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Summary Consequentialists take the value of outcomes to ground or explain other important normative properties such as the rightness of acts. Act Utilitarianism, the view that we should maximize well-being (or "happiness"), is perhaps the paradigmatic form of consequentialism.  But many alternatives have been developed, as found under the "Varieties of Consequentialism" sub-category.  An obvious dimension of variation concerns the consequentialist's axiology or conception of the good -- what is to be promoted.  (Allowing agent-relative values, especially, can lead to dramatic divergence from the impartial welfarism of traditional utilitarianism.)  But there are also many different proposals concerning the relation between value and other normative properties, as seen, for example, in the debate between act and rule consequentialists. A lot of work has been done assessing a variety of arguments against consequentialism.  Less has been said (either positively or negatively) about arguments for consequentialism.
Key works The classical texts are Mill's Utilitarianism and Sidgwick 1907.  The contemporary debate owes much to Bernard Williams' criticisms in Smart & Williams 1973.  Especially significant developments occur in Parfit 1984Railton 1984, and Pettit & Smith 2000.
Introductions Smart & Williams 1973 offers an accessible introduction to the debate over utilitarianism, in particular.
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  1. Jonathan E. Adler (1993). Book Review:Moral Legislation: A Legal-Political Model for Indirect Consequentialist Reasoning Conrad D. Johnson. [REVIEW] Ethics 103 (4):814-.
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  2. Richard J. Arneson (2002). The End of Welfare As We Know It? Scanlon Versus Welfarist Consequentialism. Social Theory and Practice 28 (2):315-336.
    A notable achievement of T.M. Scanlon's What We Owe to Each Other is its sustained critique of welfarist consequentialism. 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 (...)
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  3. Charles A. Baylis (1952). Comments on Utilitarianism and Moral Obligation Symposium. Philosophical Review 61:327.
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  4. R. W. Beardsmore (1986). Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. Philosophical Books 27 (2):116-118.
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  5. David Braybrooke, Utilitarianism: Restorations; Repairs; Renovations.
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  6. Arnold Burms (2009). Disagreement, Perspectivism, Consequentialism. Ethical Perspectives 16 (2):155-163.
    Theoretical reflection on moral disagreement can be pertinent from a practical point of view. When far reaching policies depend on agreement about conflicting moral options, the need may be felt to reflect on strategies for reducing conflict and reaching a consensus. In such a context, it may for instance be useful to study mechanisms that tend to bring about bias and prejudice. In this paper, however, I will not be concerned with whatever might be done to reduce disagreement. My approach (...)
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  7. Zeljka Buturovic (2012). Deep Down: Consequentialist Assumptions Underlying Policy Differences. Critical Review 24 (2):269-289.
    A conditional survey establishes a preliminary case for believing that policy differences are to some extent driven by fundamental beliefs about empirical aspects of society and economics. The survey shows willingness in about a third of all respondents to shift their expressed policy preferences when asked a hypothetical question positing negative consequences of their initial preferences. This suggests that assumptions about the consequences of public policies may play as important a role in policy preferences, or a more important role, than (...)
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  8. David Copp & Donald H. Regan (1983). Utilitarianism and Co-Operation. Philosophical Review 92 (4):617.
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  9. R. Crisp (2001). Utilitarianism and Accomplishment Revisited. Analysis 61 (2):162-164.
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  10. R. Crisp (2000). Utilitarianism and Accomplishment. Analysis 60 (3):264-268.
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  11. David Elliott (1999). Against the Leveling of Virtue: Essentials of a Consequentialist Account. Journal of Social Philosophy 30 (1):65-82.
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  12. Nam Kyol Heo (2012). The Problem of ‘Utility of Religion’ in the Classical Utilitarianism -Centered on the Concept of ‘Religion of Humanity’ by J. S. Mill-. Journal of Ethics 1 (86):27-53.
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  13. A. L. Hodder (1892). Utilitarianism. Ethics 3 (1):90.
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  14. Christopher Alan Hoffman (1994). J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism. Dissertation, Washington University
    Contrary to a widely held view, a coherent and defensible picture of John Stuart Mill's utilitarianism can be constructed. To accomplish this his remarks in Utilitarianism and On Liberty must be interpreted strictly from the perspective of his more fundamental philosophical theories in logic and philosophy of mind. When this is done the principle of utility will be seen in a new light, the confusions associated with his "qualitative hedonism" evaporate, the connection between the principle of utility and morality is (...)
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  15. Ted Honderich (1996). Consequentialism, Moralities of Concern, and Selfishness. Philosophy 71 (278):499 - 520.
    Here are some kinds of reasons for taking an action to have been morally right. It was done out of a good intention or a pure good will on the part of the agent, or was owed to a virtue of hers. It issued from the agent's moral perception or intuition with respect to a situation, not from the application of a general principle or from calculation of the consequences of possible actions. Although it would give rise to distress or (...)
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  16. Hsieh Nien-hê, Strudler Alan & Wasserman David (2006). The Numbers Problem. Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (4):352-372.
