— AGAINST CONSEQUENTIALISM GERMAIN GRISEZ THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF JURISPRUDENCE VOLUME 23 (1978): 21-72 S AGAINST CONSEQUENTIALISM GERMAIN GRISEZ Consequentialist theories of moral and jurisprudential judgment presuppose that human goods are commensurable in a way which permits "greater good" and similar expressions to refer to some- thing antecedent to and determinative of moral and jurisprudential judgments. The thesis of this article is that "greater good" and similar expressions necessarily lack reference in the contexts in which consequentialist theories require that they have it. After clarifying what consequentialism is, the author points out difficulties which consequentialists themselves have noted and failed to resolve. He then argues that these difficulties are inevita- ble. Still, "greater good" and similar expressions do have legitimate uses. These are analyzed and distinguished from the uses of these expressions a consequentialist would require. Finally, consequen- tialism is attacked as a method of rationalization. I IN THIS ARTICLE, I ATTACK a general theory of moral—and jurispru- dential-judgment which I refer to as “consequentialism.” In this section, I clarify what consequentialism is, suggest why it is plausible, and outline the remainder of the article. Although I do not articulate and defend an alternative to consequentialism in the present article, a schematic review of alternative theories of moral judgment will help to clarify what consequentialism is. Some accounts of moral judgment—that is, of what most people call "moral judgment"-are noncognitivist. Such theories claim that linguistic expressions which usually are thought to articulate moral judgments never actually do express judgments or statements or any- thing cognitional at all. Instead, such expressions are said by noncog- nitivists to do important tasks such as expressing feelings, attitudes, wishes, commitments, or something else; inciting feelings, actions, expectations, or something else; or some combination of these and other properly noncognitional tasks. Consequentialism differs from all such theories, for it is cognitivist. A consequentialist maintains that linguistic expressions which are thought to express moral judgments at least sometimes do articulate moral cognitions. Like other cognitivists, consequentialists maintain that acts of a cognitional type bearing upon moral questions can be correct or mistaken-for example, that judgments about what is mor- ally right and wrong can be true or false. 21 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF JURISPRUDENCE Some cognitivist accounts of moral judgment claim that all the principles of moral knowledge are perceptions of particular and con- crete moral realities. On such accounts, primary moral cognition is nondiscursive and nonrational. One may be said to "intuit" moral quality, perhaps by using a "moral sense." Theories of conscience ac- cording to which one's conscience receives guidance in each unique case from some transcendent source and theories which treat con- science as a kind of immanent and infallible oracle belong in this category. 22 Consequentialism differs from all such theories, for it proposes a method of moral reasoning. The consequentialist holds that there are some general principles of morality from which moral judgments about particular cases can be drawn. Like others who consider moral reflection to be a rational process, consequentialists hold that there can be sound and unsound arguments for moral judgments. Some accounts of moral judgment both hold that there are general or universal moral principles which are not derived from moral per- ception and hold that these principles of morality-which shape mo- rality from within-are irreducible to any principles which are su- pramoral. For such accounts, moral rightness and duty do not depend upon anything transcendent to the moral domain itself, and moral uprightness is an end in itself. Kant's formalistic theory of moral law is the clearest example of such a theory. Some versions of stoicism and some natural law theories also belong here, as do those divine- command theories which ground the force of divine commands in di- vine holiness-which is thought of as a constitutive principle of mo- rality— rather than in mere divine power. Consequentialism differs from all such theories, for it proposes a method of deriving moral judgments from goods which ultimately are not entirely of the moral order. The consequentialist holds that moral uprightness should serve other personal and interpersonal human goods, and that moral rectitude and the doing of one's duty can be understood as a function of the fulfillment or flourishing or well-being or happiness of human individuals and communities. Like others who hold that there is a transmoral source of morality, consequentialists hold that there can be a sound or unsound method for seeking the grounds of moral judgments in the human goods which are regarded as the basic, transmoral principles of morality. Any theory which maintains that moral judgments can be reduced to transmoral goods involves a distinction between basic human goods, which are ends immanent (at least by participation) in persons and communities, and other goods which are means that can exist î- GERMAIN GRISEZ 23 apart from persons. No one attempts to ground morality in merely instrumental goods such as wealth. Certain consequentialists, such as Bentham, have maintained that pleasure is the sole basic human good, and