Does Friendship Present a Problem for Consequentialism?
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The problem I address in this paper concerns the compatibility between friendship and consequentialism. My goal is to prove that consequentialism is not compatible with end friendship because it cannot solve the alienation problem, not even in the framework of sophisticated consequentialism, which is supposed to be the best candidate to accommodate friendship. My plan can be divided into the following stages: first I conceptualize some of the most significant terms in the context, with particular attention to the distinctions between direct and indirect consequentialism and between value monism and value pluralism. Second, in response to the question raised in the title, I explain how different approaches to consequentialism try to accommodate friendship and investigate if they work. As direct consequentialism tends to be self-defeating, my focus is placed on indirect consequentialism. Philosophers including Peter Railton (1984) and Elinor Mason (1998) defend an indirect act-consequentialism called sophisticated consequentialism, and claims that it can accommodate friendship in this framework, while I borrow and develop Badhwar’s (1987; 1991; 1993), Cocking and Oakley’s (1995) objections to explain my view. During the process, I present how the sophisticated consequentialism fits in or fails to accommodate different versions of friendship. In the end, I give my own argument on the basis of the definition of end friendship. I conclude that there are two main problems for sophisticated consequentialism. On the one hand, the disposition theory revised by Mason cannot ease the tension between consequentialism and friendship because the feeling of alienation still exists even when people only drop the dispositions but maintain the relationships. On the other hand, the two aspects in the structure of sophisticated consequentialism will clash with each other and dissolve friendship.