Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction [#530]
Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction [#530]


  • Offers a comprehensive account of the most important secular ethical theory today
  • Draws on recent findings in psychology and neuroscience and discusses their relevance to arguments for utilitarianism.
  • Considers the influence of utilitarianism and how it applies to real-word problems.

Utilitarianism may well be the most influential secular ethical theory in the world today. It is also one of the most controversial. It clashes, or is widely thought to clash, with many conventional moral views, and with human rights when they are seen as inviolable. Would it, for example, be right to torture a suspected terrorist in order to prevent an attack that could kill and injure a large number of innocent people? 

In this Very Short Introduction Peter Singer and Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek provide an authoritative account of the nature of utilitarianism, from its nineteenth-century origins, to its justification and its varieties. Considering how utilitarians can respond to objections that are often regarded as devastating, they explore the utilitarian answer to the question of whether torture can ever be justified. They also discuss what it is that utilitarians should seek to maximize, paying special attention to the classical utilitarian view that only pleasure or happiness is of intrinsic value. Singer and de Lazari-Radek conclude by analysing the continuing importance of utilitarianism in the world, indicating how it is a force for new thinking on contemporary moral challenges like global poverty, the treatment of animals, climate change, reducing the risk of human extinction, end-of-life decisions for terminally-ill patients, and the shift towards assessing the success of government policies in terms of their impact on happiness. 


1: Origins
2: Justification
3: What should we maximize?
4: Objections
5: Rules
6: Utilitarianism in action
Further reading


Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, Assistant Professor, University of Lodz, Institute of Philosophy, and Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University & Laureate Professor, University of Melbourne
Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek is a Polish utilitarian philosopher, working as Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Lodz. She is the author of several articles in Polish and English on Henry Sidgwick, utilitarianism, bioethics, and philosophy for children, and, with Peter Singer, has co-authored The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics (OUP, 2014). She is currently working on a book on happiness.

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, a position that he now combines with the position of Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. An Australian, in 2012 he was made a Companion to the Order of Australia, his country's highest civilian honour. His books include Animal Liberation (1975; Bodley Head, 2015) Practical Ethics (1979; CUP, 2011), The Life You Can Save (Picador, 2010), and The Most Good You Can Do (Yale University Press, 2015).

"It is a real gem, which everyone should read." - Professor Richard Layard, author of Happiness: Lessons From a New Science

"the most sophisticated and thought-provoking introduction to utilitarianism produced in the last century, one that in its profusion of thoughts will challenge the critics for years to come..." - Bart Schultz, Utilitas

"This book is quite brilliantly done. It's a very concise book, but it's intelligible and precise ..It's very readable." - Fivebooks

"The Best Philosophy Books of 2017: This book is quite brilliantly done. It's a very concise book, but its intelligible and precise in the way it describes the varieties of utilitarianism. It's very readable and it covers a lot of ground. It covers what you would cover in a university undergraduate course on utilitarianism, but you can read and take it in in four or five hours or so ... Generally, this is the best introduction to utilitarianism that I've seen, with the possible exception of a very old book, which was Utilitarianism: For and Against, by J.J.C. Smart and Bernard Williams." - Nigel Warburton, Five Books

"Written with characteristic clarity by the acknowledged heirs of the founders of utilitarianism, this discussion is authoritative, sympathetic though not uncritical, and remarkably comprehensive in a word, ideal." - Jeff McMahan, Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford


ISBN : 9780198728795

Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek; Peter Singer
168 ページ
111 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions





Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction [#530]

Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction [#530]

Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction [#530]