• One of the most common objections to rule-consequentialism is that it is incoherent, because it is based on the consequentialist principle that what we should be concerned
    with is maximizing the good, but then it tells us not to act to maximize the good, but to follow rules (even in cases where we know that breaking the rule could produce better results).

  • [7][1] Proponents of teleological ethics (Greek: telos, ‘end, purpose’ + logos, ‘science’) argue that the moral value of any act consists in its tendency to produce things
    of intrinsic value,[1] meaning that an act is right if and only if it, or the rule under which it falls, produces, will probably produce, or is intended to produce, a greater balance of good over evil than any alternative act.

  • “[29] Two-level consequentialism[edit] The two-level approach involves engaging in critical reasoning and considering all the possible ramifications of one’s actions before
    making an ethical decision, but reverting to generally reliable moral rules when one is not in a position to stand back and examine the dilemma as a whole.

  • Williams argues that consequentialism requires moral agents to take a strictly impersonal view of all actions, since it is only the consequences, and not who produces them,
    that are said to matter.

  • [5] The future amplification of the effects of small decisions[53] is an important factor that makes it more difficult to predict the ethical value of consequences,[54] even
    though most would agree that only predictable consequences are charged with a moral responsibility.

  • Value of consequences[edit] One way to divide various consequentialisms is by the types of consequences that are taken to matter most, that is, which consequences count as
    good states of affairs.

  • As a result, it could be argued that there is a moral imperative for agents to inform themselves as much as possible about a situation before judging the appropriate course
    of action.

  • [42] However, if this approach is naïvely adopted, then moral agents who, for example, recklessly fail to reflect on their situation, and act in a way that brings about terrible
    results, could be said to be acting in a morally justifiable way.

  • It is also contrasted with both virtue ethics which focuses on the character of the agent rather than on the nature or consequences of the act (or omission) itself, and pragmatic
    ethics which treats morality like science: advancing collectively as a society over the course of many lifetimes, such that any moral criterion is subject to revision.

  • […] There is an abysmal contrast between conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of ultimate ends — that is in religious terms, “the Christian does rightly and leaves
    the results with the Lord” — and conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of responsibility, in which case one has to give an account of the foreseeable results of one’s action.

  • Different consequentialist theories differ in how they define moral goods, with chief candidates including pleasure, the absence of pain, the satisfaction of one’s preferences,
    and broader notions of the “general good”.

  • Thus, one might pursue an increase in material equality or political liberty instead of something like the more ephemeral “pleasure”.

  • Some, like Henry Sidgwick, argue that a certain degree of egoism promotes the general welfare of society for two reasons: because individuals know how to please themselves
    best, and because if everyone were an austere altruist then general welfare would inevitably decrease.

  • Finally, following Foot’s lead, one might adopt a sort of consequentialism that argues that virtuous activity ultimately produces the best consequences.

  • [30] Motive consequentialism[edit] Another consequentialist version is motive consequentialism, which looks at whether the state of affairs that results from the motive to
    choose an action is better or at least as good as each alternative state of affairs that would have resulted from alternative actions.

  • [1] Consequentialists hold in general that an act is right if and only if the act (or in some views, the rule under which it falls) will produce, will probably produce, or
    is intended to produce, a greater balance of good over evil than any available alternative.

  • Williams argues that this demands too much of moral agents—since (he claims) consequentialism demands that they be willing to sacrifice any and all personal projects and commitments
    in any given circumstance in order to pursue the most beneficent course of action possible.

  • For this reason, some theorists have argued that consequentialist theories can only require agents to choose the best action in line with what they know about the situation.

  • Railton argues that Williams’s criticisms can be avoided by adopting a form of consequentialism in which moral decisions are to be determined by the sort of life that they

  • In practice, this equates to adhering to rule consequentialism when one can only reason on an intuitive level, and to act consequentialism when in a position to stand back
    and reason on a more critical level.

  • [citation needed] Consequences for whom[edit] Moral action always has consequences for certain people or things.

  • [30] This position can be described as a reconciliation between act consequentialism—in which the morality of an action is determined by that action’s effects—and rule consequentialism—in
    which moral behavior is derived from following rules that lead to positive outcomes.

  • Individual moral agents do not know everything about their particular situations, and thus do not know all the possible consequences of their potential actions.

  • Agent-focused or agent-neutral[edit] A fundamental distinction can be drawn between theories which require that agents act for ends perhaps disconnected from their own interests
    and drives, and theories which permit that agents act for ends in which they have some personal interest or motivation.

  • Consequentialist theories that adopt this paradigm hold that right action is the action that will bring about the best consequences from this ideal observer’s perspective.

  • Whereas consequentialist theories posit that consequences of action should be the primary focus of our thinking about ethics, virtue ethics insists that it is the character
    rather than the consequences of actions that should be the focal point.

  • Closely related is eudaimonic consequentialism, according to which a full, flourishing life, which may or may not be the same as enjoying a great deal of pleasure, is the
    ultimate aim.

