Spoilers for The Good Place under the spoiler tag below:

In the sitcom The Good Place, Chidi’s character learns he’s in The Bad Place because of how his indecisiveness hurt everyone around him. However, being a professor of moral philosophy, Chidi understands that every action he takes has consequences that cannot be undone; so he spends so much time considering those consequences- nothing ever gets done.

I recently brought this up in an answer about fatalism, describing how free will would entail that we can predict the consequences of every action we take, but we would spend so much time thinking- nothing would ever get done. So I thought it was humorous when Chidi was doing exactly that.

My question is...

Is it morally wrong to try to consider every consequence that our actions will produce, since doing so would probably accomplish nothing?

If it is immoral, is it also immoral to make a decision without trying to consider every consequence our actions will produce?

Have there been any proposed solutions for this dilemma?

  • 1
    The question is moot because it is not humanly possible to consider "every consequence that our actions will produce". This is a well known problem with the pragmatic maxim and act utilitarianism. And as we know from Kant, ought implies can, so impossible can't be moral. The dilemma does not exist.
    – Conifold
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:24
  • @Conifold I added the word “try”. How do we know what we ought to do if we haven’t tried to consider every consequence that the action will produce?
    – Cannabijoy
    Oct 4, 2018 at 22:46
  • 1
    Unless we are consequentialists we do not care about consequences. An action is moral or not "in and of itself" under virtue ethics and deontology, because it is virtuous, or because it is our moral duty. Even under consequentialism trying to consider "every" consequence is a fool's errand, only God can do that perhaps. Which is why rule utilitarianism is more feasible than act utilitarianism, one tries to follow rules projected to achieve "best" results "on average". And only some limited number of types of consequences are vaguely considered for that.
    – Conifold
    Oct 5, 2018 at 0:02
  • 1
    It would be a big improvement overall, if everyone would give more time to considering the consequences (and intents) of our potential actions and behaviors. It is false to state that "nothing" would be accomplished that way. Only that we would witness fewer actions of higher quality. More control, less chaos. I would love to see everyone slow down and think first before acting, more often. Speed is required for mass-production and the corporate economy (profiteering), not necessarily for survival (with just a few exceptions). And the adrenaline is not good for the heart.
    – Bread
    Nov 4, 2018 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


The bottom line is that you can't predict the consequences of your actions in a broad sense, for moral actions can have disastrous and concretely harmful effects while immoral ones can have positive effects (see complex systems theory). Morality is not based in the 'good' or 'bad' one effects in the world but, if we're using Kant, in a priori laws of reason -- substitute culturally acquired behavioural code if you're a relativist. Kant explicitly states, in the Critique of Judgement somewhere, that moral actions can have negative effects upon the flesh, be unpleasant, harmful, but it is not in these effects that morality has its ground.

Granting the above, Chidi behaves morally by not acting when he doesn't perceive a moral course of action because moral action is not determined by effects but by principles. This assumption that 'getting things done' is good, will warrant you going to 'the good place', is only one metric for judging action and its morality -- or lack thereof -- one this particular show assumes for its highest principle but is by no means universal.

In short, it is morally wrong to not act if acting and its effects are the basis of your morality; if not action, but rather principles, are the basis of your morality, than acting of itself has no value except in accordance with principle, meaning also non-action is not in itself immoral either and may even be the principled thing to (not)do in some cases. A morality of principle, while maybe, yes, less effective in some cases, is a more 'sturdy' system, in that it doesn't base morality on the inherently unpredictable result of any action -- moral ones included.

  • But, If you want an exclusive, non-interpretive answer, you merely have to lay out a set of moral principles, and analyse from there. When you ask any question beginning with 'is it morally wrong to...", the natural reply is usually "by who's standard?", or "in what system?".
    – Ethan NOPE
    Oct 4, 2018 at 23:38

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