Act Utilitarianism

Also called the Greatest Happiness Principle.

An action is good if its benefits exceed its harms, and an action is bad if its harms exceed its benefits. This is based on calculations of utility.

An important decision an act utilitarian must make is determining which beings are considered to be morally significant.

It is a consequentialist theory because it focuses on the consequences of an action rather than the intention.

Calculating the utility to make a decision falls under DUR (specifically, EU Max)

Rule Utilitarianism

We ought to adopt those moral rules that, if followed by everyone, lead to the greatest increase in total happiness over all affected parties

Difference between rule utilitarianism and Kantianism:

  • A rule utilitarian looks at the consequences of the action
  • A Kantian looks at the will motivating the action


  1. Utilitarianism forces us to use a single scale or measure to evaluate completely different kinds of consequences.
  2. Utilitarianism ignores the problem of an unjust distribution of good consequences.
    • One person receiving 100 units of good while 99 people receive nothing is treated the same as 100 people receiving 1 unit of good.
    • This doesn’t sit right with most people.
    • See also, The ones who walk away from Omelas