International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 62, Issue 2, June 2022

Mark T. Nelson
Pages 243-252

Absolutism, Utilitarianism and Agent-Relative Constraints

Absolutism—the idea that some kinds of acts are absolutely wrong and must never be done—plays an important role in medical ethics. Nicholas Denyer has defended it from some influential consequentialist critics who have alleged that absolutism is committed to “agent-relative constraints” and therefore intolerably complex and messy. Denyer ingeniously argues that, if there are problems with agent-relative constraints, then they are problems for consequentialism, since it contains agent-relative constraints, too. I show that, despite its ingenuity, Denyer’s argument does not succeed. The defense of absolutism must move to other grounds.