Journal of Applied Philosophy 35 (1):47-53 (2018)

Fiona Woollard
University of Southampton
As its title indicates, Philip Pettit’s “Three Mistakes about Doing Good (and Bad)” identifies and rejects three common claims restricting what can count as a good (or bad ) effect of action. The key question here is how do we work out how much good you have brought about by your action? The first common claim is that only causal effects or consequences of action can count as goods that are brought about by an action. The second, that we can only count behavioural effects of action. The third, that we can only count consequences of “an all-or-nothing or on-off or discrete kind”. Pettit argues that all three of these claims are mistaken: the first claim is mistaken because our actions can bring about goods that are constitutive consequences of those actions; the second claim is mistaken because the good consequences of an action can depend upon the agent having acted out of certain dispositions; the third claim is mistaken because the good consequences of an action can include the extra effects of pursuing more basic good consequences (such as benefits to others) in a more deliberate or reliable manner.
Keywords Consequentialism  deontology
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DOI 10.1111/japp.12298
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