There has been considerable discussion recently of consequentialist justifications of epistemic norms. In this paper, I shall argue that these justifications are not justifications. The consequentialist needs a value theory, a theory of the epistemic good. The standard theory treats accuracy as the fundamental epistemic good and assumes that it is a good that calls for promotion. Both claims are mistaken. The fundamental epistemic good involves accuracy, but it involves more than just that. The fundamental epistemic good is knowledge, not (...) mere true belief, because the goodness of an epistemic state is connected to that state's ability to give us reasons. If I'm right about the value theory, this has a number of significant implications for the consequentialist project. First, the good-making features that attach to valuable full beliefs are not features of partial belief. The resulting value theory does not give us the values we need to give consequentialist justifications of credal norms. Second, the relevant kind of good does not call for promotion. It is good to know, but the rational standing of a belief is not determined by the belief's location in a ranked set of options. In the paper's final section, I explain why the present view is a kind of teleological non-consequentialism. There is a kind of good that is prior to the right, but as the relevant kind of good does not call for promotion the value theory shows us what is wrong with the consequentialist project. (shrink)
New work in the foundations of ethics—extending the fitting attitudes analysis of value to yield a broader notion of normative fittingness as a (or perhaps even the) fundamental normative concept—provides us with the resources to clarify and renew the force of traditional character-based objections to consequentialism. According to these revamped fittingness objections, consequentialism is incompatible with plausible claims about which attitudes are truly fitting. If a theory’s implications regarding the fittingness facts are implausible, then this can be taken (...) to cast doubt on the truth of the theory. After clarifying the general structure of fittingness objections, and establishing how they can make character-based concerns relevant to our assessment of the truth of a moral theory like consequentialism, this chapter surveys some paradigmatic fittingness objections, showing how consequentialism can be defended against them. (shrink)
What are the appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In this enlightening work, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question. He then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory which, in part, asserts that acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justified rules. In the end, he considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for several current controversies in practical ethics, making this clearly written, engaging book the best overall statement of this approach to ethics.
It is often argued that Kantian and consequentialist approaches to the philosophy of punishment differ on the question of whether using punishment to achieve deterrence is morally acceptable. I show that this is false: both theories judge it to be acceptable. Showing this requires attention to what the Formula of Humanity in Kant requires agents to do. If we use the correct interpretation of this formula we can also see that an anti-consequentialist moral principle used by Victor Tadros to criticize (...)consequentialism is implausible. I go on to examine the version of John Rawls' theory that is used by Sharon Dolovich to develop a Kantian theory of legal punishment. This makes clear why punishment to achieve deterrence in the 'circumstances of justice' is morally acceptable. However, in at least one respect consequentialism gives us a more convincing understanding of the limits on the pursuit of deterrence than the Kantian theory does. (shrink)
A critic of utilitarianism, in a paper entitled “Innocence and Consequentialism” Laing argues that Singer cannot without contradicting himself reject baby farming (a thought experiment that involves mass-producing deliberately brain damaged children for live birth for the greater good of organ harvesting) and at the same time hold on to his “personism” a term coined by Jenny Teichman to describe his fluctuating (and Laing says, discriminatory) theory of human moral value. His explanation that baby farming undermines attitudes of care (...) and concern for the very young, can be applied to babies and the unborn (non-persons on his view) and contradicts positions that he adopts elsewhere in his work. (shrink)
Despite the recent backlash against epistemic consequentialism, an explicit systematic alternative has yet to emerge. This paper articulates and defends a novel alternative, Epistemic Kantianism, which rests on a requirement of respect for the truth. §1 tackles some preliminaries concerning the proper formulation of the epistemic consequentialism / non-consequentialism divide, explains where Epistemic Kantianism falls in the dialectical landscape, and shows how it can capture what seems attractive about epistemic consequentialism while yielding predictions that are harder (...) for the latter to secure in a principled way. §2 presents Epistemic Kantianism. §3 argues that it is uniquely posed to satisfy the desiderata set out in §1 on an ideal theory of epistemic justification. §4 gives three further arguments, suggesting that it (i) best explains the objective normative significance of the subject's perspective in epistemology, (ii) follows from the kind of axiology needed to solve the swamping problem together with modest assumptions about the relation between the evaluative and the deontic, and (iii) illuminates certain asymmetries in epistemic value and obligation. §5 takes stock and reassesses the score in the debate. (shrink)
