Is global consequentialism more expressive than act consequentialism?

Analysis 82 (1):75-84 (2022)
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Act consequentialism states that an act is right if and only if the expected value of its outcome is at least as great as the expected value of any other act’s outcome. Two objections to this view are as follows. The first is that act consequentialism cannot account for our normative ambivalence in cases where agents perform the right act out of bad motives. The second is that act consequentialism is silent on questions of character: questions like ‘What are the right motives to have?’ and ‘What kind of person ought I be?’. These objections have been taken to motivate a move to global consequentialism, on which acts are not the only subjects of normative assessment. Motives and decision-procedures are also judged right or wrong by direct reference to their consequences. In this paper, I argue that these objections fail to motivate the move from act to global consequentialism.

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Elliott Thornley
Oxford University


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