to others, and that this fact is inconsistent with the letter (...)
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  39. added 2014-03-25
    Symposium on Amartya Sen's Philosophy: 3 Sen and Consequentialism.T. M. Scanlon - 2001 - Economics and Philosophy 17 (1):39-50.
    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.
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  40. added 2014-03-23
    Position‐Relative Consequentialism, Agent‐Centered Options, and Supererogation.Douglas W. Portmore - 2003 - Ethics 113 (2):303-332.
    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 (...)
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  41. added 2014-03-23
    Can Consequentialism Be Reconciled with Our Common-Sense Moral Intuitions?Douglas W. Portmore - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 91 (1):1-19.
    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 (...)
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  42. added 2014-03-22
    “The Self-Other Asymmetry and Act Utilitarianism.”.Clay Splawn - 2001 - Utilitas 13 (3):323-333.
    The self-other asymmetry is a prominent and important feature of common-sense morality. It is also a feature that does not find a home in standard versions of act-utilitarianism. Theodore Sider has attempted to make a place for it by constructing a novel version of utilitarianism that incorporates the asymmetry into its framework. So far as I know, it is the best attempt to bring the two together. I argue, however, that Sider's ingenious attempt fails. I also offer a diagnosis that (...)
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  43. added 2014-03-22
    A Response to Splawn.Elizabeth Ashford - 2001 - Utilitas 13 (3):334-341.
    I argue that Sider's view does succeed in accommodating the kind of maximization he is after, according to which the agent is required to maximize overall welfare with the single exception of his own welfare. I then argue that Splawn's argument highlights some interesting and important ways in which Sider's view fail to capture basic common-sense intuitions concerning the self-other asymmetry, but offer a different diagnosis of the source of the problem.
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  44. added 2014-03-21
    Consequential Evaluation and Practical Reason.Amartya Sen - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (9):477-502.
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  45. added 2014-03-20
    Combining Teleological Ethics with Evaluator Relativism: A Promising Result.Douglas W. Portmore - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):95–113.
    Consequentialism is an agent-neutral teleological theory, and deontology is an agent-relative non-teleological theory. I argue that a certain hybrid of the two—namely, non-egoistic agent-relative teleological ethics (NATE)—is quite promising. This hybrid takes what is best from both consequentialism and deontology while leaving behind the problems associated with each. Like consequentialism and unlike deontology, NATE can accommodate the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs. Yet unlike consequentialism and like deontology, NATE accords (...)
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  46. added 2014-03-19
    Not so Promising After All: Evaluator-Relative Teleology and Common-Sense Morality.Mark Schroeder - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (3):348–356.
    Douglas Portmore has recently argued in this journal for a "promising result" – that combining teleological ethics with "evaluator relativism" about the good allows an ethical theory to account for deontological intuitions while "accommodat[ing] the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs." I show that this result is false. It follows from the indexical semantics of evaluator relativism that Portmore's compelling idea is false. I also try to explain what might have (...)
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  47. added 2014-03-16
    Kinds of Consequentialism.Michael Smith - 2009 - In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals. pp. 257-272.
  48. added 2014-03-15
    Consequentializing Moral Theories.Douglas W. Portmore - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (1):39–73.
    To consequentialize a non-consequentialist theory, take whatever considerations that the non-consequentialist theory holds to be relevant to determining the deontic statuses of actions and insist that those considerations are relevant to determining the proper ranking of outcomes. In this way, the consequentialist can produce an ordering of outcomes that when combined with her criterion of rightness yields the same set of deontic verdicts that the non-consequentialist theory yields. In this paper, I argue that any plausible non-consequentialist theory can be consequentialized. (...)
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  49. added 2014-03-15
    Teleology, Agent‐Relative Value, and 'Good'.Mark Schroeder - 2007 - Ethics 117 (2):265-000.
    It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come to (...)
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  50. added 2014-03-11
    Consequentializing.Douglas W. Portmore - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (2):329-347.
    A growing trend of thought has it that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that it can be given a consequentialist representation. In this essay, I explore both whether this claim is true and what its implications are. I also explain the procedure for consequentializing a nonconsequentialist theory and give an account of the motivation for doing so.
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