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The Dimensions of Consequentialism: Reply to Schmidt, Brown, Howard-Snyder, Crisp, Andric and Tanyi, and Gertken

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In this article I respond to comments and objections raised in the special issue on my book The Dimensions of Consequentialism. I defend my multi-dimensional consequentialist theory against a range of challenges articulated by Thomas Schmidt, Campbell Brown, Frances Howard-Snyder, Roger Crisp, Vuko Andric and Attila Tanyi, and Jan Gertken. My aim is to show that multi-dimensional consequentialism is, at least, a coherent and intuitively plausible alternative to one-dimensional theories such as utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and mainstream accounts of egalitarianism. I am very grateful to all contributors for reading my book so closely and for devoting time and intellectual energy to thinking about the pros and cons of multi-dimensional consequentialism.

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  1. I distinguish between ‘aspects’ and ‘dimensions’. A dimension is the conceptual space in which an aspect can vary. For instance, the area of a circle depends on only one aspect (its radius) whereas the area of a triangle depends on two aspects (its base and height). All three aspects are elements of the same dimension (length), but the length and mass of a tennis ball are different aspects which are also elements of different dimensions.

  2. This example is similar to the one I give in Chapter 1.

  3. Naturally, the prioritarian verdict will depend on the shape of the (concave) priority function.

  4. The technical aspects of multi-dimensional consequentialism can be developed in a number of ways. I discuss three proposals in the appendix to The Dimensions of Consequentialism.

  5. See the appendix to The Dimensions of Consequentialism for a discussion of this numerical representation of degrees of rightness.

  6. Brown uses the term value pluralism. The distinction between value pluralism and multi-dimensional consequentialism is discussed in Chapter 1 of The Dimensions of Consequentialism.

  7. Mill (1861/1969: 210).

  8. Note that this literal interpretation of Mill presupposes a ratio measure of happiness.

  9. See the first paragraph of Section 2 in his article.

  10. See Chapter 6 of The Dimensions of Consequentialism.

  11. Brown, this issue.

  12. Wolfgang Spohn (1977) and Isaac Levi (1989) have pointed out that it can be problematic to ascribe subjective probabilities to one’s own choices. I address their worries in my (2006) and (2008).

  13. Op. cit.

  14. Op. cit.

  15. Andric and Tanyi, this issue

  16. The only exception is their analysis of the Jackson case, as I explain below.

  17. Andric and Tanyi, this issue.


  • Levi, I. (1989) ‘Rationality, Prediction, and Autonomous Choice’, Can J Philo 19 (Suppl), 339–362. Reprinted in Levi, I. (1997): The Covenant of Reason, Cambridge University Press.

  • Mill JS (1861/1969) Collected works of John Stuart Mill. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

  • Peterson M (2006) ‘Indeterminate preferences’, Philos Stud 130(2):297–320.

  • Peterson M (2008) Non-bayesian decision theory. Springer.

  • Peterson M (2013) The dimensions of consequentialism. Cambridge University Press.

  • Spohn W (1977) ‘Where Luce and Krantz do really generalize Savage’s decision model’, Erkenntnis 11:113–134.

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Correspondence to Martin Peterson.

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Peterson, M. The Dimensions of Consequentialism: Reply to Schmidt, Brown, Howard-Snyder, Crisp, Andric and Tanyi, and Gertken. Ethic Theory Moral Prac 19, 71–82 (2016).

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