Introduction to Philosophy/Consequentialism
Succinctly stated, Consequentialism is the idea that the rightness or wrongness of action depends upon the consequences or effects of action, and can be broken down into four subcategories: Ethical Egoism, Ethical Altruism, Utilitarianism, and Dewey's Theory of Valuation.
Ethical Egoism holds that an act is right insofar as it maximizes, benefits, or promotes long term self-interest of the agent performing the act. "Self-interest" may be construed as pleasure, power, wealth, knowledge, etc. or any combination of such. (Effect on others is irrelevant, unless effect has further ramifications upon the agent's self-interest.
Ethical Altruism states that an act is right insofar as it maximizes, benefits, or promotes long term self-interest of all those other than the agent performing the act. Self-interest of everyone except the agent is morally relevant; the agent's own self-interest is irrelevant unless it effect alters consequences for everyone else.
Utilitarianism is the idea that whether any person, "S", has done what is morally right or wrong depends solely on how good or bad the consequences of S's action are for everyone affected. Further, everyone's self-interest is relevant and to an equal degree.
Lastly, according to John Dewey's Theory of Valuation, we prize (want, desire, enjoy, etc.) things and activities. Thus, these have de facto value simply because we want them. It is a further question to determine whether the things, which have de facto value, ought to be so prized and wanted. If so, then they are said to have de jure value - that we ought to want the things we want. Appraisal is the process of determining whether the things we want ought to be wanted. Further, the process of appraising is ultimately the application of the scientific method to moral judgments. The hypothesis being tested is the question of whether what has de facto value is also worthy of de jure value. Consequently, all moral valuation is subject to the principle of fallibilism. All moral ends are on a moral continuum that is always subject to revision and modification. There are no moral absolutes; hence there is no end that justifies every means. However, this theory has faced criticism. Some have contended that the above commits the Naturalistic Fallacy - deriving a moral "ought" from a description of the facts.