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Summary Maximizing consequentialism holds that an act X is permissible if and only if there is no alternative act Y that would produce more good than X would. There are several worries associated with formulating consequentialism as a maximizing theory: the resulting theory is (1) very demanding in that requires that agents always produce as much good as possible, (2) unable to accommodate supererogatory actions -- acts that are optional despite their being morally superior to other permissible alternatives, and (3) unable to allow for a wide range of moral options in that it allows for moral options only when two or more available acts are tied for first-place in terms of their production of goodness. Satisficing consequentialism is motivated in large part out of a concern to avoid (or at least to dissipate the force of) these objections. Satisficing consequentialism does so by holding that an act X is permissible if and only if its outcome is good enough.
Key works The key early works are Slote 1985 and Slote & Pettit 1984. Since the development of satisficing consequentialism, there have been several major critiques: see, for instance, Mulgan 2001 and, especially, Bradley 2006.
Introductions For a general introduction to satisficing consequentialism, see Slote & Pettit 1984.
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  1. We Are Optimizers: Re-Opening the Case for Rational Genuine Satisficing.Gary Goh - manuscript
    This paper critically reviews the arguments supporting rational genuine satisficing. The deconstructive effort unearths inherent problems with the position in both static and dynamic contexts. Many of these arguments build on Herbert Simon’s canonical arguments surrounding incommensurability and demandingness problems. Optimizing is re-constructed using the principles of instrumental satisficing to answer these charges. The resulting conception is both obviously undemanding and a recognizable response to focused decision making.
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  2. Deontic Pluralism and the Right Amount of Good.Richard Y. Chappell - 2020 - In Douglas W. Portmore (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. Oxford University Press. pp. 498-512.
    Consequentialist views have traditionally taken a maximizing form, requiring agents to bring about the very best outcome that they can. But this maximizing function may be questioned. Satisficing views instead allow agents to bring about any outcome that exceeds a satisfactory threshold or qualifies as “good enough.” Scalar consequentialism, by contrast, eschews moral requirements altogether, instead evaluating acts in purely comparative terms, i.e., as better or worse than their alternatives. After surveying the main considerations for and against each of these (...)
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  3. Divine Satisficing and the Ethics of the Problem of Evil.Chris Tucker - 2020 - Faith and Philosophy 37 (1):32-56.
    This paper accomplishes three goals. First, it reveals that God’s ethics has a radical satisficing structure: God can choose a good enough suboptimal option even if there is a best option and no countervailing considerations. Second, it resolves the long-standing worry that there is no account of the good enough that is both principled and demanding enough to be good enough. Third, it vindicates the key ethical assumption in the problem of evil without relying on the contested assumption that God’s (...)
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  4. Willpower Satisficing.Richard Yetter Chappell - 2019 - Noûs 53 (2):251-265.
    Satisficing Consequentialism is often rejected as hopeless. Perhaps its greatest problem is that it risks condoning the gratuitous prevention of goodness above the baseline of what qualifies as "good enough". I propose a radical new willpower-based version of the view that avoids this problem, and that better fits with the motivation of avoiding an excessively demanding conception of morality. I further demonstrate how, by drawing on the resources of an independent theory of blameworthiness, we may obtain a principled specification of (...)
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  5. Accommodating Options.Seth Lazar - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (1):233-255.
    Many of us think we have agent-centred options to act suboptimally. Some of these involve favouring our own interests. Others involve sacrificing them. In this paper, I explore three different ways to accommodate agent-centred options in a criterion of objective permissibility. I argue against satisficing and rational pluralism, and in favour of a principle built around sensitivity to personal cost.
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  6. Consequentialism.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  7. Bentham’s Binary Form of Maximizing Utilitarianism.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (1):87-109.
    Jeremy Bentham is often interpreted as defending a satisficing, rather than maximizing, version of utilitarianism, where an act is right as long as it produces more pleasure than pain. This lack of maximization is surprising given Bentham’s maximizing slogan ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Against the satisficing interpretation, I argue that Bentham consistently defends a maximizing version of utilitarianism, where an act’s consequences are compared to those of not performing the act. I show that following this version of (...)
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  8. Scalar Consequentialism the Right Way.Neil Sinhababu - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):3131-3144.
