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 Defective Character Solution to the Non-Identity Problem.Ben Bramble - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    (*Available on request*. Just email me to receive a copy.) -/- The non-identity problem is that some actions seem morally wrong even though, by affecting future people’s identities, they are worse for nobody. In this paper, I further develop and defend a lesser known solution to the problem, one according to which when such actions are wrong, it is not because of what they do or produce, but rather just because of why they were performed. In particular, I argue that (...)
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  2. Leaving Agent-Relative Value Behind.Christa M. Johnson - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (1):53-67.
    Commonsense morality seems to feature both agent-neutral and agent-relative elements. For a long time, the core debate between consequentialists and deontologists was which of these features should take centerstage. With the introduction of the consequentializing project and agent-relative value, however, agent-neutrality has been left behind. While I likewise favor an agent-relative view, agent-neutral views capture important features of commonsense morality.This article investigates whether an agent-relative view can maintain what is attractive about typical agent-neutral views. In particular, I argue that the (...)
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  3. What Do Climate Change Winners Owe, and to Whom?Kian Mintz-Woo & Justin Leroux - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-22.
    Climate ethics has been concerned with polluter pays, beneficiary pays and ability to pay principles, all of which consider climate change as a single negative externality. This paper considers it as a constellation of externalities, positive and negative, with different associated demands of justice. This is important because explicitly considering positive externalities has not to our knowledge been done in the climate ethics literature. Specifically, it is argued that those who enjoy passive gains from climate change owe gains not to (...)
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  4. How to Challenge Common-Sense Morality (Handout).Andrew Sepielli - manuscript
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  5. Consequentialism in Environmental Ethics.Avram Hiller - 2017 - In Stephen M. Gardiner & Allen Thompson (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. New York, NY, USA: pp. 199-210.
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  6. Objective Value Is Always Newcombizable.Arif Ahmed & Jack Spencer - 2020 - Mind 129 (516):1157-1192.
    This paper argues that evidential decision theory is incompatible with options having objective values. If options have objective values, then it should always be rationally permissible for an agent to choose an option if they are certain that the option uniquely maximizes objective value. But, as we show, if options have objective values and evidential decision theory is true, then it is not always rationally permissible for an agent to choose an option if they are certain that the option uniquely (...)
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  7. The Limits of Virtue Ethics.Travis Timmerman & Yishai Cohen - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 10:255-282.
    Virtue ethics is often understood as a rival to existing consequentialist, deontological, and contractualist views. But some have disputed the position that virtue ethics is a genuine normative ethical rival. This chapter aims to crystallize the nature of this dispute by providing criteria that determine the degree to which a normative ethical theory is complete, and then investigating virtue ethics through the lens of these criteria. In doing so, it’s argued that no existing account of virtue ethics is a complete (...)
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  8. Neurons and Normativity: A Critique of Greene’s Notion of Unfamiliarity.Michael T. Dale - 2020 - Philosophical Psychology 33 (8):1072-1095.
    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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  9. Carbon Pricing and COVID-19.Kian Mintz-Woo, Francis Dennig, Hongxun Liu & Thomas Schinko - forthcoming - Climate Policy.
    [Article currently freely available to all at the DOI link below] A question arising from the COVID-19 crisis is whether the merits of cases for climate policies have been affected. This article focuses on carbon pricing, in the form of either carbon taxes or emissions trading. It discusses the extent to which relative costs and benefits of introducing carbon pricing may have changed in the context of COVID-19, during both the crisis and the recovery period to follow. In several ways, (...)
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  10. Was Dave Chappelle Morally Obliged to Leave Comedy? On the Limits of Consequentialism.Phillip Deen - 2020 - The Philosophy of Humor Yearbook 1 (1):135-152.
    Dave Chappelle took an extended leave from comedy for moral reasons. I argue that, while he had every right to leave comedy because of his moral concerns, he was not obliged to do so. To make this case, I present Chappelle’s argument that the potential negative consequences of his racial humor obliged him to leave. Next, I argue against Chappelle’s argument about avoidable harms as the harms are not his responsibility, he was not being negligent, and the benefits of his (...)
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  11. God* Does Not Exist: A Novel Logical Problem of Evil.P. X. Monaghan - 2020 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 88 (2):181-195.
    I often tell my students that the only thing that is not controversial in philosophy is that everything else in it is controversial. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it does contain a kernel of truth, as many exaggerations do: philosophy is a highly contentious discipline. So it is remarkable the extent to which there is agreement in the philosophy of religion amongst theists, agnostics, and atheists alike that John Mackie’s argument for atheism is either invalid or (...)
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  12. Toward a Unified Theory of Morality: An Introduction to Part One of Reasons and Persons.Ben Eggleston - 2020 - In Andrea Sauchelli (ed.), Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry. London, UK: pp. 13-29.
