This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Act Versus Rule Utilitarianism Essay

1242 words - 5 pages

In the textbook, Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy, utilitarianism is defined as “The ethical doctrine that an action is right if, and only if, it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” (Miller and Jensen 376). There are two distinguishable positions within utilitarianism: rule-utilitarianism and act-utilitarianism. Rule-utilitarianism seeks to find which rule should be applied to a situation to bring about the greatest happiness to the most people, whereas act-utilitarianism seeks to find which action should be applied to bring about the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. In this paper I will argue that rule-utilitarianism is ...view middle of the document...

J.J.C. Smart describes rule-utilitarianism as “a more modest utilitarianism” (Smart 344). Smart renames rule-utilitarianism as restricted utilitarianism. Smart said, “In general the right-ness of an action is not to be tested by evaluating its consequences but only by considering whether or not it falls under a certain rule.” He is basically saying that every action should be dealt with by its corresponding rule. For example, if someone is faced with a situation in which they must lie, but they adhere to the rule of not lying then they should not lie. Every action should be decided upon based on the rule it coincides with. Restricted utilitarianism is most closely aligned with the viewpoint of John Stuart Mill, “the most famous utilitarian of all” (Miller and Jensen 379). Mill argued that the best course of action to take when making a moral decision is the one that results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Rules and laws are often put in place for the greater good, meaning, rules are established to bring the greatest happiness to the most people.
I will now begin to outline why rule-utilitarianism is more plausible and practical than act-utilitarianism. An important part of understanding both rule and act-utilitarianism is the principle of utility. The principle of utility is employed by utilitarians “to mean that which promoted the greatest balance of good over evil” (Miller and Jensen 375). With act-utilitarianism, the principle of utility relates to every possible action in situation when a choice must be made. The principle of utility weighs the utility of the act by its results. The better the results, meaning the most amount of happiness and the least amount of pain, the better the action. There are some problems with this viewpoint because it can make immoral actions justifiable. For example, if torturing someone would bring about the best results for the most amount of people, does that make torture an acceptable action? According to act-utilitarianism it does. With rule-utilitarianism, the principle of utility weighs the usefulness of a rule based on the outcome. This means that the rules with the best results are the most useful. Rule-utilitarianism is a much more consistent way of dealing with things. There are rules that people adhere to, and if the rule needs to be evaluated, then there is always an exception to the rule. Act-utilitarianism takes into account unique individuals and situations, but it is not consistent. Instead of a compiled list of rules and consequences, act-utilitarianism shows that right actions differ from situation to situation. A common criticism of rule-utilitarianism is how it can make exceptions to rules. By allowing exceptions, rule-utilitarianism could easily turn into act-utilitarianism...

Find Another Essay On Act Versus Rule Utilitarianism

Setting Up A Moral System Essay

578 words - 2 pages aperfect society the people would worry about everyone first. If people would think aboutit, then they figure it out that they are included in everyone. Therefore, in this area Iwould solve the problem by choosing the theory of other-interestedness.Next, there is the issue of the act utilitarianism versus the rule utilitarianism. Theact approach to utilitarianism is that a person should perform acts that will bring aboutthe greatest good for the

Society Must be Governed by Rules

1719 words - 7 pages believe that a specific variation of Utilitarianism -- Rule Utilitarianism -- can adequately address these problems, and it is therefore the most plausible ethical theory. Rule Utilitarianism is derived from the basic Utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. However, where Act Utilitarianism addresses each individual action or situation in reference to this principle, Rule Utilitarianism states that we must use the

A philosphical essay on Utilitarianism

660 words - 3 pages Utilitarianism is a way of looking at ethics, it focuses on trying to ensure the maximum happiness in many different ways. There are many different forms of utilitarianism, the four I will discuss are act, rule, naive and preference utilitarianism.Rule utilitarianism tries to give the greatest overall benefit to society, the best rule/law of conduct is found and everyone is found an a rule utilitarian will follow it. However, this can cause

Rules in Utilitarianism Reconsidered

1670 words - 7 pages Question 3: Is utilitarianism able to account for the importance of justice and honesty? Be sure to discuss both rule and act utilitarianism. Do either of these accounts work? Explain your answer. Justice and Honesty: Rules in Utilitarianism Reconsidered Utilitarianism, with the Principle of Utility or Greatest Happiness Principle being its core, is a consequentialist theory which attaches the greatest importance to the consequences of each


760 words - 3 pages or act utilitarianism that can be seen as an advantage over rule utilitarianism is that each individual situation can have a different action be right. This means that in every situation the right action will provide more happiness or less pain as opposed to rule utilitarianism where the individual situations do not matter. Act utilitarianism also has some disadvantages. One major fault of act utilitarianism is that some actions would

