Today we begin a new series, “I wish I knew then…,” which invites readers to comment on how, if they could, they would give their earlier selves advice about some moral or political topic they’ve done research in. So regarding consequentialism, if you could’ve helped your earlier self overcome some bias, stopped yourself from going down some dead end, helped yourself gain some key insight, or something else, please tell your earlier self in the comments.

4 Replies to “I wish I knew then what I know now about…

  1. Dear Earlier Self: Many (probably most) act-utilitarians don’t think that you’re required, all things considered, to live your life according to how act-utilitarianism holds that you’re morally required to live your life. Moreover, if you’re not necessarily required, all things considered, to do what you’re morally required to do, as these act-utilitarians think, you should stop thinking so much about morality and focus more on how you ought to live your life, all things considered.

  2. Dear earlier consequentialist self,

    This is a phase. I know you think consequentialism is obviously true and that anybody who denies it is a moron or even worse a Kantian. But this is a phase – just like your Kerouac phase, your Bukowski phase, except not nearly as much fun. If you believe me now, you might be starting to feel bad about how dismissive you’ve been about opposing views. How you jumped straight to contempt without even bothering to fully understand the source of people’s resistance to consequentialism. Well, if it’s any consolation, in about 12 years a bunch of Sam Harris’s twitter followers will give you a taste of your own medicine.

  3. Dear earlier self,

    Stop letting Doug Portmore influence you so much. He’s just going to change his mind anyway. That said, he has some pretty compelling views on consequentializing.

  4. Dear Earlier Self,
    I think you got a bit stuck in a false dilemma, thinking that there were only two options, both bad: bite the bullet on an extreme version of consequentialism, or dilute it with non-consequentialist elements. But actually, once we see consequentialism in context, and we see that there are all sorts of of constraints that apply to all normative theories (for example, connected to the nature of moral responsibility), we don’t have to choose between these two unpalatable options.

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