Consequentialism and Motives

Steven Sverdlik

in Motive and Rightness

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199594948
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725401 | DOI:
Consequentialism and Motives

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A survey is presented of consequentialist views about the deontic relevance of motives, starting with Bentham's utilitarianism. Austin, Sidgwick and especially Mill seem to contend that motives are relevant to other moral judgments, but never to judgments about rightness or wrongness. However, it is argued that in fact a consequentialist can and should say that sometimes its motive makes a difference in an action's deontic status. This is because the motive of an action can (i) change the intrinsic value of the action itself; (ii) affect how an action is done, and thus alter its consequences; (iii) be of interest to others. Consequentialism can therefore assert that motives are sometimes relevant deontically because of their extrinsic relations, that is, their effects or consequences. An example is presented of how the motive of racism could be wrong‐making.

Keywords: consequentialism; motive; Jeremy Bentham; J. S. Mill; intrinsic value; racism; John Austin; Henry Sidgwick; utilitarianism; consequences

Chapter.  8243 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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