Kantian Consequentialism

Kantian Consequentialism

Kantian Consequentialism

Kantian Consequentialism

Synopsis

The central problem for normative ethics is the conflict between a consequentialist view--that morality requires promoting the good of all--and a belief that the rights of the individual place significant constraints on what may be done to help others. Standard interpretations see Kant as rejecting all forms of consequentialism, and defending a theory which is fundamentally duty-based and agent-centered. Certain actions, like sacrificing the innocent, are categorically forbidden. In this original and controversial work, Cummiskey argues that there is no defensible basis for this view, that Kant's own arguments actually entail a consequentialist conclusion. But this new form of consequentialism which follows from Kant's theories has a distinctly Kantian tone. The capacity of rational action is prior to the value of happiness; thus providing justification for the view that rational nature is more important than mere pleasures and pains.

Excerpt

When I started this project, I shared the common belief that Kantian ethics stands in stark opposition to all forms of consequentialism. My initial goal was to clearly articulate Kant's objection to utilitarianism, and to consequentialism in general. in pursuing this goal, I have found many interesting arguments and insights in Kant's texts, but consequentialism always seemed stubbornly compatible and consistent with Kant's main argument. Over time, and with the help of many others, I have become convinced that although Kant himself was not a consequentialist, Kant's main argument is consistent with consequentialism and provides a compelling justification for a new form of Kantian consequentialism.

In graduate school at the University of Michigan, when I first began working on these issues, I learned a tremendous amount from my teachers, Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, Peter Railton, and, in political science, Joel Schwartz. I took my first Kant seminar, which focused on Kant's political theory and philosophy of history, with Joel. I also studied Rousseau with Joel and, through his example, learned of the pleasures and rewards of a close study of historical texts. Peter is a wonderful teacher. As his student and teaching assistant, I have learned much about Mill, Rawls, Nozick, and others who developed theories of justice. I took my first normative ethics class from Allan, and he first made me realize how difficult it is to articulate, in a convincing manner, the Kantian objection to consequentialism. Steve, on the other hand, helped me to see the point and importance of the Kantian approach to the foundation of ethics. He has also provided a steady source of support and encouragement. in different ways, each has shaped the way I think about the central issues of moral theory.

While writing this book, I have discussed these issues and received comments from many people. I would like to thank Judith Baker, Simon Blackburn, Hilary Bok, Richard Dean, Laura Ekstrom, Stephen Engstrom, Ralph Geiger, Paul Hurley, Robert Johnson, Joel Kidder, David Kolb, Don Loeb, Thomas McCarty, Jay Rosenberg, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Dion Scott-Kakures, Ed Sherline, Larry Simon, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, John Taylor, Larry Temkin, and Tom Tracy for their helpful comments and questions. I would also like to . . .

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