- Copyright Page
- Relativized Rankings
- Fault Lines in Ethical Theory
- Actualism, Possibilism, and the Nature of Consequentialism
- Consequentialism, Blame, and Moral Responsibility
- Consequentialism and Reasons for Action
- What Should a Consequentialist Promote?
- Understanding the Demandingness Objection
- Consequentialism and Partiality
- Must I Benefit Myself?
- Supererogation and Consequentialism
- Consequentialism and Promises
- Consequentialism, Ignorance, and Uncertainty
- Consequentialism and Action Guidingness
- Consequentialism and Indeterminacy
- Value Comparability
- Consequentialism, the Separateness of Persons, and Aggregation
- The Alienation Objection to Consequentialism
- Global Consequentialism
- The Role(s) of Rules in Consequentialist Ethics
- Consequentialism, Virtue, and Character
- Population Ethics, the Mere Addition Paradox, and the Structure of Consequentialism
- Deontic Pluralism and the Right Amount of Good
- Conflicts and Cooperation in Act Consequentialism
- The Science of Effective Altruism
- Effective Altruism: A Consequentialist Case Study
- Consequentialism and Nonhuman Animals
- Public Policy, Consequentialism, the Environment, and Nonhuman Animals
- The Love–Hate Relationship between Feminism and Consequentialism
- Act Consequentialism and the No-Difference Challenge
Abstract and Keywords
Consequentialists have long debated (as deontologists should) how to define an agent’s alternatives, given that (a) at any particular time an agent performs numerous “versions” of actions, (b) an agent may perform several independent co-temporal actions, and (c) an agent may perform sequences of actions. We need a robust theory of human action to provide an account of alternatives that avoids previously debated problems. After outlining Alvin Goldman’s action theory (which takes a fine-grained approach to act individuation) and showing that the agent’s alternatives must remain invariant across different normative theories, I address issue (a) by arguing that an alternative for an agent at a time is an entire “act tree” performable by her, rather than any individual act token. I argue further that both tokens and trees must possess moral properties, and I suggest principles governing how these are inherited among trees and tokens. These proposals open a path for future work addressing issues (b) and (c).
Holly M. Smith is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Rutgers University and Distinguished Research Associate at The University of California, Berkeley. She has also held appointments at Tufts University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Arizona. Her publications principally focus on topics in normative ethics, moral decision making, the theory of moral responsibility, and biomedical ethics. In Making Morality Work (Oxford University Press, 2018), she explores how moral theories should accommodate the errors, ignorance, and misunderstandings that impede us as moral decision makers. Her current projects propose new strategies for weighing the stringency of deontological duties, and for identifying and evaluating an agent’s alternatives in the context of normative theories.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.