Act Utilitarianism Analysis

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Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory of ethics which states that a person's act is morally right if and only if it produces the greatest overall utility. In assessing a moral theory there are four adequate criteria which are: completeness, explanatory, practicability and moral conformation. For completeness, an ethical theory should support all meaningful moral claims, neglecting none of the claims. Next, there is explanatory power. For this assessment a theory should provide insight into what makes something moral or immoral. As for practicability, the theory should be useful to us in actual practice. Lastly, for moral conformation, it should give us correct answers to our moral questions. The better a theory explains and fulfils these …show more content…
Starting with completeness, act utilitarianism, is intended to explain what makes an act morally right or wrong. It seeks to maximize utility or produce the greatest good. It doesn't matter whether we know the people whose utility we are maximizing, everyone's utility counts equally. So if we consider an example that a terrorist plants a bomb that is about to kill 500 people. But the only way to save these people's lives is to torture the terrorist's innocent wife in front of him. An act utilitarian will say we should torture the wife because one innocent person being tortured is not as bad as 500 innocent people dying. Act utilitarianism evaluates actions based on whether that individual action will maximize utility. So here we see the problem act utilitarianism encounters in that actions may be considered morally right for the sake of maximizing utility but it may require to perform actions that can be immoral (from a normal societies perspective). For explanatory power, act utilitarianism clearly sates what makes an act right versus wrong. A morally right act is an act which would produce the greatest overall utility and wrong act is doing contrary. Next is practicability. To act utilitarianism, the moral claims and values of this ethical theory give a clear understanding (maximize utility) for how to practice it. Lastly, we have moral conformation. Referring back to the torture example, act utilitarianism’s answers don’t really agree with our clearest and most widely shared moral intuitions. This theory approves of wrongs like torturing and dishonesty that is surely not right from the view of many societies.
Act utilitarianism has its advantages but fails in other areas. In assessing act utilitarianism, it satisfied the criteria of explanatory power and practicability but was weak in the area of completeness and moral

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