Paradoxes of Consequentialism

By Narita, Ionel | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Paradoxes of Consequentialism


Narita, Ionel, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Any religion has an ethical component. Thus, the examination of ethical problems is very important for religious studies. Consequentialism is an ethical doctrine according to which a fact is good only if it has good consequences. In order to avoid infinite regression, there is the need for a moral foundation in conformity with the criterion of goodness. The consequentialists proposed various criteria for goodness, such as pleasure, happiness or utility. Any fact will be judged as good only if its consequences belong to the moral basis. The correctness of ethical judgments depends on the analysis of consequence relations. This study takes into account material and strict implication as representations of consequence. Both of them generate ethical paradoxes. If consequence is represented by material implication, according to the Manichean ethics, a fact is either good or bad; there are no neutral ethical facts. If consequence is analyzed by strict implication, the necessary facts will not have a moral value. The present study is to suggest an original solution to these paradoxes.

Key Words:

consequentialism, Manichaeism, ethical paradoxes, strict implication, soul, utilitarianism.

Moral values - good and bad - are applied to facts. Facts are expressed through sentences so that each sentence presupposes a fact, and a sentence corresponds to each fact. If the fact presupposed by a sentence happens, the sentence is said to be true. If the presupposed fact does not happen, then the sentence is false. Thus, it is to differentiate the ontic value of facts - a fact can happen or not - from the truth value of sentences - a sentence can be true or false. For instance, the sentence "Romania is a republic" corresponds to the fact Romania is a republic. When this fact happens, this being valid for the year 2009, the mentioned sentence is true; reversely, when the fact does not happen, this being the case of the year of 1946, the sentence corresponding to it is false.

In addition to its ontic value, a fact is characterized by its ethical value. For example, some evaluators consider it is good that Romania is a republic, whereas others might argue that this fact is bad. Not only facts that have an author can be endowed with an ethical value, but any fact can have this quality. For example, the fact that 'it is raining' can be considered good or bad depending on the circumstances, although the rain is not produced by someone in particular. Furthermore, the ethical value of facts does not depend on their ontic value; in other words, a fact can be considered as being good or bad even if it happens or not. The evaluator could consider it would be good if Romania was a kingdom, in the same way as some consider it is good that Romania is a republic. One can notice that good can be applied both to facts that happen and to facts that do not.

In this respect, which is the criterion to consider, in a justified way, a fact as good or bad? Researchers in the field of ethics have offered various answers to this matter. The present paper discusses the solutions offered by the advocates of consequentialism. Consequentialism is a perspective in ethics according to which a fact is good as long as it has good consequences.1 Some confuse this thesis with the maxim "the end justifies the means" starting from the thought that the end is a consequence of the used means so that if the end is good, and the good is judged by consequences, then any means is good to the extent to which it serves to achieve that purpose.2 On the one hand, the relation between means and purpose is only one variant of the consequence relation. On the other hand, the purpose cannot be judged by itself in an absolute way but, in order to endow it with an ethical value, one must take into consideration its consequences.

In addition, the means cannot be judged only by the purpose they serve because the means, as any facts, have other consequences that could be bad although the end is good. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Paradoxes of Consequentialism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.