Consequentialism and the causal efficacy of the moral

  • Andrea ViggianoEmail author


Assume consequentialism and assume moral properties are causally efficacious. Then, I’ll argue, a puzzle arises. These assumptions lead to denying each of two plausible metaphysical principles: that a cause cannot cause anything occurring before its ground and that a cause cannot cause anything belonging to its ground. We therefore have to reject either consequentialism or the causal efficacy of moral properties or the plausible metaphysical principles. And, I’ll show, the puzzle arises again even if we replace moral properties with the non-moral properties making things right (wrong, etc.). Which component to reject is a question for another occasion: my aim here is to present the puzzle. It is a puzzle worth thinking about: no matter how we solve it, we stand to learn something, be it in normative ethics, metaethics, or metaphysics. And, I’ll suggest at the end of the paper, my arguments can be applied to other domains as well.


Consequentialism Moral causation Causation Grounding Time Metaphysical determination 



I would like to thank Karen Bennett, Dick Boyd, Matti Eklund, Daniel Elstein, David Enoch, David Kovacs, Gerald Lang, Mike Ridge, Nick Sturgeon, Christine Tiefensee, Pekka Väyrynen, and my anonymous referees for this and another journal for very helpful comments and discussions on previous drafts of this paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LeedsUK

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