Sunday, July 31, 2016

Normed Consequentialism

From guest blogger, Charlie.

Consequentialism is defined as the individual should do the most good they can, that it is immoral not to do so.  Proposition Q is defined that if a population has a choice that results in the same number of 
human lives, there is a moral obligation to choose the better outcome.  Simply put, in all cases that Proposition Q applies Consequentialism applies and therefore if we reject Proposition Q, doesn't this 
completely undermine Consequentialism because it is broader?

If we say yes, then all the Consequentialist arguments that we have heard up to this point are all unsound.  That any argument with a tinge of action for the greater good in whatever fashion is rejected.  That's a lot.  This includes arguments from Singer, Norcross, Southan, La Follette, Pojman, Brennan, and Allhoff. This refutation of so much work is a bit extreme, the desire to do so indicates that Consequentialism needs to be revisited.

The key issue here is that while Consequentialism asserts the existence of a moral order, it is determinable if action one is morally superior than action two, it does not assert the existence of a moral metric, that one can determine a number, call it moral degree, that corresponds 
to how good an action is.  I think if Consequentialism is to survive, then this notion of a moral metric must be defined in some manner.  If it is defined then additionally one needs to determine a constant M, the boundary of moral permissibly.  Given a set of moral actions with a maximum difference in moral degree less than M, then these actions would all be considered morally equivalent.   This metric and boundary would remove the problem of Consequential Fidelity, the notion that 
Consequentialism demands the best good action in even the most comparable cases.

To give an example, let us consider the case of holding a door for someone else or not.  Under Vanilla Consequentialism, in most cases it is morally wrong for you not to hold the door for another.  You have already expended the effort to open the door, if the other is in sufficient proximity, the total amount of effort expended is less if you hold the door than if the other has to reopen it.  Therefore the choice to hold the door is slightly better than not doing so, and is therefore the good choice, the morally obligatory choice.  On the other hand with Normed Consequentialism, it wouldn't matter.  Sure one action is slightly superior but the difference, it is assumed, would be negligible, that is less than M.  Since it is ridiculous to apply morality to such trivial actions it seems that Normed Consequentialism is better in this case and in general.

1 comment:

Tim Heinzel said...

I think you bring up a good point. It seems like in many areas, a set of actions are morally permissible, not just the optimal one. As a result, consequentialism should take into account a spectrum of permissible choices, which we could determine through this constant M you propose.

Consequentialism does have some merit, but when we are really strict about applying it (much like Allhoff does in his cloning paper), it creates some rather unappealing conclusions. I think the consequentialist theory would be stronger if it introduced some sort of range for morally permissible actions that could be determined by this constant M.