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Purpose is just another side of cause. This is what I take as a premise. One might change "cause" by "reason" sometimes, both are related.

Every non-randomistic process has some end after which this process can stop. This end may be unreachable in any finite time, but taking recursively enumerable function, it is. Otherwise it is randomistic process. This end is what I call purpose.

Even two electrons, when they move away (effect) from each other, do it because of electromagnetic force (causal part). At the same time they do it in order to be as distant from each other as possible (purposal part). Now, we may assume that every effect is connected to some purpose. There is another, different from currect, state of things that seems to be more appropriate/better/more suitable to the laws of physics/etc.

So, when we may examine philosophers. Since philosopher also had some effects on our world and society, or in plain words, they just affected our world and society, then they had some purpose. This is also true for value philosophies. E.g. Aristotle and Kant developed their moral philosophies in order to change state of things. Change governance, law, social attitudes, etc. If they did not want to change things, then they would not have purpose. And then there would be no their moral philosophies. Also, their philosophies contain such notions as telos and maxim which are linked with the notion of purpose.


Now we can move to consequentialism part. At first, there are at least two completely unequal forms of consequentialism. One says consequences of actions made are the basis for their judgement. Now we can look at one example of this:

Suppose there are two persons who want to kill innocent people. The first one was successful in doing that and therefore commited murder. Another one, was unlucky and could not kill innocent person he chose as a victim. So, since actions of the first one resulted in worse consequences, he deserves more severe punishment.

Another form of consequentialism says, that one should strive for the best consequences. Therefore, it involves the notion of intention. According to it both people who intended to kill people are equally wrong, since they wanted the samely bad consequences.


So, assuming second definition of consequentialism, whatever consequences are counted as bad or good, is everyone a consequentialist?

  • You bring together two layers here that should be kept apart: A layer of description/discourse about and a layer of ontic facts of a subject matter. Just because we as humans describe electrons as moving apart from each other in order to gain distance (which careful scientists would reject - they'd only speak of forces that MAKE THEM move apart from each other) does not mean that this sphere of purposes has any ontic relevance on the side of the electrons. – Philip Klöcking Jun 9 '18 at 14:08
  • Why may we assume that every effect is connected to some purpose? That any deontological ethics can be reformulated teleologically is highly nontrivial if true, and most likely false. Its analog in physics is false, dynamics does not always minimize distance, action or some other functional, many governing equations are provably non-variational. Even assuming we may the first part of your post is a counterexample to the premise of the question: the electrons are "striving", by your purpose=cause thesis, but they have no intentions. – Conifold Jun 9 '18 at 20:34
  • @Conifold, it's not that deontology can be formulated teleologically. It's that deontology itself has some purpose. I accept electrons have no intentions, I am saying purpose is not inherent to intention. Everything has a purpose as everything has a cause. Not everything has an aim, as not everything has a reason. – rus9384 Jun 9 '18 at 21:33
  • What does this do beyond renaming causes into "purposes"? And if the "second definition of consequentialism" does not imply intentions then what is left of your question? If we redefine "consequentialism" to cover everything under the sun then everything under the sun will be surely covered, but what is the point of the exercise? – Conifold Jun 9 '18 at 21:56
  • @Conifold, well, I believe, causes and purposes are almost synonimical. You can see it in the word "why". It either means "for what cause/reason" or "for what purpose". I think I use them interchangeably in my speech, by using rewording. Well, second definition of course impiles intentions and electron can't be a consequentialist. Even people are doing something unintentionally, but I don't think philosophy is done with no intentions. – rus9384 Jun 9 '18 at 22:10
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Purpose is just another side of cause. This is what I take as a premise. One might change "cause" by "reason" sometimes, both are related.

Those terms don't get used the same way.

At the same time they do it in order to be as distant from each other as possible (purposal part).

This is really questionable. You're inserting at least a teleology, but likely even more. "Purpose" is a term we'll usually only apply when there's an actor. Elecrons aren't actors, so it seems misleading.

There is another, different from currect, state of things that seems to be more appropriate/better/more suitable to the laws of physics/etc.

It's not "more suitable", it's just a result from the laws of physics acting upon the state over time. Something unsuitable would be a change that is contradicting the laws of physics.

If they did not want to change things, then they would not have purpose. And then there would be no their moral philosophies. Also, their philosophies contain such notions as telos and maxim which are linked with the notion of purpose.

Even if we hold that notion of purpose unproblematic, then we'd still have to get from purpose to "consequence". But that's not the same.

So, assuming second definition of consequentialism, whatever consequences are counted as bad or good, is everyone a consequentialist?

Honestly, I think you could've posed that question without the part beforehand. I think it's a good question. There have been some ideas proposed that would answer negatively. I'll give one rough explanation below and afterwards link to further reading.

Let's compare your second definition, also called "expected consequentialism", with the CI. Expected consequentialism selects whether an act is morally good by intention of a best result. The best result is supported by some kind of theory of value. But more importantly, it's agent-neutral: when assessing an act for best consequences, we don't care about our own behaviour only. But instead we care about changing the state of the world through our behaviour. Kant's CI on the other hand doesn't really go over a theory of value. But more importantly, it will typically work agent-relative. Murder is categorically wrong, so even if murdering someone prevents that person from murdering more people, this wouldn't make murdering right. (Although, there are some interpretations that might make it permissable in some scenarios. But even then, it would work agent-relative in assessing the rightness of behaviour.)