  17. Dreier Jamie (ed.) (2006). Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell.
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  18. F. M. Kamm (2000). Collaboration and Responsibility. Philosophy and Public Affairs 28 (3):169-204.
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  19. Irfan Khawaja (2005). Consequentialism. Teaching Philosophy 28 (3):281-284.
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  20. Jacqueline A. Laing (ed.) (1997). Human Lives Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics. Macmillan.
    This book aims to redress the imbalance in moral philosophy created by the dominance of consequentialism and utilitarianism, the view that criterion of morality is the maximisation of good effects over bad without regard to intrinsic rightness or wrongness. This approach has become the orthodoxy over the last few decades particularly in bioethics, where moral theory is applied to bioethics. Human Lives critically examines the assumptions and arguments of consequentialism reviviing in the process such concepts as rights, justice, innocence, natural (...)
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  21. Benjamin Lange (forthcoming). Restricted Prioritarianism or Competing Claims? Utilitas.
    I here settle a recent dispute between two rival theories in distributive ethics: Restricted Prioritarianism and the Competing Claims View. Both views mandate that the distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals should be justifiable to each affected party in a way that depends on the strength of each individual’s separately assessed claim to receive a benefit. However, they disagree about what elements constitute the strength of those individuals’ claims. According to restricted prioritarianism, the strength of a claim is determined (...)
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  22. J. S. Mackenzie (1894). The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick. International Journal of Ethics 4 (4):512-514.
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  23. David McCarthy (forthcoming). Probability in Ethics. In Alan Hájek & Christopher Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Probability. Oxford University Press.
    The article is a plea for ethicists to regard probability as one of their most important concerns. It outlines a series of topics of central importance in ethical theory in which probability is implicated, often in a surprisingly deep way, and lists a number of open problems. Topics covered include: interpretations of probability in ethical contexts; the evaluative and normative significance of risk or uncertainty; uses and abuses of expected utility theory; veils of ignorance; Harsanyi’s aggregation theorem; population size problems; (...)
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  24. Sean David Mckeever (2001). Completeness as an Ideal for Moral Theory. Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Must an acceptable moral theory be systematic and complete? Most philosophers agree we have no such theory now---at least not one which is plausible in other respects. But perhaps we should strive for such a theory and regard our current incomplete theories as at best useful stepping stones. Some theories, such as hedonistic utilitarianism, hold out the promise of being complete: provided all the empirical facts one could, in principle, determine whether any given act was right or not. Other theoretical (...)
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  25. Robert McKim (1992). Consequentialism, Incoherence and Choice. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 66 (1):93-98.
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  26. T. Mooney (2011). Global Ethics: The Challenge of Loyalty Traditional Utilitarian Consequentialism and Deontology. Ethics Education 17 (1).
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  27. Kai Nielsen (1994). Methods of Ethics:Wide Reflective Equilibrium and a Kind of Consequentialism. Journal of Social Philosophy 25 (2):57-72.
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  28. David A. Nordquest (2016). Mill and the Gorgias. Utilitas 28 (1):19-27.
    John Stuart Mill thought himself more indebted to Plato for his mental culture than to any other author. A study of his Gorgias translation and notes shows that arguments in On Liberty and Utilitarianism for individuality, freedom of discussion and the superiority of higher pleasures were probably shaped by that dialogue.
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  29. Richard Norman (1979). Self and Others: The Inadequacy of Utilitarianism. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9 (sup1):181-201.
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  30. Sven Nyholm (2014). Ingmar Persson, From Morality to the End of Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Pp. 336. [REVIEW] Utilitas 26 (3):321-325.
    Persson argues that common sense morality involves various “asymmetries” that don’t stand up to rational scrutiny. (One example is that intentionally harming others is commonly thought to be worse than merely allowing harm to happen, even if the harm involved is equal in both cases.) A wholly rational morality would, Persson argues, be wholly symmetrical. He also argues, however, that when we get down to our most basic attitudes and dispositions, we reach the “end of reason,” at which point we (...)
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  31. Francesco Orsi (2012). David Ross, Ideal Utilitarianism, and the Intrinsic Value of Acts. Journal for the History of Analytic Philosophy 1 (2).
    The denial of the intrinsic value of acts apart from both motives and consequences lies at the heart of Ross’s deontology and his opposition to ideal utilitarianism. Moreover, the claim that acts can have intrinsic value is a staple element of early and contemporary attempts to “consequentialise” all of morality. I first show why Ross’s denial is relevant both for his philosophy and for current debates. Then I consider and reject as inconclusive some of Ross’s explicit and implicit motivations for (...)
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  32. Philip Pettit (2012). A Question for Tomorrow: The Robust Demands of the Good. Les ateliers de l'éthique/The Ethics Forum 7 (3):7-12.
  33. Felix Pinkert (2015). What If I Cannot Make a Difference (and Know It). Ethics 125 (4):971-998.
    When several agents together produce suboptimal outcomes, yet no individual could have made a difference for the better, Act Consequentialism counterintuitively judges that all involved agents act rightly. I address this problem by supplementing Act Consequentialism with a requirement of modal robustness: Agents not only ought to produce best consequences in the actual world, but they also ought to be such that they would act optimally in certain counterfactual scenarios. I interpret this Modally Robust Act Consequentialism as Act Consequentialism plus (...)
