The Probabilistic Nature of Objective Consequentialism

Theoria 73 (1):46 - 67 (2007)
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Abstract

Theorists have consistently maintained that the most plausible forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic if and only if indeterminism is true. This standard position, however popular, lacks sufficient motivation. Assume determinism to be true and an attempt will be made to show that attractive forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic - and not for reasons related to our epistemic limitations either. Here it is argued that all extant objective formulations of consequentialism fail to deliver the normative implications that the spirit of objective consequentialism requires. My argument rests upon the claim that certain pairs of subjunctive conditionals with identical antecedents and incompatible consequents are such that neither of the pair is true. Upon leveling the objection, the concept of an "objective" subjunctive probability is introduced and utilized in the transformation of a subjective version of expected act utility consequentialism into an objective version, one that is capable of dealing with the difficulties posed by the objection. I end by indicating some ways in which the closest thing to a plausible, objective form of consequentialism might be developed.

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Jean-Paul Vessel
New Mexico State University

References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Philosophical papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
Inquiry.Robert Stalnaker - 1984 - Synthese 79 (1):171-189.

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