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    I'm OCR A2, so we did all this Utilitarianism stuff back at AS. I remember being confused about one thing, eventually managing to smooth it out, and now going over it all again I've hit the same problem.

    Textbook says:
    1) An action is judged right or wrong by the amount of good (happiness) the consequences of a rule contain.
    2) Strong Rule util. believe these derived rules should never be disobeyed.

    To me, those two things say, bluntly, "You have to always follow certain rules like not lying. So, even if a strong rule utilitarian thinks about consequences and believes telling the truth in a situation might not bring about the most happiness, they still have to follow the rules". That's like forcing people to do an act which is meant to be right, but then the foreseeable consequences turn it wrong. Is that right? Can that be a criticism?

    Also, I struggled with understanding how it can describe rule utilitarianism as both deontological and consequentialist. If the right/wrongness of an act is determined by the consequences still, then how does rule utilitarianism become deontological. Even with the invoked rules, the moral judgement comes from the after-effects of the act, which has acted according to rules, so that still meals rule is teleological?

    It's just one bit I'm struggling to understand properly. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyone understand my thoughts and can help with my problems?

    Edit: Now another page says "a rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility". I just don't understand. To me, this contradicts everything above :|
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    (Original post by lou_100)
    I'm OCR A2, so we did all this Utilitarianism stuff back at AS. I remember being confused about one thing, eventually managing to smooth it out, and now going over it all again I've hit the same problem.

    Textbook says:
    1) An action is judged right or wrong by the amount of good (happiness) the consequences of a rule contain.
    2) Strong Rule util. believe these derived rules should never be disobeyed.

    To me, those two things say, bluntly, "You have to always follow certain rules like not lying. So, even if a strong rule utilitarian thinks about consequences and believes telling the truth in a situation might not bring about the most happiness, they still have to follow the rules". That's like forcing people to do an act which is meant to be right, but then the foreseeable consequences turn it wrong. Is that right? Can that be a criticism?

    Also, I struggled with understanding how it can describe rule utilitarianism as both deontological and consequentialist. If the right/wrongness of an act is determined by the consequences still, then how does rule utilitarianism become deontological. Even with the invoked rules, the moral judgement comes from the after-effects of the act, which has acted according to rules, so that still meals rule is teleological?

    It's just one bit I'm struggling to understand properly. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyone understand my thoughts and can help with my problems?

    Edit: Now another page says "a rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility". I just don't understand. To me, this contradicts everything above :|
    Your first question seems to be about whether a rule utilitarian morality constitutes a form of irrational 'rule worship'. The idea is this. Rule utilitarianism tells you to act in accordance with whatever set of moral rules would produce the most happiness. (There's a question as to whether this means '...if everyone complied with them' or '...if everyone believed in them' or something else.) But then we can imagine a one-off instance where following the rule clearly wouldn't produce the most happiness in the circumstances. To take your example, if one of the rules that rule utilitarianism would apparently endorse is 'Always tell the truth', there are obviously instances when telling the truth would not produce the most happiness (e.g. telling the truth to a murderer about his intended victim's whereabouts). So if rule utilitarianism is committed to the idea that we should tell the truth in these circumstances, it seems to be defeating its own underlying logic, i.e. that we should always act so as to produce the most happiness. There are responses the rule utilitarian can make at this point, but I think this is the problem you are wondering about.

    I don't recall reading any work that explicitly describes rule utilitarianism and deontological rather than consequentialist, and I think that would be a very odd view. Utilitarianism is more or less universally regarded as one instance of consequentialism, which is roughly the view that we should act so as to produce the best consequences. A consequentialist view is utilitarian if it takes happiness to be the only consequence we are interested in. Following the argument above about 'rule worship' though, you might argue that rule utilitarianism fails to remain true to its central consequentialist thought, that acting rightly is ultimately about producing the right consequences. Still, in my opinion this is some way from making it into a deontological theory.

    Also bear in mind that 'consequentialist' and 'teleological' do not mean the same thing. 'Consequentialist' is fairly easily defined (as above); 'teleological' is about goals or ends. A teleological theory sees ethics about working towards a goal or goals. For the utilitarianism this is happiness; utilitarianism is both consequentialist and teleological. Aristotle also thought that ethics was ultimately about human happiness, though - only he had a much more complex and inclusive theory of happiness than the classical utilitarians, and he analysed right conduct in terms of virtue, not consequences. Aristotle's ethics is therefore teleological but not consequentialist.

