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If any philosopher is regarded as central to deontological moraltheories, it is surely Immanuel Kant. Indeed, each of the branches ofdeontological ethics—the agent-centered, the patient-centered,and the contractualist—can lay claim to being Kantian.

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Consequentialists are of course not bereft of replies to these twocriticisms. Some retreat from maximizing the Good to“satisficing”—that is, making the achievement ofonly a certain level of the Good mandatory (Slote 1984). This moveopens up some space for personal projects and relationships, as wellas a realm of the morally permissible. It is not clear, however, thatsatisficing is adequately motivated, except to avoid the problems ofmaximizing. Nor is it clear that the level of mandatory satisficingcan be nonarbitrarily specified, or that satisficing will not requiredeontological constraints to protect satisficers from maximizers.


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Though there are many varieties of the view discussed,utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally rightaction is the action that produces the most good. There are manyways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is thatthe theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action isunderstood entirely in terms of consequences produced. Whatdistinguishes utilitarianism from egoism has to do with the scope ofthe relevant consequences. On the utilitarian view one ought tomaximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of othersas well as one's own good.


Utilitarianism and Consequentialism - The GM Bailout

Thirdly, there is the worry about “avoision.” By castingour categorical obligations in such agent-centered terms, one invitesa kind of manipulation that is legalistic and Jesuitical, what LeoKatz dubs “avoision” (Katz 1996). Some think, for example,that one can transform a prohibited intention into a permissiblepredictive belief (and thus escape intention-focused forms ofagent-relative duty) by the simple expedient of finding some other endwith which to motivate the action in question.

Utilitarianism Meets Paul Crump | A Collection of Essays

Such criticisms of the agent-centered view of deontology drive mostwho accept their force away from deontology entirely and to some formof consequentialism. Alternatively, some of such critics are driven topatient-centered deontology, which we discuss immediately below. Yetstill other of such critics attempt to articulate yet a fourth form ofagent-centered deontology. This might be called the “controltheory of agency.” On this view, our agency is invoked wheneverour choices could have made a difference. This cuts across theintention/foresight, act/omission, and doing/allowing distinctions,because in all cases we controlled what happened through ourchoices (Frey 1995). Yet as an account of deontology, this seemsworrisomely broad. It disallows consequentialist justificationswhenever: we foresee the death of an innocent; we omit to save, whereour saving would have made a difference and we knew it; where weremove a life-saving device, knowing the patient will die. Ifdeontological norms are so broad in content as to cover all theseforeseeings, omittings, and allowings, then good consequences (such asa net saving of innocent lives) are ineligible to justify them. Thismakes for a wildly counterintuitive deontology: surely I can, forexample, justify not throwing the rope to one (and thus omit to savehim) in order to save two others equally in need. This breadth ofobligation also makes for a conflict-ridden deontology: by refusing tocabin our categorical obligations by the distinctions of the Doctrineof Double Effect and the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing, situations ofconflict between our stringent obligations proliferate in atroublesome way (Anscombe 1962).

Utilitarianism, deontological, and virtue theory ethics Essay

Bentham's view was surprising to many at the time at least in partbecause he viewed the moral quality of an action to be determinedinstrumentally. It isn't so much that there is a particular kind ofaction that is intrinsically wrong; actions that are wrong are wrongsimply in virtue of their effects, thus, instrumentally wrong. Thiscut against the view that there are some actions that by their verynature are just wrong, regardless of their effects. Some may be wrongbecause they are ‘unnatural’ — and, again, Benthamwould dismiss this as a legitimate criterion. Some may be wrongbecause they violate liberty, or autonomy. Again, Bentham would viewliberty and autonomy as good — but good instrumentally, notintrinsically. Thus, any action deemed wrong due to a violation ofautonomy is derivatively wrong on instrumental grounds as well. Thisis interesting in moral philosophy — as it is far removed fromthe Kantian approach to moral evaluation as well as from natural lawapproaches. It is also interesting in terms of political philosophyand social policy. On Bentham's view the law is not monolithic andimmutable. Since effects of a given policy may change, the moralquality of the policy may change as well. Nancy Rosenblum noted thatfor Bentham one doesn't simply decide on good laws and leave it atthat: “Lawmaking must be recognized as a continual process inresponse to diverse and changing desires that requireadjustment” (Rosenblum 1978, 9). A law that is good at one pointin time may be a bad law at some other point in time. Thus, lawmakershave to be sensitive to changing social circumstances. To be fair toBentham's critics, of course, they are free to agree with him thatthis is the case in many situations, just not all — and thatthere is still a subset of laws that reflect the fact that someactions just are intrinsically wrong regardless ofconsequences. Bentham is in the much more difficult position ofarguing that effects are all there are to moral evaluation of actionand policy.