Rule utilitarianism

Rule utilitarianism

Rule utilitarianism is a form of utilitarianism which states that moral actions are those which conform to the rules which lead to the greatest good, or that "the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an instance."cite book |last=Garner |first=Richard T. |coauthors=Bernard Rosen |title=Moral Philosophy: A Systematic Introduction to Normative Ethics and Meta-ethics |year=1967 |publisher=Macmillan |location=New York |pages=70 |isbn=0023405805] For rule utilitarians, the correctness of a rule is determined by the amount of good it brings about when followed. In contrast, act utilitarians judge actions in terms of the goodness of their consequences without reference to rules of action. Another variation of rule utilitarianism stresses the greater utility of following a given rule in general, arguing that the practice of following some rule in all instances (always stopping at red lights, for example) will have better consequences overall than allowing exceptions to be made in individual instances, even if better consequences can be demonstrated in those instances.

In his 1861 book "Utilitarianism", John Stuart Mill defends the concept of rights in terms of utility: "To have a right, then, is, I conceive, to have something which society ought to defend me in the possession of. If the objector goes on to ask, why it ought? I can give him no other reason than general utility."cite book |last=Mill |first=John Stuart |authorlink=John Stuart Mill |title=Utilitarianism |year=1861 ] Whether Mill was a rule utilitarian is a matter of controversy;cite web |url= |title=Rule Consequentialism |accessdate=2007-03-11 |date=2003-12-31 |publisher=Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ] he also argues that it is sometimes right to violate general ethical rules:

… justice is a name for certain moral requirements, which, regarded collectively, stand higher in the scale of social utility, and are therefore of more paramount obligation, than any others; though particular cases may occur in which some other social duty is so important, as to overrule any one of the general maxims of justice. Thus, to save a life, it may not only be allowable, but a duty, to steal, or take by force, the necessary food or medicine, or to kidnap, and compel to officiate, the only qualified medical practitioner.

ee also

*Act utilitarianism
*Two-level utilitarianism
*Preference utilitarianism
*John Stuart Mill
*Peter Singer
*Richard Brandt
*Rule egoism


Further reading

*cite speech
last = Smart
first = J. J. C
authorlink = J. J. C. Smart
title = Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism
publisher =
date = October 1955
location = The Victorian Branch of the Australasian Association of Psychology and Philosophy

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