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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

Explain the main differences between Act and Rule UtilitarianismUtilitarianism is a theory, which first became widely acknowledge when it was adopted by its greatest advocate Jeremy Bentham. It is a theory that maintains that it is an action's total consequence that determines its moral correctness. It is a theory not concerned with the effects of the action on the individual carrying out the action, but instead the effect it has on everybody affected by the action. It also maintains that it is happiness that is key to life's conquest, and hence happiness that is the determination of right or wrong. Very simply if an actions consequence cause happiness, then the action is right, if it causes pain, or destroys happiness then the action is wrong. The main philosophy of the theory of Utilitarianism is to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number.Jeremy Bentham, and his disciple 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, "the greatest good for the greatest number." Bentham called this principle the principle of utility. With "utility" here referring to the tendency of an action to produce happiness, not its usefulness. It is the aim of Act Utilitarianism to fulfil to the greatest extent the principle of utility.Act Utilitarianism focuses solely on the consequences of the action. The motives and the reasons why actions are carried out are trivial in determining the moral rightness of the action; yet is the value of the consequences of the particular act that counts when determining whether the act is right. So if I killed somebody, and my intent was cold-blooded murder, if by coincidence the person I killed was carrying a devastating disease and by me killing him I prevented the spread of this disease to thousands, and hence prevented the pain of thousands, my act of cold blooded murder, according to Act Utilitarianism was a morally right action to carry out.This is not to say however that Act Utilitarianism condones cold-blooded murder as morally right, as it categorises nothing as right or wrong. Instead it needs to be applied to each individual action to determine the moral rightness of that action. It creates no blanket or absolute rules. Just because murder was correct in the above case, does not mean it will be correct in all other cases.It is not only however happiness of an action that must be considered but also the potential unhappiness. The principle of utility attempts to achieve the greatest balance between happiness and unhappiness. If one action produces greater happiness, but also greater unhappiness, and if a second action...

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