Fundamentals of Ethics
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
o John 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:
o First group examines the benefits of executing criminals, the drawbacks, and he
Whichever policy is optimific (i.e. such as the yield the greatest balance
of benefits over drawbacks) is the one that morality requires.
o Second 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
o Its structure
o An 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