About this topic
Summary Consequentialists take the value of outcomes to ground or explain other important normative properties such as the rightness of acts. Act Utilitarianism, the view that we should maximize well-being (or "happiness"), is perhaps the paradigmatic form of consequentialism.  But many alternatives have been developed, as found under the "Varieties of Consequentialism" sub-category.  An obvious dimension of variation concerns the consequentialist's axiology or conception of the good -- what is to be promoted.  (Allowing agent-relative values, especially, can lead to dramatic divergence from the impartial welfarism of traditional utilitarianism.)  But there are also many different proposals concerning the relation between value and other normative properties, as seen, for example, in the debate between act and rule consequentialists. A lot of work has been done assessing a variety of arguments against consequentialism.  Less has been said (either positively or negatively) about arguments for consequentialism.
Key works The classical texts are Mill's Utilitarianism and Sidgwick 1874.  The contemporary debate owes much to Bernard Williams' criticisms in Smart & Williams 1973.  Especially significant developments occur in Parfit 1984Railton 1984, and Pettit & Smith 2000.
Introductions Smart & Williams 1973 offers an accessible introduction to the debate over utilitarianism, in particular.
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  1. Why Would a Buddha Lie? Varieties of Buddhist Consequentialism.Gordon Davis - 2024 - In Michael Hemmingsen (ed.), Ethical Theory in Global Perspective. Albany: SUNY Press. pp. 159-176.
    An accessible introduction to Mahayana Buddhist moral philosophy and its relationship to consequentialism.
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  2. The Dēnkard VI: ‘Consequentialism’ and ‘Capitalism’ as Well as Paymān (The ancient Iranian ‘golden mean’).Shirzad Peik Herfeh - 2023 - Journal of Philosophical Investigations 17 (45):250-266.
    Dēnkard (Acts of the religion), written in Pahlavi, is a summary of 10th-century knowledge of the Mazdean religion and is described by Jean de Menasce on the title page of his translation as a ‘Mazdean encyclopedia.’ The Dēnkard VI (Book VI of the Dēnkard) is representative of late antique and early medieval Zoroastrian ethical ideas. This article analyzes Book VI of the Dēnkard based on modern moral philosophy and introduces it as a candidate for early consequentialism and capitalism. The first (...)
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  3. Nationality as a Ground for Justice.Peric M. - manuscript
    At first glance, the imperative to treat all human beings according to equal norms and principles appears indisputable, with any deviation seen as an ethical transgression. The rational perspective dictates a uniform consideration of all individuals unless differential treatment is warranted by valid reasons, avoiding harm. Deviations from equal treatment are typically viewed as exceptions, and ethical frameworks acknowledging groundless differences between individuals seem unjustified. This poses a significant challenge to defending nationalism, which presupposes prioritizing compatriots over others. This dilemma (...)
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  4. Commonsense Morality and Contact with Value.Adam Lovett & Stefan Riedener - 2024 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1:1-21.
    There seem to be many kinds of moral duties. We should keep our promises; we should pay our debts of gratitude; we should compensate those we’ve wronged; we should avoid doing or intending harm; we should help those in need. These constitute, some worry, an unconnected heap of duties: the realm of commonsense morality is a disorganized mess. In this paper, we outline a strategy for unifying commonsense moral duties. We argue that they can be understood in terms of contact (...)
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  5. Norms of inquiry.David Thorstad - forthcoming - Philosophical Topics.
    Epistemologists have recently proposed a number of norms governing rational inquiry. My aim in this paper is to unify and explain recently proposed norms of inquiry by developing a general account of the conditions under which inquiries are rational, analogous to theories such as evidentialism and reliabilism for rational belief. I begin with a reason-responsiveness conception of rationality as responding correctly to possessed normative reasons. I extend this account with a series of claims about the normative reasons for inquiry that (...)
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  6. A note on the extension of a binary relation on a set to the power set.Susumu Cato - 2012 - Economics Letters 116 (1):46–48.
