Defining Act Utilitarianism : A Theory Of Right Action Essay

993 Words Sep 24th, 2015 4 Pages
Let us begin by formally defining act utilitarianism: a theory of right action that defines the act to be “right if and only if, and because, its consequences contain at least as large a net balance of wellbeing minus ill-being as those of any alternative possible act in that situation” (Frick, Lecture 1 Slides). And thus, an act utilitarian, when making decisions regarding human life, looks solely at the net difference in wellbeing and ill-being. I would like to call attention to the impersonality — which I believe to be the strongest objection to act utilitarianism— that results from this process of quantifying happiness, as it disregards perspectives of the individual as well as the intrinsic value of human life. Take, for example, the moral dilemma caused by the fat man in the trolley problem as presented by Thomson in “Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem.” The situation with the fat man is essentially as follows: There is a trolley whose breaks have suddenly stopped working, and is zooming towards five people who do not have enough time to get out of the way. The only way to prevent the trolley from killing the five people is to push a fat man off a bridge — and in the process, kill him — to block the path of the trolley. If one were to strictly adhere to act utilitarianism, it would be obvious that one fat man should be sacrificed in order to save five others, as all other things equal, surely the well-being of five people is worth more than that of one.…

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