    A book chapter (about 8,000 words, plus references) summarizing Part One of Reasons and Persons, with particular attention to the Self-interest Theory, Consequentialism, Common-Sense Morality, and how critical scrutiny of Consequentialism and Common-Sense Morality points the way toward a unified theory of morality.
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  13. Ethical Theories and Their Application.Andrew Forcehimes - 2018 - In Steven M. Cahn & Andrew T. Forcehimes (eds.), Exploring Moral Problems: An Introductory Anthology. New York, NY, USA: pp. 2-48.
    What are we required to do? Who are we required to be? And why are we required to do these things or be these types of people? Ethical theories attempt to systematically answer these questions. This essay examines the most prominent such theories, evaluating each for their strengths and weaknesses.
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  14. The Anatomy of Normative Ethics.Andrew Forcehimes - 2016 - In Steven M. Cahn & Andrew T. Forcehimes (eds.), Principles of Moral Philosophy: Classic and Contemporary Approaches. New York, NY, USA: pp. 3-18.
    This essay provides an overview of the elements of normative ethics – deontic verdicts, evaluative claims, determining grounds, and core normative principles. It then turns to how these elements fit together and how they might be filled out. This gives us a precise way of categorizing egoism, act-consequentialism, natural law theory, divine command theory, cultural relativism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics.
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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. Catharine Trotter Cockburn’s Democratization of Moral Virtue.Getty L. Lustila - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (1):83-97.
    This paper examines Catharine Trotter Cockburn’s moral philosophy, focusing on her accounts of virtuous conduct, conscience, obligation, and moral character. I argue that Cockburn’s account of virtue has two interlocking parts: a view of what virtue requires of us, and a view of how we come to see this requirement as authoritative. I then argue that while the two parts are ultimately in tension with one another, the tension is instructive. I use Cockburn’s encounter with Shaftesbury’s writings to help bring (...)
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  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. 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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  23. Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare.Yvonne Chiu - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Columbia University Press.
    *North American Society for Social Philosophy (NASSP) Book Award 2019.* -/- *International Studies Association (ISA) - International Ethics Section Book Award 2021.* -/- 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 (...)
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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. Security and Distribution, or Should You Care About Merely Possible Losses?Kian Mintz-Woo - 2019 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 21 (3):382-386.
    [Comment] Jonathan Herington argues that harms can occur whether or not there is actually a loss. He claims that subjectively or objectively merely being at risk of losing access to basic goods is sufficient for lowering that individual’s well-being for the value of ‘security’. I challenge whether losing access to basic goods is sufficient to justify the introduction of this value. I also point to some issues in his interpretation of IPCC risk categories and the social science research he relies (...)
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  27. 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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  28. Actualism Doesn’T Have Control Issues: A Reply to Cohen and Timmerman.Andrew T. Forcehimes & Luke Semrau - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (1):271-277.
    Recently, Cohen and Timmerman, 1–18, 2016) argue that actualism has control issues. The view should be rejected, they claim, as it recognizes a morally irrelevant distinction between counterfactuals over which agents exercise the same kind of control. Here we reply on behalf of actualism.
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  29. Principles of Moral Philosophy: Classic and Contemporary Approaches.Steven Cahn & Andrew Forcehimes (eds.) - 2016 - Oxford University Press.
    Principles of Moral Philosophy: Classic and Contemporary Approaches covers all the major theories in normative ethics--relativism, egoism, divine command theory, natural law, Kantian ethics, consequentialism, pluralism, social contract theory, virtue ethics, the ethics of care, and particularism--and also includes sections on applied ethics and metaethics. It provides students with a balanced introduction to an array of approaches to topics in normative ethics, offering traditional theories alongside criticisms of them. The readings are enhanced by a variety of pedagogical features including a (...)
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  30. 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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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. 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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  34. 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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  35. 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 explore the view upon which future persons are harmed if we prevent them from having what it is required by the Principle of Utility.
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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. 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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  39. 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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  40. Deep Down: Consequentialist Assumptions Underlying Policy Differences.Zeljka Buturovic - 2012 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 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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  41. Cargile on Utilitarianism.G. Wallace - 1972 - Analysis 32 (4):126.
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  42. 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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  43. Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism.Richard E. Flathman - 1965 - Ethics 76 (4):309-317.
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  44. Moral Legislation: A Legal-Political Model for Indirect Consequentialist Reasoning.Jonathan E. Adler - 1993 - Ethics 103 (4):814-817.
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  45. 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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  46. Ethics.Frank Chapman Sharp - 1928 - Century Co..
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  47. Utilitarianism and Co-Operation.David Copp - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (4):617.
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  48. 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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  49. Decadence: Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture. A. J. Balfour.S. Waterlow - 1909 - International Journal of Ethics 19 (3):393-394.
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  50. The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick.J. S. Mackenzie - 1894 - International Journal of Ethics 4 (4):512-514.
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