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Summary Consequentialists hold that the permissibility of actions is a function of how their outcomes rank. On maximizing versions of consequentialism that function is such that a subject S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome ranks higher than X's outcome on S's ranking. Now, whereas agent-neutral consequentialists hold that outcomes rank the same for each agent, agent-relative consequentialists hold that there is potentially a different ranking for each agent. So let's consider examples of each type theory. First, consider act-utilitarianism (AU), which is a version of agent-neutral consequentialism. AU holds that one outcome ranks higher than another if and only if it contains more aggregate utility. So, on AU, a subject S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome contains more aggregate utility than X's outcome does. Next consider ethical egoism (EE), which is a version of agent-relative consequentialism. On EE, different agents will potentially rank the same set of outcomes differently. Suppose, for instance, that there are just two outcomes: O1 and O2. In O1, you have 10 units of utility and I have 5. In O2, things are reversed: you have 5 and I have 10. EE holds that, on your ranking, O1 outranks O2. But, on my ranking, O2 outranks O1. So, on EE, S is permitted to perform an act X if and only if there is no alternative act Y whose outcome contains more utility for S.
Key works Influential early papers include Sen 1983, Sen 1983, Regan 1983, and Dreier 1993. To understand the current state of the debate, see Schroeder 2007, Brown 2011, Dreier 2011, and Portmore 2011.
Introductions For a general introduction to the issue of consequentializing, see Portmore 2009.
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  1. Chapter 5: Dual-Ranking Act-Consequentialism: Reasons, Morality, and Overridingness.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    This is Chapter 5 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I argue that those who wish to accommodate typical instances of supererogation and agent-centered options must deny that moral reasons are morally overriding and accept both that the reason that agents have to promote their own self-interest is a non-moral reason and that this reason can, and sometimes does, prevent the moral reason that they have to sacrifice their self-interest so as to do more to (...)
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  2. Consequentializing Constraints: A Kantsequentialist Approach.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    There is, on a given moral view, a constraint against performing acts of a certain type if that view prohibits agents from performing an instance of that act-type even to prevent two or more others from each performing a morally comparable instance of that act-type. The fact that commonsense morality includes many such constraints has been seen by several philosophers as a decisive objection against consequentialism. Despite this, I argue that constraints are more plausibly accommodated within a consequentialist framework than (...)
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  3. Consequentializing Commonsense Morality.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    This is Chapter 4 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I argue that that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that, for any plausible nonconsequentialist theory, we can construct a consequentialist theory that yields the exact same set of deontic verdicts that it yields.
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  4. Setiya on Consequentialism and Constraints.Ryan Cox & Matthew Hammerton - forthcoming - Utilitas:1-6.
    It is widely held that agent-neutral consequentialism is incompatible with deontic constraints. Recently, Kieran Setiya has challenged this orthodoxy by presenting a form of agent-neutral consequentialism that he claims can capture deontic constraints. In this reply, we argue against Setiya's proposal by pointing to features of deontic constraints that his account fails to capture.
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  5. Consequentialism and the Agent's Point of View.Nathan Robert Howard - forthcoming - Ethics.
    I propose and defend a novel view called ‘de se consequentialism’, which is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it demonstrates — contra Doug Portmore, Mark Schroeder, Campbell Brown, and Michael Smith, among others — that a consequentialist theory employing agent-neutral value is logically consistent with agent-centered constraints. Second, de se consequentialism clarifies both the nature of agent-centered constraints and why philosophers have found them puzzling, thereby meriting attention from even dedicated non-consequentialists. Scrutiny reveals that moral theories in general, whether consequentialist (...)
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  6. Agent-Neutral and Agent-Relative.Douglas W. Portmore - forthcoming - In J. E. Crimmins & D. C. Long (eds.), Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism.
    This is an introduction to the agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction as it pertains to utilitarianism.
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  7. Precis of Commonsense Consequentialism and Replies to Gert, Hurley, and Tenenbaum.Douglas W. Portmore - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    For a symposium on Douglas W. Portmore's Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.
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  8. The Rejection of Consequentializing.Daniel Muñoz - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (2):79-96.
