with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 042: Utilitarianism and Its Flavors (with Nick Beckstead)

May 17, 2021

​What is utilitarianism? And what are the different flavors of utilitarianism? What are some alternatives to utilitarianism for people that find it generally plausible but who can't stomach some of its counterintuitive conclusions? For the times when people do use utilitarianism to make moral decisions, when is it appropriate to perform actual calculations (as opposed to making estimations or even just going with one's "gut")? And what is "utility" anyway?

Nick Beckstead is a Program Officer for the Open Philanthropy Project, which he joined in 2014. He works on global catastrophic risk reduction. Previously, he led the creation of Open Phil’s grantmaking program in scientific research. Prior to that, he was a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Rutgers University, where he wrote a dissertation on the importance of shaping the distant future. You can find out more about him on his website.

Click here to return to the list of all episodes.


Sign up to receive one helpful idea and one brand-new podcast episode each week!

Subscribe via RSS or through one of the major podcast platforms:


Host / Director
Spencer Greenberg

Josh Castle

Audio Engineer
Ryan Kessler

Uri Bram


Lee Rosevere
Josh Woodward
Broke for Free
Quiet Music for Tiny Robots

Please note that Clearer Thinking , Mind Ease , and UpLift are all affiliated with this podcast.