January 10th, 2018
The best aspects of act utilitarianism ought to be combined with the best of the philosophers’ ethics. According to the rule utilitarian, consequences of each action should not be assessed separately, but rather, general rules about the kind of action which is expected to produce greater happiness for the greatest number of people should be adopted (Warburton, 53). Generally, since punishing people produces more pain than happiness, the rule utilitarian argues that ‘an innocent should never be punished’. Such a rule ignores the fact that at certain circumstances, more happiness than unhappiness may be produced by punishing the innocent, especially as a way of preventing and/or reducing violent crime. Although the rule utilitarian condemns punishing the innocent, the outcome of the punishment was more beneficial and brought more happiness to the society. In the same way, a rule utilitarian would opt to keep promises with the argument that this produces a balance of happiness over unhappiness. This may probably explain the reason why the authority decided to foil the information given. As a matter of principle, rule utilitarianism does not consider it necessary for a person to perform complicated deliberations every time one is faced with choices pertaining to moral decision. On the other hand, in a situation where breaking a promise rather than keeping it would bring more happiness than otherwise, the rule utilitarian chooses to stick to the rule instead of considering the merits of the specific case. In this case, the rule utilitarian is guided by the fact that his basic moral sympathies are positioned on a utilitarian perspective. This on contrary questions why the authority decided to halt the information even if the outcome brought more happiness.
Utilitarianism and justice
The notions of justice are the greatest hindrance to the adherence of the ideology that “utility or happiness is the measure of right and wrong” (Mill, 62). The just in this case must have an absolute continuation in nature. The feeling bestowed on us by nature does not necessarily legitimate its actions. In this case, the feelings of justice, like in other instincts need to be guided and enlightened by higher reasoning. According to Rawls (22), the society is rightly ordered and therefore just. The key institutions of the society are placed in such a way that all the individuals sharing it may benefit from the set of balance it gives. The society supposes that the most rational conception of justice is utilitarian. For instance, a man who conceptualizes his preferences is free to make an action by considering the consequences of each action towards achieving his happiness. Just as human beings’ welfare is developed from several satisfactions experienced in their lives, in the same way, the well-being of a society should be governed by the fulfillment of the desires of all the individuals who occupy it. According to a utilitarian, it does not matter how these satisfactions are distributed to the individuals, but rather, what matters more is how one individual distributes his satisfactions over time. In such a case, justifiable distribution is that which tries to give more happiness. Whereas justice considers equal distribution of happiness and fulfillment, the utilitarian precepts should strictly be given a higher priority under all circumstances if the sum of reward is to be maximized. Although justice limits men’s predispositions to injustice and socially detrimental deeds, the utilitarian believes that insisting on such harshness as a code of morals is wrong. Justice theorizes that it is unjust to deny a person his liberty or property that is recognized by the law to belong to them. On the other hand, the person who is deprived the rights may have forfeited the rights of which he is denied. Equally the ‘legal rights’ which one may be claiming to be derived may have been given to them wrongly through ‘bad law’. In such a case, justice or injustice in whichever case will be contradicting. However, some people maintain that all laws; whether good or bad should be obeyed by all citizens and any disobedient will lead to interference by the authority (Mill, 65). On contrary, others believe that laws, considered to be bad would be justifiable to ignore them, while others maintain that all laws which are not convenient are unjust since every law restricts on the natural liberty of mankind and restriction is an injustice unless legitimated by tending to their good. Upon these opinions, it is clear that there is a possibility that unjust laws exist, and that law, therefore is not the eventual decisive factor of justice. In essence, such laws may be biased on making judgments, which justice condemns. Justice also holds that people should receive what they deserve. Equally, it is unjust for people to obtain what they do not deserve or being made to undergo an evil which they do not deserve. Generally, an individual is considered to deserve good if he does right while evil if he does wrong.
Although at first I would have considered arresting and torturing “a suspect” as wrong, since the benefits of arresting him surpassed the arrest and the punishment, I strongly agree with the views of the utilitarian. On the other hand, I find the principle by the rule utilitarian contradicting with the welfare of the society which it claims to protect. In this case, what is the need of arresting a suspected criminal if he cannot be punished? Equally, I fail to understand the essence of the information about the intended car attack if the authority decided to foil it. Although it was justifiable for the agreement to be kept, I feel that the authority should have not halted the information. In this case, I disagree with the act utilitarian by asking whether there was really any need of punishing the suspect. The authority should have used that information to investigate further on the intended bombing and even try to gather any other hidden details from the suspect.
The rightness or wrongness of actions is solely determined by their projected costs and consequences. The tenets of utilitarianism are contradicting in nature. The philosophy suggests that actions taken by a utilitarian should be guided by the need to promote general happiness. Ideally, trying to turn morality to principle may prove more difficult for the utilitarian. Following this, unless the principle is conceived in people’s minds, upholding it with sacredness, people will view the rule as unwelcome.