This question will be explored at a British Academy discussion to take place on Wednesday, 4th October between the epidemiologist Michael Marmot and economist Richard Layard. Both speakers have written extensively on this controversial subject at the interface of medicine/well-being and the social sciences.
Michael Marmot, Director of the International Institute for Society and Health at University College London, comments that 'We have remarkably
good health in the rich countries of the world.
Malaria is long gone from Europe and the USA. Parasitic diseases do not wreak havoc with our
lives. Infant mortality is below one in a hundred. Yet even so, where we stand in the social hierarchy is intimately related to our chances of getting ill and to how long we live. And the differences between top and bottom are getting bigger.'
Richard Layard, a Fellow of the British Academy and founder-director of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance,
believes that 'The problem today is that there is no agreed moral philosophy on the basis of which we all operate, and this is troubling to us as individuals and dangerous for our society. We long for an
overarching principle which we could use when conflicts arise between different goods or different rights. The principle of greatest happiness supplies that overarching principle'.
The discussion will be chaired by Onora O'Neill, President of the British Academy. The discussion is convened by Shula Marks, FBA, Professor of the history of southern Africa at SOAS, University of
London. It is organised in conjunction with the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Robin Jackson, the Academy's new Chief Executive and Secretary, added 'The Academy is well placed to make an important contribution to this
important and timely public debate. I am delighted that two leading figures in this debate will be outlining their respective positions at the Academy this Wednesday evening, and leading what I expect will be a lively discussion'.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Michael Marmot can be contacted via Jenny Gimpell, Press Office, UCL,
firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7679 9739.
2. Richard Layard can be contacted on 020 7955 7048 / email@example.com
3. Other media queries should be directed to Michael Reade, British Academy, firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7969 5263
4. The British Academy is the National Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
5. Established by Royal Charter in 1902, the British Academy is an independent learned society promoting the humanities and social sciences. It is composed of Fellows elected in recognition of their
distinction as scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
6. More information about the Academy may be found at: http://www.britac.ac.uk