Monday, April 27, 2015
Utilitarianism: The Two Branches (Wes Cloud 8-1)
As we know, utilitarianism is based on the idea that for an action to be morally right, it must bring the most good and happiness possible to those involved. This is a belief that is shared with many branches of consequentialism, but in utilitarianism, the only effects of any action that matter are the good and bad results that it produces. As with any other philosophical theory, utilitarians often disagree with each other over the exact interpretation of the theory itself. In order to make the different sides of utilitarianism more easily separated, it can be broken down further into two different categories.
Both act utilitarians and rule utilitarians agree that the end goal of evaluating actions is to create the best results possible, but how they do that is where they differ. Act utilitarians think that when a person makes a decision, they should make it on a case by case basis that takes into account the best possible result for the well-being and happiness of all.
Rule utilitarians use a completely different process to decide if an action is morally right or wrong. For a rule utilitarian, the process is a two part system that stresses the importance of established moral rules for all to follow. Because of this, for an action to be considered morally justified, it must conform to those pre-established rules. For a rule to be justifiable, it must create more utility than other suitable rules or no rule at all.
To summarize, the differences in rule and act utilitarianism are very simple. A act utilitarian applies the utilitarian principle directly to their evaluation of the situation at hand and its available actions. A rule utilitarian would apply their interpretation of the theory into the moral rules they live by. Once the rules are set, individual actions are evaluated to see if they obey or disobey.