Can a Consequentialist Honor a Value? Making Sense of a Consequentialist Pacifist.

Elizabeth Giles, University of Miami

If certain theories about action are correct–ones that say that an action can be formulated as a ‘bringing about of a certain result’–is there any hope for ethicists who want to make a means/ends distinction? In this paper I will be delving into this issue on the side of applied ethicists who would like to maintain something like a means/ends distinction. My guiding example will be a pacifist’s commitment to peace. I will be arguing that pacifists can justify their action as peace producing by invoking a means/ends distinction captured in Philip Pettit’s distinction between honoring and promoting a value. Although I concede that an action can be formulated as a ‘bringing about of a certain result’, I do not think that this move negates the spirit of the means/ends distinction. Since action is temporally thick, ‘the certain result’ brought about by a given action will depend on what point in time you consider that the action as complete. Also, since most actions have a rich resultant outcome with many ‘consequences’, determining which results are relevant to the value in question differentiates actions in a way analogous to how the traditional means/ends distinction serves to distinguish actions.

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