    Consequentialists say we may always promote the good. Deontologists object: not if that means killing one to save five. “Consequentializers” reply: this act is wrong, but it is not for the best, since killing is worse than letting die. I argue that this reply undercuts the “compellingness” of consequentialism, which comes from an outcome-based view of action that collapses the distinction between killing and letting die.
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  9. Relationship Sensitive Consequentialism Is Regrettable.Andrew T. Forcehimes & Luke Semrau - 2020 - Social Theory and Practice 46 (2):257-276.
    Personal relationships matter. Traditional Consequentialism, given its exclusive focus on agent-neutral goodness, struggles to account for this fact. A recent variant of the theory—one incorporating agent-relativity—is thought to succeed where its traditional counterpart fails. Yet, to secure this advantage, the view must take on certain normative and evaluative commitments concerning personal relationships. As a result, the theory permits cases in which agents do as they ought, yet later ought to prefer that they had done otherwise. That a theory allows such (...)
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  10. Agent-Relative Consequentialism and Collective Self-Defeat.Matthew Hammerton - 2020 - Utilitas 32 (4):472-478.
    Andrew Forcehimes and Luke Semrau argue that agent-relative consequentialism is implausible because in some circumstances it classes an act as impermissible yet holds that the outcome of all agents performing that impermissible act is preferable. I argue that their problem is closely related to Derek Parfit's problem of ‘direct collective self-defeat’ and show how Parfit's plausible solution to his problem can be adapted to solve their problem.
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  11. Deontic Constraints Are Maximizing Rules.Matthew Hammerton - 2020 - Journal of Value Inquiry 54 (4):571-588.
    Deontic constraints prohibit an agent performing acts of a certain type even when doing so will prevent more instances of that act being performed by others. In this article I show how deontic constraints can be interpreted as either maximizing or non-maximizing rules. I then argue that they should be interpreted as maximizing rules because interpreting them as non-maximizing rules results in a problem with moral advice. Given this conclusion, a strong case can be made that consequentialism provides the best (...)
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  12. Relativized Rankings.Matthew Hammerton - 2020 - In Douglas W. Portmore (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 46-66.
    In traditional consequentialism the good is position-neutral. A single evaluative ranking of states of affairs is correct for everyone, everywhere regardless of their positions. Recently, position-relative forms of consequentialism have been developed. These allow for the correct rankings of states to depend on connections that hold between the state being evaluated and the position of the evaluator. For example, perhaps being an agent who acts in a certain state requires me to rank that state differently from someone else who lacks (...)
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  13. Other‐Sacrificing Options.Benjamin Lange - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (3):612-629.
    I argue that you can be permitted to discount the interests of your adversaries even though doing so would be impartially suboptimal. This means that, in addition to the kinds of moral options that the literature traditionally recognises, there exist what I call other-sacrificing options. I explore the idea that you cannot discount the interests of your adversaries as much as you can favour the interests of your intimates; if this is correct, then there is an asymmetry between negative partiality (...)
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  14. The Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism.Douglas W. Portmore (ed.) - 2020 - New York, USA: Oup Usa.
    Consequentialism is a major moral theory and a rival to such non-consequentialist theories as deontology, contractualism, and virtue ethics. It is the view that the only thing that matters morally is the consequences of an action. Thus, consequentialists hold that, to assess an act, we must first evaluate and rank the various ways things could turn out depending on whether it or some alternative act is performed. Its moral permissibility, then, depends on how its consequences compare to those of its (...)
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  15. Non-Compliance Shouldn't Be Better.Andrew T. Forcehimes & Luke Semrau - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (1):46-56.
    Agent-relative consequentialism is thought attractive because it can secure agent-centred constraints while retaining consequentialism's compelling idea—the idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available outcome. We argue, however, that the commitments of agent-relative consequentialism lead it to run afoul of a plausibility requirement on moral theories. A moral theory must not be such that, in any possible circumstance, were every agent to act impermissibly, each would have more reason to prefer the world thereby actualized over the (...)
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  16. Distinguishing Agent-Relativity From Agent-Neutrality.Matthew Hammerton - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):239-250.
    The agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction is one of the most important in contemporary moral theory. Yet, providing an adequate formal account of it has proven difficult. In this article I defend a new formal account of the distinction, one that avoids various problems faced by other accounts. My account is based on an influential account of the distinction developed by McNaughton and Rawling. I argue that their approach is on the right track but that it succumbs to two serious objections. I then (...)
