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'Explain how Act and Rule Utilitarianism differ.'

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Introduction

'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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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