Objective consequentialism and the licensing dilemma
Frank Jackson has put forward a famous thought experiment of a physician who has to decide on the correct treatment for her patient. Subjective consequentialism tells the physician to do what intuitively seems to be the right action, whereas objective consequentialism fails to guide the physician’s action. I suppose that objective consequentialists want to supplement their theory so that it guides the physician’s action towards what intuitively seems to be the right treatment. Since this treatment is wrong according to objective consequentialism, objective consequentialists have to license it without calling it right. I consider eight strategies to spell out the idea of licensing the intuitively right treatment and argue that objective consequentialism is on the horns of what I call the licensing dilemma: Either the physician’s action is not guided towards the intuitively right treatment. Or the guidance towards the intuitively right treatment is ad hoc in some respect or the other.
KeywordsObjective consequentialism Subjective consequentialism Frank Jackson Action-guidance Licensing dilemma
Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the University of Mannheim in spring 2010 and at Saarland University in summer 2010. I am grateful to Krister Bykvist, Christoph Fehige, Bernward Gesang, Benjamin Kiesewetter, Marcel Mertz, Oliver Petersen, Daniel Ramöller, Julius Schälike, Peter Schulte, Attila Tanyi, Ulla Wessels, and Joachim Wündisch for comments and suggestions.
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