Ranges of variation in utilitarian ethics
We have already seen how utilitarian theories could vary in two respects:
- Does it define happiness hedonistically or in terms of preferences?
- Does it emphasize maximizing total happiness or average happiness?
Utilitarian theories of ethics can also vary in several other respects, including:
- How "rigorous" the principle of utility is taken to be; whether it requires one to "maximize" aggregate utility, just not reduce it, or something else.
- Whether one is held accountable for all the consequences of one's decisions, or only some subset of them, e.g. those within a certain limited period of time, or just the "reasonably foreseeable" ones.
- Whether it applies the principle of utility "directly" (as act utilitarianism does) or "indirectly" (as rule utilitarianism does).