    This paper is concerned with the problem of extending an antisymmetric binary relation on a set to a linear order on the power set. A necessary and sufficient condition is offered.
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  7. Common preference, non-consequential features, and collective decision making.Susumu Cato - 2014 - Review of Economic Design 18:265–287.
    This paper examines an extended framework of Arrovian social choice theory. We consider two classes of values: consequential values and non-consequential values. Each individual has a comprehensive preference based on the two. Non-consequential values are assumed to be homogeneous among individuals. It is shown that a social ordering function satisfying Arrovian conditions must be non-consequential: a social comprehensive preference gives unequivocal priority to non-consequential values. We clarify the role of common preferences over non-consequential features.
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  8. Global Philosophy and Ethical Theory.Michael Hemmingsen - 2024 - In Ethical Theory in Global Perspective. Albany: SUNY Press. pp. 1-12.
  9. Some Question-Begging Objections to Rule Consequentialism.Caleb Perl - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (4):904-919.
    This paper defends views like rule consequentialism by distinguishing between two sorts of ideal world objections. It aims to show that one of those sorts of objections is question-begging. Its success would open up a path forward for such views.
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  10. Edgeworth’s Mathematization of Social Well-Being.Adrian K. Yee - 2024 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 103 (C):5-15.
    Francis Ysidro Edgeworth’s unduly neglected monograph New and Old Methods of Ethics (1877) advances a highly sophisticated and mathematized account of social well-being in the utilitarian tradition of his 19th-century contemporaries. This article illustrates how his usage of the ‘calculus of variations’ was combined with findings from empirical psychology and economic theory to construct a consequentialist axiological framework. A conclusion is drawn that Edgeworth is a methodological predecessor to several important methods, ideas, and issues that continue to be discussed in (...)
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  11. The idea of the common good in the young Marx and nonutilitarian consequentialism.Vasil Gluchman - 2023 - History of European Ideas 49 (8):1345-1358.
    Rodney G. Peffer argues that Karl Marx cannot be considered a utilitarian, a consequentialist, or a nonutilitarian consequentialist. Based on ethics of social consequences as one of the versions of nonutilitarian consequentialism, the author examines Marx’s early journalistic articles concerning the common good published mainly in the Rheinische Zeitung. The author verifies the hypothesis that Marx was a nonutilitarian consequentialist in the given period with regard to the common good. By examining Marx’s views on freedom of the press and censorship, (...)
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  12. Objective and Subjective Consequentialism Reconsidered.Debashis Guha - 2023 - Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 40 (2):115-131.
    The objective of the paper is to explicate and critically appreciate two forms of consequentialism, namely objective and subjective consequentialism. Consequentialism is a substantive moral theory according to which moral value or good is to produce/promote best consequences (in a sense welfare); and morally right consists in acting so as to promote maximum good (in case of utilitarianism) or to promote best or most good. However, the paper considers important questions, replies to which give us two forms of consequentialism, namely (...)
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  13. Consequentialism and the Role of Practices in Political Philosophy.Andreas T. Schmidt - forthcoming - Res Publica:1-22.
    Political philosophers have recently debated what role social practices should play in normative theorising. Should our theories be practice-independent or practice-dependent? That is, can we formulate normative institutional principles independently of real-world practices or are such principles only ever relative to the practices they are meant to govern? Any first-order theory in political philosophy must contend with the methodological challenges coming out of this debate. In this article, I argue that consequentialism has a plausible account of how social practices should (...)
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  14. Junk, Numerosity, and the Demands of Epistemic Consequentialism.Michal Masny - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    Epistemic consequentialism has been challenged on the grounds that it is overly demanding. According to the Epistemic Junk Problem, this view implies that we are often required to believe junk propositions such as ‘the Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely in Canada’ and long disjunctions of things we already believe. According to the Numerosity Problem, this view implies that we are frequently required to have an enormous number of beliefs. This paper puts forward a novel version of epistemic (...)
