Consequentialism, Goodness, and States of Affairs
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Thinking about goodness and states of affairs has mostly been done by consequentialists, or people sympathetic to consequentialism, and has mostly been about what the goodness of a state of affairs might consist in. Is it, for instance, simply pleasure, or might it include some more objective notion of welfare, or reference to equality, or to rights?1 This kind of argument is essential to figuring out just what a consequentialist means when they say that we ought to bring about the best possible state of affairs, so it’s not surprising that consequentialists have taken an interest in it.
But there is a recent strain of work on goodness which has explored its relationship to states of affairs more sceptically, and produced conclusions which are in fact very threatening to consequentialism. They say, ultimately, that a state of affairs can’tbe good, and so that consequentialism needs either to be abandoned or dramatically (and less plausibly) reformulated so that it doesn’t rely on the...