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Martin Marchman Andersen

Consequentialism is a theory of moral rightness, where the domain of morality is to be understood in the broadest sense, covering politics and normative economics as well as more personal morality. It holds that an action is right if and only if no other available action leads to a better outcome seen from an agent-neutral perspective. Thus, according to consequentialism we must maximize the good seen from an agent-neutral perspective. Consequentialism is demanding not only because our actions are right only if they lead to the best outcome—second or third best are never good enough—but also because the evaluation of what the best outcome is should be given from an agent-neutral perspective: The reasons we give, for acting in one way or another, should be reasons for anyone. Consequentialism is a basic moral theory in the sense that we need to specify its values for it to be operational, for it to tell us how to act, what to do. Our considerations over the values of consequentialism must result in answers to several questions, most importantly as to what it is we should maximize. This includes the specification of not only the consequentialist currency, for example, welfare, but also how that currency ought to be distributed, for example, by maximization, and between whom it ought to be distributed, for example, conscious human beings. The most famous version of consequentialism is utilitarianism, holding that actions are right if and only if they maximize the sum of welfare.