Mogensen & MacAskill, ‘The paralysis argument’

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Many everyday actions have major but unforeseeable long-term consequences. Some argue that this fact poses a serious problem for consequentialist moral theories. We argue that the problem for non-consequentialists is greater still. Standard non-consequentialist constraints on doing harm combined with the long-run impacts of everyday actions entail, absurdly, that we should try to do as little as possible. We call this the Paralysis Argument. After laying out the argument, we consider and respond to a number of objections. We then suggest what we believe is the most promising response: to accept, in practice, a highly demanding morality of beneficence with a long-term focus.