    The rightness and wrongness of actions fits on a continuous scale. This fits the way we evaluate actions chosen among a diverse range of options, even though English speakers don’t use the words “righter” and “wronger”. I outline and defend a version of scalar consequentialism, according to which rightness is a matter of degree, determined by how good the consequences are. Linguistic resources are available to let us truly describe actions simply as right. Some deontological theories face problems in accounting (...)
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  9. How to Think About Satisficing.Chris Tucker - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1365-1384.
    An agent submaximizes with motivation when she aims at the best but chooses a less good option because of a countervailing consideration. An agent satisfices when she rejects the better for the good enough, and does so because the mere good enough gets her what she really wants. Motivated submaximization and satisficing, so construed, are different ways of choosing a suboptimal option, but this difference is easily missed. Putative proponents of satisficing tend to argue only that motivated submaximization can be (...)
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  10. Rethinking Demandingness: Why Satisficing Consequentialism and Scalar Consequentialism Are Not Less Demanding Than Maximizing Consequentialism.Spencer Case - 2016 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (1):1-8.
    What does it mean to object to a moral theory, such as maximizing consequentialism, on the grounds that it is too demanding? It is apparently to say that its requirements are implausibly stringent. This suggests an obvious response: Modify the theory so that its requirements are no longer as stringent. A consequentialist may do this either by placing the requirement threshold below maximization – thereby arriving at satisficing consequentialism – or, more radically, by dispensing with deontological notions such as “requirement” (...)
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  11. Consequentialism with Wrongness Depending on the Difficulty of Doing Better.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):108-118.
    Moral wrongness comes in degrees. On a consequentialist view of ethics, the wrongness of an act should depend, I argue, in part on how much worse the act's consequences are compared with those of its alternatives and in part on how difficult it is to perform the alternatives with better consequences. I extend act consequentialism to take this into account, and I defend three conditions on consequentialist theories. The first is consequentialist dominance, which says that, if an act has better (...)
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  12. Satisficing and Motivated Submaximization (in the Philosophy of Religion).Chris Tucker - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (1):127-143.
    In replying to certain objections to the existence of God, Robert Adams, Bruce Langtry, and Peter van Inwagen assume that God can appropriately choose a suboptimal world, a world less good than some other world God could have chosen. A number of philosophers, such as Michael Slote and Klaas Kraay, claim that these theistic replies are therefore committed to the claim that satisficing can be appropriate. Kraay argues that this commitment is a significant liability. I argue, however, that the relevant (...)
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  13. Satisficing.John Turri - 2013 - In Encyclopedia of utilitarianism. Bloomsbury Academic.
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  14. You Don't Have to Do What's Best! (A Problem for Consequentialists and Other Teleologists).S. Andrew Schroeder - 2011 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Oxford University Press.
    Define teleology as the view that requirements hold in virtue of facts about value or goodness. Teleological views are quite popular, and in fact some philosophers (e.g. Dreier, Smith) argue that all (plausible) moral theories can be understood teleologically. I argue, however, that certain well-known cases show that the teleologist must at minimum assume that there are certain facts that an agent ought to know, and that this means that requirements can't, in general, hold in virtue of facts about value (...)
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  15. The Rights and Wrongs of Consequentialism.Brian McElwee - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (3):393 - 412.
    I argue that the strongest form of consequentialism is one which rejects the claim that we are morally obliged to bring about the best available consequences, but which continues to assert that what there is most reason to do is bring about the best available consequences. Such an approach promises to avoid common objections to consequentialism, such as demandingness objections. Nevertheless, the onus is on the defender of this approach either to offer her own account of what moral obligations we (...)
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  16. In Defense of a Version of Satisficing Consequentialism.Jason Rogers - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (2):198-221.
    In this paper, I develop, motivate and offer a qualified defense of a version of satisficing consequentialism (SC). I develop the view primarily in light of objections to other versions of SC recently posed by Ben Bradley. I motivate the view by showing that it (1) accommodates the intuitions apparently supporting those objections, (2) is supported by certain ‘common sense’ moral intuitions about specific cases, and (3) captures the central ideas expressed by satisficing consequentialists in the recent literature. Finally, I (...)
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  17. Pettit's Non-Iteration Constraint.Sean Mcaleer - 2008 - Utilitas 20 (1):59-64.
    I discuss Philip Pettit’s argument that appreciation is not a proper response to value because it fails to satisfy the non-iteration constraint, according to which, where V is a value and R is a response to value, R-ing V must not be distinct from R-ing R-ing V. After motivating the non-iteration constraint and conceding that appreciation fails to satisfy the constraint, I argue that the consequentialist’s preferred response to value, promotion, also violates the constraint, leaving Pettit with a dilemma: if (...)
