Jeremy Bentham, the father and prophet of utilitarianism, famously opens his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation with an apparent statement of the obvious: “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters: pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to determine what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do” (Bentham 1907: 1). Rational individuals should so order their aff airs as to pursue pleasure and avoid pain; and the aim of rational and just government, and its instruments such as laws, should be to optimize human happiness by making possible the maximum amount of pleasure and the minimum amount of pain. Hunger seems to provide the paradigm driver to rational behaviour: eating both relieves the pain of hunger and aff ords pleasure. Nature thus reaches into the very heart of humanity, so that even governments and their laws can have a natural foundation. And yet we should be on our guard. is is not only because the goal of maximizing overall utility, without thought for justice for individuals – so that it is deemed right to crush those who seem to stand in the way of collective progress – has had such catastrophic eff ects in the twentieth century, and would have done so even if the leaders who used the rhetoric of utilitarianism had not been blood-boltered kleptocrats, but also because there is much about human hunger that is remote from

nature and is even anti-natural. And this, as we have already seen, is true even of the seemingly primordial hunger – for food.