Two Level Utilitarianism


Nerd that I am, this is what i was looking at this morning. In step one you use your intuition.. until you run up against issues that don’t happen every day, and then you use your fancy ‘sunday-go-to-meeting’ ethics.

Here’s the first little bit;

Two-level utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory of ethics developed by R. M. Hare.[1] According to the theory, a person’s moral decisions should be based on a set of ‘intuitive’ moral rules, except in certain rare situations where it is more appropriate to engage in a ‘critical’ level of moral reasoning.

Utilitarians believe that an action is right if it produces the most possible good outcomes and fewest bad outcomes.[2] Traditional utilitarianism treats this as a claim that people should try to ensure that their actions maximise overall happiness or pleasure.[3]

Two-level utilitarianism is virtually a synthesis of the opposing doctrines of act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism states that in all cases the morally right action is the one which produces the most pleasure, whereas rule utilitarianism states that the morally right action is the one that is in accordance with a moral rule whose general observance would create the most happiness. In terms of two-level utilitarianism, act utilitarianism can be likened to the ‘critical’ level of moral thinking, and rule utilitarianism to the ‘intuitive’ level.[4]


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