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Act vs Rule Utilitarianism

Act vs Rule Utilitarianism - Does rule-utilitarianism...

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Does rule-utilitarianism resolve any of the problems of act-utilitarianism? If yes, which   ones? Utilitarianism is a broad ethical doctrine, containing numerous philosophical bases and as such  conflict is not uncommon even amongst utilitarians over the correct way in which to interpret the  discipline. One such conflict is between act-utilitarians and rule-utilitarians. Act-utilitarians believe  that the moral rightness of an act depends entirely on the act’s result in terms of happiness – it must  generate at least as much pleasure, or privation of pain, as that of any other possible action at that  time. In contrast, according to rule-utilitarians, the right action is that which is consistent with those  rules which would maximise utility if all accepted them. The latter doctrine focuses on the ultimate  maximisation of happiness as its ultimate goal, rather than seeing every individual decision as an  end in its own right. The significant split between the two interpretations rests on the freedoms given to the agent when  deciding   between   two   courses   of   action.   The   act-utilitarian   must  rely   on  an   ordinal   system   of  hedonism, whereas a rule-utilitarian would decide using a set of moral values based on the goal of  maximising utility. Act-utilitarianism has the obvious advantages of being a system that is relatively  simple to understand, and remains true to its origins of core utilitarianism, as espoused by Bentham.  (There is controversy as to whether Mill himself is an act or a rule-utilitarian, the latter argument  famously proposed by Urmson). However, act-utilitarians also lay themselves open to significant  difficulties in defending their views. Rule-utilitarianism does indeed solve, or at least circumvent,  many of these problems, but this is not necessarily a qualification of this sub-discipline.  Any moral philosophy – that is, any doctrine which suggests a method as to how we should lead our  lives- seems to require at least three main attributes. The first is the need for a morality to be  practicable. Brad Hooker, in his paper   Rule-Utilitarianism,   criticises act utilitarianism as being  unattainable for humans; imagine being an act-utilitarian, brought up entirely in an act-utilitarian  society. You will have to spend much time calculating the utility values of the various actions open to  you. In addition, since, as Crisp puts it, “human beings are by nature concerned with their own  happiness” 1 , you would not be able to resist laying the odds in your own favour. If the claim that the 
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