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The Consequentialist View

Morality is about maximising the good

Consequentialism denotes a broad range of theories whose central message is: we must always act so as to maximise the good in the world. 'The good' can be understood in various ways. The most influential answer here is 'welfare' or 'well being'. Such theories are called utilitarian. So, the utilitarian adheres to the principle: act always so as to maximise the sum of welfare (or well being) in the world.

Note that the utilitarian does not say: you may act to maximise the sum of welfare. Utilitarianism demands that one acts in the way that maximise welfare. So, for instance, if killing one person is the only way to save two others, then utilitarianism would demand that you killed the one person.

The basic idea is simple: what can morality be about if not generating the best possible state of affairs? And what could the best possible state of affairs be, if not measured in terms of welfare?