Act Utilitarianism And Its Moral Theory

875 Words Mar 23rd, 2016 4 Pages
Act-utilitarianism is the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action is to be judged by its consequences, that is the maximisation of utility - whether or not said action is good or bad (Smart 2000). In the scenario presented, an act-utilitarian would suggest that one is morally permitted to pull the lever and kill one in order to save five lives. However, this moral theory does not compare with the majority of people’s instincts– this suggests that act-utilitarianism is problematic and does not allow for society’s general intuitions.
In order to make an objection to act-utilitarianism, I think it is essential to compare two distinct trolley problems and equate both the objection to act-utilitarianism and its moral theory – in doing so, we will have a more precise result and also see the reasons act-utilitarianism is severely problematic. If you are to compare Thompson’s (1985) ‘Bystander at the Switch’ with the given scenario, each case seems to be identical. But people’s intuitions tell us otherwise. The act-utilitarian response, in both cases, would be to sacrifice the one to save five - as it appears to present maximum utility. I believe that if we are to consider this difference and come up with a solution, we will be able to draw an appropriate objection to act-utilitarianism. Imagine that after pulling the switch in the bystander case, the one on the track managed to somehow escape, you have then saved five without killing one. Obviously this would be the best…
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