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Utilitarian Act And Rule Essay

962 words - 4 pages

In the case of the English sailors who were stranded for 24 days, it is not an easy task to determine what is considered morally permissible. In a situation as such, rational beings will be subjected to harsh conditions and hard decisions. Depending upon whom you ask, some may say that the cannibalism of a fellow rational being is gruesome, but permissible under such conditions and others may say that it is morally reprehensible and should never occur. Utilitarianism can be utilized to evaluate such situations by aiming to determine the goodness of the moral action. Immanuel Kant, as well, speaks of guidelines that could assess the morality of this case in the “Fundamental Principles of ...view middle of the document...

In this specific situation the killing and eating of the cabin boy Richard Parker, seems to satisfy all three criterion of the calculator. In the murdering and cannibalism of the boy, the pleasure was increased and pain decreased for the remaining 3 survivors, though the life of the cabin boy was sacrificed it did produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the situation at hand. Lastly I believe that an Act Utilitarian would say that in this particular situation the end does in fact justify the means because though one person died and was eaten as a means, 3 people were able to survive as an end.
The second of the two groups constituting Utilitarianism is the Rule Utilitarian. Unlike that of the first group, rule utilitarian believe that certain moral situations have a rule of action that has been derived from it. This rule of action is employed in situations that are similar, eliminating the need to individually evaluate each situation through the utilitarian calculator in every question of a moral problem. I believe that a rule utilitarian would say that in the case at hand, the men are not morally just in the murder and cannibalism of the cabin boy. They would likely agree that cannibalism of another rational being in any situation is not a moral action. Regardless of the circumstances at hand during those days stranded, a rule utilitarian would say that the killing and eating of other rational being is blatantly immoral. There need not be a specific examination of the situation because the rule derived from Cannibalism is that it is wrong at all times.
The defense given on behave of the survivors who cannibalized the younger boy was that they did so out of necessity caused by the...

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