So if we were to change our expected consequentialism by using a theory of value that mimics Kant's CI then it's still agent-neutral. If we make it agent-relative then it'd be weird to call it consequentialism, because we don't just care about consequences anymore. So it seems that there are at least some theories that aren't consequentialism.

More about the agent-relativity vs. agent-neutrality here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reasons-agent/

More explanation about why not every theory can be "consequentialized" can be found starting with this paper (which also uses the agent neutrality/relativity distinction as part of a definition of consequentialism): https://philpapers.org/rec/BROCT

  • In my language there is no distinction between cause and reason, the same word is used for both. Why electrons are not actors is unclear, as they are acting - moving apart each other. The first part of question is important, as it is the result with my conversation with Conifold. They said I'm consequentialist, since I'm saying good = fulfilling purpose. This is what MacIntyre said and he is virtue ethicist. While I reject the meaningfulness of morals. – rus9384 Jun 8 '18 at 22:10
  • Also, I'm not sure consequentialism is inherently agent-neutral. Ethical egoism is moral-relative and it is a form of utilitarianism, which in its turn is a form of consequentialism. In the end, distinction between deontology and expected consequentialism is following: in deontology agent's intentions are irrelevant, only actions which can be the result of these intentions are relevant. Yet, purpose is used in CI, and not used in divine command by proponents, but still, could be used by divine commander themselves. – rus9384 Jun 8 '18 at 22:45
  • @rus9384: Most theories of action distinguish mere events from actions by intent, among other things. By saying that electrons act, you are implying they have the intent to do something, which in turn involves a whole lot of other things like a capacity of reasoning about their actions, consciousness, etc. - which is hardly what you want to commit to if you are not a panpsychist. – Philip Klöcking Jun 9 '18 at 13:54
  • @PhilipKlöcking, I thought about panpsychism, it's interesting as idea, but unprovable. In either way, I don't think intention is required for purpose. If intention is needed, there is another word for that: aim. – rus9384 Jun 9 '18 at 15:51
  • @rus9384: Intention and purpose is basically the same, just one time in first-person and the other one in third-person. The point was not that intention is required for purpose, it is that if you use the notion action you should know that this implies that the electrons themselves actively define the purpose of their movements through their intent, which in turn implies the aforementioned faculties of reasoning about the way of action and consciousness. – Philip Klöcking Jun 9 '18 at 17:22
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How sure can you be of people's intentions? On a practical level, we know if someone suceeds in murder they definitely had a strong conviction to do it, and if they failed they may have had a weaker one. And the law is about what can be shown 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

You are muddling things up. Material 'causes', and human intentions as 'causes'. They are not actually equivalent. Human intentions are really computational heuristics, simplifications that model a supervening explanatory layer. That is, we can never gain the kind of strength of certainty about them we do of billiard balls hitting one another. It is easy to forget we are preceding by metaphor. Similarly, we imagine physical 'laws' out there, and forget that we are drawing an anaology to legal proceedings - as shown by Cartwright's 'How The Laws Of Physics Lie'.

Take the Stoic perspective. Consequences are no business of ours, because in truth they are beyond our control. Our business is to keep our attention on what we can shape, our intentions. For the Stoic the impact of their own practice is also the same. It turns out, that this is a good healthy way to be, and a lot of evidence points to it being a suc esful way to navigate life. But that is irrelevant to the practice, even though it might encourage people to take it up. The practice is to turn to what you can effect, and cease to be upset about what you cannot.

So physical cause is co fused with mental cause. And then reasons, teleological purposes, are projected on to the electrons. Another muddle. My perspective is that the fundamental categories are information, which is about events in spacetime, and meaning, which is a property of minds and their explanatory frameworks which come down to 'virtual world' models with predictive power and useful social or participative qualities - as discussed here Free Will and Intelligence Reason belongs on the meaning side, except in reference to cause which is more or less on the information side, except in regard to intentions and purposes which belong on the meaning side. Cause-and-effect conventionally belongs on the information side, in the West. But karma, at least in Buddhism, is explicitly psycological cause-and-effect. We set up toy models of abstraction from the world, and then draw conclusions from them. But never forget they are toy models, and the world will continue to be the world regardless.

What is bad or good is the result of everything you are and have been. If you can share aspects of that with a shared toy model, or parts or aspects of one, you share good and bad. But confusing objective information elements, with subjective meaning ones just muddles things up. If you take the materialist utilitarian view to it's extreme, that a calculus of consequences can be used to objectively evaluate everything, that pleasure and pain are objective moral consonants to good and bad, you end up with antinatalism and 'Better Never To Have Been' - it's an inconsistent category error with harmful consequences, it fails in both categories.

  • I know reason and cause are used differently. That's why I say sometimes it's appropriate to change "cause" with "reason". But both are related in the sense that both are producing the motive for an action. And any change in the world is done since things are going to be different, not the same as they are now. I do not ask what is good or bad, people can have same or different notions of them. The only thing is that any reason is connected to some purpose, and any cause too. – rus9384 Jun 9 '18 at 12:47
  • @rus9384 Here is Jacques Maritain's neo-scholastic scheme: lowest level: empirical, science, laws; first abstraction above science would be philosophy of nature; and above both science and Phil. Nature and at the highest abstraction would be metaphysics. At the level of metaphysics it is definitely connected because it is created, God, like the novelist creates the story. This invests the world with meaning and purpose. Why is it so? God made it so, we know the cause of it all. – Gordon Jun 9 '18 at 13:21

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