In 1958 people established an extraordinary ethic, as we now know as consequence ethics. Consequence ethics doesn’t look at the action but rather at the result or outcome of that particular action. Therefore, moral quality is the function of consequences and nothing else. This ideology considers two different approaches. First, they take a look at what is good. Second, they value how one should approach the good. The point of morality is to make the world a better place. Utilitarianism and Hedonism are also a form of consequence ethics. 

We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.

Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens

Consequentialism explained

Consequentialism is an ideology or theory that defines when something is right or wrong based on the consequences. Therefore, lying would be the right thing to do if it, for example, could potentially save someone’s life, unlike the divine command theory

Downside of consequentialism

This ethic states that we should look at the consequences. But what if that goes against your principles? For instance, your friend tells you something in secret, and you swore not to tell anyone. For example, your friend did something wrong and wants to share their story with you.

Consequence ethics tells us to break that promise and blow the whistle for the greater good: a more desirable, consequential outcome. Even murder would be considered ‘morally’ good in some scenarios.

Consequence ethics is sometimes criticized because no one can look into the future. For instance, no knowledge can foresee the future. Therefore, we don’t know if the action has the best outcome or consequences. So the end justifies the means.

Elizabeth Anscombe ethics

Elizabeth Anscombe

She was an exceptional woman. While orders of intellectual renown are hard to assign individually when the person belongs to one’s own time, there is no doubt that Anscombe was one of the most gifted and accomplished philosophers of the twentieth century.

The Article ‘Modern Moral’ by Anscombe was the first to introduce the term consequentialism. The life and Work of Elizabeth Anscombe.

Different paths in consequence ethics

There are two different paths regarding this ethics as stated in the introduction: what is good and how should we approach the good. First, we should look at what is good.

There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.

Robert G. Ingersoll
Consequence ethics altar

Coffee Proposition of the good

Most of us certainly enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee, don’t we? I certainly do. I spend approximately 8$ a week on coffee which is 32$ a month. According to consequence ethics, this is morally wrong because I could have donated that money to a foundation that feeds hungry children and aid in making the world a better place. When maximizing morality, spending money wrongly is unethical.

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.

Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Satisficing consequentialism

That being said, a consequentialist does not need to maximize the right action. The correct action should provide enough good. This concept is known as satisficing consequentialism. Many find this theory odd because it would seem rational to maximize the outcome if we consider that more interest is better than less good.

Consequence Ethics

If you want to know more about how you can beat your SWS, see this article: ‘The Sine Wave Syndrome’. There is a summary of all the different types of ethics if you want to learn all about it. Knowing all kinds of ethics may help you to understand how ‘good’ choices are being made among their different aspects.

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