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  17. Consequentialism: New Directions, New Problems.Christian Seidel (ed.) - 2019 - Oxford University Press.
    Consequentialism is a focal point of discussion and a driving force behind important developments in moral philosophy. Recently, the debate has shifted in focus and in style. By seeking to consequentialize rival moral theories, in particular those with agent-relative characteristics, and by framing accounts in terms of reasons rather than in terms of value, an emerging new wave consequentialism has presented - at much higher levels of abstraction - theories which proved extremely flexible and powerful in meeting long-standing and influential (...)
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  18. Consequentialism.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  19. Agent-Relativity and the Foundations of Moral Theory.Matthew Hammerton - 2017 - Dissertation, Australian National University
  20. Why Consequentialism’s "Compelling Idea" Is Not.Paul Hurley - 2017 - Social Theory and Practice 43 (1):29-54.
    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 (...)
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  21. Neutrality, Partiality, and Meaning in Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2017 - De Ethica 4 (3):7-25.
    Discussion of whether values and norms are neutral or not has mainly appeared in works on the nature of prudential rationality and morality. Little systematic has yet appeared in the up and coming field of the meaning of life. What are the respects in which the value of meaningfulness is neutral or, in contrast, partial, relational, or ‘biased’? In this article, I focus strictly on answering this question. First, I aim to identify the salient, and perhaps exhaustive, respects in which (...)
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  22. Consequentializing and its Consequences.S. Schroeder - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1475-1497.
    Recently, a number of philosophers have argued that we can and should “consequentialize” non-consequentialist moral theories, putting them into a consequentialist framework. I argue that these philosophers, usually treated as a group, in fact offer three separate arguments, two of which are incompatible. I show that none represent significant threats to a committed non-consequentialist, and that the literature has suffered due to a failure to distinguish these arguments. I conclude by showing that the failure of the consequentializers’ arguments has implications (...)
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  23. Freedom From Responsibility: Agent-Neutral Consequentialism and the Bodhisattva Ideal.Christian Coseru - 2016 - In Rick Repetti (ed.), Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will. New York: Routledge. pp. 92-105.
    This paper argues that influential Mahāyāna ethicists, such as Śāntideva, who allow for moral rules to be proscribed under the expediency of a compassionate aim, seriously compromise the very notion of moral responsibility. The central thesis is that moral responsibility is intelligible only in relation to conceptions of freedom and human dignity that reflect a participation in, and sharing of, interpersonal relationships. The central thesis of the paper is that revisionary strategies, which seek to explain agency in event-causal terms, set (...)
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  24. Patient-Relativity in Morality.Matthew Hammerton - 2016 - Ethics 127 (1):06-26.
    It is common to distinguish moral rules, reasons, or values that are agent-relative from those that are agent-neutral. One can also distinguish moral rules, reasons, or values that are moment-relative from those that are moment-neutral. In this article, I introduce a third distinction that stands alongside these two distinctions—the distinction between moral rules, reasons, or values that are patient-relative and those that are patient-neutral. I then show how patient-relativity plays an important role in several moral theories, gives us a better (...)
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  25. Beyond Consequentialism, by Paul Hurley. [REVIEW]Alan Thomas - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (262):208-212.
  26. Against Securitism, the New Breed of Actualism in Consequentialist Thought.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2016 - Utilitas 28 (2):164-178.
    In Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, Douglas Portmore introduces a novel position regarding the actualist securitism – a position he argues is theoretically superior to the standard views in both the actualist and possibilist camps. After distinguishing the two camps through an examination of the original Procrastinate case, I present Portmore's securitism and its implications regarding his modified Procrastinate case. I level two serious objections against securitism: that it implausibly implies that morality is radically more demanding for the virtuous (...)
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  27. Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, by Douglas W. Portmore.E. Mason - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1363-1368.
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  28. Must Kantian Contractualism and Rule-Consequentialism Converge?Brad Hooker - 2014 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 4:34-52.
