Comparison of the Act and Rule Types of Utilitarianism, Their Strengths and Weaknesses

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Utilitarianism hypothesis explains the scope of Liberty and Freedom for the individuals under a state's authority. Utilitarianism focuses on the rights of individuals versus other rights and is a form of justice. There are two types of Utilitarianism which are Act and Rule. Act Utilitarianism has two ideals which are the following:

  1. The value of an act should be judged according to its unpleasant consequences.
  2. An individual should conduct them in a way this their act does the most good for the greater amount.

Jeremy Bentham was an Act Utilitarian where he makes his observations on human nature and uses them to build an empirical hypothesis of how people behave and government legislative. (Jeremy Bentham, 225). Jeremy Bentham associates the idea of happiness with pleasure, but other philosophers believe that pleasure is only one component of happiness such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. He was focused on ethical theory to determine if something was good or bad by the benefit of the majority of the people. Jeremy Bentham believed the person of government should be based on, 'the greatest good for the greatest number', Principle of Utility.

The strengths of Jeremy Bentham philosophies are the following:

  1. Provide the principle of utility, which is the greatest good for the greatest numbers. (Jeremy Bentham, 226). This applies to individuals as well as elected government officials concerning laws and policies. For example, I do not believe the repel and replacement of the Affordable Care Act would not be for the greatest good for the greatest number because millions of Americans would lose coverage. If the law was modified to support more American than this is a principle of utility.
  2. Treat everyone equally in society regardless of emotional and social attachment because it increases happiness. For example, he supported equal rights for women, against slavery and the death penalty as well as for animal rights. (Lecture notes)
  3. Provides a Hedonistic calculus which gives individuals a calculation to decide if the act is morally worthy by using intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, nearness and remoteness, fecundity, purity. It will identify if the act would be pleasure or pain.
  4. The use of democratic principles where decisions are made on a nationwide scale. For example, when there is a majority present for a vote then the outcome would be the correct course of action to take.

The biggest weakness of Jeremy Bentham is the potential to justify any action because it not only based on the consequences of an action but also the pleasure gained from an action. For example, if a group of young men jumps another man in the alley and rob him, then according to Bentham's 'The Hedonic Calculus' the young men's pleasure would completely offset the amount of the man's pain and would make the young men actions morally right. This is a weakness because robbery is always wrong.

More weakness of Jeremy Bentham is as follows:

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  1. Try to predict the consequences of an action which is impossible because you do not know what the outcome of an action maybe.
  2. Happiness is subjective. For example, one individual may find happiness in spending quality time with their family. While another may find it going to the club with friends.
  3. How to maximize hedon on a social level and how they can be observed nor how they can be measured.

John Stuart Mill was a Rule Utilitarian and he bases most of his philosophies on the central principle of Bentham's utility principle. The principle states that actions are good or moral if they increase happiness. Immortal actions are those that decrease happiness. (John Stuart Mill, p. 241) John Stuart Mill also felt Bentham's principle could lead to some issues concerning fairness if the system went along with 'majority rule'. He describes how to distinguish between higher and lower quality pleasures. A higher-quality pleasure if people choose it over another pleasure even it is accompanied by discomfort and not trade for a greater amount of another pleasure. He contends it is an 'unquestionable fact' given equal access to all kinds of pleasures, people appeal to their higher faculties. (John Stuart Mill p.248)

John Stuart Mill was a strong supporter of Freedom of Speech and discussion which was found in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. He believed in equality for people which included Freedom of Religion which is also known as 'Freedom of Conscience', Freedom of Assembly and Press, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom to petition the government for grievances, right to vote and suffrage to workers and women. (John Stuart Mill p. 242) What he calls, 'Law of Individual Liberty', as a nation should give citizens as many 'Civil Rights' as possible to protect them from most enforced injustices. (Lecture notes) John Stuart Mill strengths are the following:

  1. Law of Individual Liberty which is equality for all citizens.
  2. Advocates for a strong and unselfish representative democracy where individuals are informed by the truth and could discuss the difference reasonably and respectfully.
  3. Happiness should be measured on a qualitative scale when there is the best quality of life as well as happiness for the greater number.

The following is his weakness:

  1. The limitations of freedom to certain classifications of people, political situations.
  2. Punishment of individuals should only be used to a better consequence than non-punishment.
  3. The same as Jeremy Bentham you cannot measure happiness.

According to the lecture notes provided the Tyranny of the Majority would occur when most of the electorate or legislature introduces a law that would be the interest of the majority and does harm to the minority that opposes it. For example, the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the American People against the Tyranny of the Majority. The ideas he proposed to migrate the negative effects John Stuart Mills proposed his '. His Law of Liberty each nation should give its citizens as many 'Civil Rights' as possible to shield them from majority-enforced injustices. (Lecture Notes) According to John Stuart Mill, a society without the liberties he identified in the Law of Liberty is not a free society.

The Utilitarianism idea of fairness suggests everyone should try to achieve maximum happiness for the maximum number of people possible and least pain for most people. The ideas of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill increased the fairness to all the citizens a modern-day representative democracy because they wanted all citizens to have equal rights as citizens. John Stuart Mill believed in a representative democracy which was his preferred form of government. He promoted fairness by being an advocate for female suffrage, voting rights for the much larger portion of the population, all individuals are owed respect, and all individuals at a certain age can express their opinion in voting over a certain age. (Lecture Notes).

Jeremy Bentham believed the purpose of government was based on the Principle of Utility which claims all political and personal moral decisions should be based on the greater good for the greater number. He believed in a representative democracy in which legislators, as well as individual people, followed Utilitarianism. (Lecture Notes) Legislatures kept the Principles of Utility in mind when they decided how to vote and rights they intended to honor. Also, in supporting fairness he was an advocate for equal rights for women, slavery. (Lecture Notes)

Marxism is an economic system created by Karl Marx where there are no classes. The government would control all resources as well as means of production and ensure equality.

The Industrial Revolution was unfair to the workers and it took away the workers independence and their pride in their work according to Karl Marx. The objective of Marxism is to discredit capitalism. He believed in a capitalistic system being fair and just. The powers where the upper class which they had control of the resources and oppresses the poor the lower class to remain in power. I believe Utilitarianism would have been a better solution for the Industrial Law of Individual Liberty because there was not a class system involved. The outcomes are the greater good of everyone and not just to benefit one. Also, the Unity Principle could have been utilized as well as the Law of Individual Liberty to prevent the corruption, crime and class system which occurred during the Industrial Revolution.

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