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  34. Giuliano Pontara (2008). In Defence of Utilitarianism. Rivista di Filosofia 99 (3):467-490.
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  35. Michael Quinn (2013). Bentham on Mensuration: Calculation and Moral Reasoning. Utilitas 26 (1):61-104.
    This article argues that Bentham was committed to attempting to measure the outcomes of rules by calculating the values of the pains and pleasures to which they gave rise. That pleasure was preferable to pain, and greater pleasure to less, were, for Bentham, foundational premises of rationality, whilst to abjure calculation was to abjure rationality. However, Bentham knew that the experience of pleasure and pain, the ‘simple’ entities which provided his objective moral standard, was not only subjective, and only indirectly (...)
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  36. Maurizio Salvi (1997). How To Calculate The Utility Of Human Germline Gene Transformations? A Critique Of Utilitarianism. Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (2):36-38.
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  37. Frank Chapman Sharp (1928). Ethics. Century Co..
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  38. Margrit Shildrick (2003). Book Review: Jonathan Glover. Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. [REVIEW] Hypatia 18 (2):227-229.
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  39. David Sobel (1997). Well-Being and Consequentialism. Dissertation, University of Michigan
    There are two common assumptions about well-being that I am especially concerned to dispute in this dissertation. The first assumption is that differences in kinds of prudential values can be reduced to differences in amount of prudential value. That is, that differences in the qualities of values can reliably be reduced to mere differences in quantity. The second assumption is that well-being is the appropriate object of moral concern. Consequentialist moral theories typically argue that morality requires the maximization of well-being (...)
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  40. W. R. Sorley (1901). Henry Sidgwick. Ethics 11 (2):168.
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  41. Sarah Stroud (2001). Moral Commitment and Moral Theory. Journal of Philosophical Research 26:381-398.
    This paper examines the nature of what I call moral commitment: that is, a standing commitment to live up to moral demands. I first consider what kind of psychological state moral commitment might be, arguing that moral commitment is a species of commitment to a counterfactual condition. I explore the general structural features of attitudes of this type in order to shed light on how moral commitment might function in an agent’s motivational economy. I then use this understanding of moral (...)
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  42. G. von Gizycki (1890). The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick. International Journal of Ethics 1 (1):120-121.
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  43. W. Portmore Douglas (2011). Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. 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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  44. S. Waterlow (1909). Decadence: Henry Sidgwick Memorial LectureA. J. Balfour. International Journal of Ethics 19 (3):393-394.
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  45. Mark Wells (2015). Meaning in Consequences. Journal of Philosophy of Life 5 (3):169-179.
    This paper aims to respond on behalf of consequentialist theories of meaning in life to criticisms raised by Thaddeus Metz and, in doing so, demonstrates how the debate over theories of meaning in life might make progress. By using conceptual resources developed for consequentialist theories of morality, I argue that Metz’s general arguments against consequentialist theories of meaning in life fail. That is, some consequentialist theories can accommodate Metz’s criticisms. However, using conceptual resources developed in debate concerning consequentialist theories of (...)
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Utilitarianism
See also: Utility, Well-Being
  1. Maurice Allais (1991). Cardinal Utility. Theory and Decision 31 (2-3):99-140.
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  2. Lincoln Allison (ed.) (1990). The Utilitarian Response: The Contemporary Viability of Utilitarian Political Philosophy. Sage Publications.
    "Nearly all the essays are theoretically informed, argumentative, and exceptionally interesting; nearly all try to paint the merits (and demerits) of utilitarianism as a political philosophy in the light of attempted solutions to theoretical problems that are explored in some detail. The result is a searching, thoughtful volume." --Ethics "The Utilitarian Response is unique in the breadth of problems and questions in utilitarian theory covered. It is more suggestive of strategies by which contemporary utilitarianism could be improved than a comprehensive (...)
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  3. Michael J. Almeida (1992). The Paradoxes of Feldman's Neo-Utilitarianism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (4):455 – 468.
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  4. Íñigo Álvarez Gálvez (2009). Utilitarismo y Derechos Humanos: La Propuesta de John Stuart Mill. Plaza y Valdés Editores.
    Se dice que el utilitarismo es incompatible con la defensa de los derechos humanos, pues la búsqueda del mayor bien para el mayor número que prescribe el utilitarismo, puede exigir, en ocasiones, pasar por encima de los derechos. Sin embargo, quizá sea posible ofrecer una solución al conflicto presentando una doctrina utilitarista, reconocible como tal, que sea lo suficientemente amplia como para dar cabida a los derechos. La presente obra tiene como objeto exponer la doctrina de John Stuart Mill como (...)
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  5. S. Ambirajan (1992). Review of John Stuart Mill, Writings in India. [REVIEW] Utilitas 4 (1):154-157.
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