Climate change and the problem of inconsequentialism.

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Joseph Montgomery

Abstract

The problem of inconsequentialism is that it is unclear why an individual should mitigate, given that there is no evidence an individual's small GHG emissions have any bad consequences. My negative thesis is that the main attempts to solve the problem of inconsequentialism are unconvincing. My main positive thesis is to defend what can be called a 'mitigating response', or, an 'ameliorative response' to the problem of inconsequentialism. This ameliorative response attempts to reduce the potency of the problem -- it attempts to make the overall impact of the problem of inconsequentialism less undesirable that it was initially. This modest, ameliorative, response to the problem of inconsequentialism becomes desirable in light of the failure of the main attempts to solve the problem of inconsequentialism. Demonstrating the failure of the attempted solutions is the first task of this dissertation, accomplished in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. The attempted solutions aim to provide a convincing argument for it being the case that an individual ought to mitigate. In Chapter 2, I consider the act-consequentialist arguments. These arguments claim that one ought to mitigate GHG emissions because an act associated with small GHG emissions has a significantly high expectation of bad consequences. In Chapter 3, I defeat the main participation-based arguments. These arguments claim that one ought to mitigate in part because it is part of a set of acts that overwhelmingly prevents bad consequences of climate change. In Chapter 4, I defeat the main non-consequentialist arguments. The non-consequentialist arguments are ones that appeal to considerations not solely related to consequences, and the ones I consider appeal to virtue, Kantian-considerations, integrity and consistency. In Chapter 5, I spend considerable space developing the coherence-based argument: which I call the Garvey-Hourdequin-style coherence argument. However, I also defeat this argument. The main attempted solutions to the problem of inconsequentialism thus all fail. This is why we should consider an ameliorative response -- an attempt to make the overall impact of the problem of inconsequentialism less undesirable that it was initially. In Chapter 6, I argue that one can still justify something close to a widely held conviction about mitigating. The argument here utilises what I call 'my participation-belief thesis', which is the claim that many people (philosophical laypeople) are ethically prohibited from having a seemingly inharmonious pattern of beliefs: namely the pattern of beliefs where they lack a belief about there being a reason to mitigate, at the same time as continuing to hold beliefs about there being reasons to participate in seemingly inconsequential ways. Moreover, in Chapter 6, I argue that one can still provide intellectual tools to motivate philosophical laypeople to mitigate. The argument for this utilises the salvageable truth contained in the ultimately unconvincing coherence-based argument of Chapter 5.

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date31 Dec 2019