Shelly Kagan on Considering the Full Result
Now it was probably obvious all along that talk of "good outcomes" or "good results" was meant to include all of the results and all of the consequences. But for all that, it must be noted that these terms are indeed being used here in a somewhat nonstandard fashion. For normally when we talk of the "results" or "outcomes" or "consequences" of an act, we mean to be restricting our attention to those events taking place after the act that are caused by the act. It is only if the act literally produces some later event that we call that event one of the act's results or consequences. For example, if the later event would have happened anyway, we don't normally consider it part of the consequences of the act. But for our purposes in normative ethics, we need to give these terms a "wider," more inclusive sense than is normal. In thinking about the goodness of outcomes, what matters is not the goodness of what I literally produce myself, but rather the goodness of everything that ultimately happens, the goodness of the "upshot."