Among the things that can be evaluated are actions, laws, policies, character traits, and moral codes. There are two reasons that show why it is false. “The Interpretation of the Moral Philosophy of J. S. Mill,” in. Act and rule utilitarianism - Essay Example. In the language of utilitarians, we should choose the option that “maximizes utility,” i.e. Although act utilitarians criticize traditional moral rules for being too rigid, critics charge that utilitarians ignore the fact that this alleged rigidity is the basis for trust between people. Jeremy Bentham answered this question by adopting the view called hedonism. Five people die. Traditional moral codes often consist of sets of rules regarding types of actions. For instance, the child takes one for the team to benefit everyone else’s happiness. However, giving a dry biscuit to a man who is dying of thirst will increase his pain. (See Parental Rights and Obligations.) One objection to rule-utilitarianism is that in some situations the utility of breaking a certain rule could be greater than keeping it. Overall then, rule utilitarian can allow departures from rules and will leave many choices up to individuals. (Other terms that have been used to make this contrast are “direct” and “extreme” for act utilitarianism, and “indirect” and “restricted” for rule utilitarianism.) Although some people doubt that we can measure amounts of well-being, we in fact do this all the time. The stop sign is like the rule utilitarian approach. Because Bentham and other utilitarians were interested in political groups and public policies, they often focused on discovering which actions and policies would maximize the well-being of the relevant group. Harsanyi, a Nobel Prize economist, defends rule utilitarianism, connecting it to a preference theory of value and a theory of rational action. Stephen Nathanson. Â Rule utilitarians argue that following some rules leads to the greatest good will, and this will have have better consequences overall. How could this be something that a utilitarian would support? The reason why a more rigid rule-based system leads to greater overall utility is that people are notoriously bad at judging what is the best thing to do when they are driving a car. They claim that rule utilitarianism allows for partiality toward ourselves and others with whom we share personal relationships. Nonetheless, these discretionary actions are permitted because having a rule in these cases does not maximize utility or because the best rule may impose some constraints on how people act while still permitting a lot of discretion in deciding what to do. Jeremy Bentham provided a model for this type of decision making in his description of a “hedonic calculus,” which was meant to show what factors should be used to determine amounts of pleasure and happiness, pain and suffering. The second context concerns the content of the rules and how they are applied in actual cases. Let us first examine Act utilitarianism. It can be used both for moral reasoning and for any type of rational decision-making. The rule utilitarian approach to morality can be illustrated by considering the rules of the road. David Lyons. Classical utilitarians, including Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick, define happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. Why? Other thinkers see desires or preferences as the basis of value; whatever a person desires is valuable to that person. If we know that our system of criminal justice punishes some people unjustly and in ways they don’t deserve, we are faced with a dilemma. Definition of Act Utilitarianism: One ought to do that action that maximizes happiness in a particular situation for the people affected by the action.. Although more good may be done by killing the healthy patient in an individual case, it is unlikely that more overall good will be done by having a rule that allows this practice. First, it fails to recognize the moral legitimacy of giving special preferences to ourselves and people that we know and care about. Whatever they do must be constrained by rules that limit their power. This contains fourteen articles, including essays defending utilitarianism by R. M. Hare and John Harsanyi, As the title suggests, however, most of the articles are critical of utilitarianism. In act-utilitarianism, we are required to promote those acts which will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. According to rule utilitarians, this can only be justified if a rule that permits punishments (after a fair trial, etc.) How Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism Differ, Why Act Utilitarianism is Better than Traditional, Rule-based Moralities, Why Act Utilitarianism Makes Moral Judgments Objectively True, Partiality and the “Too Demanding” Objection, Possible Responses to Criticisms of Act Utilitarianism, Why Rule Utilitarianism Maximizes Utility, Rule Utilitarianism Avoids the Criticisms of Act Utilitarianism, Impartiality and the Problem of Over-Demandingness, The “Collapses into Act Utilitarianism” Objection, If a judge can prevent riots that will cause many deaths only by convicting an innocent person of a crime and imposing a severe punishment on that person, act utilitarianism implies that the