Due Date: November 14th 11:59PM

Essay Topics:

  1. Explain and evaluate J.S. Mill’s distinction between higher and lower pleasures. This means explain and evaluate Mill’s arguments for the existence of higher pleasures.
  2. Explain and evaluate J.J.C. Smart’s critique of Rule Utilitarianism.  This means explain and evaluate Smart’s arguments for why rule utilitarianism fails.

Instructions: Choose topic 1 or 2. Write a 1,000-1,500 word essay on the topic.

Reminder: Don’t forget to look at the essay writing resources on the course website before beginning your essay, especially the essay grading rubric.

Please see syllabus for submission instructions.


Here is a good thesis that you might want to consider using:

I am going to argue that Smart’s criticism of rule utilitarianism is correct because as he argues there are genuine cases in which it is optimific to break rules that are generally optimific.

Be sure to set up the essay by explaining what might motivate one to consider rule utilitarianism as a better alternative to act utilitarianism.

Explain Smart’s argument as to why rule utilitarianism does not work a criteria for judging actions and his explanation of the legitimate roles that rule following can play in moral theory, even if one accepts act utilitarianism as the correct moral theory.

Related to the above point is an explanation of why Smart takes the time to talk about how the morality motivations are judged differently from actions (explain his examples in your own words).

Be sure to explain the importance of the lying promise example. (Bonus points for other examples that further prove Smart’s point.) (You can see the lecture notes for a formal version of Smart’s argument that utilizes this example.)

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