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Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction
Very Short Introductions
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.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
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 * 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 * This book is quite brilliantly done. It's a very concise book, but it's intelligible and precise ..It's very readable. * Fivebooks * 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 * It is a real gem, which everyone should read. * Professor Richard Layard, author of Happiness: Lessons From a New Science *