judge should convict and punish the innocent person. In addition, if you enjoy both chocolate and strawberry, you should predict which flavor will bring you more pleasure and choose whichever one will do that. Because act utilitarians are committed to a case by case evaluation method, the adoption of their view would make people’s actions much less predictable. Moore criticizes aspects of Mill’s views but support a non-hedonistic form of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism also differs from ethical theories that make the rightness or wrongness of an act dependent upon the motive of the agent, for, according to the utilitarian, it is possible for the right thing to be done from a bad motive. They do not have the authority to do whatever they think will lead to the best results in particular cases. They see no reason to obey a rule when more well-being can be achieved by violating it. It is, for example, not difficult to imagine that a rule-utilitarian who lives by the rule ‘tell the truth’, sometimes will find him or herself forced to lie in order to increase utility. Although the Biblical sources permit exceptions to these rules (such as killing in self-defense and punishing people for their sins), the form of the commandments is absolute. This judgment, however, would be sound only if act utilitarianism were the only type of utilitarian theory. Having specific rules maximizes utility by limiting drivers’ discretionary judgments and thereby decreasing the ways in which drivers may endanger themselves and others. For example, if you are choosing ice cream for yourself, the utilitarian view is that you should choose the flavor that will give you the most pleasure. As a result, they cannot support the right answers to crucial moral problems. See especially chapter II, in which Mill tries both to clarify and defend utilitarianism. bad in themselves and not because they produce some further bad thing. Ten essays that debate act vs. rule utilitarianism as well as whether a form of utilitarianism is correct. Moreover, even people who accept these concepts as basic still need to determine whether it is always wrong to treat someone unjustly, violate their rights, or treat them in ways that they don’t deserve. As a result, people would be less likely to see other people as reliable and trustworthy. What this shows is that actual consequence and foreseeable consequence utilitarians have different views about the nature of utilitarian theory. Rule utilitarians adopt a two part view that stresses the importance of moral rules. Start studying Strengths and weaknesses of act utilitarianism. Act utilitarians may sometimes support the intentional punishment of innocent people, but rule utilitarians will understand the risks involved and will oppose a practice that allows it. The consequences of the act of giving money to charity would be considered right in act-utilitarianism, because the money increases the happiness of many people, rather than just … It is these effects that determine whether they are right or wrong in specific cases. One reason for adopting foreseeable consequence utilitarianism is that it seems unfair to say that the rescuer acted wrongly because the rescuer could not foresee the future bad effects of saving the drowning person. If, in cases like the ones described above, judges, doctors, and promise-makers are committed to doing whatever maximizes well-being, then no one will be able to trust that judges will act according to the law, that doctors will not use the organs of one patient to benefit others, and that promise-makers will keep their promises. This article gives a good historical account of important figures in the development of utilitarianism. One advantage of act utilitarianism is that it shows how moral questions can have objectively true answers. If a person makes a promise but breaking the promise will allow that person to perform an action that creates just slightly more well-being than keeping the promise will, then act utilitarianism implies that the promise should be broken. Utilitarianism, in normative ethics, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill according to which an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness. Another reply might be that it is better that everybody follows the rule than that nobody should, as the latter situation would certainly not be beneficial to the greater good of all. Critics claim that the argument for using our money to help impoverished strangers rather than benefiting ourselves and people we care about only proves one thing—that act utilitarianism is false. Part of trusting people involves being able to predict what they will and won’t do. that determine whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. In fact, both customary and philosophical moral codes often seem to consist of absolute rules. Stephen Nathanson Level two however is using Act Utilitarianism when a situation requires more thought and more critical reflection. This widely reprinted article, though it does not focus on utilitarianism, uses utilitarian reasoning and has sparked decades of debate about moral demandingness and moral impartiality. Strengths Weaknesses Act Utilitarianism is pragmatic and focuses on the consequences of an