PHI 337 Act-utilitarianism vs. rule-utilitarianism

PHI 337 Act-utilitarianism vs. rule-utilitarianism -...

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Act-Utilitarianism vs. Rule-Utilitarianism
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Act-utilitarianism is a theory that states that the right action is one that produces the most pleasure to everyone considered. The goal of act-utilitarianism is to produce the greatest balance of good over evil, everyone considered. An act- utilitarian thinker would be committed to figuring out a way to do something where the interests of most people are satisfied. The goal is to produce the most good possible for as many people as possible without personal motives interfering. Someone who is act-utilitarian would act so as to maximize utility and would feel like it is their duty to do so. In act-utilitarianism, actions are not based on morals. In fact, act-utilitarians believe that things would be better if there were no moral standards to follow. They also believe that what makes an action morally right is one that brings the most favorable balance of good and evil. Act-utilitarianism can be understood as a form of “situation ethics.” This means that the action carried out is largely dependent on the set of circumstances at the time. An act-utilitarian doesn’t care if an action is wrong by nature, because something that may be wrong intrinsically may very well be wrong in one circumstance but may be right in another. In an act-utilitarian way of thinking, consequences of an action will vary in different situations. This is how act- utilitarianism can be rightly thought of as “situation ethics.” Act-utilitarian thinkers believe that if breaking a moral rule will produce more good over evil for everyone considered then the moral thing to do is break it. Certain things are morally wrong such as lying, killing and stealing, but an act-utilitarian 1
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thinks that if there’s good reason to believe that breaking these rules will maximize utility depending on the situation at hand, then they should be broken. For example, killing is morally wrong but if someone is trying to kill you then the right thing to do in that situation is to kill that person. However, it is not right to go up to a random
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHI 337 taught by Professor Laux during the Spring '06 term at SUNY Buffalo.

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PHI 337 Act-utilitarianism vs. rule-utilitarianism -...

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