Image for What's so bad about behaving badly?

Play now 45 mins

What's so bad about behaving badly?

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 31 March 2012

This week on the Forum: what are the virtues of our vices?

Does living in a dynamic changing culture such as ours mean we should re-examine our moral conventions?

Australian psychologist Simon Laham challenges the notion the seven deadly sins are bad for us.

He says latest scientific evidence shows sins can be pro-social: sloth makes you more helpful, anger makes you more open-minded, and lust aids concentration.

Professor of Philosophy Emrys Westacott mounts a defence of rudeness, gossip and other bad habits.

He argues that because of our rapidly changing times, we need to let go of outmoded moral codes.

Urvashi Butalia is an award winning Indian historian and feminist.

From her personal point of view as a Hindu, she explains why Hinduism blurs the notion of vice and virtue.

"Should you resist the temptations of desire, sloth gluttony and riches?" Illustration by Emily Kasriel


4 items
  • Simon Laham

    Simon Laham

    Simon Laham is an experimental social psychologist from the University of Melbourne in Australia, who focuses on the psychology of morality and social interaction. In his latest book The Joy of Sin, he uses modern psychological science to show that the Seven Deadly Sins are actually good for us. He argues the simplistic labelling of sinning is uniformly wrong and does nothing but stifle sophisticated discussion.

    The Joy Of Sin
  • Emrys Westacott

    Emrys Westacott

    Emrys Westacott is Professor of Philosophy at Alfred University in New York. In his most recent book, The Virtues of our Vices he reveals how there is a hidden value in much frowned-upon behaviour: for instance, gossip can foster intimacy between friends, and rudeness can help convey an important message.

    The Virtues of our Vices
  • Urvashi Butalia

    Urvashi Butalia

    Urvashi Butalia is an Indian historian, and the Director and Co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house. She says that according to Hindu belief vice and virtue are intermeshed, which gives a truer picture of real life.

  • Sixty Second Idea to Change the World

    In our Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World Emrys Westacott suggests tackling political corruption by introducing austerity constraints. These include capping the income of politicians at the average wage in their society, making sure their home is no more lavish than the average property in the surrounding region, and having them all wear the same simple civil service uniform in public. The idea is this would keep politicians more humble and in touch with the way ordinary people live.

  • In Next Week’s Programme:

    We join the annual gathering organised by the Skoll Foundation in Oxford and explore whether the interaction between a social entrepreneur and a local community can be a relationship of equals. With William Foote of Root Capital, UNICEF’s Geeta Rao-Gupta and Brizio Biondi-Morra from the Avina Foundation.


Free downloads

  1. Image for Forum - A World of Ideas

    Forum - A World of Ideas

    The world's most remarkable minds tackle a big idea. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

  2. Image for Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    An imaginative, quirky solution to a challenge of our age. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss