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Kantian Consequentialismby David Cummiskey
Synopses & Reviews
The central problem for normative ethics is the conflict between a consequentialist view--that morality requires promoting the good of all--and a belief that the rights of the individual place significant constraints on what may be done to help others. Standard interpretations see Kant as rejecting all forms of consequentialism, and defending a theory which is fundamentally duty-based and agent-centered. Certain actions, like sacrificing the innocent, are categorically forbidden. In this original and controversial work, Cummiskey argues that there is no defensible basis for this view, that Kant's own arguments actually entail a consequentialist conclusion. But this new form of consequentialism which follows from Kant's theories has a distinctly Kantian tone. The capacity of rational action is prior to the value of happiness; thus providing justification for the view that rational nature is more important than mere pleasures and pains.
The central issue in normative ethics hinges on the conflict between a consequentialist view - that morality requires promoting the good of all - and a Kantian view - that we should respect the rights of the individual. Kantians and non-Kantians alike have presumed that Kant's ethics is incompatible with all forms of consequentialism, and instead justifies a duty-based and agent-centered moral theory. From this perspective, certain actions, like sacrificing the innocent, are categorically forbidden. In this provocative and controversial book, philosopher David Cummiskey argues that the two approaches are indeed compatible and that Kant's own arguments entail a consequentialist conclusion. But this new form of consequentialism, which follows from Kant's theory, has a distinctly Kantian tone. Through scrupulous analysis of Kant's writings and exhaustive consideration of recent scholarship on Kant, Cummiskey demonstrates that the foundations of Kantian thought are the basis for an enriched understanding of moral principles and values. Cummiskey's reconstruction of Kant's argument reveals that the value of rational nature is indeed prior to the value of pleasure and all other goods. Nonetheless, contrary to prevailing opinion, Kant's ethics does not provide any justification for constraints on the maximization of the good. A major new interpretation of one of philosophy's most prominent figures, Kantian Consequentialism is essential reading for anyone interested in the central issues of moral philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 175-181) and index.
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