• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Explain how Act and Rule Utilitarianism differ.'

Extracts from this document...


'Explain how Act and Rule Utilitarianism differ.'(33) Utilitarian morals focus much more on actions rather than individuals. The primary concerns of these moral theories are what the right moral thing to be done is, leaving the moral individuals as simply those people that perform that moral action. Therefore any Utilitarian principle has to be based on the principle of utility which states that doing a good action or the right thing is morally right when it maximises the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Utilitarians usually agree that utility in terms of good is measured in pleasure and in terms of evil is measured in pain. Utilitarians believe that the right action is the one that has the best results for the most individuals; they use this principle to determine what the correct moral thing to do in circumstances. Utilitarianism seeks to find a way in which you can promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The earliest form that we see of this is Act Utilitarianism, which is when what is right is concluded by fulfilling a particular set of actions, this was put forward by Jeremy Bentham but was later challenged by John Stuart-Mill with Rule Utilitarianism. ...read more.


For Bentham pleasures and pain were numbers which were assigned to certain criteria, the same as the benefits criteria (as above). The person then faced with the particular moral issue was then meant to assign these criteria to the situation and determine which action had the greatest balance of pleasure over evil. Bentham clearly believed that, this made morality a science, and since Bentham's method was primarily focused on the amount of pleasure and pain that was measured it is known as Quantitative Utilitarianism. Bentham seems to imply that both pleasure and pain are equal in value, since he believes that they thrown into an equation, much like mathematics and come out with the correct moral answer. A disagreement among many Utilitarians is whether the action each is so unique that it can be judged independently from all the other actions or whether the rules of moral behaviour can be applied. This theory that claims that each action is unique is Act Utilitarianism. The circumstances that surround each action are different from any other action, therefore for every action that is made a different set of consequences must be calculated. ...read more.


Mill who believed in Rule Utilitarianism said that over time, the general rules or principles of moral behaviour can be developed. So that there will be types of actions that over long periods of time will maximise utility. For example, telling the truth for long periods of time will maximise the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Rule Utilitarians believe that we can predict which actions will cause the greatest happiness for the greatest number, therefore making them our general moral rules. This means that if a person is performing an action then they do not have to calculate the consequences of this action, they just have to follow a set of principle rules. Thus, meaning that the actions of Rule Utilitarians will be much less time consuming and easier. Although they save time, they do however have to establish which actions will be the one that will maximise the greatest utility. There are both Act and Rule Utilitarians, even though these two versions of utilitarianism show different ways in which you should calculate moral behaviour, neither version have provided enough proof to reject the alternative reproach. Both Act and Rule Utilitarianism make perfect sense in how you should act in moral situations but neither shows any flaws in either of the approaches. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Ethics 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 GCSE Ethics essays

  1. Problems with Utilitarian and Kantian Ethics.

    One interesting argument that Harwood presents is that utilitarianism requires us to enter to the experience machine mentioned in an earlier chapter of our text. It is maintained that we should spend our life in the experience machine for it could be set to maximum satisfaction.

  2. What is utilitarianism? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory?

    Also, smoking is a pleasure for some people, however in the future long-term smoking can result in heart disease or even death. Therefore, how is the hedonic calculus to determine whether the action is moral or immoral if at times the effects of pain and pleasure seem to reverse themselves?

  1. Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism.

    As a result, although act utilitarianism takes into account individual situations, it has the ability to justify virtually any action, whereas rule utilitarianism follows the principle that by applying a certain rule (such as do not lie) to a specific situation, the greatest happiness for the community is upheld, and

  2. Discuss whether moral judgments are subjective or objective

    Happiness is not standard, as all living entities on this earth have a unique genetic make- up; our sources of pleasure are also unique to ourselves. A second school of thought that is in keep with the belief in universal moral facts is Theological Moral Realism; this approach maintains that God determines moral facts.

  1. Utilitarianism is a contrast to classic approaches to ethics. One of the main features ...

    One of the appeals of Utilitarianism lies in its practical value, that it can be applied quickly to any moral dilemma. This is done in a mathematical form, by computing pleasure in the Hedonic Calculus. This is Bentham's way of deciding on the correct or most appropriate course of action

  2. Is what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number necessarily morally right?

    According to utilitarianism the way something should be distributed is by who can attain the greatest pleasure from the object. Therefore if you have say ten sweets to distribute between five people, then you would expect that, if they all enjoy sweets, each person should get two sweets each, as that is the fair thing to do.

  1. If an action is done as a result of affection, rather than as a ...

    Once under an obligation, we ought to attempt to fulfil it. If no obligation exists, then it becomes a matter of inclination or of taste, which we should do.

  2. What are the main features of utilitarianism as anethical theory?

    This proposed a problem however, on how one could judge how utile an action was, and this led to the development of the hedonic calculus. The hedonic calculus weighs up pleasure and pain generated by moral actions to find the best option.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work