The rightness and wrongness of actions fits on a continuous scale. This fits the way we evaluate actions chosen among a diverse range of options, even though English speakers don’t use the words “righter” and “wronger”. I outline and defend a version of scalar consequentialism, according to which rightness is a matter of degree, determined by how good the consequences are. Linguistic resources are available to let us truly describe actions simply as right. Some deontological theories face problems in (...) accounting for degrees of rightness, as they don't invoke continuous parameters among the right-making features of action. (shrink)
Consequentialism, one of the major theories of normative ethics, maintains that the moral rightness of an act is determined solely by the act's consequences and its alternatives. The traditional form of consequentialism is one-dimensional, in that the rightness of an act is a function of a single moral aspect, such as the sum total of wellbeing it produces. In this book Martin Peterson introduces a new type of consequentialist theory: multidimensional consequentialism. According to this theory, an act's (...) moral rightness depends on several separate dimensions, including individual wellbeing, equality and risk. Peterson's novel approach shows that moral views about equality and risk that were previously thought to be mutually incompatible can be rendered compatible, and his precise theoretical discussion helps the reader to understand better the distinction between consequentialist and non-consequentialist theories. His book will interest a wide range of readers in ethics. (shrink)
This paper argues that reliabilism can plausibly live without epistemic consequentialism, either as part of a non-consequentialist normative theory or as a non-normative account of knowledge on a par with certain accounts of the metaphysics of perception and action. It argues moreover that reliabilism should not be defended as a consequentialist theory. Its most plausible versions are not aptly dubbed ‘consequentialist' in any sense that genuinely parallels the dominant sense in ethics. Indeed, there is no strong reason to believe (...) reliabilism was ever seriously intended as a form of epistemic consequentialism. At the heart of its original motivation was a concern about the necessity of non-accidentality for knowledge, a concern quite at home in a non-consequentialist or non-normative setting. Reliabilism’s connection to epistemic consequentialism was an accretion of the '80s, and a feature of only one of its formulations in that decade. (shrink)
This paper develops a Multidimensional Decision Theory and argues that it better captures ordinary intuitions about fair distribution of chances than classical decision theory. The theory is an extension of Richard Jeffrey’s decision theory to counterfactual prospects and is a form of Modal Consequentialism, according to which the value of actual outcomes often depends on what could have been. Unlike existing versions of modal consequentialism, the multidimensional decision theory allows us to explicitly model the desirabilistic dependencies between actual (...) and counterfactual outcomes that, I contend, are at the heart of common intuitions about fair distribution of chances. (shrink)
Tim Mulgan presents a penetrating examination of consequentialism: the theory that human behavior must be judged in terms of the goodness or badness of its consequences. The problem with consequentialism is that it seems unreasonably demanding, leaving us no room for our own aims and interests. In response, Mulgan offers his own, more practical version of consequentialism--one that will surely appeal to philosophers and laypersons alike.
Direct epistemic consequentialism is the idea that X is epistemically permissible iff X maximizes epistemic value. It has received lots of attention in recent years and is widely accepted by philosophers to have counterintuitive implications. There are various reasons one might suspect that the relevant intuitions will not be widely shared among non-philosophers. This paper presents an initial empirical study of ordinary intuitions. The results of two experiments demonstrate that the counterintuitiveness of epistemic consequentialism is more than a (...) philosophers' worry---the folk seem to agree! (shrink)
In contemporary philosophy, substantive moral theories are typically classified as either consequentialist or deontological. Standard consequentialist theories insist, roughly, that agents must always act so as to produce the best available outcomes overall. Standard deontological theories, by contrast, maintain that there are some circumstances where one is permitted but not required to produce the best overall results, and still other circumstances in which one is positively forbidden to to do. Classical utilitarianism is the most familiar consequentialist view, but it is (...) widely regarded as an inadequate account of morality. Although Professor Scheffler agrees with this assessment, he also believes that consequentialism seems initially plausible, and that there is a persistent air of paradox surrounding typical deontological views. In this book, therefore, he undertakes to reconsider the rejection of consequentialism. He argues that it is possible to provide a rationale for the view that agents need not always produce the best possible overall outcomes, and this motivates one departure from consequentialism; but he shows that it is surprisingly difficult to provide a satisfactory rationale for the view that there are times when agents must not produce the best possible overall outcomes. He goes on to argue for a hitherto neglected type of moral conception, according to which agents are always permitted, but not always required, to produce the best outcomes. (shrink)
Derek Parfit argues that everyone ought to follow the principles whose universal acceptance would make things go best. I present a counterexample: a world in which no one's moral beliefs have any motivating force. I explain how Parfit's metaethical commitments imply that such a world is possible, and why this possibility is a problem for Parfit's project of reconciling Kantianism, contractualism, and consequentialism. I consider two of Parfit's responses to my counterexample.
