, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 80-90

Contextualism for consequentialists

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Abstract

If, as I have argued elsewhere, consequentialism is not fundamentally concerned with such staples of moral theory as rightness, duty, obligation, moral requirements, goodness (as applied to actions), and harm, what, if anything, does it have to say about such notions? While such notions have no part to play at the deepest level of the theory, they may nonetheless be of practical significance. By way of explanation I provide a linguistic contextualist account of these notions. A contextualist approach to all these notions makes room for them in ordinary moral discourse, but it also illustrates why there is no room for them at the level of fundamental moral theory. If the truth value of a judgment that an action is right or good varies according to the context in which it is made, then rightness or goodness can no more be properties of actions themselves than thisness or hereness can be properties of things or locations themselves.