they have tried to make morality depend upon this one principle. But consequentialism is not defined by so narrow a view of what the basic human good is. Consequentialists and others who think that morality depends upon human goods which are not exclu- sively moral can agree that such goods include knowledge of truth, esthetic experience, excellence in skilled performance, good fellow- ship, and perhaps many other goods which persons can seek without ulterior purpose and enjoy for their own sake. But not all who think moral judgments can be reduced to princi- ples of human good which are not exclusively moral accept the same theory. Nonconsequentialists can locate the distinction between moral right and wrong in the manner in which a person freely disposes himself or herself towards the basic human goods. On such a view, one can dispose oneself in an attitude of realistic and open respon- siveness towards all the basic human goods, or one can arbitrarily limit one's appreciation and respect for them.¹ In either case, one establishes a personal hierarchy of commitments to goods, and this hierarchy shapes an individual life-plan or self-constitution. 2 But an attitude of openness puts one's own projects and satisfactions in the service of wider human possibilities and a more perfect life in com- munity, while exclusive and arbitrary self-limitation reduces others to the status of instruments of self-fulfillment. Thus nonconsequentialist theories of moral judgment which reduce it to transmoral principles of personal good can use as a methodological key the diverse modes in which persons orient themselves towards these goods. 1. I have attempted to articulate an ethical theory along these lines in several previous works: "The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa theologiae, Question 94, Article 2,” Natural Law Forum, 10 (1965), pp. 168- 201; Contraception and the Natural Law (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 46-75; Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments (New York and Cleveland: Corpus Books, 1970), pp. 267-346; "Toward a Consistent Natural-Law Ethics of Killing," American Journal of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy, 15 (1970), pp. 64-96; with Russell Shaw, Beyond the New Morality: The Responsibilities of Freedom (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1974); "Suicide and Euthanasia," in Dennis J. Horan and David Mall, eds., Death, Dying, and Euthanasia (Washington, D.C.: University Publications of America, 1977), pp. 742-789. 2. Cf. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 407-446, and the works Rawls cites on life plans, for ideas close to my notion of self-constitution. My view is nearest to those of Josiah Royce and Charles Fried. See the latter's Anatomy of Values (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univeristy Press, 1970), pp. 7-101. 24 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF JURISPRUDENCE Consequentialism differs from all such theories, for it proposes effi- ciency in promoting measurable good results-and/or in preventing measurable bad results-as the methodological key by which what is qualified in moral terms is related to the transmoral goods of persons. In a consequentialist theory, "the good is defined independently from the right, and then the right is defined as that which maximizes the good. "3 Although technically too restrictive-as we shall see-to embrace all consequentialism, the preceding statement does suggest consequentialism's central idea-conduciveness to measurable results as a criterion of morality. Consequentialism does not demand a sharp distinction between acts (or whatever else is taken to be the primary subject of moral evaluation) and consequences. Consequentialists, for example, can define right and wrong in terms of the good and the harm one will cause both in acting and through one's acts. Thus consequences im- mediately present in one's behavior can be considered along with those expected to follow from it, even remotely. A typical, simple consequentialist theory of moral judgment can be stated as follows. "Moral judgment is a comparative evaluation of al- ternative courses of action. Each alternative is appraised-if a sound method of moral judgment is used in terms of the results it can be expected to bring about. One tries to predict with reasonable prob- ability the measurable good and bad results, where 'good' and 'bad' are defined by the causing or protecting, the destroying or preventing of greater or lesser instances of basic human goods. The right act is the one which is expected to yield the greater good-that is, the greatest net good or, in case there is no desirable prospect, the least net evil." Not all consequentialists specify their position so simply and clearly. For example, some suggest that good consequences are not relevant to morality; they maintain that the right act is one which minimizes evil. Others hold that one can make a consequentialist judgment upon a possible course of action considered in isolation from any alternative; any act may be judged right if it does more good than harm. The arguments I propose against consequentialism are not affected by these variations. Hence, in what follows I use "greater good" and similar expressions to refer to any outcome of the comparative weighing of goods and/or evils which any consequen- tialist considers appropriate to ground moral judgment. Thus "greater good" is to be taken to include in its meaning "lesser evil," "propor- 3. Rawls, op. cit., p. 24.