Utilitarianism

· Distinction between Act and Rule is to o with what the principle of utility is applied to

· According to Act Util the principle is applied directly to a particular action in a particular circumstance

· According to Rule Util the principle is applied to a selection of a set rules which are in turn used to determine what to do in particular situations

Act Util – Teleological – Relative – Consequential – You must decide what action will lead to the greatest good in the particular situation you are facing and apply the principle of utility directly – You need to look at the consequences of a particular act and what will bring about the greatest happiness

· Weaknesses – 1) It is difficult to predict the consequences 2) There is potential to justify any act 3) There is difficulty in defining pleasure 4) There is no defence for the minorities 5) It is impractical to say that we should calculate the morality of each choice

Rule Util – Deontological – Relative – Consequential - Rules should be formed using the util principles for the benefit of society – your action is judged right or wrong by the goodness or badness of the consequences of a rule that everyone should follow in similar circumstances – it enables us to establish rules which will promote the happiness of humanity and will generally be right in most circumstances (e.g. telling the truth) – Strong Rule utilitarians believe that these derived rules should never be disobeyed - Weak Rule utilitarians say that although there should be generally accepted rules or guidelines, they should not always be adhered to indefinitely.

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Act and Rule Utilitarianism

· Distinction between Act and Rule is to o with what the principle of utility is applied to

· According to Act Util the principle is applied directly to a particular action in a particular circumstance

· According to Rule Util the principle is applied to a selection of a set rules which are in turn used to determine what to do in particular situations

Act Util – Teleological – Relative – Consequential – You must decide what action will lead to the greatest good in the particular situation you are facing and apply the principle of utility directly – You need to look at the consequences of a particular act and what will bring about the greatest happiness

· Weaknesses – 1) It is difficult to predict the consequences 2) There is potential to justify any act 3) There is difficulty in defining pleasure 4) There is no defence for the minorities 5) It is impractical to say that we should calculate the morality of each choice

Rule Util – Deontological – Relative – Consequential - Rules should be formed using the util principles for the benefit of society – your action is judged right or wrong by the goodness or badness of the consequences of a rule that everyone should follow in similar circumstances – it enables us to establish rules which will promote the happiness of humanity and will generally be right in most circumstances (e.g. telling the truth) – Strong Rule utilitarians believe that these derived rules should never be disobeyed - Weak Rule utilitarians say that although there should be generally accepted rules or guidelines, they should not always be adhered to indefinitely. There may be situations where the better consequences might be achieved by disregarding the rule (e.g. where it might be better to lie)

· Weaknesses – 1) It is difficult to predict the consequences 2) It is difficult to define what constitutes happiness 3) There is no defence for the minorities 4) To invoke rules means that the approach becomes deontological not teleological 5) Followers of Rule Util can either be strict rule-followers or rule-modifiers, but neither seems satisfactory – Strict rule-followers can be irrational: obeying the rule even when disobeying it will produce more happiness. Rule-modifiers can end up being no different from Act utilitarians

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The Preference Utilitarianism of Peter Singer

Preference Utilitarianism – Eudaimonistic – Consequential - Universalistic

· An Act utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the maximisation of pleasure and minimising pain, a Rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility, but a Preference utilitarian judges moral actions according to whether they fit in with the preferences of the individuals involved

· ‘What is in my own interest? What would I prefer in this situation’ Which outcome would I prefer?’ However, because Util aims to create the greatest good for the greatest number, it is necessary to consider the preferences of others in order to achieve this

R.M. Hare – In moral decision-making we need to consider our own preferences and those of others –‘equal preferences count equally, whatever their content’ – People are happy when they get what they prefer, but what we prefer may clash with the preferences of others – we need to ‘stand in someone else’s shoes’ and try to imagine what someone else might prefer – we should treat everyone, including ourselves, with impartiality for universalisability

Peter Singer – We should take the viewpoint of an impartial spectator combined with a broadly utilitarian approach – ‘our own preferences cannot count any more than the preferences of others’ and so, in acting morally, we should take account of all the people affected by our actions – these have to be weighed and balanced and then we must choose the action which gives the best possible consequences for those affected – the ‘best possible consequences’ means what is in the best interests of the individuals concerned = different from Bentham, Mill and Sidgwick, as Singe didn’t consider what increased pleasure and diminishes pain - This principle of equal consideration of preferences or interest acts like a pair of scales – everyone’s preferences or interests are weighed equally – so killing a person who prefers to go on living would be wrong and not killing a person who prefers to die would also be wrong

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