When Andy and I wrote the pranks paper we believed that we were dealing with purely fictional cases. We didn’t believe, that is, that there could be wrongdoing that actually increased utility. David Killoren reports on a guy who attempted to actually carry out the wrongful utility-maximising plan. The guy is an artist, so he doesn’t explictly talking about doing wrong for the sake of utility, but doing wrong for the sake of beauty. Given the broad conception of utility Andy and I are working with, this is less of a distinction than it may first appear.
Richard Chappell argues that David’s case isn’t a counterexample to consequentialism because it should be solvable by whatever solves the liar paradox. I’m not entirely sure I understand the response, but think I don’t think it’s correct. The guy did perform an act, and it either was the right thing to do or it wasn’t. And it sure seems to me that there are possible contexts (whether or not the actual world is one of them) where the actions make for an all-things-considered better world but it is still a wrong act. Anyway, it’s worth reading David’s piece to get the full background to see if you agree.
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized