后果主义的道德体系通常被分为行为结果主义和规则结果主义。前者，行为 – 结果主义，认为任何行动的道德取决于其后果。因此，最道德的行为是导致最佳后果的行为。后者，规则 – 后果主义，认为只关注有关行动的后果可能导致人们在预见到良好后果时采取令人发指的行动。因此，规则结果主义者添加了以下条款：假设某个行为成为一般规则 – 如果这样的规则的后续行为会导致不良后果，那么即使它会导致这一行为产生良好后果也应该避免。实例。这与康德的绝对命令 – 道义论道德原则 – 具有非常明显的相似之处。规则 – 结果主义可能导致一个人采取行动，单独采取行动可能导致不良后果。然而，有人认为，总体情况是，当人们遵循从结果主义考虑因素得出的规则时，将会有更多的好坏。例如，对安乐死的一个反对意见是，允许道德规则“不杀人”这样的例外会导致规则的削弱，这通常会产生积极的后果 – 即使在这种情况下遵循规则会导致负面后果。对目的论道德体系的一个常见批评是道德义务来源于缺乏任何道德成分的一系列环境。例如，当一个目的论系统宣称选择是道德的，如果它们提高了人类的幸福感，那么“人类的幸福”本身并不是道德本身。它被认为是好的，但就是这样。然而，一种增强幸福感的选择被认为是道德的。一个人如何导致另一个人怎么样？批评者还经常指出实际上不可能确定任何行动将产生的全部后果，从而试图根据同样不可能的后果来评估行动的道德。此外，对于如何或甚至可以以某种道德计算所必需的方式真正量化不同后果存在很多分歧。究竟有多少“好”需要超过一些“邪恶”，为什么？另一个常见的批评是，结果主义的道德体系只是简单的复杂方式来说明结果为手段辩护 – 因此，如果有可能认为会产生足够的好处，那么任何离谱和可怕的行为都是合理的。例如，一个结果主义的道德体系可以为无辜儿童的酷刑和谋杀辩护，如果它能够治愈所有形式的癌症。我们是否应该真正致力于对我们行为的所有后果承担责任的问题是批评者提出的另一个问题。毕竟，如果我的行为的道德取决于其所有后果，那么我就要对它们负责 – 但这些后果将以我无法预料或理解的方式进行。
Consequentialist moral systems are usually differentiated into act-consequentialism and rule-consequentialism. The former, act-consequentialism, argues that the morality of any action is dependent upon its consequences. Thus, the most moral action is the one which leads to the best consequences. The latter, rule-consequentialism, argues that focusing only on the consequences of the action in question can lead people to committing outrageous actions when they foresee good consequences. Thus, rule-consequentialists add the following provision: imagine that an action were to become a general rule – if the following of such a rule would result in bad consequences, then it should be avoided even if it would lead to good consequences in this one instance. This has very obvious similarities to Kant’s categorical imperative, a deontological moral principle. Rule-consequentialism can lead to a person performing actions which, taken alone, may lead to bad consequences. It is argued, however, that the overall situation is that there will be more good than bad when people follow the rules derived from consequentialist considerations. For example, one of the objections to euthanasia is that allowing such an exception to the moral rule “do not kill” would lead to a weakening of a rule which has generally positive consequences – even though in such instances following the rule leads to negative consequences. One common criticism of teleological moral systems is the fact that a moral duty is derived from a set of circumstances lacking any moral component. For example, when a teleological system declares that choices are moral if they enhance human happiness, it isn’t argued that “human happiness” is intrinsically moral itself. It is assumed to be good, but that’s it. Nevertheless, a choice which enhances that happiness is deemed moral. How does it happen that one can lead to the other? Critics also often point out the impossibility of actually determining the full range of consequences any action will have, thus rendering attempts to evaluate the morality of an action based upon those consequences similarly impossible. In addition, there is much disagreement over how or even if different consequences can really be quantified in the way necessary for some moral calculations to be made. Just how much “good” is necessary to outweigh some “evil,” and why? Another common criticism is that consequentialist moral systems are simply complicated ways of saying that the ends justify the means – thus, if it is possible to argue that enough good will result, then any outrageous and horrible actions would be justified. For example, a consequentialist moral system might justify the torture and murder of an innocent child if it would lead to a cure for all forms of cancer. The question of whether or not we should really be committed to taking responsibility for all of the consequences of our actions is another issue which critics bring up. After all, if the morality of my action is dependent upon all of its consequences, then I am taking responsibility for them – but those consequences will reach far and wide in ways I cannot possibly anticipate or comprehend.