Philosophical Studies 151 (3):393 - 412 (2010)

Brian McElwee
University of Southampton
I argue that the strongest form of consequentialism is one which rejects the claim that we are morally obliged to bring about the best available consequences, but which continues to assert that what there is most reason to do is bring about the best available consequences. Such an approach promises to avoid common objections to consequentialism, such as demandingness objections. Nevertheless, the onus is on the defender of this approach either to offer her own account of what moral obligations we do face, or to explain why offering such a theory is ill-advised. I consider, and reject, one attempt at the second sort of strategy, put forward by Alastair Norcross, who defends a 'scalar' consequentialism which eschews the moral concepts of right, wrong and obligation, and limits itself to claims about what is better and worse. I go on to raise some considerations which suggest that no systematic consequentialist theory of our moral obligations will be plausible, and propose instead that consequentialism should have a more informal and indirect role in shaping what we take our moral obligations to be
Keywords Normative ethics  Consequentialism  Utilitarianism  Demandingness  Moral obligation  Blame  Norcross  Scheffler
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-009-9458-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,703
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - Philosophy 33 (124):1 - 19.
Moral Saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
Reasons and the Good.Roger Crisp - 2006 - Clarendon Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Scalar Consequentialism the Right Way.Neil Sinhababu - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):3131-3144.
Degrees of Assertability.Sam Carter - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Demandingness Objections in Ethics.Brian McElwee - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):84-105.
Supererogation.Alfred Archer - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (3).

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
303 ( #32,165 of 2,462,459 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #144,304 of 2,462,459 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes