Can consequentialism be reconciled with our common-sense moral intuitions?

Philosophical Studies 91 (1):1-19 (1998)
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Consequentialism is usually thought to be unable to accommodate many of our commonsense moral intuitions. In particular, it has seemed incompatible with the intuition that agents should not violate someone's rights even in order to prevent numerous others from committing comparable rights violations. Nevertheless, I argue that a certain form of consequentialism can accommodate this intuition: agent-relative consequentialism--the view according to which agents ought always to bring about what is, from their own individual perspective, the best available outcome. Moreover, I argue that the consequentialist's agent-focused account of the impermissibility of such preventive violations is more plausible than the deontologist's victim-focused account. Contrary to Frances Kamm, I argue that agent-relative consequentialism can adequately deal with single-agent cases, cases where an agent would have to commit one rights violation now in order to minimize her commissions of such rights violations over time.



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Douglas W. Portmore
Arizona State University

References found in this work

Rights and agency.Amartya Sen - 1982 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 11 (1):3-39.
The Rejection of Consequentialism.Samuel Scheffler - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):220-226.
Structures of Normative Theories.James Dreier - 1993 - The Monist 76 (1):22-40.
Harming some to save others.Frances Kamm - 1989 - Philosophical Studies 57 (3):227 - 260.

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