A friend of mine argued for consequentialism “Whether an act is right or wrong depends only on the results of that act.”
First I thought: It makes sense. We cannot judge what were the thoughts (intentions) before the action. That (if possible) would be a route to “thought police”. Plus, the long tradition poetically put by Matthew 7:16 “By their fruit you will recognize them.”On second thought, there are three possible traps in this line of thinking:
- At the moment of making the decision, the only thing we know is what’s the planned outcome of our actions. So consequentialism may judge only (mostly) post factum – not very useful when you decide what to do next.
- About the result, how long ahead should we consider? Immediate, a day, a year, a generation, or an undefined future? Some actions have no long-lasting consequences some do. So if I would like to justify any action of mine I would claim that even the means are bad and probably the immediate result also, the long term consequences could be only described as a paradise for everybody. Stalin killed more than 20 million of his people in the name of some bright future (communism).
- Considering too deep all the possible consequences of your actions could block you psychologically and prevent the action which is an involuntary action as well. That classifies consequentialism as not a very practical stance.
Bottom line: dangerous and impractical, NO thank you!