Narrow and Broad Consequentialism – the Case of HoboJacket

December 8, 2012 at 15:00 (Philosophy)

People sometimes ask me if I’m a utilitarian. I balk; I don’t want to be pinned to a theory of how to measure utility or what we are supposed to be maximizing or why the goal of maximizing it functions as a reason for action. I fall back instead to saying that I try to take a “broadly consequentialist” view of things. What does that mean? Well, ok, what does it mean aside from signaling that, in person at least, I’m a confrontation-shy agreement-seeker who’ll bury any substantive position I stake out in qualifications and concessions?

Jonny Pugh’s recent post at Practical Ethics (the joint blog of Oxford’s ethics silos) provides a case and an argument that I think are very apt to fleshing out what I’m saying when I talk about broad consequentialism. HoboJacket – An Ethical Analysis sees Jonny rehearsing the details of the flap over the still-warm story of a widely condemned website, working through some of the arguments in the consequentialism-versus-deontology clash it occasioned, and offering his own reason for leaning consequentialist on this case. I don’t mean for this post to be either a thorough treatment of the HoboJacket issue or an expression of total disagreement with Jonny’s treatment of it, so I’ll only run through the details quickly on the way to the point I am making. Read the rest of this entry »

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