An argument against cultural activism and the definition and example of act utilitarianism


For example, if slavery or torture is beneficial for the population as a whole, it could theoretically be justified by utilitarianism. Combinations with other ethical schools In order to overcome perceived shortcomings of both systems, several attempts have been made to combine utilitarianism with Kant's categorical imperative. Rule utilitarians respond that the rules in the legal system i. Saying that Simon is included in the class of persons says nothing about the scope of rights that he may have other than to say that we will protect Simon's right to be a person in that we will at least recognize de jure that Simon's basic right to physical security will be protected from being traded away for consequential reasons. Such change, however, should not be regarded as the incremental achievement of rights as a general matter. Singer argues that many nonhumans, and this class apparently includes food animals, are incapable of "having desires for the future" or a "continuous mental existence. Based on this judgment, we will be confident that we can do more good by giving the medication to the person suffering extreme pain. Bernard E. In the case of animals, however, the situation is precisely the opposite. To never kill a human might seem to be a good rule, but this could make defense against aggressors very difficult. They have a choice to kill the gunman and the hostage, or to wait and kill just the gunman. Penguin Classics, , 'Introductory' of main text, p. Singer cannot have such a bright line because, as an act utilitarian, he is precluded from arguing that institutionalized exploitation is always wrong because it violates the interest of animals in not being regarded as property.

Rule utilitarians generalize from this type of case and claim that our knowledge of human behavior shows that there are many cases in which general rules or practices are more likely to promote good effects than simply telling people to do whatever they think is best in each individual case.

Rights, Restitution and Risk. What is Good? The only way that such an effort could succeed is if huge numbers of people were willing to rise up in what would probably be a very violent confrontation given the large numbers of people who are involved in institutionalized exploitation and the capital that they control.

Utilitarianism examples

This is true even if the loss for the one individual is large and the gain for the others is marginal, as long as enough individuals receive the small benefit. Rule utilitarians would then add that there are general exception rules that allows the breaking of other rules if this increases happiness, one example being self-defense. Reprinted in Peter Singer. Collections of Essays Michael D. By inalienable, I mean that individuals cannot surrender control over their right to another's discretionary authority. That the pleasure of a sadist should have the same importance as the pleasure of an altruist has been criticized. When he decries Bentham's application of the 'yard measure' of now to 'the past, present and future', he decries the implication that society, and people, have always been, and will always be, as they are now; that is, he criticizes essentialism.

In considering the case, for example, of punishing innocent people, the best that rule utilitarians can do is to say that a rule that permits this would lead to worse results overall than a rule that permitted it. It permits drivers to decide whether there is a need to stop.

It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone. And when the Defence of the Common-wealth, requireth at once the help of all that are able to bear Arms, every one is obliged.

rule utilitarianism

Because animals are regarded as the property of their human owners, they can be killed for food, used in experiments, and exploited in numerous other ways simply because the owner of the animal regards it as a "benefit" to do so.

Considerable debate rages over the conscription of citizens to defend the state or pursue the state's interests abroad, but the right to life can be just as endangered for those citizens who voluntarily join the state's police, military, fire departments, and coast guard, and who are subject to superiors' orders that might lead to their death.

Once we embrace the act utilitarian perspective, then every decision about how we should act will depend on the actual or foreseeable consequences of the available options.

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The Challenge of Utilitarianism and Relativism to Human Rights