I recently gave a talk to the London Graduate Philosophy Conference, entitled ‘Is consequentialism self-effacing, or merely collectively self-defeating?’ Consequentialism is ‘self-effacing’ if it implies that agents ought not to accept consequentialism. It is collectively self-defeating if, if everyone accepted consequentialism, the outcome would not be for the best. In this talk, I argue that even if our accepting consequentialism would preclude us from having meaningful lives, consequentialism may still not be self-effacing – though it would be collectively self-defeating.
The key texts here are Williams’s ‘Critique of Utilitarianism’, Railton’s ‘Alienation, Consequentialism and the Demands of Morality’ and chapter one of Parfit’s ‘Reasons and Persons’.
Here’s the talk.