Behaviour norms are considered for decision trees which allow both objective probabilities and uncertain states of the world with unknown probabilities. Terminal nodes have consequences in a given domain. Behaviour is required to be consistent in subtrees. Consequentialist behaviour, by definition, reveals a consequence choice function independent of the structure of the decision tree. It implies that behaviour reveals a revealed preference ordering satisfying both the independence axiom and a novel form of sure-thing principle. Continuous consequentialist behaviour must be expected (...) utility maximizing. Other plausible assumptions then imply additive utilities, subjective probabilities, and Bayes' rule. (shrink)
Can morality be so demanding that we have reason not to follow its dictates? According to many, it can, if that morality is a consequentialist one. We take the plausibility and coherence of this objection – the Demandingness Objection – as a given and are also not concerned with finding the best response to the Objection. Instead, our main aim is to explicate the intuitive background of the Objection and to see how this background could be investigated. This double aim (...) leads to different albeit connected threads of inquiry. We first outline the Objection, its different forms and how intuition figures in them. After this, we move on to consider the ongoing debate about the use of intuitions in (moral) philosophy with a focus on two challenges: what intuitions are and how we can detect them. To answer these challenges, we propose an account according to which moral intuitions are seemings that are characterized by being non-inferential, spontaneous, non-doxastic, phenomenologically distinctive, non-sensory, intrinsically motivating, and stable. Armed with these seven “markers” of moral intuition, we put a forward a complex experimental methodology and raise and respond to possible problems with it. (shrink)
What do we owe to our descendants? How do we balance their needs against our own? Tim Mulgan develops a new theory of our obligations to future generations, based on a new rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual reproduction. He also brings together several different contemporary philosophical discussions, including the demands of morality and international justice. His aim is to produce a coherent, intuitively plausible moral theory that is not unreasonably demanding, even when extended to cover future people. While (...) the book focuses on developing this new account, there are also substantial discussions of alternative views, especially contract-based accounts of intergenerational justice and competing forms of consequentialism. (shrink)
Elsewhere we have responded to the so-called demandingness objection to consequentialism – that consequentialism is excessively demanding and is therefore unacceptable as a moral theory – by introducing the theoretical position we call institutional consequentialism. This is a consequentialist view that, however, requires institutional systems, and not individuals, to follow the consequentialist principle. In this paper, we first introduce and explain the theory of institutional consequentialism and the main reasons that support it. In the remainder of (...) the paper, we turn to the global dimension where the first and foremost challenge is to explain how institutional consequentialism can deal with unsolved global problems such as poverty, war and climate change. In response, following the general idea of institutional consequentialism, we draw up three alternative routes: relying on existing national, transnational and supranational institutions; promoting gradual institutional reform; and advocating radical changes to the status quo. We evaluate these routes by describing normatively relevant properties of the existing global institutional system, as well as by showing what institutional consequentialism can say about alternatives to it: a world government; and multi-layered sovereignty/neo-medieval system. (shrink)
A compelling requirement on normative theories is that they should be satisfiable, that is, in every possible choice situation with a finite number of alternatives, there should be at least one performable act such that, if one were to perform that act, one would comply with the theory. In this paper, I argue that, given some standard assumptions about free will and counterfactuals, Objective Act Consequentialism violates this requirement.
