Act and Rule Utilitarianism
Act-utilitarian believes that whenever a decision making process is in progress, an individual should and must take the action that creates the utmost net utility (Barrow 25). According to this view, the principle of utility is angled on the good results of an action in comparison to other alternative deeds. On the other hand, the rule-utilitarian is driven by the moral regulations associated with an action. Rule-utilitarianism has two parts (Mill 33). The first component states that an action can only be morality justifiable if it is conventional to a moral code (Markel 25). The second part states that a moral rule is only justifiable if its integration into the moral code would result in the highest utility (Sher 41). Thus, the rule-utilitarianism suggests that moral rules should be the basis for judging the morality of any action (Lazari-Radek and Singer 51). Therefore, an act-utilitarian directly applies the utility principles in evaluation the actions of an individual while the rule-utilitarian is more interested in how these actions are aligned to moral code that produces the most utility (Patrick and Werkhoven 18).
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As an act-utilitarian, the decision process will examine the line of action that is likely to generate the greatest good. Although the two patients, genetics researcher and unsuccessfully, deserve similar treatment on equality ground, it is important to examine end results of giving the trial drug. On the basis of the act-utilitarianism, as an oncologist, I would give the trial drug to the genetics researcher since her recovery would benefit many people under the Malaria research. In fact, this action would be a service to the global humanity. I would not give the unsuccessful musician the trial drug because the outcome of this action would only benefit the dependent uncle. Therefore, the greatest good (utility) would be realized if the genetic researcher is given the first priority. Saving lives of a million plus people through the Malaria research cannot be compared to taking care of an uncle and supporting charities.
As a rule-utilitarian, an action must conform to a moral code. At the same time, the action can only be justified when its alignment to the moral code produces the greatest utility. In applying the rule-utilitarianism, as an oncology, I would give the unsuccessful musician the first priority for the trial drug. This action is informed by the fact that the musician has shown signs of recovery as compared to the researcher, whose fate is unknown. It would be morally diluting to prefer the unknown for the known since the full recovery of the musician would be a breakthrough in the trial of the drug. The potential of this break-through goes beyond recovery of the musician to millions suffering from the same condition. My training as a doctor, with regards to a rule-utilitarianism, demands that I give the first priority to a patient showing the sign of recovery as a moral code of practicing medicine. Apparently, this action is align to the doctors’ practicing code and is laden with a myriad of benefits to the field of cancer research. Therefore, my action would promote the doctors’ code while attracting the greatest potential breakthrough in the cancer research. A full recovery of the musician, who is already showing progress, would lead to the approval of the drug to the benefit of all cancer patients across the globe.
Barrow, Robin. Utilitarianism: A Contemporary Statement. 1st ed., Routledge, 2015.
Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna and Peter Singer. Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Markel, Mike. Technical Communication. 11th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014.
Mill, John. The Greatest Happiness Principle – Utilitarianism, on Liberty & the Subjection of Women: The Principle of the Greatest-Happiness: What is Utilitarianism (Proofs & Principles), Civil & Social Liberty, Liberty of Thought, Individuality & Individual Freedom, Utilitarian Feminism. Madison & Adams, 2017.
Patrick, Tom and Sander Werkhoven. Utilitarianism. CRC Press, 2017.
Sher, George, editor. Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory. Routledge, 2013.