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  15. Maxim Consequentialism for Bounded Agents.Mayank Agrawal & David Danks - manuscript
    Normative moral theories are frequently invoked to serve one of two distinct purposes: (1) explicate a criterion of rightness, or (2) provide an ethical decision-making procedure. Although a criterion of rightness provides a valuable theoretical ideal, proposed criteria rarely can be (nor are they intended to be) directly translated into a feasible decision-making procedure. This paper applies the computational framework of bounded rationality to moral decision-making to ask: how ought a bounded human agent make ethical decisions? We suggest agents ought (...)
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  16. The best effect: theology and the origins of consequentialism.Ryan Darr - 2023 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    For over two centuries, consequentialism has been among the most influential approaches to ethics and public policy in the Anglophone world. It is often seen as the paradigmatic rational and secular ethic. In The Best Effect, Ryan Darr reveals that a consequentialist approach to ethics is not, as is often assumed, self-evidently rational once religious morality is stripped away. Rather, consequentialist morality itself had to be invented. In this new account of the origins of consequentialism, Darr traces the development of (...)
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  17. Instrumental Rationality in the Social Sciences.Katharina Nieswandt - 2023 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences (1):46-68.
    This paper draws some bold conclusions from modest premises. My topic is an old one, the Neohumean view of practical rationality. First, I show that this view consists of two independent claims, instrumentalism and subjectivism. Most critics run these together. Instrumentalism is entailed by many theories beyond Neohumeanism, viz. by any theory that says rational actions maximize something. Second, I give a new argument against instrumentalism, using simple counterexamples. This argument systematically undermines consequentialism and rational choice theory, I show, using (...)
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  18. Revisiting Rule Consequentialism.Debashis Guha - 2022 - Tattva - Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):01-17.
    Under mounting pressure from the international communities and organizations to curb carbon emission causing disturbing climate change, and the growing pressure of domestic environmentalists and the common man in India, the government is hard-pressed to enact laws on carbon emission. However, the moot problem is whether to consider a pro-active rule of action seriously to curb carbon emission while keeping the collective scenario in view or to consider a case-by-case scenario in view. A number of people argue that a collective (...)
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  19. Ética hedonista en la Carta a Meneceo de Epicuro de Samos. Resignificación del concepto placer.Estiven Valencia Marin - 2015 - Dissertation, Universidad Católica de Pereira
    Los aspectos ético y moral se insertan en los problemas de la filosofía antigua, aspectos que han sido tenidos en cuenta como determinantes en la búsqueda de la vida feliz. Una de tantas propuestas fue desarrollada por el heleno Epicuro oriundo de la isla de Samos quien argumenta que el placer es el fin de la vida feliz. Tal identificación del placer con la felicidad ha sido fundamento para que otros pensadores cataloguen a este filósofo de libertino, promiscuo, antimoral, etc. (...)
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  20. Consequentialism and Climate Change.Mattia Cecchinato - 2023 - In Gianfranco Pellegrino & Marcello Di Paola (eds.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Climate Change. Springer. pp. 541-560.
    The environmental crisis challenges the adequacy of traditional moral theories, particularly in the case of act consequentialism – the view that an act is morally right if and only if it brings about the best available outcome. Although anthropogenic climate change threatens the well-being of billions of humans and trillions of non-human animals, it is difficult for an act consequentialist to condemn actions that contribute to it, as each individual action makes no difference to the probability of whether climate change (...)
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  21. 12 Reflective Equilibrium and Rule Consequentialism.Brad Hooker - 2000 - In Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, Dale E. Miller, D. W. Haslett, Shelly Kagan, Sanford S. Levy, David Lyons, Phillip Montague, Tim Mulgan, Philip Pettit, Madison Powers, Jonathan Riley, William H. Shaw, Michael Smith & Alan Thomas (eds.), Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 222-238.
