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Mike L

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In a simple definition, what is the difference between consequential and categorical moral reasoning?

During this TED talk, I have difficulty with differentiate between consequential moral reasoning and categorical moral reasoning. From what I know from watching this TED talk, one of them had something to do with morals associating with action and the other had something to do with morals associating with consequence, or something like that. I would like someone to give an answer that helps clarify these 2 different ideas.

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    Mar 5 2011: You've got the right idea.

    Consequential - an action is moral if the consequences of it are good.

    Categorical - an action is always good or bad, regardless of consequences.

    The definitions of "good" and "bad" are separate ones though. Typically, "good" is defined as a variation of "what is best for the most people" (numerically) or it can be more like "what maximizes happiness" (quality wise; even if at the price of less people). The majority of the talk actually discusses the definitions of "good" and "bad", "right" and "wrong". The two moral reasonings are just a "framework" for "right" and "wrong" to be put into context.
  • Mar 18 2011: It can help to put it into context.

    Let's assume that it's immoral to lie. If you were to hide innocent refugees in your basement and their pursuers knocked on your door, would it be moral for you to lie?

    The categorical moral reasoning may lead somebody to say 'no'. The action of lying is immoral, so it's impermissible. In other words, there is an intrinsic value of remaining honest.
    Consequential moral reasoning may lead somebody to say 'yes'. By lying, you are saving lies, so it's permissible.

    Of course, these two moral reasonings are more like methods, and either could lead to an array of conclusions.