The primary difference

The primary difference between consequentialist and non-consequentialist approaches is that in the former, consequences are thought to be the focus of analysis when deciding what action should or shouldn’t be done. Non-consequentialists, on the other hand, tend to place greater weight on outcomes and impacts over consequences (Lee-Stronach, 2021). Consequentialists believe that people should act according to maximizes utility and non-consequentialist believe that people should act according to what is right. It is important to understand the difference between these two approaches as they have different consequences. It would be wrong for someone from a consequentialist perspective to say that it does not matter if an individual does something wrong, whereas for some individuals from a non-consequentialist perspective, it could be life changing if they do something unethical or immoral (Savulescu & Wilkinson, 2019).

The theory of utilitarianism is associated with consequentialism approach. The approach is based on the assumption that the good of all ought to be the paramount consideration in moral decision-making. Utilitarianism assumes that a morally right action is one with probabilistically more utility or less disutility. Frequently utilitarianism is used synonymously with “the greatest happiness principle.” To apply this theory in a moral situation, we need to compare utility and disutility. A utilitarian will suppose that an action results in greater good for more people than any other option, and then pursue that course of action.

Deontology is a major theory associated with non-consequentialism approach. Deontological theories emphasize duty, obligation and moral rights and wrongs. The term deontology derives from the Greek word meaning duty. This term is essentially used to refer to the philosophical study of good, evil, etc., duties. It is associated with a categorical imperative or absolute value approach which means that all choices are viewed as either right or wrong, good or bad regardless of situation. Deontology is essentially an ethical theory because it focuses on individual action in relation to moral values as well as social norms.


Lee-Stronach, C. (2021). Morality, Uncertainty. The Philosophical Quarterly, 71(2), 334-358.

Savulescu, J., & Wilkinson, D. (2019). Consequentialism and the Law in Medicine. Philosophical Foundations of Medical Law.