Explain the general principles of Utilitarianism, including reference to both Act and Rule.

Extracts from this document...


Camille Brien Explain the general principles of Utilitarianism, including reference to both Act and Rule. (30 marks) There are two types of Utilitarianism, Act and Rule. Jeremy Betham played the key role in the development of the concept of Act Utilitarianism whereas John Stuart Mill took Bethamâs act utilitarianism and developed it further into his own version, becoming known as Rule Utilitarianism. The phrase âThe greatest good of the greatest numberâ was a phrase he coined from Priestleyâs essay on government, and this provided the foundations of Benthamâs act Utilitarianism. Bentham stated that ânature had placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.â Believing that everything we do is motivated as to whether we gain plain or pleasure from that action, that it is our human nature to do so. From this phrase came the concept of hedonism which was all about trying to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. ...read more.


The first factors concern the immediate effect of the action; Intensity of pain/pleasure, Duration of the pain/pleasure, the certainty of the desired effect of the action and the nearness/remoteness (how much the person will be affected by the action). The next factors concern the consequences of the action; fecundity (the likelihood of the act being followed by sensations of the same kind, e.g. pleasure followed by pleasure) and purity, (the likelihood of the act being followed by sensations of the opposite kind, e.g. pleasure followed by pain). The finally the effect of the action on other people must be considered, the extent of how many people will be affected by the proposed action. Mill shared several aspects of Benthamâs utilitarianism with his own form of utilitarianism. These similarities included âthe principle of utilityâ, âthe concept of hedonismâ, âthe principle of theologyâ and a non-transcendental foundation. ...read more.


Bentham was very focused on the motives of an action as well as the consequences whereas Mill believed that the consequences of an action can be good even if the motive is bad, for example, saving a person from drowning with the hope of a financial reward. Thus believing that despite the fact that people are motivated by self-interest this can simultaneously promote the general happiness of society. Mill determines the ârightnessâ or âwrongnessâ of an action according to its consequences, whether pleasure is produced or pain prevented is the primary aim whereas the motives of the agent are irrelevant. In conclusion the general principles of Utilitarianism are that it is teleological and the consequences, as long as they increase pleasure or prevent pain are of paramount importance. It is a secular, non-transcendental ethical system completely independent from religion, which focuses around the concept of hedonism and the principle of utility. In regard to Act and Rule Utilitarianism there are many differences but their fundamental principles remain the same. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism

    music or poetry), but lower pleasures would be those which engaged merely the body (e.g. eating, sex). Mill developed the idea of 'competent judges': those who had experienced the full range of pleasures could discriminate between what is higher and lower.

  2. Nietzsche and Mill on Conventional Morality

    If the bird of prey didn't kill it would simply be 'the bird' and not 'the bird of prey'. As an argument that there is a problem with the construction of language this certainly seems a strong one, however Nietzsche attempts to apply this to human morality.

  1. Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is an unfair system of ethics which could not work in the ...

    If the greatest good for the greatest number was purely quantitative, based on the quantities of pleasure and pain caused, what would stop one person's pleasure from being completely extinguished if the majority gained pleasure from that act? To address this difficulty, Mill focussed on qualitative pleasures.

  2. Plato and Nietzsche on Authority

    We cannot trust teachers of politics to be completely impartial when teaching the political theories. Teachers of religious studies are usually biased towards Christianity in this country, and politics teachers would probably be the same. People wouldn't be happy with simply 'going along with' what the politicians say - that's why people have died for democracy.

  • Over 180,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work

Marked by a teacher

This essay has been marked by one of our great teachers. You can read the full teachers notes when you download the essay.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review on the essay page.

Peer reviewed

This essay has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review under the essay preview on this page.