Consequentialism and its critics


Abstract
Consequentialism broadly speaking is the idea that the moral rightness and wrongness of a thing (an act, a policy, an institution) is determined by the quality of its consequences. A prominent version is act consequentialism, which holds one morally always ought to do an act whose outcome is no worse than the outcome of any other act one might have done instead. This doctrine has little content—no commitment is involved as to how one should evaluate consequences—but is still highly controversial. What is called common-sense morality or CSM—moral views it is supposed many people embrace—rejects consequentialism as both too demanding and too permissive. Too permissive, because CSM includes constraints, rules one should not break even if doing so would produce the best attainable outcome. Too demanding, because CSM includes options. The demands of CSM mostly involve refraining from harming others in certain ways, and provided one observes these constraints, one is morally at liberty to do whatever one chooses, whether or not that produces the best outcome. In most situations, according to CSM, morality allow one many options, alternative acts one is morally permitted to do.
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