The Epistemic Problem Does Not Refute Consequentialism

Utilitas 18 (4):383 (2006)
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Abstract

“Perhaps the most common objection to consequentialism is this: it is impossible to know the future…This means that you will never be absolutely certain as to what all the consequences of your act will be…there may be long term bad effects from your act, side effects that were unforeseen and indeed unforeseeable…So how can we tell which act will lead to the best results overall – counting all the results? This seems to mean that consequentialism will be unusable as a moral guide to action. All the evidence available at the time of acting may have pointed to the conclusion that a given act was the right act to perform – and yet it may still turn out that what you did had horrible results, and so in fact was morally wrong. Indeed, if will never be possible to say for sure that any given act was right or wrong, since any event can continue to have further unseen effects down through history. Yet if it is impossible to tell whether any act is morally right or wrong, how can consequentialism possibly be a correct moral theory?”

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Citations of this work

Cluelessness.Hilary Greaves - 2016 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 116 (3):311-339.
Infinite Ethics.Nick Bostrom - 2011 - Analysis and Metaphysics 10:9–59.
Maximal Cluelessness.Andreas Mogensen - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (1):141-162.

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References found in this work

The possibility of parity.Ruth Chang - 2002 - Ethics 112 (4):659-688.
Consequentialism and Cluelessness.James Lenman - 2000 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 29 (4):342-370.
Comparing Harms: Headaches and Human Lives.Alastair Norcross - 1997 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 26 (2):135-167.
Infinite Ethics.Nick Bostrom - 2011 - Analysis and Metaphysics 10:9–59.

View all 7 references / Add more references