action. If our aim is always to produce the best results, it seems plausible to think that in each case of deciding what is the right thing to do, we should consider the available options (i.e. If utilitarianism evaluates the rescuer’s action based on its actual consequences, then the rescuer did the wrong thing. “An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics” in J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams. One person dies. Chapter 6 focuses on utilitarianism and justice. Act utilitarians believe that whenever we are deciding what to do, we should perform the action that will create the greatest net utility. In the case of punishment, for example, while we hope that our system of criminal justice gives people fair trials and conscientiously attempts to separate the innocent from the guilty, we know that the system is not perfect. the disutility) of accidents can be very high. One (the actual consequence view) says that to act rightly is to do whatever produces the best consequences. Act utilitarians say that they recognize that rules can have value. Similar “division of labor” arguments can be used to provide impartial justifications of other partialist rules and practices. The Ethical Question: Should we (i.e., George and I) hack into Danny’s computer, … They see this as a form of “rule worship,” an irrational deference to rules that has no utilitarian justification (J. J. C. Smart). The most common argument against act utilitarianism is that it gives the wrong answers to moral questions. Because the contrast had not been sharply drawn, earlier utilitarians like Bentham and Mill sometimes apply the principle of utility to actions and sometimes apply it to the choice of rules for evaluating actions. If you enjoy chocolate but hate vanilla, you should choose chocolate for the pleasure it will bring and avoid vanilla because it will bring displeasure. Julia Driver, “The History of Utilitarianism,”. In general, whatever is being evaluated, we ought to choose the one that will produce the best overall results. Instead, utilitarians think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human (and perhaps non-human) beings. Utilitarianism appears to be a simple theory because it consists of only one evaluative principle: Do what produces the best consequences. Being committed to impartialist justifications of moral rules does not commit them to rejecting moral rules that allow or require people to give specific others priority. As discussed earlier, critics of act utilitarianism raise three strong objections against it. The following cases are among the commonly cited examples: The general form of each of these arguments is the same. Instead, they accept and use these concepts but interpret them from the perspective of maximizing utility. Accident victims (including drivers) may be killed, injured, or disabled for life. Peter Singer. Act utilitarianism refers to the above definition; it is an action that will have an outcome that benefits the most people or promotes more intrinsic goodness than any other action without regard to laws or rules, it is a person’s own choice. This issue is not merely a hypothetical case. Miller, in Chapter 6, argues that Mill was a rule utilitarian. After a brief overall explanation of utilitarianism, the article explains both act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism, the main differences between them, and some of the key arguments for and against each view. The purpose of this is to provide overall security to people in their jurisdiction, but this requires that criminal justice officials only have the authority to impose arrest and imprisonment on people who are actually believed to be guilty. This prediction, however, is precarious. Act utilitarians acknowledge that it may be useful to have moral rules that are “rules of thumb”—i.e., rules that describe what is generally right or wrong, but they insist that whenever people can do more good by violating a rule rather than obeying it, they should violate the rule. In considering the case, for example, of punishing innocent people, the best that rule utilitarians can do is to say that a rule that permits this would lead to worse results overall than a rule that permitted it. “The Moral Opacity of Utilitarianism” in Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, and Dale Miller, eds. As a utilitarian, you should choose the flavor that will result in the most pleasure for the group as a whole. To illustrate this method, suppose that you are buying ice cream for a party that ten people will attend. According to rule utilitarians, a) a specific action is morally justified if it conforms to a justified moral rule; and b) a moral rule is justified if its inclusion into our moral code would create more utility than other possible rules (or no rule at all). If, however, utilitarians judge the rescuer’s action by its foreseeable consequences (i.e. Utilitarianism seeks to predict the consequences of an action, which is impossible. Most people will support continuing to punish people in spite of the fact that it involves punishing some people unjustly. This would occur if unforeseen bad consequences reveal that the option chosen did not have the best results and thus was the wrong thing to