Utilitarianism is roughly defined as the ethical theory that teaches that the end of human conduct is the achievement of happiness or a greater good, and that consequently the discriminating idea that distinguishes conduct into right and wrong is whether or not that conduct maximizes this good or happiness. I agree with Mills on the basis that this achievement of a greater good is essential when choosing one's actions. Therefore, I agree with the theory of utilitarianism, but only to a point. Utilitarianism in its original form, also called "act-utilitarianism", focuses solely on the consequences of an action. This, in itself is a good idea, but there are many areas in which this theory comes into conflict with common sense and principle, both of which it neglects. Over the years, supporters of utilitarianism modified this theory to combat its critics, thus, in my eyes as well as the eyes of many others, making utilitarianism a more credible theory. This revised version is called "rule-utilitarianism", in which "rules will be established by reference to the principle, and individual acts will then be judged right or wrong by reference to the rules" (Rachels 118). This version of utilitarianism proves to be more realistic and practical when applied to a few different issues.
When considering people's rights, I find it easy to see the flaws in act-utilitarianism. I believe that people do have rights, and that those rights should be respected and upheld. According to act-utilitarianism, violation of one person's rights would be justified if the result brought about a sense of general good and happiness. I ultimately find this to be dehumanizing because people are being used as a means to an end in this type of situation. Unlike act-utilitarianism, rule-utilitarianism highlights the fact that the violation a person's rights is morally wrong based on the principle of the act.