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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 18, 1993

Frances Howard-Snyder, Alastair Norcross
Pages 109-125

A Consequentialist Case for Rejecting the Right

Satisficing and maximizing versions of consequentialism have both assumed that rightness is an alI-or-nothing property. We argue thal this is inimical to the spirit of consequentialism, and that, from the point of view of the consequentialist, actions should be evaluated purely in terms that admit of degree. We first consider the suggestion that rightness and wrongness are a matter of degree. If so, this raises the question of whether the claim that something is wrong says any more than that it is bad. We consider the possibility that a consequenlialist should simply equate wrongness with badness. We reject this on the grounds that there is not a satsifactory way for a consequentialist to account for the badness of actions, as opposed to states of affairs. We explore two concepts of wrongness: to do something wrong is to be blameworthy; and the fact that something is wrong creates a reason not to do it. We argue that the first of these is not available to the consequentialist because of her views on blame, and that the second is just as much a feature of badness as of wrongness. We conclude that the consequentialist can make no sense of the concept of wrongness.

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