Journal Article

Can Consequences be Right-Makers?


This paper sets out a novel challenge to consequentialism as a theory in normative ethics. The challenge is rooted in the ontological claim that consequences of actions do not exist at the time required to be that in virtue of which actions are right or wrong, and so consequences cannot play the role attributed to them by consequentialists. The challenge takes the form of a dilemma. The consequentialist is confronted with a set of propositions she will find individually plausible but incompossible if taken in conjunction with consequentialism. The task is to restore consistency. There are ways of maintaining the view that consequences are right-makers, but they come at the cost of endorsing highly implausible and unattractive theses. Versions of what might be called quasi-consequentialism can be rendered metaphysically coherent, but these are consequentialisms in name only, and they are best seen as components of an account of practical rationality that has strong echoes of traditional natural law theory. Since this is unlikely to appeal to contemporary consequentialists, their best bet is to reject consequentialism altogether.

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Boulter, Stephen

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of History, Philosophy and Religion


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-02-08

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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