Difference Between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism
Our world is governed by rules, either implied or implemented, and early on we are taught to live by these rules. Society expects us to act in such a way that will conform to these rules in order to live happy, harmonious lives.
We do things, careful not to break any of the rules that might hurt or cause harm to others. Sometimes though, we do things not in accordance with the rules but based on what we feel is the right thing to do.
Some people believe that it is morally right to break a rule in order to do a greater good. With this argument, it becomes morally right to steal food or medicine to save a life. But then, will it be also morally right to kill a paedophile in order to save children from being harmed by him? The discussion and argument continues as long as people have different views on morality and the proper way to act in society.
Some people adhere to the belief that the moral significance of an action is determined by its outcome. They believe that the greatest pleasure of the greatest number of people should be the result of the action that you make which will render it morally right. This theory or belief is called utilitarianism.
There are two types of utilitarianism. One is Act utilitarianism and the other is Rule utilitarianism. While these two reflect on the consequences or usefulness of an action, they are two different views.
Act utilitarianism is the belief that it is the right action that brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. It is a concept that believes that the morality of an action is determined by its usefulness to most of the people, that this act is in accordance with the moral rules since it brings greater good or happiness.
Rule utilitarianism on the other hand is the belief that an action can be morally right if it conforms to the rules that will lead to the greatest good or happiness. It adheres to the belief that the correctness of an action is determined by the correctness of its rules and that if the correct rule is followed, the greatest good or happiness is achieved.
It is a concept that believes that although following the rules does not always produce the greatest good, not following it will not produce the greatest good either. In the end, rule utilitarianism can become an act utilitarianism because when breaking a rule produces a greater good, a sub rule can be made to handle exceptions.
1. Act utilitarianism is the belief that an action becomes morally right when it produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people, while Rule utilitarianism is the belief that the moral correctness of an action depends on the correctness of the rules that allows it to achieve the greatest good.
2. Act utilitarianism is the belief that it is alright to break a rule as long as it brings a greater good, while Rule utilitarianism is a belief that even if a rule cannot bring a greater good, breaking it will not either.
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