Cheating and Rule Utilitarianism

I set out to prove that Rule Utilitarianism and cheating were completely compatible in many instances, and I found out that I’m a moron. I could not find a single instance. In fact, after looking at it more thoroughly I realize the fact that they are actually incompatible. Necessarily because of the way that they work out here are some of the examples that I tried to come up with but failed and here is why they failed. Rule Utilitarianism is defined as increasing good and decreasing bad for as many people as possible. Cheating is defined as getting of a reward for ability or finding an easy way out of an unpleasant situation by dishonest means. It is generally used for the breaking of rules to gain unfair advantage in a competitive situation. This broad definition will necessarily include acts of bribery, cronyism, nepotism, sleaze and any situation where individuals are given preference using inappropriate criteria. The rules infringed may be explicit, or they may be from an unwritten code of conduct based on morality, ethics or custom, making the identification of cheating conduct a potentially subjective process.

Cheating can refer specifically to marital infidelity. A person described as a “cheat” doesn’t necessarily cheat all the time, but rather, relies on unfair tactics to the point of acquiring a reputation for it. Cheating is pretty much gaining an unequal footing, and therefore cheating is antithetical to Rule Utilitarianism. “A paradigmatic account of cheating is developed that entails two elements: First, the cheater must violate a prescriptive (rather than descriptive), mandatory (rather than optional), regulative (rather than practice-defining), and conduct-governing (as opposed to decision-governing) rule. Second, the rule must be fair and enforced even-handedly, and must be violated with an intent to obtain an advantage over some party with whom the rule-breaker is in cooperative, rule-governed relations.” Stuart P. Green You can cheat within other ethical frameworks like Act Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism is defined as in any given situation, you should choose the action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number. Peter Singer defines Act Utilitarianism as “An act is right if and only it would have the best consequences and if people accepted.” The major rule difference being that in Rule Utilitarianism there are rules in place and those rules which increase good and decrease bad. I thought that I could find a circumstance where cheating would be allowed under Rule Utilitarianism, and I was wrong I couldn’t find one.

I tried to use the example of cheating in sports. It is not okay to cheat in sports under this ethical framework and here is an example why. In sports such as cycling when Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs, it undermines the integrity of the construct. When one person takes performance enhancing drugs it becomes good for them but it becomes bad for everyone else individually and as well as a whole. So one person benefits but the rest of the group doesn’t so the calculation of good vs bad does not work out for the ethical framework. So one person cheats and they screw everyone else over causing more pain and suffering than pleasure and happiness. The intention of the construct is such that equality is paramount. The problem is that there has to be stability. The goals of Rule Utilitarianism is that a rule applies to everyone and it makes it simple, fair, and stable. Problems that Rule Utilitarianism faces is the lack of predictive power and time. The circumstances don’t always fit every situation and it cannot be done in complex systems like the butterfly effect the minor variations is that it cannot predict the result. When there are competition rules are already set in place for that competition, so if a rule is broken to gain an advantage the competition becomes unequal. It was fair to everyone but once the rule was broken it became unequal. “Practice-defining rules are distinguishable from regulative rule Rawls uses the distinction between constitutive and regulative rules to demonstrate the difference between justifying a practice as a system of rules to be applied and enforced, and justifying a particular action that falls under such rules. According to Rawls, “utilitarian arguments are appropriate with regard to questions about practices, while retributive arguments fit the application of particular rules to particular cases. Rawls, supra note 8,”

I also tried to find a way that cheating would be okay in test taking. Again I came to realize it’s not okay and here is why. Suppose someone wants to cheat on an upcoming exam because that person believes it would be much easier to cheat and not study. Suppose this person taking the exam believes that he or she will not get caught. If this person believes that he or she will get caught then they would not cheat. The cheater has no way of knowing if they will get caught because of the lack of predictive power. Would this person cheat on their exam if they believe that they will not get caught? If this person does get caught cheating they will receive a failing grade and it will decrease their overall happiness. If this person cheats would he or she get a higher grade if they cheat rather than study? Will you need to know the material later on in life?

What grade will this person expect if they do cheat? Will that grade bring them overall happiness and pleasure? If it turns out that you do need to know the material later in life. Let’s say that a person is studying to be a nurse or a doctor then that person becomes an unqualified medical license holder. This means that does not increase the good and decrease the bad for everyone else. Cheating in this instance will actually increase the bad and not the good for everyone as a whole. Nobody would want to be treated by a nurse or doctor if that person does not know what they are doing. This being that it would increase the bad for the patient and decrease happiness for the medical holder. Let’s use the example that if that you will never need to know the material later on life and you believe that you would fail if you didn’t cheat, then the utilitarian would suggest for you to cheat. In exams, cheating is not allowed, and if you cheat then, therefore, you’d be breaking a rule and that goes against Rule Utilitarianism. Using that cheating may make that individual person happier it does not increase the happiness for the greater and to make people happier doesn’t matter. Cheating does not always increase the good and decrease the bad for everyone.

So under the ethical framework of Rule Utilitarianism cheating is wrong because it goes against the Rule Utilitarian. The rule is set in place not to cheat and as a rule, it wouldn’t make the greater people happier. The rule is set in place an example of sports for there to be equal footing. And the rule is set in place in classes to not cheat because it hurts the student and possibly other people in their life whether they are in their life at the current moment or in the future. Let’s suppose that there is a rule set in place stating you are allowed to cheat then, therefore, by rule it is no longer classified as cheating. So under the ethical framework of Rule Utilitarianism cheating is no way allowed. Cheating, however, is allowed under ethical frameworks but this essay is about cheating under the ethical framework of Rule Utilitarianism.

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