In the 1960’s, Lars Bergström and Hector-Neri Castañeda noticed a problem with alternative acts and consequentialism. The source of the problem is that some performable acts are versions of other performable acts and the versions need not have the same consequences as the originals. Therefore, if all performable acts are among the agent’s alternatives, act consequentialism yields deontic paradoxes. A standard response is to restrict the application of act consequentialism to certain relevant alternative sets. Many proposals are (...) based on some variation of maximalism, that is, the view that act consequentialism should only be applied to maximally specific acts. In this paper, I argue that maximalism cannot yield the right prescriptions in some cases where one can either (i) form at once the intention to do an immediate act and form at a later time the intention to do a succeeding act or (ii) form at once the intention to do both acts and where the consequences of (i) and (ii) differ in value. Maximalism also violates normative invariance, that is, the condition that if an act is performable in a situation, then the normative status of the act does not depend on what acts are performed in the situation. Instead of maximalism, I propose that the relevant alternatives should be the exhaustive combinations of acts the agent can jointly perform without performing any other act in the situation. In this way, one avoids the problem of act versions without violating normative invariance. Another advantage is that one can adequately differentiate between possibilities like (i) and (ii). (shrink)
Over the years, consequentialism has been subjected to numerous serious objections. Its adherents, however, have been remarkably successful in fending them off. As I argue in this paper, the reason why the case against consequentialism has not been more successful lies, at least partly, in the methodological approach that critics have commonly used. Their arguments have usually proceeded in two steps. First, a definition of consequentialism is given. Then, objections are put forward based on that definition. This (...) procedure runs into one of two problems. Substantive criticisms of consequentialism can only be formulated, if the posited definition is sufficiently concrete and narrow. In that case, however, consequentialists can defend themselves using a strategy that I call “interpretive divergence”. They can simply point out that the critic's definition does not accord with their understanding of consequentialism to which criticisms do not apply. If, on the other hand, an all-encompassing definition is used, it is so abstract that it is doubtful whether any substantive criticisms can be formulated. To escape this dilemma, I sketch a methodological approach which drops the assumption that consequentialism should be defined. It assumes, rather, that the term “consequentialism” should be interpreted as a Wittgensteinian family resemblance term. (shrink)
Objective consequentialism is often criticized because it is impossible to know which of our actions will have the best consequences. Why exactly does this undermine objective consequentialism? I offer a new link between the claim that our knowledge of the future is limited and the rejection of objective consequentialism: that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ and we cannot produce the best consequences available to us. I support this apparently paradoxical contention by way of an analogy. I cannot beat Karpov (...) at chess in spite of the fact that I can make each of many series of moves, at least one of which would beat him. I then respond to a series of objections. In the process I develop an account of the ‘can’ of ability. I conclude with some remarks about the bearing this attack has on subjective consequentialism. (shrink)
The standard form of act-consequentialism requires us to perform the action with the best consequences; it allows choice between moral options only on those rare occasions when several actions produce equally good results. This paper argues for moral options and thus against act-consequentialism. The argument turns on the insight that some valuable things cannot exist unless our moral system allows options. One such thing is the opportunity for individuals to enact plans for their life from among alternatives. Because (...) planning one’s life has value, and because it requires moral options, a world governed by a moral system that admits of options is better than one governed by act-consequentialism. The paper argues that these facts entail that morality admits of a significant number of moral options; act-consequentialism is false. (shrink)
Many consequentialists take their theory to be anchored by a deeply intuitive idea, the “Compelling Idea” that it is always permissible to promote the best outcome. I demonstrate that this Idea is not, in fact, intuitive at all either in its agent-neutral or its evaluator-relative form. There are deeply intuitive ideas concerning the relationship of deontic to telic evaluation, but the Compelling Idea is at best a controversial interpretation of such ideas, not itself one of them. Because there is no (...) Compelling Idea at the heart of consequentialism, there is no initial burden of proof to be discharged nor any air of paradox to be cleared away by its opponents. (shrink)
Morality is demanding; this is a platitude. It is thus no surprise when we find that moral theories too, when we look into what they require, turn out to be demanding. However, there is at least one moral theory – consequentialism – that is said to be beset by this demandingness problem. This calls for an explanation: Why only consequentialism? This then leads to related questions: What is the demandingness problematic about? What exactly does it claim? Finally, there (...) is the question of what we do if we accept that there is a demandingness problem for consequentialism: How can consequentialists respond? The present chapter sets out to answer these questions (or at least point to how they could be answered). (shrink)
