Consequentialism is the ethical theory that people should choose their actions based on the outcomes they expect will result. Particular frameworks of consequentialism specify how outcomes should be judged. For example, utilitarianism holds that the best outcome is that which maximizes the total welfare of all people, and ethical egoism holds that the best outcome is that which maximizes their own personal interests. Consequentialism is one of three main strands of ethical thought, along with deontology, which holds that people should choose actions based on the merit of the act itself, and virtue ethics, which holds that people should be judged by how virtuous they are, as an assessment of their entire history of actions.

Related: Ethics & Morality, Deontology, Moral Uncertainty, Utilitarianism

Consequentialism is often associated with maximizing the expected value of a utility function. However, it has been argued that consequentialism is not the same thing as having a utility function because it is possible to evaluate actions based on their consequences without obeying the von Neuman-Morgenstern axioms necessary for having a utility function, and because utility functions can also be used to implement moral theories similar to deontology....

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