Necessary Enabler Consequentialism Framework
The value criterion is...consistency with necessary enabler consequentialism.
Here are some of the best justifications for a consistency with necessary enabler consequentialism framework.
First, actions can be explained by general substitutability, i.e. that in order to achieve some goal, we take certain actions in the process of the completion of that goal. This end goal provides a reason for us to perform otherwise meaningless tasks. Sinott-Armstrong 1
Sinott-Armstrong, Walter. "An Argument for Consequentalism." Philosophical Perspectives, 6: Ethics, 1992. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1992. 399-421. Print.
My principle can be introduced by a non-moral example from everyday life. I have a cavity, and cavities become painful when they are not filled, so I have a reason to get my cavity filled. I can't get my cavity filled without going to a dentist, so I have a reason to go to a dentist. Arguments with this form are very common.2 They are also incomplete. Suppose that no dentist will fill my cavity without an appointment, and I don't have an appointment. Then [so] I don't have any reason to go to a dentist. Why not? Going to a dentist would be a waste of time, since it would not enable me get my cavity filled. Of course, going to a dentist is never sufficient by itself to get my cavity filled, since I also must stay there long enough, promise payment, etc. Nonetheless, going to a dentist often enables me to get my cavity filled in the sense that, if I go to the dentist, I can do other things which will together be sufficient for me to get my cavity filled. In general, I will say that doing Y enables an agent to do X if and only if Y is part of a larger course of action that is sufficient for the agent to do X, and the agent can do the other acts that make up what is sufficient for X. Now, when going to a dentist both enables me to get my cavity filled and also is necessary to get my cavity filled, then a reason to get my cavity filled does generate [I have] a reason to go to a dentist. It is crucial not to overestimate his claim. Although I have some reason to go to a dentist, this reason still might be overridden. I might have an overriding reason to leave for Australia. Also, my reason to go to a dentist and my reason to get my cavity filled need not be distinct in any way that would allow me to add the force of two reasons. Even if these reasons are the same, I still have a reason to go to a dentist. That is all the above argument claims. It is also important that this argument does not require logical impossibility. It is logically possible for me to get my cavity filled without going to a dentist. My wife might know how and be willing to fill my cavity, but she doesn't and isn't. So my particular situation makes it causally impossible for me to get my cavity filled except by going to a dentist. That kind of causal impossibility is enough for the above argument to be valid. The most general principle that warrants arguments of this form is this: (GS) If there is a reason for A to do X, and if A cannot do X without doing Y, and if doing Y will enable A to do X, then there is a reason for A to do Y.
This also holds for moral actions. Sinott-Armstrong 2
Since general substitutability works for other kinds of reasons for action, we would need a strong argument to deny that it holds also [it should hold] for moral reasons. If moral reasons obeyed different principles, it would be hard to understand why moral reasons are also called 'reasons' and how moral reasons interact with other reasons when they apply to the same action. Nonetheless, this extension has been denied, so we have to look at moral reasons carefully. I have a moral reason to feed my child tonight, both because I promised my wife to do so, and also because of my special relation to my child along with the fact that she will go hungry if I don't feed her. I can't feed my child tonight without going home soon, and going home soon will enable me to feed her tonight. Therefore, there is a moral reason for me to go home soon. It need not be imprudent or ugly or sacrilegious or illegal for me not to feed her, but the requirements of morality give me a moral reason to feed her. This argument assumes a special case of substitutability: (MS) [This yields the general statement] If there is a moral reason for A to do X, and if A cannot do X without doing Y, and if doing Y will enable A to do X, then there is a moral reason for A to do Y.
Deontological theories fail to explain moral substitutability. Sinott-Armstrong 3
Even though this simple kind of deontological theor[ies]y cannot explain moral substitutability, more complex deontological theories might seem to do better. One candidate is Kant, who accepts something like substitutability when he writes, 'Whoever wills the end, so far as reason has decisive influence on his action, wills also the indispensably necessary means to it that lie in his power.'14 Despite this claim, however, Kant fails to explain moral substitutability. Kant says in effect that there is a moral reason to do an act when the maxim of not doing that act cannot be willed as a universal law without contradiction. My moral reason to keep my promise to mow the grass is then supposed to be that not keeping promises cannot be willed universally without contradiction However, not starting my mower can be willed universally without contradiction I can even consistently and universally will not to start my mower when this is a necessary enabler for keeping a promise. The basic problem is that Kant repeatedly claims that his theory is purely a priori, but moral substitutability makes moral reasons depend on what is empirically possible. Kantians might try to avoid this problem by interpreting universizability in terms of a less pure kind of possibility and 'contradiction'. On one such interpretation, Kant claims it is contradictory to will universal promise breaking, because, if everyone always broke their promises, no promises would be trusted, so no promises could be made or, therefore, broken. There are several problems here, but the most relevant one is that people could still trust each other's promises, including their promises to mow a lawn, even if nobody ever starts his mower when this is a necessary enabler for keeping a promise. This might happen, for example, if it is common practice to keep mowers running for long periods, so those to whom promises are made assume that it is not necessary to start one's mower in order to mow the lawn. This shows that there is no contradiction of this kind in a universal will not to start my mower when this is a necessary enabler for keeping a promise. Thus, this interpretation of Kant also fails to explain why there is a moral reason to start the mower. Some defenders of Kant will insist that both of these interpretations [this] fail[s] to recognize that, for Kant, certain ends are required by reason, so rational people cannot universally will anything that conflicts with these ends. One problem here is to specify which and why particular ends have this special status It is also not clear how these rational ends would conflict with universally not starting mowers. Thus, Kant can do no better than other deontologists at explaining why there is a moral reason to start my mower or why moral substitutability holds.
