Consequentialism overcome in Les Mis

Valjean has decided to turn himself in, but then remembers the families and communities, including Fantine and Cosette, who depend on his goodwill and provision. He concludes this train of thought:

Supposons qu’il y ait une mauvaise action pour moi dans ceci et que ma conscience me la reproche un jour, accepter, pour le bien d’autrui, ces reproches qui ne chargent que moi, cette mauvaise action qui ne compromet que mon âme, c’est là qu’est le dévouement, c’est là qu’est la vertu.

This is the classic form of the dilemma: If X is wrong, may I nonetheless proceed to do it, provided that the good which follows it exceeds the evil? (A funny aside: Valjean summarizes the consequentialist position with, “Laissons faire!” This is, of course, the classic maxim of free-marketeers.)




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