Ethics - Consequentialism Consequentialist Ethical Principles Essay

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Ethics - Consequentialism


Consequentialist Ethical Principles:

The consequentialist ethical approach determines the relative morality or immorality of human conduct strictly in relation to the consequences of that conduct.

Like other philosophical systems, consequentialism incorporates variations in the specific definitions and distinctions or classes of consequences that matter the most:

utilitarianism emphasizes consequences that benefit the greatest number, even at the expense of some; hedonism emphasizes the maximization of pleasure; and aestheticism emphasizes beauty. Consequentialism is contrary to other ethical systems that determine the relative morality or immorality of human conduct strictly on principle and without regard for different types of effects of conduct, such as in relation to their underlying motive (virtue ethics), or their adherence to established social rules or laws (Kantian


The consequentialist would argue that even contrary ethical systems are, at their root, necessarily consequentialist at their fundamental core. Consider that the underlying purpose sought to be achieved by virtue ethics and Kantianism both can be said to derive their moral character from consequentialism principles, varying more in their specific focus than in overall principle. The only practical relevance of motives and the only value of rules, in the first place, is (presumably) that certain motives and rules correspond to positive results (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009).

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Virtuous motives are those that are consistent with beneficence in their likely results. Deontological ethics (in various different forms) is (presumably) predicated on the assumption that adherence to rules is, on average, so much more likely to result in positive consequences than in negative consequences, that it justifies a blanket proposition that established social rules and laws must always be obeyed. In that view, adherence to rules is necessarily the highest moral conduct irrespective of the fact that a small minority of cases could qualify as valid exceptions to the rule.

Consequentialism in Practice:

Essay on Ethics - Consequentialism Consequentialism Consequentialist Ethical Principles: Assignment

Generally, consequentialism relates to the approximate likelihood of specific consequences rather than to ultimate consequences that defy the odds at their time of occurrence. Where negative consequences result from conduct that, at the time of occurrence, was more likely to result in positive consequences, that conduct is not defined as unethical. The same holds true in reverse, such as in connection with positive consequences that result from conduct that, at the time of occurrence, was more likely to result in negative consequences.

Likewise, as a moral theory, consequentialist definition of behavior also varies in relation to subjective perception. Therefore, an individual who is perfectly capable of understanding the likely negative consequences of his conduct but chooses to ignore that likelihood may be subject to much harsher consequentialist moral criticism than an individual who is intellectually incapable of understanding or otherwise genuinely fails to comprehend the likely consequences of his conduct (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009).

Because consequentialism defines ethics in terms of the practical consequences of choices and actions, the same specific choice or act might represent highly moral or highly immoral conduct in circumstances where that act results in substantially different or even diametrically opposite) consequences (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009).

For example, consider the act of giving shelter to an individual for the purposes of eluding capture by law enforcement authorities. Consequentialism would define as perfectly ethical the choice to assist black slaves escape Southern states via the Underground Railroad during American slavery, just as it would in the case of sheltering

German Jews against extermination even in overt violation of Nazi law prior to the end of World War II.

For the same reason, consequentialism would require sheltering an individual who escaped from lawful penal custody after being convicted of a criminal charge for which, in fact, the individual was not actually guilty of having committed, precisely because that individual should never have been convicted. Conversely, if the same wrongfully convicted individual expressed that he hoped to remain free with the future intention of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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