The Three Branches Of Consequentialism

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Consequentialists are a group of philosophers who asses whether an act is right or wrong based on the consequences of the action. There are different types of consequentialism including: ethical egoism, act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism. These three branches of consequentialism will be discussed later in this paper. A supererogatory act is something that is good but is not obligatory; these acts involve rendering aid to others that go above moral requirement. Consequentialists claim that there are no supererogatory acts; an act either produces the most pleasure and is therefore morally good, or it brings about pain and is morally bad. This claim is challenged by universalists, who argue that since there are no supererogatory acts,…show more content…
Utilitarianism can be further broken down into two distinct branches: act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism. Act-Utilitarianism, also known as classic utilitarianism, holds that we ought to do the act with the best consequences in terms of the most people. For classic utilitarians, the value that is to be maximized is pleasure-that is what has intrinsic value. On the other hand, pain is dis-valued and is considered a basic bad. The greatest happiness principle says that actions are right in proportion that they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the opposite of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. According to John Stuart Mill, pleasure can be measured along the following parameters: intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity and extent. In contrast, rule-utilitarianism believes in an ideal code or set of rules. An act is wrong if and only if it is forbidden by the best set of rules whose internalization by the overwhelming majority of everyone everywhere in each new generation has maximum expected value in terms of well-being. The calculation of the codes expected value includes all costs of getting the code…show more content…
The character of inspector Javert follows a strict set of rules which he strongly believes in. These rules are in place in order to maximize the value of justice. The inspector believes strongly in a rule-utilitarian philosophy. On the other hand, the character of Jean Valjean, who is a foil of inspector Javert, follows an act-utilitarian mind set. He believes firmly that actions have consequences and that an act is morally right in so much that it promotes the happiness of the most people. Within the novel, inspectors Javert’s set of rules causes him to chase the fugitive Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s dying child. The inspector’s set of rules holds that stealing is wrong and should be punished, without exception. The rigidity of Javert’s belief is the reason behind his persecution of Jean Valjean. The story is centered around the conflict between the different philosophies of these two men. In the end, the inspector comes to question everything he believes in. The climax of the struggle is when Javert’s rule-utilitarian mindset collapses on itself and he commits suicide instead of accepting an act-utilitarian
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