TagLast edit: 3 Feb 2023 13:51 UTC by Yoav Ravid

Consequentialism is the ethical theory that people should choose their actions based on the outcomes they expect will result. How to judge outcomes is not specified, but there are many types of consequentialism that specify how outcomes should be judged. For example, utilitarianism holds that the best outcome is that which maximizes the total welfare of all people, and ethical egoism holds that the best outcome is that which maximizes their own personal interests. Consequentialism is one of three main strands of ethical thought, along with deontology, which holds that people should choose actions which conform to a prescribed list of moral rules, and virtue ethics, which holds that people should be judged by how virtuous they are, instead of by what actions they take.

Related: Ethics & Morality, Deontology, Moral Uncertainty, Utilitarianism

Consequentialism is often associated with maximizing the expected value of a utility function. However, it has been argued that consequentialism is not the same thing as having a utility function because it is possible to evaluate actions based on their consequences without obeying the von Neuman-Morgenstern axioms necessary for having a utility function, and because utility functions can also be used to implement moral theories similar to deontology.

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See also


Ends Don’t Jus­tify Means (Among Hu­mans)

Eliezer Yudkowsky14 Oct 2008 21:00 UTC
179 points
96 comments4 min readLW link

What’s Up With Con­fus­ingly Per­va­sive Goal Direct­edn?

Raemon20 Jan 2022 19:22 UTC
166 points
88 comments4 min readLW link

Con­se­quen­tial­ists: One-Way Pat­tern Traps

David Udell16 Jan 2023 20:48 UTC
47 points
3 comments14 min readLW link

Con­se­quen­tial­ism Need Not Be Nearsighted

orthonormal2 Sep 2011 7:37 UTC
81 points
119 comments5 min readLW link

Tor­ture vs. Dust Specks

Eliezer Yudkowsky30 Oct 2007 2:50 UTC
75 points
620 comments1 min readLW link

Deon­tol­ogy for Consequentialists

Alicorn30 Jan 2010 17:58 UTC
60 points
255 comments6 min readLW link

[link] Choose your (prefer­ence) util­i­tar­i­anism care­fully – part 1

Kaj_Sotala25 Jun 2015 12:06 UTC
21 points
6 comments2 min readLW link

To cap­ture anti-death in­tu­itions, in­clude mem­ory in utilitarianism

Kaj_Sotala15 Jan 2014 6:27 UTC
12 points
34 comments3 min readLW link

An­swer to Job

Scott Alexander15 Mar 2015 18:02 UTC
53 points
7 comments4 min readLW link

Tran­shu­man­ism as Sim­plified Humanism

Eliezer Yudkowsky5 Dec 2018 20:12 UTC
146 points
35 comments5 min readLW link

Are Deon­tolog­i­cal Mo­ral Judg­ments Ra­tion­al­iza­tions?

lukeprog16 Aug 2011 16:40 UTC
52 points
171 comments11 min readLW link

Re­view of Doris, ‘The Mo­ral Psy­chol­ogy Hand­book’ (2010)

lukeprog26 Jun 2011 19:33 UTC
24 points
10 comments5 min readLW link

[Question] Why do you re­ject nega­tive util­i­tar­i­anism?

Teo Ajantaival11 Feb 2019 15:38 UTC
33 points
27 comments1 min readLW link

The Very Repug­nant Conclusion

Stuart_Armstrong18 Jan 2019 14:26 UTC
30 points
19 comments1 min readLW link


Jacob Falkovich9 Feb 2018 16:49 UTC
4 points
4 comments5 min readLW link

‘The Bat­tle for Com­pas­sion’: ethics in a world of ac­cel­er­at­ing change

lukeprog11 Sep 2011 12:54 UTC
5 points
3 comments1 min readLW link

The Mo­ral Sta­tus of In­de­pen­dent Iden­ti­cal Copies

Wei_Dai30 Nov 2009 23:41 UTC
52 points
81 comments2 min readLW link

Per­son-mo­ment af­fect­ing views

KatjaGrace7 Mar 2018 2:30 UTC
17 points
8 comments5 min readLW link

To­tal­i­tar­ian eth­i­cal systems

Benquo3 May 2019 19:35 UTC
33 points
12 comments3 min readLW link

Feel­ing Moral

Eliezer Yudkowsky11 Mar 2015 19:00 UTC
40 points
8 comments3 min readLW link

It’s hard to use util­ity max­i­miza­tion to jus­tify cre­at­ing new sen­tient beings

dynomight19 Oct 2020 19:45 UTC
10 points
14 comments1 min readLW link

Ex­trin­sic and In­trin­sic Mo­ral Frameworks

lsusr11 Dec 2021 5:28 UTC
14 points
5 comments2 min readLW link

[Question] How to trade­off util­ity and agency?

A Ray14 Jan 2022 1:33 UTC
14 points
5 comments1 min readLW link

[ASoT] Search­ing for con­se­quen­tial­ist structure

leogao27 Mar 2022 19:09 UTC
26 points
2 comments4 min readLW link

Deon­tol­ogy and virtue ethics as “effec­tive the­o­ries” of con­se­quen­tial­ist ethics

Jan_Kulveit17 Nov 2022 14:11 UTC
57 points
7 comments1 min readLW link

Reflec­tive Consequentialism

Adam Zerner18 Nov 2022 23:56 UTC
21 points
14 comments4 min readLW link

Mas­sive consequences

KatjaGrace7 Feb 2021 5:30 UTC
23 points
15 comments1 min readLW link

Meta-Prefer­ence Utilitarianism

B Jacobs4 Feb 2020 20:24 UTC
10 points
30 comments1 min readLW link

Money: The Unit of Caring

Eliezer Yudkowsky31 Mar 2009 12:35 UTC
195 points
132 comments4 min readLW link

The Ep­silon Fallacy

johnswentworth17 Mar 2018 0:08 UTC
73 points
20 comments7 min readLW link

The Mere Cable Chan­nel Ad­di­tion Paradox

Ghatanathoah26 Jul 2012 7:20 UTC
99 points
147 comments12 min readLW link

Shut Up and Divide?

