[Question] Is every moral theory inherently consequentialist?

Consequentialism asserts that whether an action is morally right or wrong is determined by its outcomes. The commonly held perspective is that there are moral theories which distinguish themselves from consequentialism, examples of which include deontology, virtue ethics, and contractualism. However, a deeper analysis of the underlying motivations and principles of these theories suggests a different picture. If we were to trace the logical progression of any moral statement within any moral theory back to its origins, the pursuit of improving outcomes would inevitably emerge. After all, what other purpose would a Kantian imperative, an Aristotelian virtue or a Rawlsian contract serve, if not to ultimately improve the world in some way? Detaching a moral theory from its outcomes would render it arbitrary and devoid of purpose. Put another way, a “consequentialist moral theory” is a tautology. The real question is, which strategy produces the best outcomes, including consideration of highest-order consequences. Should we evaluate each action individually or consistently apply certain heuristics? More precisely, to what extent should we delegate ethical autonomy to individual consciousness moments in order to optimise outcomes? Different moral theories provide distinct answers to this question. Depending on the moral theory one subscribes to, optimal outcomes result from following certain rules (deontology), cultivating certain character traits in people (virtue ethics), adhering to social contracts (contractualism), maximising utility (utilitarianism) etc. In light of these considerations, is every moral theory inherently consequentialist?

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