Difference Between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism (With Table)

“The greatest happiness of the greatest number” is the ultimate moral standard of utilitarianism it judges all actions according to their utility, as means for the promotion of general happiness or prevention of general pain. It is a theory in which morality of action depends upon their effect to the people. Act Utilitarianism and Rule utilitarianism are two part of utilitarianism theory.

Act Utilitarianism vs Rule Utilitarianism

The main difference between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism is that Act Utilitarianism has belief in action which are doing for the greatest number for the greatest happiness which becomes morally right while Rule utilitarianism has belief in action which are doing with correct rules then that action becomes morally right.

Act utilitarianism is a notion that believes the morality of an action is known by the utility of most people. If such actions have the consequence that is beneficial for most people, then such action is considered morally right. It brings greater good or happiness.

Rule utilitarianism is a notion that believes that the morality of an action can be right if it conforms to the rules which lead to greater good or happiness for humanity. These rules should increase the overall utility and happiness of the maximum of the people, and apply without exception.

Comparison Table Between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism

Parameter of ComparisonAct UtilitarianismRule Utilitarianism
ActionAct utilitarians consider action case by a case basisRule utilitarians consider general rules, not any particular action
UtilityAct utilitarians would calculate utility each time when the act is performed.Rule utilitarians would calculate the overall utility of accepting or rejecting the rule
MoralityAct utilitarians would take morality is on the influence of good action that benefits most peopleRule utilitarians would take morality is on following rules that benefit most people
ResultsAct utilitarians would take results on the actionRule utilitarians would take result on the following rules
ConsequencesAct utilitarians are unable to predict consequences accuratelyRule utilitarians may predict consequences accurately

What is Act Utilitarianism?

It is a theory that determines the morality of action through its usefulness to the greatest number of people. If any right action gives the greatest good to most people, then it is morally right and ethically correct because it fallows the greatest happiness. That’s why Act utilitarianism is seen as the natural elucidation of utilitarian ideals.

Jeremy Bentham provided this type of utilitarianism in his description of a “hedonic calculus,” which was meant to show what factors should be used to determine amounts of pain and suffering, pleasure and happiness. Using this concept of utilitarianism Bentham would allow for making a correct judgment.

In this, every action or decision could be judged based on the actual consequences of options. It provides a method for showing moral questions are true or false but they maintain that whenever a person does maximum good by violating rules, they should violate the rules. There is no reason to obey rules for more well-being.

What is Rule Utilitarianism?

Rule utilitarianism emphasizes following the moral code of principle which is the most efficient way to greater happiness or goods. It is a theory that says if an action is done according to rules then it can morally right and they also believe that the rightness of an action is determined by the correctness of rules.

Rule utilitarians try to maximize utility only by setting up moral codes that contain rules. In this judging individual action by seeing how they conform to these codes of principle. They do not evaluate individual action but they support those rules whose acceptance would maximize the utility. They believe if following rules does not give the greatest happens then not fallowing will not produce the greatest happens either. At the last, it becomes act utilitarians if not fallowing gives the greatest good.

Rule utilitarians evaluate action through the consequences of its universal practice. The most common example of rule utilitarianism is traffic rules, in this condition morality of an action can measure through universal consequences of result on following rules and regulations.

Main Differences Between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism

  1. Act utilitarianism is a theory that highlights the morality of an action is determined by its usefulness to the people Whereas rule utilitarianism is a theory that highlights the morality of action through following certain rule which gives the greatest good or happiness to the most people.
  2. Act utilitarianism gives stress on the specific context and individual features that contain moral problems whereas Rule Utilitarianism gives stress on recurrent features of human life and the way in which similar problem arises.
  3. Under the act utilitarianism morality is on the impact of action that gives the advantage to a large number of people Whereas in rule utilitarianism morality follows certain rules of conduct that benefit maximum people.
  4. Act utilitarianism looks at consequences of individual acts each time whereas rule utilitarianism looks at consequences of following rules every time.
  5. In act utilitarianism there is no guidance when the individual faces a moral decision problem whereas in rule utilitarianism individual has the benefit of receiving way or guidance from the past rules which show to give the greatest good or happiness for the greatest number.

Conclusion

This debate of difference between Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism gives many important issues like how to make moral goodness and how an action is morally right and the difference between two is that act utilitarianism gives more stress upon consequences of action and calculation of utility on each time whereas rule utilitarianism gives stress upon result on fallowing rules of conduct of morality and overall utility acceptance and rejection of the rule. Both the perspective determines right and wrong in action between what we do from moral code takes and what is an impression of our moral perspective on the level the greatest good or happiness.

References

  1. https://philpapers.org/rec/EGGAU
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-2527-9_12