This is the best definition I found.
Also called restricted or indirect utilitarianism.
"Version of utilitarianism which says (in its main formulation) that our duty is not to aim for that act which will produce in fact the best overall consequences (because of the impossibility or impracticability of predicting these) but to follow that rule which would have the best consequences if generally followed."
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Here's an example of rule utilitarianism. Prosecuting and punishing thieves is a rule followed by most societies. It generally brings about the most good for the most people. But what if the thief is a poor person who stole a loaf of bread because he was hungry? This is the theme of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables when Jean Valjean was persecuted for this crime.
Another example of rule utilitarianism from my experience involved an impoverished high school student who was struggling with her family and her classes. The principal saw that she was wearing a skirt that was an inch or so shorter than the school rules required. He sent her home -- a several block walk -- to change her skirt. This caused her to miss a class and gave her another reason to dislike school.
A post script -- we noted at the time that the "in" girls got by with wearing skirts that were deemed "too short" but the principal ignored these violations.
how do the examples apply to the moral theory? does rule utiliarianism say that the theif IS a bad person according to rule utiliarianism? also, for the girl example, does rule utilitarianism support the principal because he was following the rules in which benefit and is fair to everyone?
Rule utilitarianism supports following the rule, no matter what the individual circumstances are.
The people who follow this doctrine of rule utilitarianism are convinced we must always follow the rule that produces the most good for the most people. It doesn't judge whether the thief is a bad person; it just says that he stole and must be punished. He broke the law.
Rule utilitarianism supports the principal who enforced the dress code rule.
okay. for exmaple, in a case of scientific fraud, rule utiliarianism would say its "bad", because the rule is that fabrication of data/scientific misconduct is wrong? but wouldnt that be just stating what you're trying to prove? what would be the "rule" part in terms of scientific fraud?
thank you for being so patient with me!
You're welcome. I'm enjoying our conversation.
Scientific fraud is obviously against the rules of science. Scientists observe and report the truth of their observations. You stated the rule --"fabrication of data/scientific misconduct is wrong."
With rule utilitarianism, a scientist who committed fraud or fabricated data would be condemned because s/he violated the rule.
wow, everything became so much clearer right after that post. thank you so much, i get it now!!
That's why I love this board.