The Inescapability of Consequentialism

Philip Pettit

in Luck, Value, and Commitment

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599325
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741500 | DOI:
The Inescapability of Consequentialism

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For non-consequentialists an agent is justified in refusing to breach certain constraints even for the sake of apparently more important, neutral goals: even, indeed, for the sake of maximizing the overall satisfaction of those very constraints. To put the message in a slogan: ‘Not by my hands’. But how can non-consequentialism offer a distinctive evaluation of the social and political arrangements (say, the property conventions) that ethics presupposes? The only plausible answer is: by laying down constraints that we, the community, ought to satisfy in imposing such arrangements on individuals.‘Not by our hands’, as it might be put. But this response is not satisfactory. In this fundamental, political sphere of evaluation, consequentialism is inescapable.

Keywords: Bernard Williams; consequentialism; non-consequentialism; ethics; politics

Chapter.  12778 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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