Consider the reaction of Trayvon Martin’s family to the jury verdict. They were devastated that George Zimmerman, the defendant, was found not guilty of manslaughter or murder. Whatever the merits of this outcome, what does the Martin family’s emotional reaction mean? What does it say about criminal punishment – especially the reasons why we punish? Why did the Martin family want to see George Zimmerman go to jail? And why were – and are – they so upset that he didn’t? (...) -/- This Article will argue for three points. First, what fuels this kind of outrage is vengeance: the desire to see defendants like George Zimmerman be forced to “pay” for the harms that they needlessly and culpably inflict on others. While this point may seem obvious, it isn’t. Most people repudiate revenge and therefore the notion that it plays any role in the criminal justice system. -/- Second, this attitude toward revenge is misguided and needs to change. We need to recognize that vengeance not only does but should play a significant role in motivating criminal punishment. Our vengeful reactions to harmful crimes are not ugly or shameful; on the contrary, they manifest a deep valuation of victims and a bitter denunciation of individuals who actively renounce this valuation through their criminal behavior. -/- Third, these two points have significant implications for the two main theories of criminal punishment: “retributivism,” which says that criminals should be punished in order to give them their “just deserts,” and “consequentialism,” which says that criminals should be punished in order to bring about such good consequences as deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. Traditionally, these two theories have been at war with one another. But I will show how recognizing revenge as a motivation and justification for punishment can help to end this war and bring these two theories together. (shrink)
Does the decision to relax by taking a drive rather than by taking a walk cause harm? In particular, do the additional carbon emissions caused by such a decision make anyone worse off? Recently several philosophers have argued that the answer is no, and on this basis have gone on to claim that act-consequentialism cannot provide a moral reason for individuals to voluntarily reduce their emissions. The reasoning typically consists of two steps. First, the effect of individual emissions on (...) the weather is miniscule: the planet’s meteorological system is so large, and the size of individual emissions so tiny, that whatever impact an individual emission has on the weather must be vanishingly small. Second, vanishingly small impacts aren’t morally relevant because no one could possibly tell the difference between such an impact occurring and it not occurring. In this paper, we show why both steps are mistaken, and hence why act-consequentialism implies that each of us has an individual obligation to do what we can to stop damaging the climate, including by refraining from, or perhaps by purchasing offsets against, our own individual luxury carbon emissions. (shrink)
This paper argues that objective consequentialism is incompatible with the rationales of ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’ – with the considerations, that is, that explain or justify this principle. Objective consequentialism is the moral doctrine that an act is right if and only if there is no alternative with a better outcome, and wrong otherwise. An act is obligatory if and only if it is wrong not to perform it. According to ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’, a person (...) is morally obligated to φ only if the person can φ. The rationales of ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’ include considerations related to intuitive plausibility, action-guidance, blameworthiness and fairness, and the nature of practical reasons. (shrink)
Consequentialism is the view that the rightness or wrongness of actions depend solely on their consequences. It is one of the most influential, and controversial, of all ethical theories. In this book, Julia Driver introduces and critically assesses consequentialism in all its forms. After a brief historical introduction to the problem, Driver examines utilitarianism, and the arguments of its most famous exponents, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, and explains the fundamental questions underlying utilitarian theory: what value is (...) to be specified and how it is to be maximized. Driver also discusses indirect forms of consequentialism, the important theories of motive consequentialism and virtue consequentialism, and explains why the distinction between subjective and objective consequentialism is so important. Including helpful features such as a glossary, chapter summaries, and annotated further reading at the end of each chapter, Consequentialism is ideal for students seeking an authoritative and clearly explained survey of this important problem. (shrink)
It isn’t saying much to claim that morality is demanding; the question, rather, is: can morality be so demanding that we have reason not to follow its dictates? According to many, it can, if that morality is a consequentialist one. This paper takes the plausibility and coherence of this objection – the Demandingness Objection – as a given. Our question, therefore, is how to respond to the Objection. We put forward a response that we think has not received sufficient attention (...) in the literature: institutional consequentialism. This is a consequentialist view that, however, requires institutional systems, and not individuals, to follow the consequentialist principle. We first introduce the Objection, then explain the theory of institutional consequentialism and how it responds to the objection. In the remainder of the paper, we defend the view against potential objections. (shrink)
The central problem for normative ethics is the conflict between a consequentialist view--that morality requires promoting the good of all--and a belief that the rights of the individual place significant constraints on what may be done to help others. Standard interpretations see Kant as rejecting all forms of consequentialism, and defending a theory which is fundamentally duty-based and agent-centered. Certain actions, like sacrificing the innocent, are categorically forbidden. In this original and controversial work, Cummiskey argues that there is no (...) defensible basis for this view, that Kant's own arguments actually entail a consequentialist conclusion. But this new form of consequentialism which follows from Kant's theories has a distinctly Kantian tone. The capacity of rational action is prior to the value of happiness; thus providing justification for the view that rational nature is more important than mere pleasures and pains. (shrink)
IN THIS PAPER, I make a presumptive case for moral rationalism: the view that agents can be morally required to do only what they have decisive reason to do, all things considered. And I argue that this view leads us to reject all traditional versions of actâ€consequentialism. I begin by explaining how moral rationalism leads us to reject utilitarianism.
