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Explain how moral decisions should be made according to: Act and Rule utilitarianism

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Explain how moral decisions should be made according to: Act and Rule utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a teleological ethical theory, as it is a philosophical system concerned with conse- quences rather than the motives. Also it is concerned that the happiness of the greatest number should be the result. There are two types of utilitarianism: act and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism is developed be Jeremy Bentham and rule utilitarianism is developed by John Stuart Mill. Jeremy Bentham was an English Philosopher who came up with the theory of Utilitarianism. He was a practical man concerned with the social conditions of his day and particularly with the conditions of prisons and hospitals. He wanted to find a moral basis for law that could serve to benefit the whole of society. In 1789 he wrote 'The principles of moral and Legislation' in which he put forward his ethical theory and divided his book into 3 sections: his view on what drove humans and what goodness and badness is all about, Hedonic Calculus and the principle of utility his moral rule. Bentham had believed that human beings are driven by pleasures and pain, 'nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure'. ...read more.


The theory is subjective and relative and so remains flexible and applicable to the greatest number of people. This means one act might produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number but not in others. It allows moral rules to change from situation to situation. It also looks at consequences, and as most people judge the values of an action based on its outcome, this means that most people can access and use the basic principles. Nevertheless, there are many criticisms arising from act utilitarianism as well. The main issue is that act Utilitarianism allows for brutal and socially unacceptable acts to be classed as 'good' through being performed by the majority. This assumes whatever is useful, it is moral, and therefore it doesn't need any proof to suggest the claim. Additionally, Bentham says good is pleasure, however pleasure would be different for everyone. For example, some people may love classical music and on the other hand there are people who hate classical music as well. Another major issue is that it is not practical to measure every moral decision that we make by using the hedonic calculus. Some moral decisions that we make in our everyday life might have to be sudden, so therefore it is difficult to go through every factors of the hedonic calculus in a short amount of time. ...read more.


The welfare of humans are taken into account while using rule utilitarianism. Also it encourages democracy. However there are some criticisms of rule utilitarianism as well. One of them is that it still permits certain actions of the society, such as slavery, which is classed morally unacceptable, because minority interests are not taken into account. Sir William David Ross commented it as 'single factor', as he says that moral theories don't work because life is too complicated. Also it is difficult to predict the consequences as well. Overall, I believe that both act and rule utilitarianism is beneficial while making a moral decision. When making a moral decision, it is important that you can justify why it is right for you and the society, and these theories are a good way analyse you decision. However sometimes it is not practical to use in real life as these theories need time to think through before acting. When making a decision through act utilitarianism the advantage is that you making the decision to make the most number of people the happiest, but your actions don't count. Moreover using rule utilitarianism you choose an action that is a higher pleasure to benefit you, but that doesn't necessarily mean you are satisfied with your choice like listening to classical music. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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The following points would benefit this work: 1.Grammar and spelling need careful attention. Avoid writing in the first person for any academic work unless it clearly requests it. 2. It often helps to use one very clear example throughout the essay, eg. abortion, murder or euthanasia. Using a clear scenario will focus the writer and the reader. 3. Include more commentary from other thinkers, eg. Dennet, Moore, Singer. Dennet gives an example of a Nuclear accident and the greater good.

Marked by teacher Molly Reynolds 07/04/2013

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