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  18. Is Genuine Satisficing Rational?Edmund Henden - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (4):339-352.
    There have been different interpretations of satisficing rationality. A common view is that it is sometimes rationally permitted to choose an option one judges is good enough even when one does not know that it is the best option. But there is available a more radical view of satisficing. On this view, it is rationally permitted to choose an option one judges is good enough even when a better option is known to be available. In this paper I distinguish between (...)
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  19. Against Satisficing Consequentialism.Ben Bradley - 2006 - Utilitas 18 (2):97-108.
    The move to satisficing has been thought to help consequentialists avoid the problem of demandingness. But this is a mistake. In this article I formulate several versions of satisficing consequentialism. I show that every version is unacceptable, because every version permits agents to bring about a submaximal outcome in order to prevent a better outcome from obtaining. Some satisficers try to avoid this problem by incorporating a notion of personal sacrifice into the view. I show that these attempts are unsuccessful. (...)
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  20. Maximizing Act Consequentialism and Friendship.F. Scott McElreath - 2006 - Journal of Value Inquiry 40 (4):413-420.
  21. Review: Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. [REVIEW]D. W. Shoemaker - 2006 - Mind 115 (457):129-135.
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  22. Against Maximizing Act-Consequentialism (June 30, 2008).Peter Vallentyne - 2006 - In James Dreier (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell. pp. 6--21.
    Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.[i] It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. Actions with (...)
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  23. Against Maximizing Act-Consequentialism (December 2, 2010) in Moral Theories Edited by Jamie Dreier (Blackwell Publishers, 2006), Pp. 21-37. [REVIEW]Peter Vallentyne - 2006 - In Dreier Jamie (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell.
    Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.1 It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. Actions with (...)
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  24. Simon's Revenge: Or, Incommensurability and Satisficing.M. Byron - 2005 - Analysis 65 (4):311-315.
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  25. Reply to John Turri.Timothy Mulgan - 2005 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (4):493 – 496.
  26. You Can't Get Away with Murder That Easily: A Response to Timothy Mulgan.John Turri - 2005 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (4):489 – 492.
    I respond to an objection against satisficing consequentialism, due to Tim Mulgan.
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  27. Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason.Michael Byron (ed.) - 2004 - New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.
    How do we think about what we plan to do? One dominant answer is that we select the best possible option available. However, a growing number of philosophers would offer a different answer: since we are not equipped to maximize we often choose the next best alternative, one that is no more than satisfactory. This strategy choice is called satisficing. This collection of essays explores both these accounts of practical reason, examining the consequences for adopting one or the other for (...)
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  28. Agency and Deontic Logic.Paul Mcnamara - 2004 - Mind 113 (449):179-185.
    This is a review of John Horty's book, _Agency and Deontic Logic_, OUP 2000.
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  29. Maxificing: Life on a Budget; or, If You Would Maximize, Then Satisfice!Jan Narveson - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press. pp. 59--70.
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  30. Satisficing: Not Good Enough.Henry S. Richardson - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press. pp. 106--130.
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  31. Satisficing as a Humanly Rational Strategy.David Schmidtz - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30--59.
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  32. Two Views of Satisficing.Michael Slote - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press. pp. 14--29.
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  33. The Plausibility of Satisficing and the Role of Good in Ordinary Thought.Mark Van Roojen - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press.
    Satisficing without thereby maximizing is rational provided that non-consequentialism is rational and provided that the preferred characterization of non-consequentialism is not one in which right action is justified in virtue of maximizing agent-relative value. Rather, the non-consequentialism which can serve to defend satisficing should be one in which the best characterization of certain reasons to act does not involve maximization of value of any sort, whether agent-relative or agent neutral. I argue there are reasons to prefer this sort of non-consequentialism (...)
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  34. A New Defense of Satisficing.Michael Weber - 2004 - In Michael Byron (ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press. pp. 77--106.
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  35. How Satisficers Get Away with Murder.Tim Mulgan - 2001 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (1):41 – 46.
