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Critisism For Rule And Act Utilitarianism

1379 words - 6 pages

“Utilitarianism is the view that the supreme principle of morality is to act so as to produce as much happiness as possible, each person counting equally” (Mill, 114). By ‘happiness’, this includes anything that is pleasurable and free of pain. Simply put, utilitarianism is the theory that an action is right, as long as it produces the greatest good for the most number of people (Peetush). The central point to this theory is that one must 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, stopping at a red light is an act required by a rule, in this case the law, which would also lead to greater utility for society because it prevents accidents from happening and having to wait in traffic, being late, etc. On the other hand, act utilitarianism assumes “an act is right if and only if it results in as much good as any available alternative” (Pojman, 126). Both rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism have been criticised in several different aspects. It has been said that “the act-utilitarianism rule, to do the act that maximizes utility, is too general for most purposes” (Pojman, 127). Alongside, “an often debated question in ethics is whether rule utilitarianism is a consistent version of utilitarianism” (Pojman, 127). The purpose of this paper will be to demonstrate how the arguments supporting utilitarianism are not as strong as some may think. The reasons to support for utilitarianism are not strong because utilitarianism is not always feasible, only takes into account end goals, conflicts with an individual’s integrity, and is incompatible with justice.
To begin with, the first problem with the theory is the no rest objection as explained by Louise Pojman. A utilitarianism standpoint argues that one must always do whichever act promotes the most utility. The difficulty with this is that in so many cases, there are usually an endless amount of possible acts you could choose from (Pojman, 128). Therefore, the question is which is going to result in the best possible consequence? Someone could spend countless hours or days trying to contemplate which act is the best route and going to result in the best possible consequence. Sooner or later, you will have to actually act at which point, it could even be too late. Seeing the world in a utilitarianism approach is not even possible in some cases. For example, you were on your way to meet up with friends but on your way saw a kid in dire circumstances, due to the theory being all about calculating consequences, you would need to stand there and go over every single one. By the time...

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