Jantsen B.

asked • 09/06/19

Ethics Based on Consequences

Utilitarians argue that since happiness is the end that all human beings seek, (1) action that maximizes human happiness is good and (2) the right action to choose (among options) is that one which contributes the most to total human happiness (or subtracts the least from total happiness).. Makes sense, yes? However, most of us would find the actions of the people of Omelas morally shocking although the actions might be justified as being utilitarian. 

Paraphrasing moral philosopher F. M. Kamm*, we could see the Omelas situation as calling for what is called a side-constraint on utilitairianism. A side-constraint is a factor that has priority over producing the greater good. Not causing harm to innocent people may be considered by some (non-strict utilitarians) as a side constraint on utilitarianism. For them, not harming innocents has priority in the sense that it is morally required even if it means not completely maximizing the overall good.

What other side-constraint(s) on consequentialism that you would call for (if any)? In other words, what values do you believe have priority over maximizing the overall happiness for everyone? 

1 Expert Answer


Brett K. answered • 10/09/19

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