  • [citation needed] For example, it may be meaningful to speak of an action as being good for someone as an individual, but bad for them as a citizen of their town.

  • If the temptation is irrepressible then this course of action is not considered to be an option and is therefore not relevant when assessing what the best alternative is.

  • Positive consequentialism demands that we bring about good states of affairs, whereas negative consequentialism requires that we avoid bad ones.

  • He argues further that consequentialism fails to make sense of intuitions that it can matter whether or not someone is personally the author of a particular consequence.

  • Consequentialism, along with eudaimonism, falls under the broader category of teleological ethics, a group of views which claim that the moral value of any act consists in
    its tendency to produce things of intrinsic value.

  • Actualism and possibilism disagree on how later possible actions impact the normative status of the current action by the same agent.

  • [clarification needed] Max Weber Ultimate end[edit] The ultimate end is a concept in the moral philosophy of Max Weber, in which individuals act in a faithful, rather than
    rational, manner.

  • Actualists might even consider her behavior praiseworthy since she did what, according to actualism, she ought to have done.

  • An example of this is the slippery-slope argument, which encourages others to avoid a specified act on the grounds that it may ultimately lead to undesirable consequences.

  • As the consequentialist approach contains an inherent assumption that the outcomes of a moral decision can be quantified in terms of “goodness” or “badness,” or at least put
    in order of increasing preference, it is an especially suited moral theory for a probabilistic and decision theoretical approach.

  • This imperative, of course, is derived from consequential thinking: a better-informed agent is able to bring about better consequences.

  • [51] We must be clear about the fact that all ethically oriented conduct may be guided by one of two fundamentally differing and irreconcilably opposed maxims: conduct can
    be oriented to an ethic of ultimate ends or to an ethic of responsibility.

  • For example, Philippa Foot argues that consequences in themselves have no ethical content, unless it has been provided by a virtue such as benevolence.

  • However, one might fix on non-psychological goods as the relevant effect.

  • Possibilists, however, contend that the best possible course of action involves eating the first cookie and this is therefore what Gifre should do.

  • — Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation, 1918 Criticisms G. E. M. Anscombe objects to the consequentialism of Sidgwick on the grounds that the moral worth of an action is premised
    on the predictive capabilities of the individual, relieving them of the responsibility for the “badness” of an act should they “make out a case for not having foreseen” negative consequences.

  • [43] More recently, Peter Singer has argued that it is unreasonable that we do not give equal consideration to the interests of animals as to those of human beings when we
    choose the way we are to treat them.

  • The best argument for rule-consequentialism is that it does a better job than its rivals of matching and tying together our moral convictions, as well as offering us help
    with our moral disagreements and uncertainties.

  • For example, Robert Nozick held that a certain set of minimal rules, which he calls “side-constraints,” are necessary to ensure appropriate actions.

  • They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think… — Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) Ch I, p 1 In summary, Jeremy Bentham states
    that people are driven by their interests and their fears, but their interests take precedence over their fears; their interests are carried out in accordance with how people view the consequences that might be involved with their interests.

  • [40] On his view, it is a requirement that the agent has rational control over the event in question.

  • Acting in a situation without first informing oneself of the circumstances of the situation can lead to even the most well-intended actions yielding miserable consequences.

  • [16] Like deontology, rule consequentialism holds that moral behavior involves following certain rules.

  • For example, T. M. Scanlon advances the idea that human rights, which are commonly considered a “deontological” concept, can only be justified with reference to the consequences
    of having those rights.

  • [27] Ethical altruism[edit] Main article: Altruism (ethics) Ethical altruism can be seen as a consequentialist theory which prescribes that an individual take actions that
    have the best consequences for everyone except for himself.

  • Actualists assert that it is only relevant what the agent would actually do later for assessing the value of an alternative.

  • [9][10] Teleological ethical theories are contrasted with deontological ethical theories, which hold that acts themselves are inherently good or bad, rather than good or bad
    because of extrinsic factors (such as the act’s consequences or the moral character of the person who acts).

  • Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome.

  • Acts and omissions[edit] Since pure consequentialism holds that an action is to be judged solely by its result, most consequentialist theories hold that a deliberate action
    is no different from a deliberate decision not to act.

  • [38] Issues Action guidance[edit] One important characteristic of many normative moral theories such as consequentialism is the ability to produce practical moral judgements.

  • [41] The ideal observer[edit] One common tactic among consequentialists, particularly those committed to an altruistic (selfless) account of consequentialism, is to employ
    an ideal, neutral observer from which moral judgements can be made.

  • [38] One counterintuitive consequence of actualism is that agents can avoid moral obligations simply by having an imperfect moral character.

  • [34][36] For example, a lazy person might justify rejecting a request to help a friend by arguing that, due to her lazy character, she would not have done the work anyway,
    even if she had accepted the request.


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