    Derek Parfit’s On What Matters endorses Kantian Contractualism, the normative theory that everyone ought to follow the rules that everyone could rationally will that everyone accept. This paper explores Parfit’s argument that Kantian Contractualism converges with Rule Consequentialism. A pivotal concept in Parfit’s argument is the concept of impartiality, which he seems to equate agent-neutrality. This paper argues that equating impartiality and agent-neutrality is insufficient, since some agent-neutral considerations are silly and some are not impartial. Perhaps more importantly, there is (...)
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  29. Commonsense Consequentialism. By Douglas W. Portmore. (Oxford UP, 2011. Pp. Xi + 266. Price £27.50.). [REVIEW]Mark Roojen - 2013 - Philosophical Quarterly 63 (252):626-629.
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  30. Book Reviews Portmore , Douglas . Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 266. $74.00 (Paper). [REVIEW]Frances Howard-Snyder - 2012 - Ethics 123 (1):179-183.
  31. 10. Douglas Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality Douglas Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality (Pp. 179-183). [REVIEW]Henry S. Richardson, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, Peter Singer, Karen Jones, Sergio Tenenbaum, Diana Raffman, Simon Căbulea May, Stephen C. Makin & Nancy E. Snow - 2012 - Ethics 123 (1).
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  32. Douglas W. Portmore, Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality , Pp. Xx + 266.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (4):551-554.
  33. Consequentialize This.Campbell Brown - 2011 - Ethics 121 (4):749-771.
    To 'consequentialise' is to take a putatively non-consequentialist moral theory and show that it is actually just another form of consequentialism. Some have speculated that every moral theory can be consequentialised. If this were so, then consequentialism would be empty; it would have no substantive content. As I argue here, however, this is not so. Beginning with the core consequentialist commitment to 'maximising the good', I formulate a precise definition of consequentialism and demonstrate that, given this definition, several sorts of (...)
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  34. In Defense of Consequentializing.James Dreier - 2011 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
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  35. Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.Douglas W. Portmore - 2011 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press USA.
    Commonsense Consequentialism is a book about morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, Douglas W. Portmore defends a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons. Broadly construed, consequentialism is the view that an act's deontic status is determined by how its outcome ranks relative to those of the available alternatives on some evaluative ranking. Portmore argues that outcomes should be (...)
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  36. A Royal Road to Consequentialism?Martin Peterson - 2010 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2):153-169.
    To consequentialise a moral theory means to account for moral phenomena usually described in nonconsequentialist terms, such as rights, duties, and virtues, in a consequentialist framework. This paper seeks to show that all moral theories can be consequentialised. The paper distinguishes between different interpretations of the consequentialiser’s thesis, and emphasises the need for a cardinal ranking of acts. The paper also offers a new answer as to why consequentialising moral theories is important: This yields crucial methodological insights about how to (...)
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  37. Can Consequentialists Honour the Special Moral Status of Persons?Martin Peterson - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (4):434-446.
    It is widely believed that consequentialists are committed to the claim that persons are mere containers for well-being. In this article I challenge this view by proposing a new version of consequentialism, according to which the identities of persons matter. The new theory, two-dimensional prioritarianism, is a natural extension of traditional prioritarianism. Two-dimensional prioritarianism holds that wellbeing matters more for persons who are at a low absolute level than for persons who are at a higher level and that it is (...)
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  38. Consequentialism's Double-Edged Sword.Benjamin Sachs - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (3):258-271.
    Recent work on consequentialism has revealed it to be more flexible than previously thought. Consequentialists have shown how their theory can accommodate certain features with which it has long been considered incompatible, such as agent-centered constraints. This flexibility is usually thought to work in consequentialism’s favor. I want to cast doubt on this assumption. I begin by putting forward the strongest statement of consequentialism’s flexibility: the claim that, whatever set of intuitions the best nonconsequentialist theory accommodates, we can construct a (...)
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  39. Supererogation for Utilitarianism.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2010 - American Philosophical Quarterly 47 (4):299 - 319.
    Many believe that traditional consequentialist moral theories are incapable of incorporating the allegedly important phenomenon of supererogation. After surveying the “ties at the top,” “satisficing,” and “egoistic-adjustment” strategies to avoid the supererogation objection, I argue that a recent formulation of utilitarianism incorporating the self-other asymmetry exhibits interesting supererogatory properties. I then incorporate this asymmetry into a version of egoistically-adjusted act utilitarianism, arguing that such a view exhibits very rich supererogatory properties, properties that should assuage the theoretical worries of a vast (...)
