The question of what is virtuous and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong and what is ethical and unethical existed for years. Philosophy usually deals with these questions trying to provide sharply defined answers. Though, when it comes to it, even greatest philosophers, find it very difficult to come to the consensus. There are some theories that we, the modern people, find sane and reasonable, there are some that seem rather impractical to us.
In my short essay I would like to describe Consequentialism and sketch several of the most popular arguments for it and several of the most popular arguments against it.
Consequentialism is a descendant of classic utilitarianism remaining very close to utilitarianism in very many concepts. Consequentialism is the view that virtuousness of one’s deed depends only on the consequences the deed has caused. Thus, Consequentialism does not accept the concept that good intentions should be still counted even when the action brought bad instead of indented good. Moreover, according to Consequentialism, something is moral if it has caused overall right kind of consequences. It has to be remembered that when it comes to Consequentialism overall consequences matter, meaning everything the action brings about, including the action itself (Rawls).
There are two main arguments for Consequentialism. These arguments are as follows: to begin with, intentions influence people to do something, but after the action is done that is the only thing that persists. Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to think that it is the outcome that matters because it persists to exist long after the action was done. The second argument that is based on the customs and traditions of many cultures and religions is love. It is a universal truth that one should love the one next to him/her and spread this love to the world. These two arguments prove Consequentialism to be reasonable.
However, when it comes to philosophy it is easy to find as many arguments against some theory than for it, or even more. The first argument against Consequentialism is its unfairness (Sen, 5).
According to Consequentialism one should look at happiness and goodness from a very impersonal point of you. One should just be eager to assist those around him/her and work for their benefit regardless of who they are. It is considered that one person’s happiness and wellbeing cannot be more important or more vital than another person’s. Thus, a consequentialist should pay the same amount of attention to the needs of strangers and relatives (Sen, 3).
The next argument, according to Rawls, is that Consequentialism interferers with the rights for privacy of those around us. This is because in order to find out what the person is lacking and what would make him/her happy one would have to stick his/her nose into the personal affairs of the taken person. In that situation the help might be harmful and bring consequences that would be very different from the ones intended (Rawls, 30-32).
In conclusion I would like to say that we, the people, are all consequentialist to some extent. We do not usually know the overall consequences of our actions and we cannot foresee them. Though, when it comes to the ones we love we act first water consequentialists – we put all our efforts to make them happy and bring the best consequence possible. However, especially today we understand that some concepts in Consequentialism are not applicable in today’s world. Moreover, we have to remember that after all we cannot to make all our decisions by thinking about overall consequences because we cannot predict them. This can be done only by the power stronger than us.
Sen, A., ‘Rights and Agency’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 11, 1: 3-5, 1982.
Rawls, J., “Two Concepts of Rules” Philosophical Review 64 (1955): 30-32.
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