Utilitarianism, Utilitarianism And Rule Utilitarianism Essay

Utilitarianism, Utilitarianism And Rule Utilitarianism Essay

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Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states that an action is considered right as long as it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. This theory was first proposed by Jeremy Bentham and later was refined by J.S Mill. Mill differs from Bentham by introducing a qualitative view on pleasure and makes a distinction between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. John Hospers critiques utilitarianism and shows that rule utilitarianism under more specific and stricter rules would promote utility better. Bernard Williams believes that utilitarianism is too demanding from people and instead believes virtue ethics is a better solution. Williams seems to have only considered act utilitarianism instead of rule utilitarianism, which may have better responses to the problems proposed by Williams. Sterling Hardwood purposes eleven objections to utilitarianism which can be used to help make compromise between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. I will argue that rule utilitarianism can be formed in such a way that it avoids the problems that arise from Williams, and Hardwood.

Utilitarianism was first proposed by Bentham to contrast Plato and associates pleasure and pain as the only intrinsic good and evil. This is based on the principle of utility which approves or disapproves of every action in relation to the happiness it brings. Mill expands on this idea and refers to it as the greatest happiness principle. This is the principle that the right action is the action that brings the most happiness to the the greatest number of people. Happiness is considered the only thing that is desirable, whereas pain is the only intrinsic evil. Mill states that maximizing pleasure may not be the best opti...


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...ianism is able to have virtues and rules to fill in where act utilitarianism fails.

The ideal form of utilitarianism would be a form of indirect or rule utilitarianism similar to Hospers views. Rule utilitarianism must find a balance between rules and utility to try and maximize human flourishing. Williams and Harwood both critique utilitarianism, but an ideal rule utilitarianism is able to satisfy any critique posed. An ideal rule utilitarianism would be able to avoid the problem of rule worship while still allowing the rules to carry sufficient meaning. Rule utilitarianism should refine rules to become more specific, which will hopefully lead to the ideal form of rule utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism is able to respond to the criticisms proposed by Williams and Harwood by making more specific rules that will coincide with the greatest happiness principle.

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