    I'm not sure why you think the idea that "a rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility" contradicts the other things you've read. This is just another way of expressing the idea that utilitarians thinks acting rightly is about producing the best consequences, but act and rule utilitarians disagree about how exactly we should produce those consequences. Act utilitarians think we should do so by acting at each instance so as to produce the best consequences. Rule utilitarians think we should do so by acting in accordance with a set of rules that, when complied with (or believed in, etc.), will produce the best consequences. Those rules are 'derived from utility' in the sense that when complied with (etc) they will produce the most utility.
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    (Original post by Estreth)
    Your first question seems to be about whether a rule utilitarian morality constitutes a form of irrational 'rule worship'. The idea is this. Rule utilitarianism tells you to act in accordance with whatever set of moral rules would produce the most happiness. (There's a question as to whether this means '...if everyone complied with them' or '...if everyone believed in them' or something else.) But then we can imagine a one-off instance where following the rule clearly wouldn't produce the most happiness in the circumstances. To take your example, if one of the rules that rule utilitarianism would apparently endorse is 'Always tell the truth', there are obviously instances when telling the truth would not produce the most happiness (e.g. telling the truth to a murderer about his intended victim's whereabouts). So if rule utilitarianism is committed to the idea that we should tell the truth in these circumstances, it seems to be defeating its own underlying logic, i.e. that we should always act so as to produce the most happiness. There are responses the rule utilitarian can make at this point, but I think this is the problem you are wondering about.

    I don't recall reading any work that explicitly describes rule utilitarianism and deontological rather than consequentialist, and I think that would be a very odd view. Utilitarianism is more or less universally regarded as one instance of consequentialism, which is roughly the view that we should act so as to produce the best consequences. A consequentialist view is utilitarian if it takes happiness to be the only consequence we are interested in. Following the argument above about 'rule worship' though, you might argue that rule utilitarianism fails to remain true to its central consequentialist thought, that acting rightly is ultimately about producing the right consequences. Still, in my opinion this is some way from making it into a deontological theory.

    Also bear in mind that 'consequentialist' and 'teleological' do not mean the same thing. 'Consequentialist' is fairly easily defined (as above); 'teleological' is about goals or ends. A teleological theory sees ethics about working towards a goal or goals. For the utilitarianism this is happiness; utilitarianism is both consequentialist and teleological. Aristotle also thought that ethics was ultimately about human happiness, though - only he had a much more complex and inclusive theory of happiness than the classical utilitarians, and he analysed right conduct in terms of virtue, not consequences. Aristotle's ethics is therefore teleological but not consequentialist.

    I'm not sure why you think the idea that "a rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility" contradicts the other things you've read. This is just another way of expressing the idea that utilitarians thinks acting rightly is about producing the best consequences, but act and rule utilitarians disagree about how exactly we should produce those consequences. Act utilitarians think we should do so by acting at each instance so as to produce the best consequences. Rule utilitarians think we should do so by acting in accordance with a set of rules that, when complied with (or believed in, etc.), will produce the best consequences. Those rules are 'derived from utility' in the sense that when complied with (etc) they will produce the most utility.
    Just to add to your response regarding Rule Utilitarianism being both consequentialist and deontological.

    I may be mistaken, however, I do believe that the Rule utilitarian does adopt both approaches in the sense that the agent first thinks about the outcome of an action (consequentialist). Upon realising that this action amounts to the greatest quality of pleasure (qualitative) they then universalise this action into a communal rule which then must be followed indefinitely (deontological and absolute).

    So for example, using the situation Lou has provided, prior to meeting the murderer, the 'strong' rule utilitarian would have established that lying is wrong by way of theoretically examining the consequences of lying. Upon meeting the murder, the strong rule utilitarian will then be forced to act upon this communal rule which was previously established (deontological) - this is ultimately a criticism of strong rule utilitarianism since it sometimes goes against the notions which we would intuitively consider to be 'right'.

    Furthermore, in the same situation, a 'weak' rule utilitarian would hold the same rule that lying is wrong, however if they believe that this rule runs contradictory to the Principle of Utility they can decide to not act upon it - although it can be said that this view is basically to some degree just Act utilitarianism.

    Once again, this may all be incorrect, however I hope it makes sense.
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    j-a-y-888:

    I agree with your analysis of 'weak rule utilitarianism' - the criticism would be that any form of rule utilitarianism that respects the basic insight of consequentialism - that acting rightly is about producing the best consequences - collapses into act utilitarianism. There is therefore a dilemma: either rule utilitarianism maintains the rigidity of its rules and becomes rule worship, or it relaxes the rigidity of its rules and collapses into act utilitarianism.

