Foundational Consequentialism and Its Primary Evaluative Focal Point

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Following Shelly Kagan’s useful terminology, foundational consequentialists are those who hold that the ranking of outcomes is at the foundation of all moral assessment. That is, they hold that moral assessments of right and wrong, virtuous and vicious, morally good and morally bad, etc. are all ultimately a function of how outcomes rank. But foundational consequentialists disagree on what is to be directly evaluated in terms of the ranking of outcomes, which is to say that they disagree on what the primary evaluative focal point is. Act-consequentialists take acts to be the primary evaluative focal point. They evaluate acts in terms of how their outcomes rank (the higher ranked the outcome, the morally better the act), but evaluate everything else in terms of the morally best acts. Thus, the morally best rules are those that would, if internalized, most reliably lead us to perform the morally best acts. Rule-consequentialists, by contrast, take rules to be the primary evaluative focal point. They evaluate rules according to how their outcomes rank and then assess everything else in terms of the morally best rules. Thus, the morally best acts are those that conform to the morally best rules. In this paper, I argue that foundational consequentialists should not take the primary evaluative focal point (or points) to be acts, rules, virtues, or even everything. In so doing, I argue against act-consequentialism, rule-consequentialism, and global consequentialism. But my project is not entirely negative, for I argue that the primary evaluative focal point should be a complex of acts and attitudes. In the end, then, I claim that foundational consequentialists should accept a new kind of consequentialism, which I call attitude-consequentialism.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 2 (2015-11-21)
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