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Objective and Subjective Consequentialism Reconsidered


The objective of the paper is to explicate and critically appreciate two forms of consequentialism, namely objective and subjective consequentialism. Consequentialism is a substantive moral theory according to which moral value or good is to produce/promote best consequences (in a sense welfare); and morally right consists in acting so as to promote maximum good (in case of utilitarianism) or to promote best or most good. However, the paper considers important questions, replies to which give us two forms of consequentialism, namely subjective and objective consequentialism, each having their unique features, nuances and limits. Moot problems are as follows: Whether consequentialism as a theory of good is to promote actual good, that is good as matter-of-fact or expected good, that is good expected by the moral agent; and whether as a theory of right, it urges to make decisions for the promotion of good based on some heuristic devices or subjective motives, commitments and so on. Objective consequentialism, as a theory of good prefers promotion of actual good than expected good, and as a theory of right decision-making urges the moral agents to rely on heuristic devices than subjective factors. The contest has been absorbing and fierce, each having so-called strong arguments. The paper reconsiders these contesting arguments and critically examines those to conclude in favour of objective consequentialism on important counts notwithstanding, the value of motives, motivations and commitments of moral agents.

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  1. Two senses in which ‘right’ should be understood has been well explained by Alan Gibbard in Wise choices, apt feelings: A theory of normative judgment and Derek Parfit in On what matters I.

  2. An action has a higher deontic value than an alternative course of action when performance of that action of necessity has higher probability to promote greater good or value (which is, best consequences).

  3. The concept of ‘expected goodness’ of acts has been discussed by Julia Driver in Uneasy Virtue; also by Michael Slote in From Morality to Virtue & in Fred Feldman’s paper: actual utility, the objections of impracticality and the move to expected utility.

  4. The term expectabilism has been used and discussed by Julia Driver in Consequentialism and Michael Slote in From morality to virtue. The term foreseeabilism has been  used and discussed by Derek Parfit in What matters I & in Nikil Mukerji’s work: The Case Against Consequentialism Reconsidered.

  5. Heuristic devices are some such moral rules, much like secondary rules of morality, following which enables promotion of best consequences.


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I acknowledge the academic services of Dr. Komal Kushwaha in typing, formatting and finalizing the paper in its present form.


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Correspondence to Debashis Guha.

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The author has no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose, and the author has no competing interests to declare that are relevant to the content of this article. I have no conflict of interest regarding my paper ‘Objective and Subjective Consequentialism Reconsidered’ submitted to the JICPR.

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Guha, D. Objective and Subjective Consequentialism Reconsidered. J. Indian Counc. Philos. Res. 40, 115–131 (2023).

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