However, necessary enabler consequentialism, also known as NEC, explains moral substitutability. Sinott-Armstrong concludes
All of this leads to necessary enabler consequentialism or NEC. NEC claims that all moral reasons for acts are provided by facts that the acts are necessary enablers for preventing harm or promoting good. All moral reasons on this theory are consequential reasons, but there are two kinds. Some moral reasons are prevention reasons, because they are facts that an act is a necessary enabler for preventing harm or loss. For example, if giving Alice food is necessary and enables me to prevent her from starving, then that fact is a moral reason to give her food. In this case, I would not cause her death even if I let her starve, but other moral prevention reasons are reasons to avoid causing harm. For example, if turning my car to the left is necessary and enables me to avoid killing Bobby, that is a moral reason to turn my car to the left. The other kind of moral reason is a promotion reason. This kind of reason occurs when doing something is necessary and enables me to promote (or maximize) some good. For example, I have a moral reason to throw a surprise party for Susan if this is necessary and enables me to make her happy. Because of substitutability, these moral reasons for actions also yield moral reasons against contrary actions. There are then also moral reasons not to do what will cause harm or ensure a failure to prevent harm or to promote good. What makes these facts moral reasons is that they can make an otherwise immoral act moral. If I have a moral reason to feed my child, then it might be immoral to give my only food to Alice, who is a stranger. But this would not be immoral if giving Alice food is necessary and enables me to prevent Alice from starving, as long as my child will not starve also. Similarly, it is normally immoral to lie to Susan, but a lie can be moral if it is necessary and enables me to keep my party for Susan a surprise, and if this is also necessary and enables me to make her happy. Thus, NEC fits nicely into the above theory of moral reasons. NEC can provide[s] a[n] natural explanation of moral substitutability for both kinds of moral reasons. I have a prevention moral reason to give someone food when doing so is necessary and enables me to prevent[s them] that person from starving. Suppose that buying food is a necessary enabler for giving the person food, and getting in my car is a[lso] necessary enabler for buying food. Moral substitutability warrants the conclusion that I have a moral reason to get in my car. And this act of getting in my car does have the property of being a necessary enabler for preventing starvation. Thus, the necessary enabler has the same property that provided the moral reason to give the food in the first place. This explains why substitutability holds for moral prevention reasons. The other kind of moral reason covers necessary enablers for promoting good. In my example above, if a surprise party is a necessary enabler for making Susan happy, and letting people know about the party is a necessary enabler for having the party, then letting people know is a necessary enabler for making Susan happy. The very fact that provides a moral reason to have the party also provides a moral reason to let people know about it. Thus, NEC can explain why moral substitutability holds for every kind of moral reason that it includes. Similar explanations work for moral reasons not to do certain acts, and this explanatory power is a reason to favor NEC.17
Thus the standard is consistency with necessary enabler consequentialism.
This means that action are moral if they are enablers for promoting happiness or minimizing harm.
Further prefer the standard since state policies require a tradeoff between resources, policy makers need to explain the reason for policies to the public and the only way to do this in a just way is to use util. Woller
Gary Woller [BYU Prof., “An Overview by Gary Woller”, A Forum on the Role of Environmental Ethics, June 1997, pg. 10
Moreover, virtually all public policies entail some redistribution of economic or political resources, such that one group's gains must come at another group's ex- pense. Consequently, public [so] policies in a democracy must be justified to the public, and especially to those who pay the costs of those policies. Such [but] justification cannot simply be assumed a priori by invoking some higher-order moral principle. Appeals to a priori moral principles, such as environmental preservation, also often fail to acknowledge that public policies inevitably entail trade-offs among competing values. Thus since policymakers cannot justify inherent value conflicts to the public in any philosophical sense, and since public policies inherently imply winners and losers, the policymakers' duty [is] to the public interest requires them to demonstrate [show] that the redistributive effects and value trade-offs implied by their polices are somehow to the overall advantage of [benefit] society. At the same time, deontologically based ethical systems have severe practical limitations as a basis for public policy. At best, a priori moral principles provide only general guidance to ethical dilemmas in public affairs and do not themselves suggest appropriate public policies, and at worst, they create a regimen of regulatory unreasonableness while failing to adequately address the problem or actually making it worse.
[This framework originally and generously contributed by Westlake DB.]