Philosophy-Is Consequentialism a Defensible Theory of Ethics?

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  • Topic: Ethics, Morality, Utilitarianism
  • Pages : 3 (859 words )
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  • Published : May 11, 2011
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Zehra Dada
Philosophy essay-Is consequentialism a defensible theory of ethics?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with morals and the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, vice and virtue. Consequentialism is a complex theory of ethics which states that the consequences of an action are the only criteria which determine its moral correctness. Utilitarianism is an extension of consequentialism in that it says that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its usefulness in maximising utility and minimising negative utility of the party performing it. This essay aims to decide whether or not consequentialism can be justified as a plausible theory of ethics. However, I will be speaking about consequentialism in terms of utilitarianism because philosophers have found that the best known version of consequentialism is utilitarianism. This statement in particular refers to the modern theory of utilitarianism associated to John Stuart Mill (1806- 1873) which states:”Actions are right to the degree that they tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number.” [1] As stated before, people who support consequentialism believe that an action is correct as long as it has positive consequences. A very distinguished supporter of consequentialism is the philosopher JJC Smart. In his book An outline of a system of utilitarian ethics he states that a decision made under deontological ethics will always lead to misery that could have been avoided by utilitarianism. He supports this theory by the desert promises example which states that he promised a dying man on an island from which only he was rescued to give all the deceased’s gold to a Jockey club but ended up giving it to a hospital as that seemed morally correct. He feels that he did the right thing as he put the money to better use and perhaps earned blessings for the man who died. However, I think that this theory is refutable as according to basic moral values, it is...
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