Consequentialist positions in philosophy spell out normative notions by recourse to final aims. Hedonistic versions of ETHICAL consequentialism spell out what is MORALLY right/justified via recourse to the aim of increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. Veritistic versions of EPISTEMIC consequentialism spell out what is EPISTEMICALLY right/justified via recourse to the aim of increasing the number of true beliefs and decreasing the number of false ones. Even though these theories are in many respects structurally analogous, there are also interesting (...) disanalogies. For example, popular versions of epistemic consequentialism implicitly endorse the truth-indication principle (which claims that a belief is epistemically justified only if there are factors indicating that the belief itself is true), whereas popular versions of ethical consequentialism do not subscribe to an analogous pleasure-indicating principle (which claims that an act is morally justified only if there are factors indicating that performing the act itself is pleasurable). In a first step I will argue that this difference rests on the fact that plausible versions of epistemic consequentialism have to meet certain constraints, which versions of ethical consequentialism do not have to satisfy. As these constraints can be easily met by incorporating the truth-indication principle, epistemic consequentialists tend to subscribe to it. In a second step I will investigate whether the identified constraints can also be met independent from the truth-indication principle. Are there plausible versions of veritistic epistemic consequentialism that reject the principle, thereby allowing that some beliefs can be epistemically justified even though no factors speak in favor of their truth? Building on ideas put forward by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Crispin Wright, and others, I will answer this question affirmatively. (shrink)
In this anthology, distinguished scholars--Thomas Nagel, T.M. Scanlon, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Samuela Scheffler, Conrad D. Johnson, Bernard Williams, Peter Railton, Amartya Sen, Philippa Foot, and Derek Parfit-- debate arguments for and against the moral doctrine of consequentialism to present a complete view of this important topic in moral philosophy.
According to act-consequentialism the right action is the one that produces the best results as judged from an impersonal perspective. Some claim that this requirement is unreasonably demanding and therefore consequentialism is unacceptable as a moral theory. The article breaks with dominant trends in discussing this so-called Overdemandingness Objection. Instead of focusing on theoretical responses, it empirically investigates whether there exists a widely shared intuition that consequentialist demands are unreasonable. This discussion takes the form of examining what people (...) think about the normative significance of consequentialist requirements. In two experiments, the article finds that although people are sensitive to consequentialist requirements and, on average, find more extreme demands less reasonable, the level of disagreement with consequentialism falls short of qualifying as a widely shared intuition, even when demands are the highest. The article then ends with a general discussion of possible objections to its methods and its findings. (shrink)
I argue that rule consequentialism sometimes requires us to act in ways that we lack sufficient reason to act. And this presents a dilemma for Parfit. Either Parfit should concede that we should reject rule consequentialism (and, hence, Triple Theory, which implies it) despite the putatively strong reasons that he believes we have for accepting the view or he should deny that morality has the importance he attributes to it. For if morality is such that we sometimes have (...) decisive reason to act wrongly, then what we should be concerned with, practically speaking, is not with the morality of our actions, but with whether our actions are supported by sufficient reasons. We could, then, for all intents and purposes just ignore morality and focus on what we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. So if my arguments are cogent, they show that Parfit’s Triple Theory is either false or relatively unimportant in that we can, for all intents and purposes, simply ignore its requirements and just do whatever it is that we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. (shrink)
An influential objection to act-consequentialism holds that the theory is unduly demanding. This paper is an attempt to approach this critique of act-consequentialism – the Overdemandingness Objection – from a different, so far undiscussed, angle. First, the paper argues that the most convincing form of the Objection claims that consequentialism is overdemanding because it requires us, with decisive force, to do things that, intuitively, we do not have decisive reason to perform. Second, in order to investigate the (...) existence of the intuition, the paper reports empirical evidence of how people see the normative significance of consequentialist requirements.. In a scenario study that recruited a sample which is representative of the German population in key characteristics, it finds that there is no widely shared intuition as to the excessive demandingness of consequentialist requirements, although people do find higher demands less reasonable. This is true irrespective of people’s level of formal education despite the fact that lower levels of formal education are associated with an increased likelihood of having intuitions that are consistent with the Objection. Apart from contributing in this way to the debate concerning the Overdemandingness Objection, the paper also more directly speaks to the basic discussion concerning the status and role of intuitions in moral philosophy. It discusses methodological questions relevant to the role of intuitions and ends with proposing an improved methodology to investigate intuitions that connects them to emotions in a particular way and also proposes a role for virtue. