By Tony Fitzpatrick
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Extra info for Applied Ethics and Social Problems: Moral questions of birth, society and death
This is not the end of the debate, however, and we will continue to review the main themes and critiques of consequentialism in the next two chapters and beyond. Notes 1 For analyses of utilitarianism and public policy, see Goodin (1995) and Bailey (1997). 2 Note that Sen himself would reject the label of ‘welfare utilitarian’. 3 I hope I didn’t dream this TV programme (think of the therapist bills if I did). 4 This takes us back to states-of-affairs arguments. 5 And it is brief. I have not covered motives, satisficing versus optimising criteria, the direct/indirect distinction or future generations (on the latter, see Fitzpatrick, 2003, pp 131-3).
40 Consequence Therefore, consequentialists do not necessarily reject the ‘doctrine of double effect’ (DDE) per se, but they do launch a large dollop of scepticism in its direction (Woodward, 2001; also see Chapter Three of this volume). The DDE is traceable back to Aquinas and allows a distinction to be made between those effects that were and those that were not intended. Killing in self-defence is permitted, for example, if my intention was self-preservation but I accidentally killed my attacker in the process.
If courses of action are to be judged according to their consequences, those pertinent to applied ethics should be similarly assessed (Häyry, 1994, Ch 4), which, at its heart, means treating consequentialism as a decision-making framework based simply on our favouring what is likely to further the interests of those affected by our actions (Singer, 1993, p 14). Key to the consequentialist approach is a rejection of the distinction between acts and omissions. When you act, you intervene in some significant way in a set of relevant circumstances; when you do not act, you do not intervene.
Applied Ethics and Social Problems: Moral questions of birth, society and death by Tony Fitzpatrick