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Name: Joseph Adams

PhD: Philosophy

Thesis Title: Consequentialism and Moral Desert


Thesis Description:

My research is centred on two powerful moral intuitions. Act consequentialism holds that, given a set of performable actions, a moral agent ought to perform the action (or one of the actions) that produces the best consequences. The agent, that is, ought to perform an action that produces consequences of optimal moral value, such that no alternative action performable by the agent at the time in question would have produced consequences of greater value. If an action would not produce consequences of optimal value, then it is morally impermissible for the agent to perform that action.

A similarly powerful intuition, though, is that it is morally important that people get what they deserve. It is morally better, all other things being equal, to treat people as they deserve to be treated than to fail to do so.

Despite their individual appeal, these intuitions may appear to be in tension with each other. While act consequentialism portrays ethics as inherently forward-looking, desert is typically considered to be a backward-looking concept: what people deserve, it might seem, is dependent upon what they have done in the past. My aim is to integrate these two moral intuitions, developing an act-consequentialist theory of right action that is sensitive to the non-instrumental moral significance of desert.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr Christopher Woodard - University of Nottingham

                                                     Dr Jussi Suikkanen - University of Birmingham


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Other Research Interests:

  • Epistemology
  • Metaethics
  • Philosophy of Action
  • Philosophy of Logic



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