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  40. Consequentializing.Douglas W. Portmore - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (2):329-347.
    A growing trend of thought has it that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that it can be given a consequentialist representation. In this essay, I explore both whether this claim is true and what its implications are. I also explain the procedure for consequentializing a nonconsequentialist theory and give an account of the motivation for doing so.
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  41. Kinds of Consequentialism.Michael Smith - 2009 - In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals. pp. 257-272.
  42. Two Kinds of Consequentialism.Michael Smith - 2009 - Philosophical Issues 19 (1):257-272.
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  43. Dual-Ranking Act-Consequentialism.Douglas W. Portmore - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 138 (3):409 - 427.
    Dual-ranking act-consequentialism (DRAC) is a rather peculiar version of act-consequentialism. Unlike more traditional forms of act-consequentialism, DRAC doesn’t take the deontic status of an action to be a function of some evaluative ranking of outcomes. Rather, it takes the deontic status of an action to be a function of some non-evaluative ranking that is in turn a function of two auxiliary rankings that are evaluative. I argue that DRAC is promising in that it can accommodate certain features of commonsense morality (...)
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  44. Consequentialism, Constraints, and Good-Relative-To.Jussi Suikkanen - 2008 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (1):1-9.
    Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
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  45. Consequentializing Moral Theories.Douglas W. Portmore - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (1):39–73.
    To consequentialize a non-consequentialist theory, take whatever considerations that the non-consequentialist theory holds to be relevant to determining the deontic statuses of actions and insist that those considerations are relevant to determining the proper ranking of outcomes. In this way, the consequentialist can produce an ordering of outcomes that when combined with her criterion of rightness yields the same set of deontic verdicts that the non-consequentialist theory yields. In this paper, I argue that any plausible non-consequentialist theory can be consequentialized. (...)
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  46. Teleology, Agent‐Relative Value, and 'Good'.Mark Schroeder - 2007 - Ethics 117 (2):265-000.
    It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come to (...)
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  47. Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation.Christopher Woodard - 2007 - Routledge.
    This book is about fundamental questions in normative ethics. It begins with the idea that we often respond to ethical theories according to how principled or pragmatic they are. It clarifies this contrast and then uses it to shed light on old debates in ethics, such as debates about the rival merits of consequentialist and deontological views. Using the idea that principled views seem most appealing in dilemmas of acquiescence, it goes on to develop a novel theory of pattern-based reasons. (...)
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  48. Not so Promising After All: Evaluator-Relative Teleology and Common-Sense Morality.Mark Schroeder - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (3).
    Douglas Portmore has recently argued in this journal for a "promising result" – that combining teleological ethics with "evaluator relativism" about the good allows an ethical theory to account for deontological intuitions while "accommodat[ing] the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs." I show that this result is false. It follows from the indexical semantics of evaluator relativism that Portmore's compelling idea is false. I also try to explain what might have (...)
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  49. Combining Teleological Ethics with Evaluator Relativism: A Promising Result.Douglas W. Portmore - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):95–113.
    Consequentialism is an agent-neutral teleological theory, and deontology is an agent-relative non-teleological theory. I argue that a certain hybrid of the two—namely, non-egoistic agent-relative teleological ethics (NATE)—is quite promising. This hybrid takes what is best from both consequentialism and deontology while leaving behind the problems associated with each. Like consequentialism and unlike deontology, NATE can accommodate the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs. Yet unlike consequentialism and like deontology, NATE accords (...)
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  50. Relativity of Value and the Consequentialist Umbrella.Jennie Louise - 2004 - Philosophical Quarterly 54 (217):518–536.
    Does the real difference between non-consequentialist and consequentialist theories lie in their approach to value? Non-consequentialist theories are thought either to allow a different kind of value (namely, agent-relative value) or to advocate a different response to value ('honouring' rather than 'promoting'). One objection to this idea implies that all normative theories are describable as consequentialist. But then the distinction between honouring and promoting collapses into the distinction between relative and neutral value. A proper description of non-consequentialist theories can only (...)
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