    Traditional Consequentialism is based on a demanding principle of impartial maximization. Michael Slote's 'Satisficing Consequentialism' aims to reduce the demands of Consequentialism, by no longer requiring us to bring about the best possible outcome. This paper presents a new objection to Satisficing Consequentialism. We begin with a simple thought experiment, in which an agent must choose whether to save the lives of ten innocent people by using a sand bag or by killing an innocent person. The main aim of the (...)
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  36. Moderation and Satisficing.Michael Slote - 2001 - In Elijah Millgram (ed.), Varieties of Practical Reasoning. MIT Press. pp. 221--236.
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  37. Satisficing Revisited.Michael A. Goodrich, Wynn C. Stirling & Erwin R. Boer - 2000 - Minds and Machines 10 (1):79-109.
    In the debate between simple inference heuristics and complex decision mechanisms, we take a position squarely in the middle. A decision making process that extends to both naturalistic and novel settings should extend beyond the confines of this debate; both simple heuristics and complex mechanisms are cognitive skills adapted to and appropriate for some circumstances but not for others. Rather than ask `Which skill is better?'' it is often more important to ask `When is a skill justified?'' The selection and (...)
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  38. Satisficing: The Rationality of Preferring What is Good Enough.Michael E. Weber - 1998 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
    It is widely maintained that self-interested rationality is a matter of maximizing one's own good or well-being. Rationality more generally is also frequently characterized in maximizing terms: the rational thing to do in any decision context is whatever is best in terms of one's interests or will lead to the greatest preference-satisfaction, My dissertation consists of three independent papers that challenge this orthodoxy by lending support to "satisficing," the idea that it is rational to prefer what is good enough. In (...)
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  39. Satisficing Utilitarianism as a Variation on Utilitarian Moral Theory.Kathleen Sarah Lossau - 1993 - Dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park
    Satisficing is a term that was coined by Herbert Simon in the field of economics meaning 'that which is good enough.' In recent years Michael Slote and others have addressed the rationality and the morality of satisficing from a philosophical perspective. My work in this thesis is an attempt to further this discussion. I argue that there is a form of satisficing act consequentialism that is consistent with Jeremy Bentham's notion of utilitarianism. In making the case for the rationality and (...)
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  40. Slote's Satisficing Consequentialism.Tim Mulgan - 1993 - Ratio 6 (2):121 - 134.
    The article discusses Michael Slote's Satisficing Consequentialism, which is the view that moral agents are not required to maximise the good, but merely to produce a sufficient amount of good. It is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism is not an acceptable alternative to Maximising Consequentialism. In particular, it is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism cannot be less demanding in practice than Maximising Consequentialism without also endorsing a wide range of clearly unacceptable actions. It is then argued that Slote's inability to provide adequate (...)
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  41. Two Kinds of Satisficing.Thomas Hurka - 1990 - Philosophical Studies 59 (1):107 - 111.
    Michael Slote has defended a moral view that he calls "satisficing consequentialism." Less demanding than maximizing consequentialism, it requires only that agents bring about consequences that are "good enough." I argue that Slote's characterization of satisficing is ambiguous. His idea of consequences' being "good enough" admits of two interpretations, with different implications in (some) particular cases. One interpretation I call "absolute-level" satisficing, the other "comparative" satisficing. Once distinguished, these versions of satisficing appear in a very different light. Absolute-level satisficing is (...)
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  42. Michael Slote., Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism.Henry R. West - 1989 - International Studies in Philosophy 21 (1):115-116.
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  43. Book Review:Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. Michael Slote. [REVIEW]Dale Jamieson - 1987 - Ethics 98 (1):168-.
  44. Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism By Michael Slote London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, 157 Pp., £14.95. [REVIEW]A. W. Price - 1986 - Philosophy 61 (238):552-.
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  45. SLOTE, MICHAEL Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. [REVIEW]A. W. Price - 1986 - Philosophy 61:551.
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  46. Common Sense Morality and Consequentialism.Michael A. Slote - 1985 - Routledge & Kegan.
  47. Satisficing Consequentialism.Michael Slote & Philip Pettit - 1984 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 58 (1):139-176.
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  48. Satisficing and Substantive Values.Thomas Hurka - manuscript
    Satisficing theories, whether of rationality or morality, do not require agents to maximize the good. They demand only that agents bring about outcomes that are, in one or both of two senses, “good enough.” In the first sense, an outcome is good enough if it is above some absolute threshold of goodness; this yields a view that I will call absolute-level satisficing. In the second sense, an outcome is good enough if it is reasonably close to the best outcome the (...)
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