Do consequentialists have one thought too many?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3):243-261 (1999)

Elinor Mason
University of Edinburgh
In this paper I defend consequentialism against the objection that consequentialists are alienated from their personal relationships through having inappropriate motivational states. This objection is one interpretation of Williams' claim that consequentialists will have "one thought too many". Consequentialists should cultivate dispositions to act from their concern for others. I argue that having such a disposition is consistent with a belief in consequentialism and constitutes an appropriate attitude to personal relationships. If the consequentialist has stable beliefs that friendship is justifiable in consequentialist terms, that friendship requires acting from concern for others, and furthermore if the consequentialist finds that she is concerned for others, then she will be able to form a disposition which involves acting from her concern for others without having one thought too many.
Keywords alienation  consequentialism  dispositions  friendship  personal relationships  Williams, Bernard
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1009998927955
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