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  22. 11 Ruling Out Rule Consequentialism.Tim Mulgan - 2000 - In Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, Dale E. Miller, D. W. Haslett, Shelly Kagan, Sanford S. Levy, David Lyons, Phillip Montague, Tim Mulgan, Philip Pettit, Madison Powers, Jonathan Riley, William H. Shaw, Michael Smith & Alan Thomas (eds.), Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 212-221.
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  23. 1 Between Act and Rule: The Consequentialism of G. E. Moore.William H. Shaw - 2000 - In Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, Dale E. Miller, D. W. Haslett, Shelly Kagan, Sanford S. Levy, David Lyons, Phillip Montague, Tim Mulgan, Philip Pettit, Madison Powers, Jonathan Riley, William H. Shaw, Michael Smith & Alan Thomas (eds.), Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 6-26.
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  24. 9 Consequentialism and the Subversion of Pluralism.Alan Thomas - 2000 - In Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, Dale E. Miller, D. W. Haslett, Shelly Kagan, Sanford S. Levy, David Lyons, Phillip Montague, Tim Mulgan, Philip Pettit, Madison Powers, Jonathan Riley, William H. Shaw, Michael Smith & Alan Thomas (eds.), Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 179-202.
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  25. Alienation, consequentialism, and the demands of morality.Peter Railton - 1988 - In Samuel Scheffler (ed.), Consequentialism and its critics. Oxford University Press.
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  26. The New Philosopher-Kings: Conceptual Engineering and Social Authority.Nick Smyth - manuscript
    Many philosophers have recently become interested in conceptual engineering, or the activity of producing better conceptual schemes in human populations. But few, if any, are asking the question: what would it mean for actual human agents to possess the social authority to modify a conceptual scheme in this way? This paper argues for a deontological approach to conceptual engineering, wherein we have to secure social authority qua engineers before attempting to modify social concepts. I show that the dominant, consequentialist conception (...)
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  27. Do We Have a Moral Obligation to Abolish Wilderness?Joshua Duclos - 2023 - Breakthrough Journal 1 (No. 19).
  28. The Sniper and the Psychopath: A Parable in Defense of the Weapons Industry.Duncan MacIntosh - 2023 - In Daniel Schoeni & Tobias Vestner (eds.), Ethical Dilemmas in the Global Defense Industry. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 47-78.
    This chapter discusses the fundamental question of the defense industry’s role and legitimacy for societies. It begins with a parable of a psychopath doing something self-serving that has beneficial moral consequences. Analogously, it is argued, the defense industry profiting by selling weapons that can kill people makes it useful in solving moral problems not solvable by people with ordinary moral scruples. Next, the chapter argues that while the defense industry is a business, it is also implicated in the security of (...)
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  29. Invariance violations and the CNI model of moral judgments.Niels Skovgaard-Olsen & Karl Christoph Klauer - 2023 - Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 1.
    A number of papers have applied the CNI model of moral judgments to investigate deontological and consequentialist response tendencies (Gawronski et al., 2017). A controversy has emerged concerning the methodological assumptions of the CNI model (Baron & Goodwin, 2020, 2021; Gawronski et al. 2020). In this paper, we contribute to this debate by extending the CNI paradigm with a skip option. This allows us to test an invariance assumption that the CNI model shares with prominent process-dissociation models in cognitive and (...)
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  30. The inescapability of consequentialism.Philip Pettit - 2012 - In Ulrike Heuer & Gerald R. Lang (eds.), Luck, Value, and Commitment: Themes from the Ethics of Bernard Williams. Oxford University Press USA.
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  31. Theologically Motivated Conversion Therapy and Care Epistemology.Steven Steyl - 2022 - In Inge van Nistelrooij, Maureen Sander-Staudt & Maurice Hamington (eds.), Care Ethics, Religion, and Spiritual Traditions. Peeters. pp. 211-242.
