Friday, July 15, 2016

Consequentialism and Deontology and Long-term Results

From guest blogger, Hannah.

It is interesting to compare the consequentialist emphasis on long-term results and the deontologist’s emphasis on intention and motive. This contradiction is especially vital when trying to define someone’s moral character. Consequentialists believe that acts are moral because they are maximizing the goodness in the world by choosing the optimific action, one that results in the greatest balance of benefits over drawbacks. However, it is impossible to know the ultimate results an action will lead to years in the future and deontology views the intentions of the action the most important to define morality. For example, someone who is deciding whether or not to have an abortion can’t know if their child will find the cure for cancer or become the next world dictator, she only knows her current situation. For this reason, consequentialist decisions require a lot of speculation. In this example, if the woman didn’t have the abortion and her child found the cure for cancer, she would be told her decision was moral because it had a great benefit to society. However, if she didn’t have the abortion because she felt her current living situation would not be healthy to raise a child in, that would be moral according to deontology because she has the right intentions.

Another example that assumes less speculation is regarding drone strikes of terrorist bases. Many drone strikes have ended with innocent civilians being killed, leading drone strikes to be a controversial decision for a government to make. Consequentialists would take an interesting approach. They feel that although some innocent civilians are being killed, these strikes also kill terrorists who would have killed more people than those killed in the drone strike. These terrorists who died would have spread their mantras and encouraged other people to kill in the name of their organization. For this reason, the decision to have drone strikes would be the optimific one because the few deaths are not as bad as many. On the other hand, deontologist’s believe that the intentions are immoral because they are using the civilians as a mere means to kill terrorists, rather than treating them as an end and a part of humanity.

I personally believe that a person’s intentions should be the most important factor of their moral character. It does not make sense for someone with bad intentions to be considered moral because of “moral luck” or someone with good intentions to be considered immoral because of “moral bad luck”. What do you think? Do you have any other examples of times where it makes sense to look at intentions over future consequences or vice-versa? 

1 comment:

Charles Spalding said...

The central issue here is the quantification of negligence. Referencing the U.S. 'War on Terror' is absolutely fantastic in this regard. Individuals are certainly not omniscient but at what point do we consider them acting negligently irrespective of future moral luck? If a CIA operation to prevent terrorism designates a SIM card as associated with an individual and gives the okay to target that SIM card with a drone strike and that instead bombs a wedding is that in the realm of best intentions? At what point is acting without enough information considered negligence regardless of the consequences?