do. In a series of essays, Goodin argues that utilitarianism is the best philosophy for public decision-making even if it fails as an ethic for personal aspects of life. to maximise the benefit of your actions. For a utilitarian, it is natural to say that the correct rule is “do not lie except when lying will generate more good than telling the truth.”, Suppose that a rule utilitarian adopts this approach and advocates a moral code that consists of a list of rules of this form. They argue that rule utilitarianism retains the virtues of a utilitarian moral theory but without the flaws of the act utilitarian version. So the correct rule need not be “never go through a stop sign” but rather can be something like “never go through a stop sign except in cases that have properties a and b.” In addition, there will remain many things about driving or other behavior that can be left to people’s discretion. In addition, although the rules that make up a moral code should be flexible enough to account for the complexities of life, they cannot be so complex that they are too difficult for people to learn and understand. Both theories count as utilitarian because both define that which produces the greatest utility as good and seek for the greatest nett amount of utility, be it either through actions or indirectly through rules. Rule utilitarians generalize from this type of case and claim that our knowledge of human behavior shows that there are many cases in which general rules or practices are more likely to promote good effects than simply telling people to do whatever they think is best in each individual case. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. When individuals are deciding what to do for themselves alone, they consider only their own utility. The rules would say something like “do x except when not doing x maximizes utility” and “do not do x except when doing x maximizes utility.” While this may sound plausible, it is easy to see that this version of rule utilitarianism is in fact identical with act utilitarianism. Because people often drive too fast and are inattentive while driving (because they are, for example, talking, texting, listening to music, or tired), we cannot count on people to make good utilitarian judgments about how to drive safely. An example of act utilitarianism is a pharmaceutical company releasing a drug that has been governmentally approved with known side effects because the drug is able to help more people than are bothered by the minor side effects. A key point in this article concerns the distinction between individual actions and types of actions. Utilitarianism is a collection of theories developed over time. People who seek medical treatment must have a high degree of trust in doctors. This does not mean that rule utilitarians always support rigid rules without exceptions. Singer, a prolific, widely read thinker, mostly applies a utilitarian perspective to controversial moral issues (for example, euthanasia, the treatment of non-human animals, and global poverty) rather than discussing utilitarian moral theory. Act Utilitarianism, on the face of it, condones the actions of the doctor because the math is the same; in all three examples, the outcome is either: 1. If seven like chocolate and three like vanilla and if all of them get the same amount of pleasure from the flavor they like, then you should choose chocolate. Rule utilitarianism stresses the recurrent features of human life and the ways in which similar needs and problems arise over and over again. The right action in any situation is the one that yields more utility (i.e. Based on examples like these, rule utilitarians claim that their view, unlike act utilitarianism, avoids the problems raised about demandingness and partiality. To understand this criticism, it is worth focusing on a distinction between rule utilitarianism and other non-utilitarian theories. We would always have to worry that some better option (one that act utilitarians would favor) might emerge, leading to the breaking of the person’s promise to us. Teachers, for example have special duties to students in their own classes and have no duty to educate all students. They explain that in general, we want people to keep their promises even in some cases in which doing so may lead to less utility than breaking the promise. Both of these perspectives, however, agree that the main determinant of what is right or wrong is the relationship between what we do or what form our moral code takes and what is the impact of our moral perspective on the level of people’s well-being. creates more well-being) than other available actions. How the Equality Act, Employment Act and Health and Safety at Work Act affect Primark Pages: 10 (2852 words) Act and Rule Utilitarianism Pages: 7 (2003 words) Every Child Matters Act and the No Child Left Behind Act Pages: 3 (827 words) Comparing the behaviour and language of Macbeth and Banquo from act 1 scene 3 to act … This is a partialist rule because it not only allows but actually requires parents to devote more time, energy, and other resources to their own children than to others. Because they do not maximize utility, these wrong answers would not be supported by act utilitarians and therefore, do nothing to weaken