Consequentialism is often criticized for rendering morality too pervasive. One somewhat neglected manifestation of this pervasiveness is the obligatory self-benefit objection. According to this objection, act-consequentialism has the counterintuitive result that certain self-benefitting actions (e.g., investing one’s money for maximal expected return) turn out, ceteris paribus, to be morally obligatory rather than morally optional. The purposes of this paper are twofold. First, I consider and reject four strategies with which consequentialists might answer the obligatory self-benefit objection. Despite the apparent consequentialist credentials of these answers, none of these strategies is adequate because each fails to justify agents failing to benefit themselves when benefiting themselves would be otherwise required by the imperative that overall good meet a certain threshold. Second, I argue that no plausible consequentialist response to this objection is forthcoming because consequentialism denies the central axiological fact propelling this objection, namely, that the self possesses a normative architecture relating the self as agent and self as patient. This architecture, I propose, justifies the option not to benefit oneself.
Kant's claim that the rational will has absolute value or dignity appears to render any prudential suicide morally impermissible. Although the previous appeals of Kantians (e. g., David Velleman) to the notion that pain or mental anguish can compromise dignity and justify prudential suicide are unsuccessful, these appeals suggest three constraints that an adequate Kantian defense of prudential suicide must meet. Here I off er an account that meets these constraints. Central to this account is the contention that some suicidal agents, because they are unable to fashion a rational conception of their own happiness, are diminished with respect to their dignity of humanity, and as a result, lack the pricelessness that makes prudential suicide wrong on a Kantian view.