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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Consequentialism has often been criticized for its inability to accommodate the partiality toward intimates that most people regard as not only morally permissible but as morally required. Consequentialists have responded to this objection by attempting to show, in various ways, that such partiality can, in some sense, be justified by their theory. While the classical utilitarians such as Mill and Sidgwick claimed that adherence to rules of thumb advising partial behavior is a good strategy for maximizing value, in recent years, Peter Railton has defended what is known as indirect consequentialism. According to the indirect consequentialist, consequentialism is to be understood as a criterion of right action, not as a decision procedure for agents to employ in their practical reasoning. Thus, according to Railton and others, a good consequentialist agent will often act and be motivated in the partial manner supposedly advocated by common sense. I argue that consequentialist moves such as those taken by Railton et al. are misguided, because the real issue is not how much partial behavior a moral theory is able to justify but, rather, the way in which it justifies that partial behavior.

Keywords: agent-neutral, agent-relative, consequentialism, decision procedure, friendship, indirect consequentialism, intimacy, partiality

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