About this topic
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 1874.  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. The Hidden Zero Problem: Effective Altruism and Barriers to Marginal Impact.Mark Budolfson & Dean Spears - 2019 - In Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.), Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues.
    In this chapter, Mark Budolfson and Dean Spears analyse the marginal effect of philanthropic donations. The core of their analysis is the observation that marginal good done per dollar donated is a product (in the mathematical sense) of several factors: change in good done per change in activity level of the charity in question, change in activity per change in the charity’s budget size, and change in budget size per change in the individual’s donation to the charity in question. They (...)
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  2. Deservingness Transfers.Knut Olav Skarsaune - 2020 - Utilitas 32 (2):209-218.
    This article seeks to cause trouble for a brand of consequentialism known as ‘desertarianism’. In somewhat different ways, views of this kind evaluate outcomes more favourably, other things equal, the better the fit between the welfare different people enjoy and the welfare they each deserve. These views imply that we can improve outcomes by redistributing welfare to fit desert, which seems plausible enough. Unfortunately, they also imply that we can improve outcomes by redistributing desert to fit welfare: in other words, (...)
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  3. Continuity in Morality and Law.Re'em Segev - forthcoming - Theoretical Inquiries in Law.
    According to the an influential and intuitively appealing argument (the Continuity Argument): (1) morality is usually continuous, namely, a gradual change in one morally significant factor triggers a gradual change in another; (2) the law should usually track morality; (3) therefore, the law should often be continuous. This argument is illustrated by cases such as the following example: since the moral difference between a defensive action that is reasonable and one that is just short of being reasonable is small, the (...)
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  4. Max Weber on Politics, Reason, and the Clash of Values and Approaches to Ethics.Manuel Dr Knoll - 2019 - Dîvân. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 24 (47):111–140.
    This article investigates how Max Weber’s theory of value conflict is connected to his realist understanding of politics and how he conceives the relation of politics and ethics. This investigation also covers Weber’s views on the argumentative limits of the social sciences and ethics. The center of Weber’s philosophy of science is constituted by his methodological thoughts on “ethical neutrality” (Wertfreiheit) of the social sciences. The first thesis of this paper contends that Weber’s theory of a clash of irreconcilable values (...)
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  5. Neurons and Normativity: A Critique of Greene's Notion of Unfamiliarity.Michael Dale - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
    In his article “Beyond Point-and-Shoot Morality,” Joshua Greene argues that the empirical findings of cognitive neuroscience have implications for ethics. Specifically, he contends that we ought to trust our manual, conscious reasoning system more than our automatic, emotional system when confronting unfamiliar problems; and because cognitive neuroscience has shown that consequentialist judgments are generated by the manual system and deontological judgments are generated by the automatic system, we ought to trust the former more than the latter when facing unfamiliar moral (...)
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  6. Objective Value Is Always Newcombizable.Arif Ahmed & Jack Spencer - forthcoming - Mind:fzz070.
    This paper argues that evidential decision theory is incompatible with options having objective values.
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  7. Disordered Actions: A Moral Analysis of Lying and Homosexual Activity.John Skalko - 2019 - Editiones Scholasticae.
    Just fifteen years ago, the common non-religious consensus was that homosexual acts were immoral. Within one decade, however, this consensus waned. The secular majority no longer held, as they previously did, that such actions are morally bad. What explains this sudden change? One explanation is that many conservatives lacked adequate philosophical tools to explain the foundations of the earlier historical consensus. Another is that modern research has shown that there never existed any solid philosophical grounds for calling such actions immoral (...)
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  8. Introduction: On the Challenges of Intergenerational Justice and Climate Change.Santiago Truccone-Borgogno - 2018 - Ethic@ - An International Journal for Moral Philosophy 3 (17):345-362.
    This introduction aims to describe some fundamental problems of intergenerational justice and climate change. It also intends to provide comments on improved versions of some of the best papers presented in the International Meeting “Intergenerational Justice and Climate Change: juridical, moral and political issues” that took place at Cordoba National University (Argentina), in September 2017. In that meeting, the discussion focused on these topics by considering the ideas of the two keynote speakers invited to the event: Lukas H. Meyer and (...)
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  9. Debunking Objective Consequentialism: The Challenge of Knowledge-Centric Anti-Luck Epistemology.Paul Silva Jr - forthcoming - In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge.
    I explain why, from the perspective of knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology, objective act consequentialist theories of ethics imply skepticism about the moral status of our prospective actions and also tend to be self-defeating, undermining the justification of consequentialist theories themselves. For according to knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology there are modal anti-luck demands on both knowledge and justification, and it turns out that our beliefs about the moral status of our prospective actions are almost never able to satisfy these demands if objective act (...)
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  10. Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare.Yvonne Chiu - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Columbia University Press.
    Although military mores have relied primarily on just war theory, the ethic of cooperation in warfare (ECW)—between enemies even as they are trying to kill each other—is as central to the practice of warfare and to conceptualization of its morality. Neither game theory nor unilateral moral duties (God-given or otherwise) can explain the explicit language of cooperation in developing and enforcing principles of military ethics and the law of armed conflict. -/- The ethic of cooperation is borne of various motivations: (...)
