Utilitarianism (Summer Repeat)

In a programme first broadcast in 2015, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Utilitarianism, a moral theory that emphasises ends over means and holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham's views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a "doctrine worthy only of swine."


Melissa Lane
The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University

Janet Radcliffe Richards
Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford


Brad Hooker
A Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading

Producer: Simon Tillotson.