their theory. The rule “drive safely”, like the act utilitarian principle, is a very general rule that leaves it up to individuals to determine what the best way to drive in each circumstance is. ... For example, a country which respects the human rights to life and liberty is likely to be happier than one which permits the abuse of the weak. In their view, the principle of utility—do whatever will produce the best overall results—should be applied on a case by case basis. Moreover, though this is more controversial, rule utilitarians may support a rule that says that if parents are financially well-off and if their own children’s needs are fully met, these parents may have a moral duty to contribute some resources for children who are deprived of essential resources. Their theory has had a major impact both on philosophical work in moral theory and on approaches to economic, political, and social policy. It is necessary to think about not only the positive outcomes, but also the negative outcomes; and, how an action … The three cases just discussed show why act utilitarianism undermines trust but rule utilitarianism does not. Consider … If we are devising a code for drivers, we can adopt either open-ended rules like “drive safely” or specific rules like “stop at red lights,” “do not travel more than 30 miles per hour in residential areas,” “do not drive when drunk,” etc. According to this criticism, although rule utilitarianism looks different from act utilitarianism, a careful examination shows that it collapses into or, as David Lyons claimed, is extensionally equivalent to act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarians tend to agree with these criticisms of act utilitarianism and try to explain why rule utilitarianism is not open to any of these objections. Rule utilitarianism sounds paradoxical. When we ask whether a rule should be adopted, it is essential to consider the impact of the rule on all people and to weigh the interests of everyone equally. Consider Kant’s claim that lying is always morally wrong, even when lying would save a person’s life. Judith Jarvis Thomson. If the overall aim is to maximize the well-being of all people in all cities, for example, then we are likely to get better results by having individuals who know and understand particular cities focus on them while other people focus on other cities. In the end, utilitarians say, it is justice and rights that give way when rules that approve of violations in some cases yield the greatest amount of utility. The second view says that a person acts rightly by doing the action that has the highest level of “expected utility.” The expected utility is a combination of the good (or bad) effects that one predicts will result from an action and the probability of those effects occurring. This reply agrees that the “wrong answers” are genuinely wrong, but it denies that the “wrong answers” maximize utility. Suggested Reading John Stuart Mill Utilitarianism ch 2 and ch 4. At a minimum, rule utilitarians will support a rule that forbids parents to harm other people’s children in order to advance the interests of their own children. Rule utilitarianism does not have this problem because it is committed to rules, and these rules generate positive “expectation effects” that give us a basis for knowing how other people are likely to behave. Act utilitarians see the stop sign as too rigid because it requires drivers to stop even when nothing bad will be prevented. Unless critics can prove that common sense moral beliefs are correct the criticisms have no force. Movie villains often have some sort of diabolical utilitarian reasoning for what they do. Similarly, if a government is choosing a policy, it should give equal consideration to the well-being of all members of the society. Utilitarians believe that the purpose of morality is to make life better by increasing the amount of good things (such as pleasure and happiness) in the world and decreasing the amount of bad things (such as pain and unhappiness). In act-utilitarianism, we are required to promote those acts which will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Bentham and Mill were both important theorists and social reformers. More specifically, the only effects of actions that are relevant are the good and bad results that they produce. In fact, however, the theory is complex because we cannot understand that single principle unless we know (at least) three things: a) what things are good and bad; b) whose good (i.e. This has led to scholarly debates about whether the classical utilitarians supported act utilitarians or rule utilitarians or some combination of these views. Utilitarian reasoning can be used for many different purposes. Act utilitarianism vs rule utilitarianism. Another way to describe the actual vs. foreseeable consequence dispute is to contrast two thoughts. However, with act utilitarianism, there really is no way of determining if the right choice of actions was carried out. Free essays about Utilitarianism Proficient writing team Best quality of every paper Largest database of flawless essay examples only on PapersOwl.com! The rule-breaking is necessary in order to maintain the greatest utility. 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