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Act and Rule Utilitarianism - Essay Example

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Summary
Act Utilitarianism is the most basic form of utilitarianism. It states that "our duty on any occasion is to act in the way which will produce actual overall consequences better than those that any other act open to us would produce." …
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Act and Rule Utilitarianism
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Act Vs Rule Utilitarianism Basic Definitions Act Utilitarianism is the most basic form of utilitarianism. It s that "our duty on any occasion isto act in the way which will produce actual overall consequences better than (or at least as good as) those that any other act open to us would produce." (Smart 1967)
Rule Utilitarianism states that "our duty is not to aim for that act which will produce in fact the best overall consequences (because of the impossibility or impracticability of predicting these) but to follow that rule which would have the best consequences if generally followed." (Brody 1967)
Discussion
As one can see, both follow the utilitarian dogma that something good must come in the end. Act utilitarianism focuses on the specific act that will bring that good in the end. However, according to the rule utilitarian, this is improbable or even impossible. This begs the question: How does one determine if an act will produce a specific good This is where rule utilitarianism comes into the picture. One first determines what are the rules that if generally followed will produce the best results. The rule utilitarian does not focus on finding the specific act that will produce the best results since any act in accordance to that rule will produce a good.
Thus, rule utilitarianism is more acceptable. An act in accordance with rule utilitarianism may or may not appeal to the act utilitarian, but this is better than trying in vain to find out what is that specific act the act utilitarian will accept.
Criticisms
Whichever form one may choose, both cannot escape the criticisms against utilitarianism that one may lie, steal, or kill just to enact that which is good. In other words, the end justifies the means. One cogent criticism is by Crisp & Crisp (1992): "Utilitarianism fails by its own lights as a decision procedure."
WORKS CITED
Brody, B.A. "'The Equivalence of Act and Rule Utilitarianism." Philosophical Studies, (1967. 9 February 2009 < http://www.philosophyprofessor.com/philosophies/rule-utilitarianism.php>.
Crisp, R., and Roger Crisp. "Utilitarianism and the life of virtue." Philosophical Quarterly 42.167 (Apr. 1992): 139. Religion and Philosophy Collection. EBSCO. 9 Feb. 2009 .
Smart, J. C. "Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism." Theories of Ethics. 1967. 9 February 2009 . Read More
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