I am intellectually persuaded by the arguments for Consequentialism. However, like most people in that situation, by my own lights I fail to live up the demands of that moral theory by a wide margin. And again, like most in my situation I suspect, this is a source of disquiet but not persistent hand-wringing. But there is another moral view one might attribute to me. It is more deontological in tone. And this other moral code is connected much more directly to emotional reactions such as guilt and moralized anger. If others cheat in a business deal or steal (except in desperation) and I am close enough to the situation, I will likely have an engaged moral reaction to such a person. I will speak badly of them, refuse to hang with them, and think poorly of them. Yet the decently well-off person who fails to contribute much money to an effective charity does not elicit such reactions in me to a similar degree. Similarly, while I myself regularly fail to be governed by consequentialist morality in my actions or my emotional reactions to my or other’s actions, I am quite effectively governed in both my actions and my emotions to this other moral view. My conscience, let’s call it, effectively keeps me from doing a wide range of things such as lying, cheating, stealing, hurting and so on. In most cases I simply would not dream of doing such things and if I did somehow do some such thing (or even fear that I did) I would likely feel really bad about it. Such governance in deed and action would, if I believed in commonsense (more deontological) morality, pass for tolerable moral motivation.
We are used to wondering if a moral judgment necessarily motivates. This is the debate about judgment internalism. I don’t do research on this question, but for my money those who argue against judgment internalism, such as Svavarsdottir, are winning. But they win partly by positing the coherence of an amoralist—someone who makes sincere moral judgments but sees no reason to live their life by moral standards. I however will just ask you to take on faith that I am not an amoralist. Since the usual way the judgment internalist debate goes is to wonder whether a person necessarily has at least some (possibly quite small) motivation to act in conformity to their moral judgments, I likely pass this test anyway. But a stronger test seems appropriate for the role that morality plays in the life of someone who is not an amoralist. It strikes me as plausible to say that, in the life of a person who is stipulated to not be an amoralist, a case could be make that a person’s moral view is the one that governs in the right way their behavior and emotional life rather than the moral view that they argue for in journal articles. By that standard I am not a consequentalist and I have yet to meet many who would count as consequentialists by that standard. Let me try out the hypothesis that a person’s moral view is the one that governs their actions and emotions rather than the one that governs what they say and write in intellectual circumstances. If that is right, there are very few consequentialists out there. I don’t think this shows that consequentialism is defeated as a moral view, only that it is much harder to count as believing such a theory than we may have thought and harder to genuinely persuade someone of the truth of a moral proposition than we tend to suppose. (I should mention that several years ago Steve Wall, Dan Jacobson, and I talked about these issues and, it seemed to me, were all initially drawn to the conclusion I outline here. Some of the ideas presented here are perhaps as much theirs as mine.)