Essay on Is Mill a Rule Utilitarian?

Words: 888
Pages: 4

D. Vinson
Is Mill A Rule Utilitarian?

I don't believe so. I must begin my argument with two definitions and one assumption. First, Rule Utilitarianism states that right action is defined by whether or not a given action is an instance of a moral rule that tends to maximize utility. Second, Act Utilitarianism states that right action is defined by whether or not a given action maximizes utility. Finally, the Utilitarian Principle holds that right actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. I hope that my assumption will be granted as it is taken verbatim from the text. With these notions as a starting point I believe that I can now show Mill to be an
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It is an unfortunate fact, however, that humans cannot surely predict future consequences and many times get it wrong when they attempt to. It is for this reason that these secondary principles must be relegated to influencing decisions where a mere tendency to maximize utility in cases where the circumstances are quite well understood is acceptable. It must be understood, however, that these secondary principles are not only predicated on past applications of act-utilitarianism (at least the first time someone found that the act maximizes utility) but that they also must appeal to the first principle when they are in conflict, are not wholly applicable, or the decision simply requires a more thorough understanding of possible consequences. In these cases the first principle is used to determine what an action will tend to do. In conclusion, I don't believe that an equivocal answer on Mill as rule- or act-utilitarian can be got solely from Utilitarianism. This is due mostly to the difficulty in attempting to make an original philosophy conform to one or another category that wasn't invented until after its formation and to the author having no clear intention to conform his philosophy to one or the other idea. I do believe that Mill leaned more toward act-utilitarianism due to his understanding of the fluidity of