Rethinking Demandingness: Why Satisficing Consequentialism and Scalar Consequentialism are not Less Demanding than Maximizing Consequentialism

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (1):1-8 (2016)
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Abstract

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” altogether – thereby arriving at scalar consequentialism. Suppose, however, that a moral theory’s demandingness is not a matter of its requirements being stringent, but whether it entails that we have most reason, all things considered, to undertake burdensome actions. If this is the right account of demandingness – as I shall argue – then neither modification necessarily alleviates demandingness. We are led to the surprising conclusion that neither satisficing consequentialism nor scalar consequentialism is inherently less demanding than their more familiar maximizing counterpart. They are less demanding only when supplemented with ancillary, and controversial, assumptions.

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Spencer Case
University of Colorado, Boulder

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