Act & Rule Utilitarianism

  • Created by: nelliott
  • Created on: 11-01-21 10:50

Act & Rule Utilitarianism


  • Both consider the consequences of actions (however, Act Utilitarianism considers the consequence of each individual action while Rule Utilitarianism considers the consequences of past actions to form a rule to guide the present action).
  • Hedonistic theories.
  • Both based around the same concept-achieving the greatest amount of happiness.


  • Act Utilitarianism is associated with Jeremy Bentham and his use of the hedonic calculus, while Rule Utilitarianism is associated with John Stuart Mill.
  • Bentham thought that previous experiences did not always help us make moral choices, but Mill thought they did help.
  • Bentham believed each situation was different, and so had to be calculated individually, while Mill believed humans have universal rules to help make decisions that would lead to the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
  • Bentham believed that in each situation, the calculus should be applied, whereas Mill believed this is not needed as moral actions are those which conform to the rules that lead to the greatest good.
  • Act Utilitarianism appears to favour the individual situations, whereas Rule Utilitarianism focuses on the cases for the majority.
  • Bentham emphasised using the Hedonic Calculus but Mill saw the rules more as helpful guidance, rather than obligatory.

Overall comparison

It is surprising to see so many differences in Bentham and Mill's ways of thinking, even though they are both based around the same concept. Act Utilitarianism appears to be a lot more strict than Rule Utilitarianism. There are far more differences than similarities. It became hard to think of similarities after reading all of the differences.


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