Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Intention and Consequences in Classical Utilitarianism

Bianchini Victor, University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne

That classical utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral doctrine seems a common idea. Yet this idea can raise an issue for two reasons. First, the idea rests upon an anachronism. The term “consequentialism”, indeed, comes from Gertrude Elisabeth Margereth Anscombe in her article “Modern Moral Pholosophy” published in 1958, in the context of her critique of classical utilitarianism. And we today know that consequentialism is a vague term which includes various consequentialist theories. Second, it is worth noting that, in the vocabulary of classical utilitarians themselves, the morality of an action depends on intention. Hence the aim of this paper: putting some light on the question of intention and consequences in classical utilitarianism, by focusing on its main figures: Jeremy Bentham, James & John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick.

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Keywords: Classical utilitarianism ; consequentialism ; deontology

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