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Rule-utilitarianism and Act-utilitarianism

Morality is one of the aspects in life that is regarded to be very important as they mould an individual’s life in a positive way. However the main focus should be the kind of morals that one should adapt to in order to lead a life that is morally and socially acceptable. Morality values vary but each have their own aspects that can be respected in different ways.  Theses values are usually influenced by the value of ethics as perceived by different people.  This dilemma is mainly approached by the application of different theories related to morality.  Two theories that are usually used to understand the right moral values are Act utilitarianism and Rule utilitarianism.  Therefore, this paper aims to look at how rule-utilitarianism purports to solve at least two of the apparent problems with act-utilitarianism.

The two theories Act and Rule utilitarianism are based on morality but the main fact is that they compete against each other.  They are both theories of ethics but they differ when it comes to the approach of moral values. Act utilitarianism looks at moral values from the perspective that individuals are right morally if the actions they conduct support and promote the principle of utility (Hospers 158).  The principle of utility entails that an individual works at bringing happiness to the greatest number of people. If one’s actions are conducted towards achieving this goal then the theory assumes this to be morally satisfying. While on the other hand Rule utilitarianism is based on ethics as well but looks at it from a different perspective. The actions of an individual are said to be correct depending on the joy they generate among the people. Therefore, the reaction of the people will determine the correctness of an action.  Hence, the contrast that these two rules bear confuses individuals on which theory to apply in order to determine the correct moral values.

However rule utilitarianism aims to dispose the problem presented by Act utilitarianism, which is aiming for the rule that will produce the best consequences.  This highly opposed by the rule utilitarianism as the rule dictates that one should instead an individual should follow the rule that has the best consequences if observed at a general level. The main reason behind this argument is that it would be difficult for an individual to predict a rule or act that would have the best overall consequences. The rule encourages the people to weigh their decisions first and check whether they posses the ability to have the best consequences and this in turn will lead their selection in moral values. If the decision chosen by an individual brings the feeling of human fulfillment then one can be sure to have made the correct decisions. Not knowing the reaction from the people and how the action will be perceived may appear to be quite a problem for most individuals when applying either of the rules.  The rule utilitarianism encourages people to stop and give the decision more thought and they are likely to come up with the answer they were looking for.

Rule utilitarianism aims at justifying the significance of putting human goods into account, which act utilitarianism does fully consider in their application of their theory.  Since according to the rule an individual is supposed to judge an action by the consequences it poses to the general public and not by its own consequences. Considering the human goods while judging an act, will help use the concept of the universe as a whole into context.  This means that the principle of utility is being promoted and this is the inspiration behind the development of the theories.  In one of his explanations Hospers (160) uses the example of criminality and justice concerning how judgment is delivered.  He goes to explain that the decision made by judge is according to the justice system, which was created for the greater good of the universe. In turn the results achieved will aim at achieving integral human fulfillment.


In general, both act and rural utilitarianism aim at establishing how one can be able to judge different actions to achieve moral values. However, rural utilitarianism feels that their concept is much better as the act utilitarianism is traditional and the rural captures the aspect of the good of the university quite well.  Therefore, the main argument lies in getting the results that will have the best consequences on the people other than one which is likely to have the same results.

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