Rule Utilitarianism

Discipline: Philosophy

Also called restricted or indirect utilitarianism.

Version of utilitarianism which says (in its main formulation) that our duty is not to aim for that act which will produce in fact the best overall consequences (because of the impossibility or impracticability of predicting these) but to follow that rule which would have the best consequences if generally followed.

Objections include: the apparent pointlessness of mechanically following a rule which on this occasion will clearly not have the best results; the pointlessness or counterproductiveness of following a rule which would be the best if everyone followed it but which one knows not everyone will; and the difficulty in the end of even distinguishing rule utilitarianism from act utilitarianism.

B A Brody, 'The Equivalence of Act and Rule Utilitarianism', Philosophical Studies (1967)


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