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Although aspects of Act
Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism seem like opposites, in essence, they
are geared towards helping as many individuals as possible. However, in order
to compare and contrast one from the other, it’s important to mention what they
are defined as. According to Stephen, “…act utilitarians apply the utilitarian
principle directly to the evaluation of individual actions…” This implies that
the utilitarian principle, an idea of increasing the amount of good for the
least amount of bad, is left to the individual’s
ability to assess their given situation and act in order to uphold the
utilitarian principle. On the other hand, Stephen argued that “…rule utilitarians apply the utilitarian
principle directly to the evaluation of rules…” This refers to the fact
that the utilitarian principle would be upheld by set moral rules that have
shown, on average, the best course of action in a given case. Cleary, by going
down one path of Utilitarianism, it would seem that we would be abandoning the
other. However, in essence, that is not the case due to the fact that both Act
and Rule Utilitarianism are meant to increase the amount of good done. As
Stephen puts it, “Both act utilitarians and rule utilitarians agree that our
overall aim in evaluating actions should be to create the best results
possible…” The issue lies on whether established “moral codes” apply to the
specific case given. When it comes down to it, Act Utilitarianism is simply the
act of going against the values of Rule Utilitarian because they simply don’t
do enough at the moment. Of course, each possesses
their own unique drawbacks when left unchecked. Act Utilitarianism turns into
anarchism, while Rule Utilitarianism turns into something resembling totalitarianism.
In order to avoid these extremes, it would be wise to look for some sort of
balance between them in order for one to not counteract the other. Perhaps as a
standard, we should follow our set moral codes until the circumstance presents
itself and tells us otherwise. Regardless, in the end, both forms of
Utilitarianism are different pieces of the same puzzle.

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