The Consequence Paradox

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Martin Bruun Michaelsen
4. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
This examination of the consequence paradox presents a critique of consequential ethics and a reevaluation of the ethical subject. The consequence paradox relates to some ethically motivated actions, which when applied negates a part of its ethical core. Through the presentation of different morally difficult topics in present times, it is shown how this paradox is present in various modern practices and projects. A reading on Kants ethical writings shows the kind of thinking that creates the consequence paradox, where a different reading is shown to circumvent the problem. The consequence paradox relates to a consequential ethical problem. If the ethical worth of humans is presented as an essential universal value, with no connection to the particular reality, this creates a logic which can be used for repression. The repression is present, since every ethical situation a subject is presented in, can be evaluated and treated without the interference of the ethical subject. The ethical subject is thus devoid of the capacity which makes it an ethical subject, since the treating is equal to the treating of non-thinking objects. The concrete human becomes generalized and can thus be treated as though its own values, dreams and aspirations were void. The consequence paradox shows the underlying logical formation which makes it possible that good intentions can create bad outcomes. The one with the good intentions presupposes what constitutes a good action for realizing given goals on the behalf of another, which creates the form of a paradox, since in addition the other is presupposed as being not relevant to the formation of what constitutes the goal. The content of what is important to some specific individual, is subordinated to what an extern description of the individual presents as important. The idea that some features give reasons to help others in another way than one would treat other members of the community creates the foundation of the consequence paradox, since these actions exclude the individuals further from society, where the intention was the opposite, namely the creation of a foundation for these individuals reinstatement. The presented solution to this ethical problem is to reinterpret the ethical subject in relation to the particular and the universal. From a reading of Kant, Benhabib and Laclau & Mouffe it is derived that this requires creation of a universal form that tries to include as much particular difference as possible. 3 The universal is then interpreted as empty, in the sense that it is only in the concrete particular that ethical value can be secured without the problem of the consequence paradox. The ethical subjects value relies on its ability to act independently and freely, and to respect this freedom, we have to base our ethical motivations on the particular concrete practice, where a universal form without predefined content can guide us to identifying a multiplicity of actions that are permissible and other actions which are non-permissible. Personal ethics becomes a way to strive towards being worthy of happiness by strictly following this universal form, the categorical imperative in Kants thinking, whereas the judgement of others needs to relate to a more open interpretation, since we can never know the true motivations of others. This relates to Benhabibs and Laclau & Mouffe theorising on discourse, while striving to create a political field, wherein as large a multiplicity as possible of different discourses can exist without domination, since this domination would homogenize the discourses and ruin the multiplicity. A discourse ethical solution combined with the deontological arguments of Kant, thus creates a way to describe ethical problems in a space where the ethical content of the particular individual isn’t taken for granted, while still retaining the universal aspect of ethics. This masters thesis proposes a different way of interpreting universal ethics as based in the particular, since the universal as considered an absolute attainable goal, creates the conditions for the consequence paradox, where the wills of particular individuals are neglected.
LanguageDanish
Publication date31 May 2018
ID: 280149576