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Examine The Differences Between Act And Rule Utilitarianism' (21 Marks)

1121 words - 5 pages

Utilitarianism is a theory that some people adhere to the belief that the moral significance of an action is determined by its outcome. They believe that the greatest pleasure of the greatest number of people should be the result of the action that you make which will render it morally right.
Jeremy Bentham was an ionic philosopher who believed 'an act is right or good if it produces pleasure and evil if it leads to pain'. Principle of utility is the measure of the usefulness of the purpose, that any action may have. If we believe that the best or the most moral action we can perform is one that will cause consequences X or Y to come about, then utilizing the principle of ...view middle of the document...

The theory consists of 7 elements: duration, intensity, certainty, propinquity, purity, extent and fecundity. Intensity is the strength of the pain, duration is the length, certainty is to prove how sure the happiness is, propinquity is the remoteness, fecundity is the likeliness, purity is how free from pain it is and extent is the amount of people affected. Putting this into context, if Jim ended up on an unknown island and saw a captain about to shoot a group of Indians, which has caused the captain to want to shoot Jim also. However, the captain gives him an offer by saying if he shoots one of them then he and the rest will be let off or Jim will be shot with the rest of them. According to the hedonic calculus Jim should shoot one Indian because its mean more of them will survive causing more happiness, and minimising pain and suffering.
Another philosopher James Staurt Mill tried to study utilitarianism. He questioned Benthams theory because he believed that happiness is 'too much complex and indefinite' to be the measure of moral action. Mill suggested humans worked through trial and error, this is his theory of rule utilitarianism. This concept is subdivided into 2 categories: strong and weak rule. This claims that certain rules that we agree have instrumental value should always be kept, whilst there will be circumstances in which it would be better to allow for exceptions. For Mill, universality was progressed from the initial idea that individual people desires their own happiness, therefore each persons aim to ought for singular happiness, concluding everyone ought to aim at the happiness of everyone. Within Rule utilitarianism there are two concepts, strong and weak rule. Strong rule is the one of the major contrasts to Act Utilitarianism. Strong utilitarian believe that being honest in most situations must be obeyed because they follow secondary principles no matter what the outcome. Weak rule is the second a more 'liberal' form of utilitarianism. They believe rules must be followed, however in certain situations can be bended. For example, if a mad man is chasing a person and the victims runs to hide into a shop with the mad man following behind. If he asks the shop keeper did he enter the shop, a weak utilitarian would argue he should lie to...

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