24 Jan, 2002 100 Philosophy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss whether ‘happiness’ means living a life of pleasure, or of virtue. It is an old question, and the Roman poet Horace attempted to answer it when he wrote; ‘Not the owner of many possessions will you be right to call happy: he more rightly deserves the name of happy who knows how to use the gods’s gifts wisely and to put up with rough poverty, and who fears dishonour more than death’. It seems a noble sentiment but for the Greek Sophist Thrasymachus this sort of attitude was the epitome of moral weakness: For him poverty was miserable, and happiness flowed from wealth and power over men, an idea so persuasive that Plato wrote The Republic in response to its challenge. What have our philosophers made of the compulsion to be happy? And how much does this ancient debate still define what it means to be happy today? Are we entitled to health, wealth and the pursuit of pleasure or is true contentment something else entirely?

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  • Angie Hobbs 24 episodes
    Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick
  • Simon Blackburn 4 episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University
  • Anthony Grayling 10 episodes
    Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London

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Programme ID: p005489g

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/p005489g

Auto-category: 100 (Philosophy and psychology)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Does happiness mean living a life of pleasure or one of virtue?