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Nikhil Venkatesh (LSE): ‘Collectivist Consequentialism: what utilitarians can learn from Marx’

18 January 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm

Abstract: Sometimes, some individual could be the proximate cause of a bad outcome; however, if they do not play this role, someone else will, with even worse consequences. In such cases, act-consequentialism provides reasons for agents to cause the bad outcome themselves: even though, if everybody refrained from such actions, the outcome would be better. Call these cases of pre-emption.

Such cases bring into tension two guiding lights of consequentialism: that outcomes matter, and that an action’s moral status is determined by the difference it makes to the world. Existing attempts to revise consequentialism to account for pre-emption cases fail to do justice to both of these. I present my favoured solution, collectivist act-consequentialism, which is the application of utilitarianism to groups as well as to individuals. This view captures the two guiding lights, and has the resources to explain other intuitions we have about such cases.

It requires a view about group agency which draws upon Marx’s work on class. Moreover, by acknowledging the importance of our membership in group agents, collectivist act-consequentialism invites us to look at moral agency in a more appealing way than utilitarians, focusing on individual agency alone, typically have.

Nikhil Venkatesh is a LSE Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at LSE and recently completed my PhD at University College London.

This event will take place in person on LSE’s campus. However, those unable to attend in person will have the option of taking part online.

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Please note that these events are routinely recorded, with the edited footage being made publicly available on our website and YouTube channel. We will only record the audio, the slides and the speaker and will not include the Q&A section. However, any question asked during the talk itself will feature in the final edit.



18 January 2023
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Event Category:




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