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’. He believed everyone had an equal right to happiness, irrespective of their situation. He wanted morality to be fair and democratic. Furthermore, because he was practical, he believed that things should be judged right or wrong according to whether or not they benefited the people involved. Therefore an act that brings happiness to an individual is right for the society. This was judged by the principle of utility. This means the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its utility or usefulness. Our actions should create the greatest happiness in the greatest number of people.

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However, just having the principle of utility is not enough, we need to calculate how much pleasure or pain an action has. To help us with this calculation, Bentham came up with the hedonic calculus. The hedonic calculus had seven factors that we needed to consider. The intensity of the pleasure or pain; the duration of the pleasure or pain; the certainty, which is how likely it to cause the pain or pleasure is. The propinquity or remoteness, the distant of the pleasure or pain. The fecundity, the chance it has of being followed by sensations of the same kind. ...

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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.