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Nonconsequentialist decisions

  • Jonathan Baron (a1)

According to a simple form of consequentialism, we should base decisions on our judgments about their consequences for achieving our goals. Our goals give us reason to endorse consequentialism as a standard of decision making. Alternative standards invariably lead to consequences that are less good in this sense. Yet some people knowingly follow decision rules that violate consequentialism. For example, they prefer harmful omissions to less harmful acts, they favor the status quo over alternatives they would otherwise judge to be belter, they provide third-party compensation on the basis of the cause of an injury rather than the benefit from the compensation, they ignore deterrent effects in decisions about punishment, and they resist coercive reforms they judge to be beneficial. I suggest that nonconsequentialist principles arise from overgeneralizing rules that are consistent with consequentialism in a limited set of cases. Commitment to such rules is detached from their original purposes. The existence of such nonconsequentialist decision biases has implications for philosophical and experimental methodology, the relation between psychology and public policy, and education.

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