Ethics Paper 2
December 2, 2011
The Argument for Consequentialism
Consequentialism and Imannuel Kant’s Theory of Moral Value provide a good
framework for deciding what right actions are and specifically what actions are deemed
intrinsically valuable. Consequentialism is going to emphasis that actions maximizing intrinsic
value of all people affected by a situation are morally right while Kant is going to stress that only
the motive behind an action determines whether an action is right, regardless of
the consequences. Although consequentialism attributes the rightness of an action only on a
consequence, consequentialist theories are broader theories of right action ...view middle of the document...
According to a consequentialist, the right action would be killing the one person that will result in saving five. In this case, I maximized the intrinsic value of my decision by saving the greatest number of people. Theories of consequentialism attribute rightness to how one’s action affect other people in the end, regardless of the motives that that person had for performing that action (Supported by lecture notes- 10/26).
In regards to motives, consequentialists will say that motives can help us evaluate the person performing an action. For example, utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism. They will say that right action is one that maximizes the well-being of sentient creatures. As stated, consequentialists do not think that motives are relevant to the rightness of the action. However, consequentialists will say that motives can help us evaluate the goodness/badness of a person. Applying this to utilitarianism, if I were to save someone from a fire only to get praise, I did the right thing, but it doesn’t show that I am a good person because I did it out of self-interest. If I were to save a serial killer from the fire because I have compassion for human beings, I did the wrong thing, but it shows I am a good person. In both cases, my motive for performing an action can help show the kind of person I am but does not show the morality of my action (Supported by lecture notes-11/2)
We can maximize the intrinsic value of an action by finding if it is praiseworthy or blameworthy. It seems logical that right actions (ones that maximize consequences) are a result of praiseworthy actions. This is not a definite statement because not all right actions are praiseworthy. For example, if I were to let a serial killer die because I did not want to make the effort to save him, I performed the right action (in consequences) because he was a serial killer but my action is to blame for the death. Also, not all wrong actions are blameworthy. For example, if I were to save the serial killer, I performed the wrong action (in consequences) but I performed a praiseworthy action (Supported by lecture notes-11/2).
In conclusion to consequentialism, motives are simply our way for evaluating the person performing an action and to evaluate the intrinsic value of an action. Although the morality of an action depends entirely on the consequences, maximizing the intrinsic value of an action through good motives is significant in producing the best overall consequences. Our motives go beyond rightness and wrongness and help us evaluate the person performing an action. More importantly, praising or blaming someone’s action can help us determine what is right/wrong to the extent that they maximize intrinsic value in consequences. (Supported by lecture notes-11/2)
Immanuel Kant moves away from consequentialism and says that the only thing that has intrinsic value is the motive for performing an action and that motive alone will determine the rightness of an...