The act of utilitarianism

Amartya Sen, and Bernard Williams, eds. These points against hedonism are often supplemented with the story of the experience machine found in Nozick42—45; cf. This would occur if unforeseen bad consequences reveal that the option chosen did not have the best results and thus was the wrong thing to do.

Alice wants to help and reasonably believes that buying a bus ticket home for this runaway will help, so she buys a bus ticket and puts the runaway on the bus. Rule utilitarianism states that the morally right action is the one that is in accordance with a moral rule whose general observance would create the most happiness.

act utilitarianism strengths and weaknesses

It permits drivers to decide whether there is a need to stop. Rule utilitarians offer a similar analysis of the promise keeping case. Still, obedience rule consequentialists can ask what would happen if everybody obeyed a rule or what would happen if everybody violated a rule.

Agent-relativity is also supposed to solve other problems.

Problems with rule utilitarianism

They never specify the line between what is morally wrong and what is not morally wrong, and it is hard to imagine any non-arbitrary way for deontologists to justify a cutoff point. Each objection led some utilitarians to give up some of the original claims of classic utilitarianism. They argue that rule utilitarianism retains the virtues of a utilitarian moral theory but without the flaws of the act utilitarian version. What is Consequentialism? If the former is better, then the action is morally right J. Practical Ethics, Second Edition. Harper Collins, For example, if you are choosing ice cream for yourself, the utilitarian view is that you should choose the flavor that will give you the most pleasure. If consequentialists define consequences in terms of what is caused unlike Sosa , then which future events count as consequences is affected by which notion of causation is used to define consequences. This assumption seems to make hedonism attractive.

For that reason, act utilitarians argue, we should apply the utilitarian principle to individual acts and not to classes of similar actions. For example a serial killer could use this to argue that is alright for him to kill specific people who bring pain into the world like a thief.

This problem cannot be solved by building rights or fairness or desert into the theory of value. Even if none of these arguments proves consequentialism, there still might be no adequate reason to deny consequentialism.

Similarly, Gewirth tries to derive his variant of consequentialism from metaphysical truths about actions.

The act of utilitarianism

Some critics argue that not all pleasures are valuable, since, for example, there is no value in the pleasures that a sadist gets from whipping a victim or that an addict gets from drugs. In addition to applying in different contexts, it can also be used for deliberations about the interests of different persons and groups. Others object that this move takes the force out of consequentialism, because it leads agents to ignore consequentialism when they make real decisions. More generally, if everyone believed that morality permitted lying, promise-breaking, cheating, and violating the law whenever doing so led to good results, then no one could trust other people to obey these rules. They argue that it is a mistake to treat whole classes of actions as right or wrong because the effects of actions differ when they are done in different contexts and morality must focus on the likely effects of individual actions. They claim that rule utilitarianism allows for partiality toward ourselves and others with whom we share personal relationships. Similarly, critics of utilitarianism often argue that utilitarians cannot be good friends, because a good friend places more weight on the welfare of his or her friends than on the welfare of strangers, but utilitarianism requires impartiality among all people. Assuming that the machine is reliable, it would seem irrational not to hook oneself up to this machine if pleasure and pain were all that mattered, as hedonists claim. One the actual consequence view says that to act rightly is to do whatever produces the best consequences. Paul, F. Geach, P. Sinnott-Armstrong, W. If Mill is correct about this, then utilitarians can say that we ought to give much more to charity, but we are not required or obliged to do so, and failing to do so is not morally wrong cf.
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Act and Rule Utilitarianism