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  11. Falibilidad y Normatividad.Axel Arturo Barceló Aspeitia (ed.) - forthcoming - Madrid, España: Cátedra.
    La falibilidad es una condición ubicua de nuestras empresas, la cual emana del hecho de que, comúnmente, las cosas que más nos interesan, como el descubrir la verdad, referirnos a cosas que de hecho existen, evitar dañar a los otros, etc., escapan nuestro alcance y, sin embargo, no dejamos de hacer grandes esfuerzos para conseguirlas. Es posible que hagamos todo lo que está en nuestras manos para actuar de manera cuidadosa y responsable y aun así nuestros actos tengan consecuencias negativas; (...)
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  12. Review of Tim Mulgan, The Demands of Consequentialism[REVIEW]Ben Eggleston - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (1):123-125.
    A review of Tim Mulgan, _The Demands of Consequentialism_ (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. vi + 313.
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  13. Welfarism.Ben Bramble - forthcoming - In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd print edition.
    Welfarism is a theory of value (or the good) simpliciter. Theories of value are fundamentally concerned with explaining what makes some possible worlds better than others. Welfarism is the view according to which the relative value of possible worlds is fully determined by how individuals are faring—or, in other words, by the facts about well-being that obtain—in these worlds. This entry begins by distinguishing between various forms of welfarism (pure vs. impure welfarism, and then narrow vs. wide welfarism). It then (...)
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  14. Morality Under Risk.Chad Lee-Stronach - 2019 - Dissertation,
    Many argue that absolutist moral theories -- those that prohibit particular kinds of actions or trade-offs under all circumstances -- cannot adequately account for the permissibility of risky actions. In this dissertation, I defend various versions of absolutism against this critique, using overlooked resources from formal decision theory. Against the prevailing view, I argue that almost all absolutist moral theories can give systematic and plausible verdicts about what to do in risky cases. In doing so, I show that critics have (...)
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  15. Moral Saints.Zahra Khazaei - 2005 - Journal of Philosophical Theological Research 6 (24):144-166.
    Moral saints are the most worthy people who are regarded as examples and exemplifications in moral and religious cultures, for they are of special noetic-educational characteristics and extra actions beyond the bound of obligation. The two obligatory and value aspects of morality in the theories of normative ethics as well as the distinct approaches in religious and secular ethics have produced different explications of the actions beyond the limits of moral duty and sanctimonious features. Moreover, various pictures of the saints' (...)
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  16. Epistemic Consequentialism.Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij & Jeff Dunn (eds.) - 2018 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    An important issue in epistemology concerns the source of epistemic normativity. Epistemic consequentialism maintains that epistemic norms are genuine norms in virtue of the way in which they are conducive to epistemic value, whatever epistemic value may be. So, for example, the epistemic consequentialist might say that it is a norm that beliefs should be consistent, in that holding consistent beliefs is the best way to achieve the epistemic value of accuracy. Thus epistemic consequentialism is structurally similar to the family (...)
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  17. Extrinsic Value and the Separability of Reasons.Barry Maguire - 2016 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 6.
    This paper presents a puzzle for Act Consequentialists who do not want to shoot Pelé. The puzzle arises from cases involving the promotion of virtue, and motivates a systematic restriction on the separability of reasons.
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  18. Mental-Threshold Egalitarianism: How Not to Ground Full Moral Status.Rainer Ebert - 2018 - Social Theory and Practice 44 (1):75-93.
    Mental-threshold egalitarianism, well-known examples of which include Jeff McMahan’s two-tiered account of the wrongness of killing and Tom Regan’s theory of animal rights, divides morally considerable beings into equals and unequals on the basis of their individual mental capacities. In this paper, I argue that the line that separates equals from unequals is unavoidably arbitrary and implausibly associates an insignificant difference in empirical reality with a momentous difference in moral status. In response to these objections, McMahan has proposed the introduction (...)
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  19. Entre la utilidad y el daño: el problema de la no-identidad [Utilidad, daño y responsabilidad: el problema de la no identidad].Santiago Truccone Borgogno - 2017 - Télos 21 (2):67-84.
    In this paper I tried to find a harm based solution to the non-identity problem. I will argue that we can identify harm to future people in the non-identity cases in a violation to his right to get what the Principle of Utility implies that he should be given. That is the maxim expectable wellbeing that the agent could create in some future people.
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  20. Daño al futuro: ¿Puede el no comparativismo resolver el problema de la no-identidad?Santiago Truccone Borgogno - 2017 - Daimon: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 70:83-96.
    la tesis clásica del daño afirma que un sujeto daña a otro cuando lo coloca en una peor situación de la que podría estar de otro modo. Sin embargo, algunas acciones causan consecuencias malas en determinados sujetos pero no los colocan en una condición peor de la que podrían estar de otro modo. En tales casos el no-comparativismo parece poder aportar la solución correcta desde que, para tales tesis dañar a otro es colocar a un sujeto en una condición mala. (...)
