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Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism.

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Introduction

Explain the main differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism (33) Utilitarianism is a teleological (relativist) ethical theory, which follows the concept that the 'end justifies the means' (the value of a moral action is judged according to the end it produces) on the understanding of providing the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number', and is therefore contrary to deontological theories such as Kant's Categorical Imperative. In addition, it is important to declare that the concept of Utilitarianism was devised by Jeremy Bentham, in which he divided his theory into the following three categories: the motivation of human beings; the principle of utility (usefulness); and the hedonic calculus (which takes into account seven elements when deciding the preferable course of action). It is also significant to make reference to John Stuart Mill, who developed Bentham's theory with the intention of altering the emphasis from 'quantity to quality', and distinguished between higher (mind) ...read more.

Middle

After studying and reviewing the theory of Utilitarianism (whereby the moral action produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number), it is clearly evident that there are many strengths including that it appears natural to consider the consequences of our actions, avoids the intricacies of a rule based (absolute) approach and complies with a common sense view towards to morality which is practically applicable to real life situations. However, it is also apparent that there are various weaknesses including the fact that the theory ultimately relies on the knowledge of consequences (which may be inaccurate or not become evident until some time in the future) and has the ability to justify practically any action, such as the Nazi persecution of the Jews (if this provided the greatest happiness for the greatest number). A final weakness which I consider to be of paramount importance concerns the hedonic calculus, whereby it is questionable whether an action can be declared morally justified by an empirical test. ...read more.

Conclusion

who will be directly affected, and from this it is possible to determine whether it provides the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number' (such as the case concerning Diane Pretty, who had the support of her family). However, I believe that it is also necessary to recognize that although the practice of euthanasia may promote happiness for the family concerned, other factors such as the financial repercussions may result in the remainder of the family living a lower quality of life, and therefore it could be argued that the practice of euthanasia (in the long term) does not necessarily promote the 'greatest happiness for the greatest number of people'. In conclusion, after reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of Utilitarianism (mentioned above) I believe that it is a practically applicable theory to moral issues such as euthanasia, as its teleological (relativist) approach takes into account individual situations (and circumstances), in contrast to deontological (absolutist) theory's such as Kant's Categorical Imperative and Aquinas' Natural Law, which would oppose this action. (263 words) James Yates 30 mins ...read more.

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