Utilitarianism: Greatest Happiness Principle

2263 words - 9 pages , which are act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. (Mark Timmons, 2006) Each of them has a different guideline to follow. Act utilitarianism pays more attention to the consequences of a single action. Nevertheless, rule utilitarianism looks in the long-term aftermath from the result of following a rule of conduct under certain circumstances whenever it happens. (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002) When dealing with a

Personal Ethical System

1818 words - 8 pages solutions for the greater good of all parties concerned (Micu, 2012; Nejati & Parnia, 2012; Gerow, Ayyagari, Thatcher, & Roth, 2013). Utilitarianism is divided into two parts, which are rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism (Paul & Elder, 2006). I find my personal code of ethics have a piece of both types of utilitarian. Under act utilitarianism, I find myself trying to bring a solution that is beneficial to all parties. Conversely, under rule

Describe The Main Strengths And Weaknesses Of Utilitarianism

1040 words - 5 pages Utilitarianism was Originally formulated by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century, and fully developed by John Stewart Mill in the 19th. It Asserts that we should always act so as to produce the greatest ratio of good to evil for everyone concerned with our decision and As with all moral theories, has many strengths and weaknesses.The prominant criticism of Utilitarianism is that it is extremely hard to predict the results of an action. The

What is Kanatianism Theory?

1897 words - 8 pages Utilitarianism, Act Utilitarianism is an ethical theory in contrast to both Rule Utilitarianism and Kantianism as Act Utilitarianism is based on producing the most happiness versus unhappiness through the principle of utility (Page 75…). For example, Act Utilitarianism comes into play whenever an individual is faced with a choice, he or she must first consider the likely consequences of their potential actions. More importantly, is to choose a belief that


1521 words - 7 pages In this paper, I will be defining act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism, use both standpoints from a rule utilitarian and an act utilitarian to decipher their responses to abortion, and investigate both claims to come to a conclusion if or if not utilitarianism is adequate enough argument to address abortion. First the definition of utilitarianism is, “An act is morally right if and only if it does more to improve overall happiness than


1459 words - 6 pages provides at least six examples to demonstrate the viewpoint; however in regards to restricted utilitarianism, Smart only uses two examples (rule "R", and Mill's nautical almanac).Smart raises a valid criticism when he says that restricted utilitarianism collapses into extreme utilitarianism:"If 'act optimically' is itself one of our rules then there will always be a conflict of rules whenever to keep a rule is not itself optimific. If this is so

Similar Essays

Critisism For Rule And Act Utilitarianism

1379 words - 6 pages consider every consequence before taking any action. There are two classical forms of utilitarianism; rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. “Rule utilitarianism is the idea that an act is right if and only if it is required by a rule that is itself a member of a set of rules whose acceptance would lead to greater utility for society than any available alternative” (Pojman, 127). Take for instance, stopping at a red light. According to rule

Utilitarianism: Founding Fathers, Strengths And Weaknesses Of Act Utilitarianism And Rule Utilitarianism, Other Forms Of Utilitarianism, And Recent Philosophers

1528 words - 6 pages are harmonized with some major flaws. I will discuss the founding fathers of utilitarianism, the strengths and weaknesses of act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism, other forms of utilitarianism, and recent philosophers of this school of thought.This idea of the greatest good for the greatest number was developed by Jeremy Bentham. Although the ides of utilitarianism is often traced back to and credited to Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill

What's The Difference Between Act (Au) And Rule Utilitarianism (Ru)? What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Each?

554 words - 3 pages What's the difference between act (AU) and ruleutilitarianism (RU)? What are the strengths andweaknesses of each?In the past Utilitarianism was judged on each individual action, after many years pastedthen Utilitarianism was judge on the consequences of the truth and a lie. Yourconsequences are judged on thoughts such as a promise you made or the truth you wastold. "The new version of the theory Rule Utilitarianism, which is distinguishing it

Explain The Main Difference Between Act And Rule Utilitarianism (It Can Also Be Used To Explain The Main Difference Between Bentham And Mill)

2697 words - 11 pages John Stuart Mill have become recognised as the two greatest sponsors of Utilitarianism. Bentham is known for his popularisation of the more traditional version of the theory, know as Act Utilitarianism. Although a student of Bentham, Mill could see problems in what he was being taught and so began to develop his own views on Utilitarianism, which are now known as Rule Utilitarianism.Bentham was a great traditionalist believer in the expression