Allen W. Wood Ruth Norman Halls Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University
Leaving Consequentialism Behind
Monday, March 19, 2012 3:00 – 5:00 pm Centre for Ethics, Room 200, Larkin Building, 15 Devonshire Place
The event is free & open to the public
Abstract This talk challenges the commonplace that there is a genuine theoretical choice to be made between ‘consequentialist’ theories and ‘deontological’ theories. At the same time, it argues that the basic insight behind deontology goes deeper than the basic insight behind consequentialism. Using Fichte’s ethical theory as an example, and arguing for agreement between it and Aristotle’s conception of praxis, all action, properly speaking, is held to be choiceworthy for its own sake, and that the evaluation of consequences must depend on the ends set by choiceworthy actions. Thus there should in the end be no divergence between the actions chosen on the basis of the right actions and those chosen on the basis of the best consequences. There may in some cases be heuristic advantages to one approach over the other, and there may also be errors of perspective to which each is liable. Consequentialism is left behind, not like discarded refuse but like the caboose of a train, which does just fine as long as it is being pulled and guided by a proper deontological engine.