Consequentialism – Acts are morally right just because they maximize the amount of goodness
in the world (goodness-badness)
- Optimific choice
- “The ends justify the means”
- “The greatest good for the greatest number” – not quite right
Structure of any consequentialist theory
1. Identify what is intrinsically good (opposite of instrumentally good)
2. Identify what is intrinsically bad
3. For each option, determine the value of the result
4. Pick the action that yields the best net balance of good over bad – optimific choice –
your moral duty.
Death penalty – How to morally justify it?
1. Backward looking – some people deserve
2. Forward looking – deterrence, protective – sorts of considerations consequentialism will
Some advantages of attractions of consequentialism
1. Radical impartiality – the welfare of each person (and animal) is equally morally valuable
2. Seems to do a good job justifying many of our basic moral beliefs which seem sensitive
to harms and benefits
3. Helps us resolve difficult ethical choice
4. Moral flexibility – there are absolute moral rules (without exceptions)
- Don’t lie
- Don’t kill innocents
5. Broadens the moral community
Divadvantages of, and objections to, consequentialism
1. intentions, emotions, and desire, are completely irrelevant to the rightness of an action
2. Can we ever know what the right action is?
- Mill: rules of thumb based on past experiences.
3. Doctrine of swine – utilitarianism
- Mill: different qualities or rankings of pleasure
4. Over – demaning – super-erogation (going above and beyond the call of duty)
5. No room for special duties (radical impartially)
6. No room for intrinsically wrong actions
- Rape, slavery