Ethics 10 - Consequentialism

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Consequentialism says that we have only one basic duty: to do whatever has the best consequences. This chapter focuses on two important consequentialist views: classical utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism.

These questions are about Chapter 10 of Harry Gensler's Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge: 1998 and 2011).

Classical utilitarianism

Consequentialism says that we ought to do whatever maximizes good consequences. It doesn't in itself matter what kind of thing we do. What matters is that we maximize good results.

One popular kind of consequentialism is classical (hedonistic) utilitarianism. This view says that we ought always to do whatever brings about the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for everyone affected by our action. This view could be based on the golden rule, which leads us to be concerned about the happiness and misery of others. Or it could be based on God's will, self-evident truths, or our own personal feelings.

We can apply utilitarianism directly (by first estimating the likely consequences of each option and then picking the option with the best consequences) or indirectly (by applying a "rule of thumb" about what kinds of action tend to have good or bad results). Many utilitarians reject exceptionless rules. They think that any rule should be broken when it has better consequences to do so. So they see moral rules only as loose "rules of thumb."

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This set has 36 problems.