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Brian McElwee

Abstract

Consequentialism is most famously a theory of right action. But many consequentialists assume, and some have explicitly argued, that consequentialism is equally plausible as a direct theory of the right rules, motives, character traits, institutions, and even such things as climates and eye colours. In this paper, I call into question this ‘Global Consequentialist’ extension of consequentialist evaluation beyond the domain of action. Consequentialist treatments of evaluands other than action are most plausible when they are interpreted as claims about reasons for action; other key ethical concepts involve claims about what there is reason to feel, which makes a consequentialist treatment of them implausible.

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Articles