By John Wilson (auth.)
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Additional resources for A Preface to Morality
Thus any intelligent consequentialist will grant that certain acts may cause so much harm to the soul or psyche of some or all individuals that it is better if most people did not do them but relied upon a certain category of person to do them instead (public executioners, for instance). He will grant that it may be, in general, so good a thing for people to be paid-up members of some overall faith or creed (Christianity, for instance) that their 'blind' universal acceptance of that faith's rules of conduct could be approved, even if it sometimes gave them the wrong answers to moral problems.
If there is a reason for doing or not doing A, there must be some feature (F) among these states of affairs in virtue of which the reason is a reason: F will be a case of having murderous intentions, or causing bloodshed, or people being deceived, or whatever. ) But then any reason-governed view can be rewritten as the view that F or various sorts of F should prevail or exist in the world; and it will now be a matter of negotiation by what rules, laws or practices - in briet what allocation of rights and powers -we can best achieve this.
I claim this because the concept of an action disappears if the idea of consequences or states of affairs is removed. Actions, as opposed to mere physical movements, seek some goal or result, even if the result is supposed to be purely internal (as, for instance, in 'mortifying the flesh'). What distinguishes merely signing one's name idly from signing the death warrant of an innocent man is (i) that one intends his death, and (ii) that he will die (other things being equal). Both these are states of affairs; and if we are to argue about reasons for signing or not signing, we can only look under these headings.
A Preface to Morality by John Wilson (auth.)