The rights and wrongs of consequentialism

Philosophical Studies 151 (3):393 - 412 (2010)
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I argue that the strongest form of consequentialism is one which rejects the claim that we are morally obliged to bring about the best available consequences, but which continues to assert that what there is most reason to do is bring about the best available consequences. Such an approach promises to avoid common objections to consequentialism, such as demandingness objections. Nevertheless, the onus is on the defender of this approach either to offer her own account of what moral obligations we do face, or to explain why offering such a theory is ill-advised. I consider, and reject, one attempt at the second sort of strategy, put forward by Alastair Norcross, who defends a 'scalar' consequentialism which eschews the moral concepts of right, wrong and obligation, and limits itself to claims about what is better and worse. I go on to raise some considerations which suggest that no systematic consequentialist theory of our moral obligations will be plausible, and propose instead that consequentialism should have a more informal and indirect role in shaping what we take our moral obligations to be



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Brian McElwee
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

Scalar consequentialism the right way.Neil Sinhababu - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):3131-3144.
Degrees of Assertability.Sam Carter - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):19-49.
Demandingness Objections in Ethics.Brian McElwee - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):84-105.
Supererogation.Alfred Archer - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (3):e12476.

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Reasons and the Good.Roger Crisp - 2006 - Oxford, GB: Clarendon Press.

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