Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 481-492

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Objective Consequentialism and Avoidable Imperfections

  • Rob van Someren GreveAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam Email author 


There are two distinct views on how to formulate an objective consequentialist account of the deontic status of actions, actualism and possibilism. On an actualist account, what matters to the deontic status of actions is only the value of the outcome an action would have, if performed. By contrast, a possibilist account also takes into account the value of the outcomes that an action could have. These two views come apart in their deontic verdicts when an agent is imperfect in an avoidable way, viz., when agent brings about less good than she could. In this paper, I offer an argument against actualism that draws on the connection between moral obligation and practical reasons.


Objective consequentialism Actualism Possibilism Practical reasons Avoidable imperfections