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Moral wrongness comes in degrees. On a consequentialist view of ethics, the wrongness of an act should depend, I argue, in part on how much worse the act's consequences are compared with those of its alternatives and in part on how difficult it is to perform the alternatives with better consequences. I extend act consequentialism to take this into account, and I defend three conditions on consequentialist theories. The first is consequentialist dominance, which says that, if an act has (...) better consequences than some alternative act, then it is not more wrong than the alternative act. The second is consequentialist supervenience, which says that, if two acts have equally good consequences in a situation, then they have the same deontic status in the situation. And the third is consequentialist continuity, which says that, for every act and for any difference in wrongness δ greater than zero, there is an arbitrarily small improvement of the consequences of the act which would, other things being equal, not change the wrongness of that act or any alternative by more than δ. I defend a proposal that satisfies these conditions. (shrink)
We best understand Rule Consequentialism as a theory of pattern-based reasons, since it claims that we have reasons to perform some action because of the goodness of the pattern consisting of widespread performance of the same type of action in the same type of circumstances. Plausible forms of Rule Consequentialism are also pluralist, in the sense that, alongside pattern-based reasons, they recognise ordinary act-based reasons, based on the goodness of individual actions. However, Rule Consequentialist theories are distinguished from (...) other pluralist theories of pattern-based reasons by implausible claims about the relative importance of act-based and pattern-based reasons in different cases. Rule Consequentialists should give up these claims. They should either embrace some other pluralist pattern-based view, or reject pattern-based reasons altogether. Note, though, that these arguments apply only to compliance-based, rather than acceptance-based, versions of Rule Consequentialism. This suggests that these two kinds of theory are more different from each other than we might previously have realised. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that objective consequentialism is false because it is incompatible with the principle that “ought” implies “can”. Roughly speaking, objective consequentialism is the doctrine that you always ought to do what will in fact have the best consequences. According to the principle that “ought” implies “can”, you have a moral obligation to do something only if you can do that thing. Frances Howard-Snyder has used an innovative thought experiment to argue that sometimes you cannot do what (...) will in fact have the best consequences because you do not know what will in fact have the best consequences. Erik Carlson has raised two objections against Howard-Snyder’s argument. This paper examines Howard-Snyder’s argument as well as Carlson’s objections, arguing that Carlson’s objections do not go through but Howard-Snyder’s argument fails nonetheless. Moreover, this paper attempts to show that objective consequentialism and other objectivist moral theories are compatible with the principle that “ought” implies “can”. Finally, this paper analyses a special kind of inability: ignorance-induced inability. (shrink)
Imagine both that (1) S1 is deliberating at t about whether or not to x at t' and that (2) although S1’s x-ing at t' would not itself have good consequences, good consequences would ensue if both S1 x's at t' and S2 y's at t", where S1 may or may not be identical to S2 and where t < t' ≤ t". In this paper, I consider how consequentialists should treat S2 and the possibility that S2 will y at (...) t". At one end of the spectrum, consequentialists would hold that, in deciding whether or not to x at t', S1 should always treat S2 as a force of nature over which she has no control and, thus, treat the possibility that S2 will y at t" as she would the possibility that a hurricane will take a certain path. On this view, S1 is to predict whether or not S2 will y and act accordingly. At the other end of the spectrum, consequentialists would hold that S1 should always treat S2 as someone available for mutual cooperation and, thus, treat the possibility that S2 will y at t" as something to be relied upon. On this view, S1 is to rely on S2’s cooperation and so play her part in the best cooperative scheme involving the two of them. A third and intermediate position would be to hold that whether S1 should treat S2 as a force of nature or as someone available for mutual cooperation depends on whether S1 can see to it that S2 will y at t" by, say, having the right set attitudes. I’ll argue for this third position. As we’ll see, an important implication of this view is that consequentialists should be concerned not just with an