State consequentialism, also known as Mohist consequentialism, is a consequentialist ethical theory which evaluates the moral worth of an action based on how it contributes to the basic goods of a state, through social order, material wealth, and population growth. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Mohist consequentialism, dating back to the 5th century BC, is the "world's earliest form of consequentialism, a remarkably sophisticated version based on a plurality of intrinsic goods taken as constitutive of human welfare". The term state consequentialism has also been applied to the political philosophy of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi.
Although the scholars cited above have suggested that Mohist consequentialism is a type of state consequentialism, a 2016 study of Mohism argues that this interpretation is mistaken, since the Mohists hold that right and wrong are determined by what benefits all the people of the world, not by what benefits the state. The Mohists' concern is to benefit all people, considered as an aggregate or a community, not to benefit a particular political entity, such as the state.
It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world and to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone.— Mozi, Mozi (5th century BC) Part I
Unlike utilitarianism, which views pleasure as a moral good, "the basic goods in Mohist consequentialist thinking are... order, material wealth, and increase in population". During Mozi's era, war and famines were common, and population growth was seen as a moral necessity for a harmonious society. The "material wealth" of Mohist consequentialism refers to basic needs like shelter and clothing, and the "order" of Mohist consequentialism refers to Mozi's stance against warfare and violence, which he viewed as pointless and a threat to social stability.
Stanford Sinologist David Shepherd Nivison, in The Cambridge History of Ancient China, writes that the moral goods of Mohism "are interrelated: more basic wealth, then more reproduction; more people, then more production and wealth... if people have plenty, they would be good, filial, kind, and so on unproblematically". The Mohists believed that morality is based on "promoting the benefit of all under heaven and eliminating harm to all under heaven". In contrast to Bentham's views, state consequentialism is not utilitarian because it is not hedonistic or individualistic. The importance of outcomes that are good for the community outweigh the importance of individual pleasure and pain.
- Ivanhoe, P.J.; Van Norden, Bryan William (2005). Readings in classical Chinese philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-87220-780-6.
"he advocated a form of state consequentialism, which sought to maximize three basic goods: the wealth, order, and population of the state
- Fraser, Chris, "Mohism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Edward N. Zalta.
- Deen K. Chatterjee (6 October 2011). Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer. p. 1170. ISBN 978-1-4020-9159-9.
in this sense, one can interpret Xunzi's political philosophy as a form of state utilitarianism or state consequentialism
- Fraser, Chris (2016). The Philosophy of the Mozi: The First Consequentialists. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 17, 249.
- Di Mo; Xunzi; Di Mo Xunzi Fei Han; Professor Burton Watson (1967). Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu. Columbia University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-231-02515-7.
- Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L. (2011). The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge University Press. p. 761. ISBN 978-0-521-47030-8.
- Van Norden, Bryan W. (2011). Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-60384-468-0.
- Jay L. Garfield; William Edelglass (9 June 2011). The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-19-532899-8.
The goods that serve as criteria of morality are collective or public, in contrast, for instance, to individual happiness or well-being