Unlike Bentham, an act Utilitarian, Mill has been seen as a Rule Utilitarian. However this isn’t the phrase that Mill himself would have used.
Rule Utilitarianism believes that using the Utility Principle you can identify general rules – based on past experience – that would help you to follow this principle without having to assess each situation. E.g. Do not lie, do not cause injury to others, do not steal, do not murder etc.
There are two key types of Utilitarianism identified:
Strong Rule Utilitarianism:
Any rules created by the Utility Principle should never be broken. This is because they believe these rules were created to make the greatest amount of happiness.
Weak Rule Utilitarianism:
Rules created by the Utility Principle may be broken in extreme circumstances. For example ‘Do not kill’ can be broken if during WW2 someone was to kill Hitler, as this would fulfil the Principle of Utility. Mill is often referred to as a Weak Rule Utilitarian.