Act Utilitarianism defines moral right and wrong in terms of specific acts. To determine the right action for a particular situation, we must consider our possible choices of action and determine which choice would produce the greatest overall utility in its outcome. In assessing an act’s effects or outcome, we must consider both the utility and disutility as these relate to the scope, which includes all those directly or indirectly affected by the act, the duration or length of time of each effect, the intensity or strength of each resulting experience and the probability of each ...view middle of the document...
Act Utilitarianism, however, encounters several objections. These include the calculation problem, meaning it is difficult to accurately predict and evaluate all possible consequences in terms of scope, intensity, duration, and probability. The moral saints problem, which places heavy moral demands upon us. Everything becomes a matter of moral importance, including our choice of clothing. The moral permissiveness objection, as it can approve any sort of action, breaking promises, assassinations, torture, etc. and finally the justice/human rights objection, as it can obligate us to violate a person’s rights or commit serious injustices. Of all these objections, the calculation problem may be easily solved, perhaps by employing rules of thumb to guide many actions. The justice/rights objection is probably the most serious as many people are concerned with the tendency of utilitarianism to not recognize any special rights for human beings over animals.
Classical Act Utilitarianism, encounters many serious objections. Yet utilitarianism might be altered to avoid some of these problems. Besides promoting human happiness over pleasure it is probably most realistic to define right actions in terms of consequences normal humans can anticipate, as opposed to setting an ideal but unrealistic standard. We might also change our method for determining resulting utility to some other method that distributes utility more fairly