    I see what you're getting at on the 'deontological' aspect of rule utilitarianism - that following the rule seems to be more important to the 'strong rule utilitarian' than producing the best consequences. But I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say this makes utilitarianism even somewhat deontological. Deontology is about duties, not about absolutism or rigidity. I think the SEP entry on deontology makes a pretty good job of the relationship between deontology and consequentialism in rule utilitarianism. See 5.2: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/. The biggest difficulty is that 'deontological' is such a slippery term - hence why consequentialist ethics tends these days to be lined up against 'Kantian' rather than 'deontological' ethics.
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    (Original post by Estreth)
    Your first question seems to be about whether a rule utilitarian morality constitutes a form of irrational 'rule worship'. The idea is this. Rule utilitarianism tells you to act in accordance with whatever set of moral rules would produce the most happiness. (There's a question as to whether this means '...if everyone complied with them' or '...if everyone believed in them' or something else.) But then we can imagine a one-off instance where following the rule clearly wouldn't produce the most happiness in the circumstances. To take your example, if one of the rules that rule utilitarianism would apparently endorse is 'Always tell the truth', there are obviously instances when telling the truth would not produce the most happiness (e.g. telling the truth to a murderer about his intended victim's whereabouts). So if rule utilitarianism is committed to the idea that we should tell the truth in these circumstances, it seems to be defeating its own underlying logic, i.e. that we should always act so as to produce the most happiness. There are responses the rule utilitarian can make at this point, but I think this is the problem you are wondering about.

    I don't recall reading any work that explicitly describes rule utilitarianism and deontological rather than consequentialist, and I think that would be a very odd view. Utilitarianism is more or less universally regarded as one instance of consequentialism, which is roughly the view that we should act so as to produce the best consequences. A consequentialist view is utilitarian if it takes happiness to be the only consequence we are interested in. Following the argument above about 'rule worship' though, you might argue that rule utilitarianism fails to remain true to its central consequentialist thought, that acting rightly is ultimately about producing the right consequences. Still, in my opinion this is some way from making it into a deontological theory.

    Also bear in mind that 'consequentialist' and 'teleological' do not mean the same thing. 'Consequentialist' is fairly easily defined (as above); 'teleological' is about goals or ends. A teleological theory sees ethics about working towards a goal or goals. For the utilitarianism this is happiness; utilitarianism is both consequentialist and teleological. Aristotle also thought that ethics was ultimately about human happiness, though - only he had a much more complex and inclusive theory of happiness than the classical utilitarians, and he analysed right conduct in terms of virtue, not consequences. Aristotle's ethics is therefore teleological but not consequentialist.

    I'm not sure why you think the idea that "a rule utilitarian judges right or wrong according to the keeping of rules derived from utility" contradicts the other things you've read. This is just another way of expressing the idea that utilitarians thinks acting rightly is about producing the best consequences, but act and rule utilitarians disagree about how exactly we should produce those consequences. Act utilitarians think we should do so by acting at each instance so as to produce the best consequences. Rule utilitarians think we should do so by acting in accordance with a set of rules that, when complied with (or believed in, etc.), will produce the best consequences. Those rules are 'derived from utility' in the sense that when complied with (etc) they will produce the most utility.

    (Original post by j-a-y-888)
    Just to add to your response regarding Rule Utilitarianism being both consequentialist and deontological.

    I may be mistaken, however, I do believe that the Rule utilitarian does adopt both approaches in the sense that the agent first thinks about the outcome of an action (consequentialist). Upon realising that this action amounts to the greatest quality of pleasure (qualitative) they then universalise this action into a communal rule which then must be followed indefinitely (deontological and absolute).

    So for example, using the situation Lou has provided, prior to meeting the murderer, the 'strong' rule utilitarian would have established that lying is wrong by way of theoretically examining the consequences of lying. Upon meeting the murder, the strong rule utilitarian will then be forced to act upon this communal rule which was previously established (deontological) - this is ultimately a criticism of strong rule utilitarianism since it sometimes goes against the notions which we would intuitively consider to be 'right'.

    Furthermore, in the same situation, a 'weak' rule utilitarian would hold the same rule that lying is wrong, however if they believe that this rule runs contradictory to the Principle of Utility they can decide to not act upon it - although it can be said that this view is basically to some degree just Act utilitarianism.

    Once again, this may all be incorrect, however I hope it makes sense.
    Eventually, I read more about it from other books and it all fell into place. Your posts have both just confirmed my new understanding, so thank you for the replies. Estreth your first paragraph explains the issue I found great - thanks. The rest about where I got the deontological idea from: the OCR textbook. I understand your points about it, but according to OCR A2 level Utilitarianism is deontological, something jay888 explains simply and well. Perhaps at University level it gets unpacked and explored in more detail like you've discussed a bit above - but I think for my exam accepting the deontological term in jay888's context is enough for the marks

    Thank you both
 
 
 
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