University of Kansas, Fall 2002
Philosophy 880: Topics in Ethics

Class notes: indirect consequentialism and friendship

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

The following outline is designed to be, and is in some Web browsers, collapsible: by clicking on the heading for a section, you can collapse that section or, if it’s already collapsed, make it expanded again. If you want to print some but not all of this outline, collapse the parts you don’t want to print (so that just their top-level headings remain), and then click here to print this frame.

  1. Railton, Brink, and Badhwar
    1. Railton
      1. the problem: that one cannot be a consequentialist (or any kind of impartialist) about morality without suffering from alienation (and, hence, that consequentialism is self-defeating)
      2. the solution: construing consequentialism as indirect
        1. agents not necessarily deliberating in a consequentialist way (because this leads to alienation), but only regulating their deliberations in a consequentialist way
        2. like indirect hedonism
        3. not rule consequentialism
    2. Brink
      1. the problem: that utilitarianism cannot account for the personal point of view
      2. the solution: construing utilitarianism as a criterion of rightness, not a decision procedure
        1. first objection: the publicity objection
        2. second objection: the value of autonomy
    3. Badhwar
      1. two friendship-related problems for consequentialism (p. 485)
        1. theory of the good
        2. motivation
      2. four compensating consequentialist moves (pp. 485–486)
        1. pluralism about happiness
        2. pluralism about value
        3. concern for distribution
        4. separating motivation from justification
          • Note: Badhwar says that some consequentialists do this “by moving from act consequentialism (AC) to indirect consequentialism (IC)” (p. 486.3). Note, however, that indirect consequentialism is sometimes understood as a version of act consequentialism, rather than as an alternative to it.
      3. thesis and reasons
        1. thesis: “there is . . . a logical incompatibility between” “the acceptance of a plausible version of C” and “commitment to friendship on the other” (p. 487.2)
        2. one reason: morality as a means to an independent non-moral good (p. 487.3)
        3. other reason: morality as maximization and impersonality (p. 487.3)
        4. the lemma: according to consequentialism, “my friendship” is only instrumentally justified (p. 488.4)
      4. section II
        1. psychological compatibility, via sophisticated consequentialism
        2. In the last paragraph, should ‘commitment to friendship’ be ‘commitment to consequentialism’?
      5. section III
        1. alleged logical incompatibility between even sophisticated act consequentialism and friendship (p. 493.3–7)
        2. Is Badhwar being fair to Railton (accurately interpreting his ‘mediated’)?
      6. section IV
        1. interesting extension of AC result to RC
        2. not applicable to “non-maximizing” RC theories such as Hooker’s
      7. section V
        1. impersonal value maximization not justified by either rationality or impartiality
        2. So why not just settle for common-sense morality?
      8. section VI
        1. friendship as partly constituted by virtues
        2. morality as an end in itself (p. 500.7)? and (a) friendship, too, as an end in itself?
  2. Cocking and Oakley and Mason
    1. Cocking and Oakley
      1. setting up the argument
        1. problem not with the consequentialist agent's motives, but with the consequentialist agent’s dispositions (pp. 87–88)
        2. difference between regulative ideals and motives (pp. 90–91)
        3. difference between acceptance/terminating conditions and motives (p. 95.2)
        4. possibility that these distinctions do not make room for a consequentialist’s being a good friend, as opposed to (e.g.) a good doctor or a good teacher (p. 96.5)
      2. the nature and value of friendship
        1. alienation due to governing conditions, not just due to motives (p. 97.3, p. 99.7)
        2. no solace for consequentialism from the case of Raul (unconscious regulation)
        3. the nature of the thesis: if direct consequentialism has a problem with friendship, then so does indirect consequentialism, since the problem the former has with motives is also a problem the latter has with governing conditions (p. 106.3)
        4. friendship sometimes trumping value maximization (p. 109.3—But note that a consequentialist may endorse this!)
    2. Mason
      1. admission that Cocking and Oakley are right if Railton’s counterfactual condition is to be interpreted as they propose (p. 387.6)
      2. what Railton’s counterfactual condition is
        1. Cocking and Oakley’s construal: An agent is prepared to drop any given friendship if it is not for the best.
        2. Mason’s construal: An agent is prepared to drop her disposition not to subject her friendships to what Cocking and Oakley construe as Railton’s counterfactual condition if it (this higher-level pro-friendship disposition—the disposition not to be a consequentialist about friendships, much less within friendships) is not for the best.
      3. three levels of consequentialist accommodation of friendship
        1. A direct consequentialist is a consequentialist even “within” each friendship (or attempted friendship), making decisions about how to treat the other, etc., from a consequentialist point of view.
        2. An indirect consequentialist of a kind that Cocking and Oakley say Railton has in mind is not a consequentialist within any friendship, but is a consequentialist about each friendship, deciding on consequentialist grounds whether to continue it or to drop it. All (Badhwar, Cocking and Oakley, and Mason) seem to agree that this would be incompatible with real friendship.
        3. An indirect consequentialist of a kind that Mason proposes, and says that Railton has in mind, is not a consequentialist within any friendship, and is not a consequentialist about each friendship, but is a consequentialist about her friendships in general, deciding on consequentialist grounds whether (1) to continue not to be a consequentialist about each of her friendships (i.e., to maintain her pro-friendship disposition), or (2) to subject them to more direct consequentialist scrutiny (such as evaluating them one by one, etc.), which would involve dropping her pro-friendship disposition (but not necessarily dropping each of her friendships—though it may undermine each of them, causing each to wither or cease to be a real friendship).
      4. what the pro-friendship disposition involves and what its rejection involves
        1. Mason gives, as her example of someone who rejects his pro-friendship disposition, someone who also rejects all of his particular friendships. (This is her example of Sam, driven crazy by disease.)
        2. But this seems to be a relatively extreme example. For an agent could drop her pro-friendship disposition (and thus begin to assess each of her friendships in consequentialist terms) without being driven (by consequentialist considerations) to drop each of her friendships on purpose (though they might, as noted, wither or cease to be real friendships). It might just be better, in consequentialist terms, if she subjects each of them to consequentialist scrutiny instead of taking any that come along. Of course, then Cocking and Oakley’s objections will apply.
        3. This makes the pro-friendship disposition a little less secure, from a consequentialist point of view. (For if the consequences of dropping it are not all that extreme, then circumstances will not so firmly favor keeping it.) And thus the ability of consequentialism to accommodate friendship is a little less secure than the Sam-based example would suggest. (But Mason’s main point stands: consequentialism’s ability to accommodate friendship it is more secure than one would gather from Cocking and Oakley’s interpretation of Railton’s counterfactual condition.)