  32. From Brad to worse: Rule‐consequentialism and undesirable futures.Tim Mulgan - 2022 - Ratio 35 (4):275-288.
    This paper asks how rule‐consequentialism might adapt to very adverse futures, and whether moderate liberal consequentialism can survive into broken futures and/or futures where humanity faces imminent extinction. The paper first recaps the recent history of rule‐consequentialist procreative ethics. It outlines rule‐consequentialism, extends it to cover future people, and applies it to broken futures. The paper then introduces a new thought experiment—the “ending world”—where humanity faces an extinction that is unavoidable and imminent, but not immediate. The paper concludes by explaining (...)
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  33. Rule‐consequentialism, procreative freedom, and future generations.Julia Mosquera - 2022 - Ratio 35 (4):333-343.
    In this paper I analyse how procreative freedom poses a challenge for rule-consequentialism. First, I reconstruct the rule-consequentialist case for procreative freedom. Second, I argue that population scenarios resulting from very low fertility pose a problem for rule-consequentialism since such scenarios cannot secure population growth or even avoid human extinction in the long run. Third, I argue that population scenarios resulting from excessive procreation also pose a problem for rule-consequentialism since they are incompatible with the promotion of optimific consequences in (...)
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  34. Hooker's rule‐consequentialism, disasters, demandingness, and arbitrary distinctions.Fiona Woollard - 2022 - Ratio 35 (4):289-300.
    According to Brad Hooker's rule-consequentialism, as well as ordinary moral prohibitions against lying, stealing, killing, and harming others, the optimific code will include an over-riding “prevent disaster clause”. This paper explores two issues related to the disaster clause. The first issue is whether the disaster clause is vague—and whether this is a problem for rule-consequentialism. I argue that on Hooker's rule-consequentialism, there will be cases where it is indeterminate whether a given outcome counts as a disaster such that it is (...)
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  35. The splendour of truth and intrinsically immoral acts II: A philosophical defense of the rejection of proportionalism and consequentialism in "Veritatis Splendor".Josef Seifert - 2017 - Studia Philosophiae Christianae 51 (3):7.
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  36. Clifford's Consequentialism.Brian Zamulinski - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (3):289-299.
    It is morally negligent or reckless to believe without sufficient evidence. The foregoing proposition follows from a rule that is a modified expression of W. K. Clifford's ethics of belief. Clifford attempted to prove that it is always wrong to believe without sufficient evidence by advancing a doxastic counterpart to an act utilitarian argument. Contrary to various commentators, his argument is neither purely nor primarily epistemic, he is not a non-consequentialist, and he does not use stoicism to make his case. (...)
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  37. The Definition of Consequentialism: A Survey.Oscar Horta, Gary David O'Brien & Dayron Teran - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (4):368-385.
    There are different meanings associated with consequentialism and teleology. This causes confusion, and sometimes results in discussions based on misunderstandings rather than on substantial disagreements. To clarify this, we created a survey on the definitions of ‘consequentialism’ and ‘teleology’, which we sent to specialists in consequentialism. We broke down the different meanings of consequentialism and teleology into four component parts: Outcome-Dependence, Value-Dependence, Maximization, and Agent-Neutrality. Combining these components in different ways we distinguished six definitions, all of which are represented in (...)
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  38. Erratum to: Is global consequentialism more expressive than act consequentialism?Elliott Thornley - 2022 - Analysis 82 (2):299-299.
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  39. Moral Bookkeeping, Consequentialism, and Carbon Offsets.Julia Driver - 2014 - In Avram Hiller, Ramona Ilea & Leonard Kahn (eds.), Consequentialism and Environmental Ethics. Routledge. pp. 164-173.
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  40. Why Leave Nature Alone?Ben Bradley - 2014 - In Avram Hiller, Ramona Ilea & Leonard Kahn (eds.), Consequentialism and Environmental Ethics. Routledge. pp. 92-103.
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  41. Can Biocentric Consequentialism Meet Pluralist Challenges?Robin Attfield - 2014 - In Avram Hiller, Ramona Ilea & Leonard Kahn (eds.), Consequentialism and Environmental Ethics. Routledge. pp. 35-53.
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  42. Against Collective Consequentialism.James J. DiGiovanni - unknown
    In this paper I argue that Liam Murphy’s collective consequentialism—emphasizing fairness instead of maximization of value—is not an adequate response to the demandingness objections levied at consequentialism. Especially since Peter Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” many have objected that consequentialism is far too demanding, particularly concerning our obligations of assistance to those in extreme poverty. Murphy thinks that the problem is not that consequentialism is necessarily too demanding; it is that, in our nonideal world of partial compliance, consequentialism is too (...)
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  43. The Cosmic Significance of Directed Panspermia: Should Humanity Spread Life to Other Solar Systems?Oskari Sivula - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (2):178-194.
    The possibility of seeding other planets with life poses a tricky dilemma. On the one hand, directed panspermia might be extremely good, while, on the other, it might be extremely bad depending on what factors are taken into consideration. Therefore, we need to understand better what is ethically at stake with planetary seeding. I map out possible conditions under which humanity should spread life to other solar systems. I identify two key variables that affect the desirability of propagating life throughout (...)
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  44. Civilian Immunity Without the Doctrine of Double Effect.Yitzhak Benbaji & Susanne Burri - 2020 - Utilitas 32 (1):50-69.
    Civilian Immunity is the legal and moral protection that civilians enjoy against the effects of hostilities under the laws of armed conflict and according to the ethics of killing in war. Immunity specifies different permissibility conditions for directly targeting civilians on the one hand, and for harming civilians incidentally on the other hand. Immunity is standardly defended by appeal to the Doctrine of Double Effect. We show that Immunity's prohibitive stance towards targeting civilians directly, and its more permissive stance towards (...)
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  45. Veritatis Splendor: Consequentialism, Proportionalism and Christian Morality.Servais Pinckaers & Sr Mary Thomas Noble - 1995 - Ethics and Medics 20 (3):3-4.
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  46. Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism.Michael Slote - 1985 - Boston: Routledge.
    Originally published in 1985 and now re-issued with a new preface, this study assesses the two major moral theories of ethical consequentialism and common-sense morality by means of mutual comparison and an attempt to elicit the implications and tendencies of each theory individually. The author shows that criticisms and defences of common-sense morality and of consequentialism give inadequate characterizations of the dispute between them and thus at best provide incomplete rationales for either of these influential moral views. Both theories face (...)
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  47. New Wave Consequentialism: An Introduction.Christian Seidel - 2019 - In Consequentialism: New Directions, New Problems. Oxford, New York 13830, USA: pp. 1-28.
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  48. ETHICS: THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN ACTS.Noel Pariñas - 2018 - Meycauayan, Bulacan, Philippines: IPM PUBLISHING.
    the proclivity of many people to classify human acts as good or bad calls into mind the import of ETHICS. The penchant for classification warrants the evaluation of the bases for saying that one is bad or good action. Normally, human act is ethical if it is in accordance with what one would relatively expect in view of the events or the circumstances and unethical if the action is not called for by the circumstances, or a person whose behavior is (...)
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  49. Scalar Epistemic Consequentialism.Dan Cavedon-Taylor - 2022 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 11 (1):1-5.
    The following is an advertisement for scalar epistemic consequentialism. Benefits include an epistemic consequentialism that (i) is immune from the the no-positive-epistemic-duties objection and (ii) doesn’t require bullet-biting on the rightness of epistemic tradeoffs. The advertisement invites readers to think more carefully about both the definition and logical space of epistemic consequentialism.
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  50. For the Common Good: Philosophical Foundations of Research Ethics.Alex John London - 2021 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    The foundations of research ethics are riven with fault lines emanating from a fear that if research is too closely connected to weighty social purposes an imperative to advance the common good through research will justify abrogating the rights and welfare of study participants. The result is an impoverished conception of the nature of research, an incomplete focus on actors who bear important moral responsibilities, and a system of ethics and oversight highly attuned to the dangers of research but largely (...)
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