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  21. Being Good by Doing Good: Goodness and the Evaluation of Persons.Andreas T. Schmidt - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (1):3-26.
    Does doing good in itself make one a better person? This idea is intuitive yet its precise formulation underexplored. This article first shows that it is not the case that a person is good to the extent that her existence brings about good or to the extent that her actions do good. A proportional principle that evaluates a person according to the expected goodness of her actual course of action relative to the expected goodness of other available courses is shown (...)
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  22. Can Consequences Be Right-Makers?Stephen Boulter - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (1):185-205.
    This paper sets out a novel challenge to consequentialism as a theory in normative ethics. The challenge is rooted in the ontological claim that consequences of actions do not exist at the time required to be that in virtue of which actions are right or wrong, and so consequences cannot play the role attributed to them by consequentialists. The challenge takes the form of a dilemma. The consequentialist is confronted with a set of propositions she will find individually plausible but (...)
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  23. Restricted Prioritarianism or Competing Claims?Benjamin Lange - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (2):137-152.
    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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  24. Cargile on Utilitarianism.G. Wallace - 1972 - Analysis 32 (4):126.
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  25. Utilitarianism: A Coffeehouse Conversation: Davis A Coffeehouse Conversation.Paul Davis - 2006 - Think 4 (12):107-110.
    Some classic criticisms of utilitarianism explored.
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  26. Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism.Richard E. Flathman - 1965 - Ethics 76 (4):309-317.
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  27. Moral Legislation: A Legal-Political Model for Indirect Consequentialist Reasoning.Jonathan E. Adler - 1993 - Ethics 103 (4):814-817.
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  28. Consequentialism, Incoherence and Choice: A Rejoinder to a Rejoinder.Peter Simpson & Robert McKim - 1992 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 66 (1):93-98.
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  29. Ethics.Frank Chapman Sharp - 1928 - Century Co..
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  30. Utilitarianism and Co-Operation.David Copp - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (4):617.
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  31. The Wrongness of Killing.Rainer Ebert - 2016 - Dissertation, Rice University
    There are few moral convictions that enjoy the same intuitive plausibility and level of acceptance both within and across nations, cultures, and traditions as the conviction that, normally, it is morally wrong to kill people. Attempts to provide a philosophical explanation of why that is so broadly fall into three groups: Consequentialists argue that killing is morally wrong, when it is wrong, because of the harm it inflicts on society in general, or the victim in particular, whereas personhood and human (...)
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  32. Decadence: Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture. A. J. Balfour.S. Waterlow - 1909 - International Journal of Ethics 19 (3):393-394.
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  33. The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick.J. S. Mackenzie - 1894 - International Journal of Ethics 4 (4):512-514.
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  34. The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick.G. von Gizycki - 1890 - International Journal of Ethics 1 (1):120-121.
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  35. The Problem of ‘Utility of Religion’ in the Classical Utilitarianism -Centered on the Concept of ‘Religion of Humanity’ by J. S. Mill-.Nam Kyol Heo - 2012 - Journal of Ethics 1 (86):27-53.
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  36. Self and Others: The Inadequacy of Utilitarianism.Richard Norman - 1979 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9 (sup1):181-201.
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  37. Mill and the Gorgias.David A. Nordquest - 2016 - 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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  38. Utilitarianism and Accomplishment.R. Crisp - 2000 - Analysis 60 (3):264-268.
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  39. Utilitarianism and Accomplishment Revisited.R. Crisp - 2001 - Analysis 61 (2):162-164.
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  40. Henry Sidgwick.W. R. Sorley - 1900 - Ethics 11 (2):168.
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  41. Utilitarianism.A. L. Hodder - 1892 - Ethics 3 (1):90.
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  42. Utilitarianism: Restorations, Repairs, Renovations.David Braybrooke - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (1):121-124.
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  43. Bentham on Mensuration: Calculation and Moral Reasoning.Michael Quinn - 2014 - 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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  44. The Numbers Problem.Nien-hê Hsieh, Alan Strudler & David Wasserman - 2006 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (4):352-372.
  45. Caring Beings and the Immanence of Value: An Inquiry Into the Foundations of Interpersonal Morality.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    By what authority does morality make its demands? In this essay I argue that we find that authority within ourselves, immanent to - not necessarily the character - but the very fact of our own self-concern.
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  46. Well-Being and Consequentialism.David Sobel - 1997 - 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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  47. Completeness as an Ideal for Moral Theory.Sean David Mckeever - 2001 - 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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  48. Modern Utilitarianism.James Griffin - 1982 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 36 (3):331.
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  49. Utilitarianism and Religion. [REVIEW]Victor Nuovo - 1999 - Enlightenment and Dissent 18:260-263.
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  50. How To Calculate The Utility Of Human Germline Gene Transformations? A Critique Of Utilitarianism.Maurizio Salvi - 1997 - Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (2):36-38.
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