Act consequentialism and the no-difference challenge

Holly Lawford-Smith, William Tuckwell

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


According to act-consequentialism, only actions that make a difference to an outcome can be morally bad. Yet, there are classes of actions that don’t make a difference, but nevertheless seem to be morally bad. Explaining how such non-difference making actions are morally bad presents a challenge for act-consequentialism: the no-difference challenge. In this chapter we go into detail on what the no-difference challenge is, focusing in particular on act consequentialism. We talk about how different theories of causation affect the no-difference challenge; how the challenge shows up in real-world cases, including voting, global labor injustice, global poverty, and climate change; and we work through a number of the solutions to the challenge that have been offered, arguing that many fail to actually meet it. We defend and extend one solution that does, and we present a further solution of our own.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism
EditorsDouglas W. Portmore
Place of PublicationNew York, United States of America
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic) 9780190905354
ISBN (Print) 9780190905323
Publication statusPublished - 08 Oct 2020


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