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Chapter 9

CAS PH 150 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Consequentialism

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CAS PH 150
Matt Cartmill

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Notes 02/16/14
Fundamentals of Ethics
Chapter 9
Consequentialism (Its Nature and Attractions):
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the
places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you
oJohn Wesley’s (of Methodist Church) philosophy of life; life of altruism
Consequentialist: do as much good as you can.
G.E. Moore: what is right is whatever produces the most good
Acts are morally right just because they maximize the amount of goodness in the world
Shafer-Landau uses death penalty as an example:
oFirst group examines the benefits of executing criminals, the drawbacks, and he
cost-benefit ratio?
Whichever policy is optimific (i.e. such as the yield the greatest balance
of benefits over drawbacks) is the one that morality requires.
oSecond groups asks not about what the future will hold but about what the past
requires of us (historically death penalty does not prevent crime and perhaps even
increases it due to a more hard-hearted society)
Shafer reveals what is distinctive about the consequentialist approach—they encourage us
not to cry over spilt milk
Nature of Consequentialism
oIts structure
oAn action is morally required just because it produces the best overall results
(optimific)—how do we determine whether or not it is optimific?
1. First, identify what is intrinsically good
2. Next, identify what is intrinsically bad
3. Determine all of your options
4. For each option, determine the value of its results
5. Pick the action that yields the best balance
Act Utilitarianism—well-being is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable; an action
is morally required just because it does more to improve overall well-being than any
other action you could have done in the circumstances (principle of utility)
Hedonism is tied to utilitarianism
Maximizing Goodness
oIf act utilitarianism is correct, then we are duty-bound to maximize well-being;
hedonism and utilitarianism combined gives us ultimate moral principle: greatest
overall balance of happiness over misery
Two common misunderstandings of this principle:
oChoosing among acts that benefit people, we must benefit the greatest number of
(Mill rejects)
oWe must always choose that action that creates the greatest amount of happiness
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