J.J.C. Smart is an Extreme Utilitarian. The Extreme Utilitarian believes that an action is right based on the total utility of that particular action and not the general utility of an action. A few examples may make this clear. He uses the example of saving a drowning person. In general this is the right thing to do. So the Restricted Utilitarian will say it is always right to save a person who is drowning. However, Smart believes that in particular cases, breaking the rule is in fact the right thing to do. For example, if the person drowning were to be Hitler, the total utility of letting him drown would be higher than saving him. Smart's next example (which is a common example) is much more interesting though. Here is the scenario: Your friend is on his death bed on a desert island and asks you to promise to give all his money away to a jockey club. You promise to do so. When your friend dies, you have the opportunity to give his money to a hospital instead which would make better use of the money and produce overall more utility. No one will ever know that you made a promise so the effects on the integrity of keeping a promise will remain intact. Smart argues that breaking the rule of keeping promises is the right thing to do in this scenario. I find this to be tricky. It seems like you owe your friend to keep the promise but there is clearly a better option. The restricted utilitarian will stick with abiding by the rule, "One ought keep promises he or she makes." But the Extreme Utilitarian after careful calculations of the options can in this instance break the rule because the happiness of breaking the rule is greater than not. I think this is the more reasonable stance to take. Abiding by the rule seems to be a general stance to take but given one particular instance following the rule when it's not producing the most utility is giving some importance to the rule. We talked about happiness being the only intrinsic good for the utilitarian. This would seem to put the restricted utilitarian in a place where obeying a rule provides some good other than happiness. Smart agrees that obeying the rule will be right 99% of the time but there are cases when given time to reevaluate, one should break the rule. I can see a few places to ask questions here. What reasons would we have for not breaking the rule in these 1% of cases? If breaking a rule is acceptable, why do we have general rules? Couldn't we just evaluate each one on it's own? Do we praise the person for breaking the rule when as a society we should abide by there rules?
Smart has a few answers and I find the discussion on the difference between an action being right and an action being praiseworthy to be the most interesting follow up. Smart argues that a person can be wrong but praiseworthy. For example, the person who saves a drowning Hitler did the wrong thing but is praiseworthy for making a snap decision and going in to rescue the drowning person. Similarly, the person who gave the money to the hospital did the right thing but, he would be blameworthy for breaking his promise. This is not particularly intuitive. A person can be blamed for doing the right thing? Smart uses an example of watering flowers in a water shortage. If everyone did it, there would be problems. So by rule, no one should water their flowers. However, if one person does it and gives the pretty flowers away to make someone happy this won't have any negative effects on the water supply and will have positive effects on the people receiving flowers. It seems like the right thing to do is for one person to break the rule. If you had to choose, and knew you were the only one considering doing this, would you break the rule? You would be doing the right thing in the extreme utilitarian sense but would be blameworthy for using water on flowers. I'm not so sure this distinction works but a disagreement in which the person is praiseworthy leads to problems of one person being praiseworthy for watering her flowers and the next is blameworthy for watering his flowers. This seems to commit us to saying that if we believe in extreme utilitarianism, then we must also accept an extreme view on praiseworthiness and blameworthiness in order to not have a conflict of right and blameworthy that Smart is willing to accept.