Anda di halaman 1dari 2

Act Utilitarianism and Criticisms

One objection to Mills Act Utilitarianism Theory is the criticism that the theory is Impractical
and impossible to utilize due to the limitations of human prediction. I will summarize the objections as
well as provide a response to each from the viewpoint of a utilitarian.
The first objection is based upon the idea that John Stuart Mills Act Utilitarianism Theory is
impractical and impossible to utilize, due to the fact of its nature as judgment based upon a set of moral
scales. The interpretation of the ethical implications of an action is based upon the results of a general
formula a hedonic calculus in which the potential happiness resulting from an action is calculated
against the potential harm or suffering it causes. For an action to be ethical, the happiness must
outweigh the suffering. The reason why this theory is impractical is that to use this hedonic calculus,
one would have to make detailed and thorough predictions of the outcomes of the actions being
considered and compared. This is problematic in two ways:-
I. It is impossible to predict every single variable that can result from an action, as there
can be extraneous variables that do influence the outcome of the ethical equation but
cannot be realistically foreseen due to a lack of information. It is impossible to cover all
the bases. There could be hidden secondary consequences (killing a terrorist might
endanger the lives of his wife and child should he fail his mission) that was not
accounted for due to a lack of knowledge.
II. The theory is reliant on the future. We cannot know the exact nature of the
consequences until the action has been seen through from the start to the finish. We
can never truly accurately predict the consequences of an action, whether they will
appear, or if the consequence was ever a potential outcome at all. This makes it
impractical because the hedonic calculus requires us to factor in all consequences, but
our failure to constantly and consistently accurately predict the outcome of an action
defies that requirement.
A response to this criticism would be to explore the success of Act Utilitarianism to perform as a
theory. A theorys purpose is to define the parameters and instruct users of what can be considered an
ethically permissible action. Regardless of the practicality of the theory, it is still an effective one
because it provides a sound and valid manner to guide ethical thinking. The limitations of the human
ability to predict the outcome of and carry out a theory do not necessarily make it false. In example,
until recently, humans were unable to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs Boson; yet this
inability to do so for the 49 years between the creation of the theory and its proof did not render it false
during that time. In the same way, the limitations on the ability of human beings cannot define whether
a theory is true or false.
Im not positive on this response to the criticism of impracticality, as if a moral theory is indeed
meant to instruct us of the ethics of the actions in our day-to-day lives, it should be practical and
applicable within the human limitations as the theory itself is meant to instruct humans. An analogy of a
hammer that weighs a hundred tonnes might be applicable the tool itself does operate within its
defined intention (the 100 tonne hammer can still hammer a nail), but it is impractical and thus useless
as no human could lift and use the tool.