Wei_Dai9 Feb 2010 20:09 UTC
107 points
276 comments1 min readLW link

One Life Against the World

Eliezer Yudkowsky18 May 2007 22:06 UTC
109 points
84 comments3 min readLW link

Cir­cu­lar Altruism

Eliezer Yudkowsky22 Jan 2008 18:00 UTC
78 points
311 comments4 min readLW link

The Lifes­pan Dilemma

Eliezer Yudkowsky10 Sep 2009 18:45 UTC
59 points
220 comments7 min readLW link

Non-Con­se­quen­tial­ist Co­op­er­a­tion?

abramdemski11 Jan 2019 9:15 UTC
49 points
15 comments7 min readLW link

Wel­come to Heaven

denisbider25 Jan 2010 23:22 UTC
26 points
246 comments2 min readLW link

Pin­point­ing Utility

[deleted]1 Feb 2013 3:58 UTC
93 points
156 comments13 min readLW link

Two-Tier Rationalism

Alicorn17 Apr 2009 19:44 UTC
48 points
26 comments4 min readLW link

Dialogue on Ap­peals to Consequences

jessicata18 Jul 2019 2:34 UTC
33 points
82 comments7 min readLW link

Log­a­r­ithms and To­tal Utilitarianism

Pablo Villalobos9 Aug 2018 8:49 UTC
37 points
31 comments4 min readLW link


Alicorn2 Aug 2009 19:12 UTC
46 points
202 comments2 min readLW link

SotW: Check Consequentialism

Eliezer Yudkowsky29 Mar 2012 1:35 UTC
58 points
313 comments7 min readLW link

A (small) cri­tique of to­tal utilitarianism

Stuart_Armstrong26 Jun 2012 12:36 UTC
47 points
237 comments11 min readLW link

Hell Must Be Destroyed

algekalipso6 Dec 2018 4:11 UTC
32 points
1 comment4 min readLW link

Un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated points about util­ity func­tions (of both sorts)

Sniffnoy4 Jan 2020 7:27 UTC
47 points
61 comments15 min readLW link

The Prefer­ence Utili­tar­ian’s Time In­con­sis­tency Problem

Wei_Dai15 Jan 2010 0:26 UTC
34 points
107 comments1 min readLW link

Con­se­quen­tial­ism FAQ

Scott Alexander26 Apr 2011 1:45 UTC
39 points
124 comments1 min readLW link

Some reser­va­tions about Singer’s child-in-the-pond argument

JonahS19 Jun 2013 23:54 UTC
40 points
120 comments6 min readLW link

Hu­man er­rors, hu­man values

PhilGoetz9 Apr 2011 2:50 UTC
45 points
138 comments1 min readLW link

What we talk about when we talk about max­imis­ing utility

Richard_Ngo24 Feb 2018 22:33 UTC
14 points
18 comments4 min readLW link

Sublimity vs. Youtube

Alicorn18 Mar 2011 5:33 UTC
31 points
61 comments1 min readLW link

Why At­ti­tudes Matter

ozymandias21 Sep 2017 15:07 UTC
19 points
5 comments4 min readLW link

Ex­pe­ri­en­tial­ist The­o­ries of Well-Being

andzuck19 Feb 2021 22:04 UTC
17 points
1 comment11 min readLW link


Bae's Theorem16 Jun 2021 21:57 UTC
5 points
11 comments7 min readLW link

Why Save The Drown­ing Child: Ethics Vs Theory

Raymond D16 Nov 2021 19:07 UTC
17 points
12 comments4 min readLW link

Re­view: G.E.M. An­scombe’s “Modern Mo­ral Philos­o­phy”

David Gross20 Feb 2022 18:58 UTC
24 points
3 comments5 min readLW link

Some rea­sons why a pre­dic­tor wants to be a consequentialist

Lauro Langosco15 Apr 2022 15:02 UTC
23 points
16 comments5 min readLW link

The Unified The­ory of Nor­ma­tive Ethics

Thane Ruthenis17 Jun 2022 19:55 UTC
8 points
0 comments6 min readLW link

A gen­tle primer on car­ing, in­clud­ing in strange senses, with applications

Kaarel30 Aug 2022 8:05 UTC
4 points
4 comments18 min readLW link

[Question] How easy is it to su­per­vise pro­cesses vs out­comes?

Noosphere8918 Oct 2022 17:48 UTC
3 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

What sorts of sys­tems can be de­cep­tive?

Andrei Alexandru31 Oct 2022 22:00 UTC
15 points
0 comments7 min readLW link

In Defence of Tem­po­ral Dis­count­ing in Longter­mist Ethics

DragonGod13 Nov 2022 21:54 UTC
23 points
3 comments1 min readLW link

SBF’s com­ments on ethics are no sur­prise to virtue ethicists

c.trout1 Dec 2022 4:18 UTC
35 points
30 comments16 min readLW link

Disen­tan­gling Shard The­ory into Atomic Claims

Leon Lang13 Jan 2023 4:23 UTC
79 points
6 comments18 min readLW link

Lan­guage Models can be Utility-Max­imis­ing Agents

Raymond D1 Feb 2023 18:13 UTC
20 points
0 comments2 min readLW link

[Question] Math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els of Ethics

Victors8 Mar 2023 17:40 UTC
4 points
1 comment1 min readLW link
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