The Definition of Consequentialism: A Survey

Utilitas 34 (4):368-385 (2022)
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There are different meanings associated with consequentialism and teleology. This causes confusion, and sometimes results in discussions based on misunderstandings rather than on substantial disagreements. To clarify this, we created a survey on the definitions of ‘consequentialism’ and ‘teleology’, which we sent to specialists in consequentialism. We broke down the different meanings of consequentialism and teleology into four component parts: Outcome-Dependence, Value-Dependence, Maximization, and Agent-Neutrality. Combining these components in different ways we distinguished six definitions, all of which are represented in the philosophical literature. We asked the respondents which definition is best for consequentialism and for teleology. The most popular definition of consequentialism was the one which accepted value-dependence, but not maximization and agent-neutrality. We therefore recommend the use of this meaning to avoid misunderstandings. The results for teleology were more problematic, with several respondents claiming they never use the term, or indicating that it is confusing.



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Author Profiles

Dayron Teran
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
Gary O'Brien
Lingnan University
Oscar Horta
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

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Why Be a Relational Egalitarian?Xuanpu Zhuang - forthcoming - Philosophical Forum.

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References found in this work

Alienation, consequentialism, and the demands of morality.Peter Railton - 1984 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 13 (2):134-171.
Ethics.William Frankena - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (1):74-74.
Rights and agency.Amartya Sen - 1982 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 11 (1):3-39.

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