Consequentialism is an ethical theory that judges whether or not something is right by what its consequences are.
*Consequentialism is a slippery theory and has led to a great many arguments about the specifics. After all, a person can "aim" his actions with the intent of causing a specific result, but the outcome is out of his hands, for the most part. Are we to believe that every moral action must be followed by a good outcome in order to be considered truly “moral”? What if someone fights nobly for a good cause, but fails in the end? Are the goodness of the cause and the nobility of the fight negated by a bad outcome?
If morality is based on “a good consequence,” then we must ask, "What is ‘good’?" Which is better, to gain pleasure or avoid harm? What is more important, filling a need or filling a preference? The secular worldview can give no clear answer.
To try to narrow down the definition of “good,” philosophers also discuss the question "good for whom?" A leaky roof is a burden for a homeowner but good for the roofer. A college acceptance letter means another student was rejected. Would it be better to improve the welfare of the acting agent or a bystander? Or society at large?
Some consequentialists admit that the intention of the acting agent may have something to do with the morality of the act. But then we must determine who has the authority to judge whether the intention was appropriately considered—the acting agent? a neutral third party? a system of laws? "Actual" consequentialists dismiss the entire discussion of the “almost” consequentialists and insist that morality is based solely on the actual effect; "almost" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
The Bible speaks of consequentialism, but not by name, and not in the way that secular philosophy considers. The Bible says people ought to act morally; that is, they should follow God's law and the guiding of His Spirit in their hearts. And the Bible also teaches a certain end effect of morality.
Consequentialism in God's economy comes in the form of telos. Telos means "purpose," and it informs all of God's laws. His Word is not arbitrary. The entire history of mankind is filled with the story of God's purposes for us
Types of Consequentialism **
Plain Consequentialism- At any given moment, of all the things that a person could do, the morally right action is the one with the best overall consequences. So, if we were to decide that the good is happiness, the right action would be the action that caused the most happiness, more so than would have been caused by any other alternative action. A good example of this would be the rationality of setting speed limits, which takes into account accurately balancing many considerations.
Reasonable Consequentialism- An action would be morally right if and only if it has the best reasonably expected consequences. This says that for any of my actions to be right, I should first come to a conclusion that is reasonable about the consequences.
Dual Consequentialism- The word "right" is ambiguous in that it has a moral sense and an objective sense; the action with the best consequences is the objectively right action and any action with the best reasonably expected consequences is the morally right action.
Double Consequentialism- Again, the word "right" is ambiguous in that it has a moral sense and an objective sense; the action with the best consequences is the objectively right action and any action that can be reasonably estimated to be objectively right is the morally right action.The difference between dual consequentialism and double consequentialism is the idea of a morally right action. Whereas Dual Consequentialism discusses any action with the best reasonably expected consequences, Double Consequentialism talks about the morally right action that is estimated to be objectively right.
Rule Consequentialism- An action is morally right if and only if and only if it doesn't violate the set of rules of behavior that is generally accepted in the community as creating the best consequences- which is at least as good as any competing set of rules or no rules. With this theory, an action is not judged as being right or wrong by its own consequences; it is right or wrong depending on if it violates the collective rules that would carry the best consequences.
Agent-neutral Consequentialism- Ignores the specific values a state of affairs has on the agent. Therefore, when evaluating what action I should take, my own personal goals don't count more than anyone else's goals.
Agent- focused Consequentialism- Focus is on the needs of the agent; being more concerned with the immediate welfare of myself, my family and friends, than with the general welfare. Both of the agent-centered approaches focus on the interests of an agent as an individual and as having membership in different groups, thus acknowledging the tension from trying to balance everyone's interests. Personal interests or motivations reflect how agents may act for an ends disconnected to their own drives and interests.
Hedonistic Consequentialism- A good action is one that results in an increase in pleasure, and that the best action is one in which creates the most pleasure possible. In this case, the term "happiness" refers to the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain. This form of consequentialism emphasizes the collective happiness; the happiness of everyone and the not happiness of a particular person.