Act Utilitarianism vs Rule Utilitarianism
The difference between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism emerges from the concept itself. Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism are two different concepts, which are connected with the study of ethics. The theory of utilitarianism lies in the performance of acts that are either good or bad and that are either right or wrong. Utilitarianism consists in the acts that benefit a great number of people. Ethics speaks of two kinds of utilitarianism, namely act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. These two concepts are different from one another. Act Utilitarianism is concerned with the consequences of the act. On the other hand, Rule Utilitarianism is based on rules. This is the major difference between the two variations of utilitarianism.
What is Act Utilitarianism?
First, when concentrating on Act utilitarianism, it is concerned with the consequences of the act. The consequence determines whether the act is good or bad. Hence, it is accurate to state that act utilitarianism is consequential in nature. It is also important to understand that act utilitarianism inclines more towards the person or group of persons that benefit most by the act. In a way, one can say that act utilitarianism is result-oriented in purpose. This can be understood through an example.
Imagine a cinematic situation like this. Your friend dies in an accident and you are bound by duty to inform of his death to the friend’s blind parents. However, these blind parents live in another country. So, instead of informing them about his death, if you decide to help the old parents by stepping into the dead friend’s shoes, then it is considered as act utilitarianism. This is because in act utilitarianism the emphasis is laid on the consequence of the act more than the rules involved. It is this consequence that defines the act. However, in rule utilitarianism it is rather different.
What is Rule Utilitarianism?
Rule utilitarianism is the next type of utilitarianism. It is based on rules. It is the rules of conduct and other important principles that define rule utilitarianism. In rule utilitarianism, a rule is agreed upon first and then the act is performed. The act is construed as either good or bad depending on the result of the rule agreed upon. This is the main difference between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. It is interesting to note that the advocates of rule utilitarianism do not want to break the rules whatever the cost it brings about. This is because of the fact that the rule was already agreed upon and it is the duty of the performers to stick to those rules. This can also be understood through the same example which was used before.
Imagine that once the friend dies you inform the blind parents of the death of their son. It can be considered as an example of rule utilitarianism. This is because you feel bound by the principle of telling the truth. This is not beneficial to the parties involved. The special characteristic of rule utilitarianism is that you do not mind the consequence of the act but you are more inclined towards sticking to rules and principles.
What is the difference between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism?
- Act utilitarianism is concerned with the consequences of the act whereas rule utilitarianism is based on the rules of conduct.
- In Act utilitarianism, the consequence determines whether the act is good or bad whereas, in rule utilitarianism, the act is construed either good or bad depending on the result of the rules agreed upon.
- Act utilitarianism inclines more towards the person or group of persons that benefit most by the act unlike in the case of rule utilitarianism.
- Act utilitarianism is result-oriented in purpose whereas rule utilitarianism is focused on being in line with the rules.
1.Rule Utilitarianism by Jonathunder – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons