Evaluation of Actions

Part of my issue with the deontological approach to ethics is that by putting rules first (above both intentions and consequences), it seems to suggest that an action has the normative status it does intrinsically — that is to say, independent of intentions and consequences. I don’t think the notion of value is even intelligible apart from some context of evaluation. It seems to me that intentions and consequences together form the relevant context in which actions occur and should be evaluated.

I believe any putatively intrinsic value of an action is just a reification. We might be inclined to say, e.g., that killing is intrinsically bad, but I would say instead that it is bad because by definition it has a bad consequence. The difference is that consequences can be weighed against other consequences, so we can say killing is bad but might nonetheless be justified in some particular case, if that bad thing would prevent what would truly be a worse evil.

We should put interpretive charity first. No one should be blamed or penalized for an action that was sincerely and responsibly well-intentioned, or the consequences of which were in balance good.

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