agent’s voluntary actions but also with their involuntary acquisitions of various mental attitudes, such as beliefs, desires, and intentions. Indeed, I will argue that consequentialists should hold both that (1) an agent’s most fundamental duty is to have all those attitudes that she has decisive reason to have and only those attitudes that she has sufficient reason to have and that (2) she has a derivative duty to perform an act x if and only if her fulfilling this fundamental duty ensures that she x’s. Thus, I argue (as Donald Regan did before me) that consequentialism should not be exclusively act-orientated – that it should require agents not only to perform certain voluntary actions but also to have certain attitudes. In the process, I develop a new version of consequentialism, which I call attitude-consequentialism. (The latest version of this paper can always be found at: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14740340/Consequentialism%20and%20Coordination%20Problems.pdf) -/- . (shrink)
In this paper, I explore how to accommodate non-consequentialist constraints with a broadly value-based conception of reasons for action. It turns out that there are two grades of non-consequentialist constraints. The first grade involves attaching ethical importance to such distinctions as the doing/allowing distinction, and the distinction between intended and unintended consequences that is central to the Doctrine of Double Effect. However, at least within the value-based framework, this first grade is insufficient to explain rights, which ground weighty reasons against (...) infringing those rights that need not be outweighed even when infringing those rights is necessary for preventing a larger number of people from having their rights infringed in the same way. Such rights form a second grade of non-consequentialist constraints: within the value-based framework, this second grade is best explained in terms of the intrinsically relational values and disvalues of interpersonal interactions and relationships. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop, motivate and offer a qualified defense of a version of satisficing consequentialism (SC). I develop the view primarily in light of objections to other versions of SC recently posed by Ben Bradley. I motivate the view by showing that it (1) accommodates the intuitions apparently supporting those objections, (2) is supported by certain ‘common sense’ moral intuitions about specific cases, and (3) captures the central ideas expressed by satisficing consequentialists in the recent literature. Finally, (...) I offer a qualified defense of the view that consists in showing that it meets Bradley’s criteria for being a version of satisficing consequentialism that is ‘worth considering’. Specifically, it is a version of SC that solves certain problems for maximizing consequentialism and yet does not permit the gratuitous prevention of goodness. (shrink)
Addressing the ‘virtue conflation’ problem requires the preservation of intuitive distinctions between virtue types, that is, between intellectual and moral virtues. According to one influential attempt to avoid this problem proposed by Julia Driver, moral virtues produce benefits to others—in particular, they promote the well-being of others—while the intellectual virtues, as such, produce epistemic good for the agent. We show that Driver's demarcation of intellectual virtue, by adverting to the self-/other distinction, leads to a reductio, and ultimately, that the prospects (...) for resolving the virtue conflation problem look dim within an epistemic consequentialist approach to the epistemic right and the epistemic good. (shrink)
Consequentialists claim that their theory is simply that the right action is whichever one will lead to the best state of affairs - and that this formulation provides a powerful intuitive ground for accepting consequentialism. Recent arguments in value theory threaten to show that this formulation lacks either coherent meaning, because states of affairs cannot be good simpliciter, or philosophical power, because their goodness provides no reason to bring them about. I respond to two such arguments - from Judith (...) Jarvis Thomson and Richard Kraut - contending that none can be made to work in a way which undercuts consequentialism's simple formulation. (shrink)
According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, an action is right if and only if no other action in the given circumstances would have better consequences. It has been argued that this view does not leave us enough freedom to choose between actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible but not required options. In the first half of this article, I will explain why the previous consequentialist responses to this objection are less than satisfactory. I will then attempt to (...) show that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged. This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself have value. (shrink)
Consequentialism is a general approach to understanding the nature of morality that seems to entail a certain view of the world in time. This entailment raises specific problems for the approach. The first seems to lead to the conclusion that every actual act is right – an unacceptable result for any moral theory. The second calls into question the idea that consequentialism is an approach to morality, for it leads to the conclusion that this approach produces a theory (...) whose truth does not depend in any way on the nature of rational beings or value. (shrink)