Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748
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Utilitarianism is a family of normative
Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ba ...
Bentham defined as the "fundamental axiom" of his philosophy the principle that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." He became a leading theorist in
Anglo-Americans are people who are English-speaking inhabitants of Anglo-America
Anglo-America (also referred to as Anglo-Saxon America) most often refers to a region in the Americas
The Americas (also collectively called America) is ... philosophy of law
Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy
Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, an ...
, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of
In its most general sense, welfarism is a theory about what has value or what matters. It can be defined as the view that well-being is the only thing that has Axiology#Intrinsic value, intrinsic value. ''Pure welfarists'' hold that this value is d ...
. He advocated
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Economic freedom, or economic liberty, is the ability of people of a society to take economic actions. This is a term used in economic and policy debate
Policy debate is a form of debate competition in which teams of two advocate for and against ...
separation of church and state
The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations
Religious activities generally need some infrastructure to be conducted. F ...
freedom of expression
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom
Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosop ...
, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and (in an unpublished essay) the decriminalising of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of
Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved per ...
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state
State may refer to:
Arts, entertainment, and media Literature
* ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State
* The State (newspaper), ' ...
Corporal punishment or physical punishment is a punishment
Punishment, commonly, is the imposition of an undesirable or suffering, unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority
In the fields of sociolo ...
, including that of children. He has also become known as an early advocate of animal rights
. Though strongly in favour of the extension of individual legal rights
, he opposed the idea of
Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature
Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition
A disposition is a quality of character, a habit
A habit (or ...
Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights.
* Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental
Fundamental may refer to:
* Found ...
(both of which are considered "divine" or "God-given" in origin), calling them "nonsense upon stilts."
Bentham was also a sharp critic of
A legal fiction is a fact
A fact is something that is true
True most commonly refers to truth
Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth i ...
Bentham's students included his secretary and collaborator
James Mill (born James Milne; 6 April 1773 – 23 June 1836) was a Scottish historian
( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives.
A historian is a person who stu ...
, the latter's son,
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most i ...
, the legal philosopher
John AustinJohn Austin may refer to:
*John Austin (soldier) (1801–1833), active in early settlement of Mexican Texas
*John Arnold Austin (1905–1941), warrant officer in the United States Navy
*John Beech Austin (1917–2012), British aviator in ...
, American writer and activist John Neal
. He "had considerable influence on the reform of prisons, schools, poor laws, law courts, and Parliament itself."
On his death in 1832, Bentham left instructions for his body to be first dissected, and then to be permanently preserved as an "auto-icon" (or self-image), which would be his memorial. This was done, and the auto-icon is now on public display in the entrance of the Student Centre at
University College London
University College London, which Trade name, operates as UCL, is a major public university , public research university located in London, United Kingdom. UCL is a Member institutions of the University of London, member institution of the Federa ...
(UCL). Because of his arguments in favour of the general availability of education, he has been described as the "spiritual founder" of UCL. However, he played only a limited direct part in its foundation.
Bentham was born on 15 February 1748 in
Houndsditch is a street running through parts of the Portsoken and Bishopsgate, Bishopsgate Without wards of the City of London; areas which are also a part of the East End of London The road follows the line of the outside edge of the ditch whic ...
London is the Capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary down to the North Sea, and has b ...
to a wealthy family that supported the
The Tories were a political faction
Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or stat ...
. He was reportedly a child prodigy: he was found as a toddler sitting at his father's desk reading a multi-volume history of England, and he began to study
Latin (, or , ) is a classical language
A classical language is a language
A language is a structured system of communication
Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
at the age of three.
He learnt to play the
The violin, sometimes known as a ''fiddle
A fiddle is a Bow (music), bowed String instrument, string musical instrument, most often a violin. It is a colloquial term for the violin, used by players in all genres, including European cla ...
, and at the age of seven Bentham would perform
Sonata (; Italian: , pl. ''sonate''; from Latin and Italian: ''sonare'' rchaic Italian; replaced in the modern language by ''suonare'' "to sound"), in music
Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, ha ...
George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel (; baptised , ; 23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque
The Baroque (, ; ) is a of , , , , and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th century until the 1740 ...
during dinner parties. He had one surviving sibling,
Sir Samuel Bentham (11 January 1757 – 31 May 1831) was a noted English
English usually refers to:
* English language
English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early ...
(1757–1831), with whom he was close.
(God Gives the Increase)
, established = Earliest records date from the 14th century, refounded in 1560
, type = Public school (United Kingdom), Public school Independent school (United Kingdom), Independent day school, day and b ...
; in 1760, at age 12, his father sent him to
The Queen's College, Oxford
The Queen's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford
, mottoeng = Psalm 27, The Lord is my light
, established =
, endowment = £6.1 billion (including colleges) (as of 31 July 2019)
, budget = £2.145 b ...
, where he completed his bachelor's degree in 1763 and his master's degree in 1766. He trained as a lawyer and, though he never practised, was called to the
Bar or BAR may refer to:
A bar is a long raised narrow table or bench designed for dispensing beer or other alcoholic beverage, alcoholic drinks. They were originally chest high, and a bar, often brass, ran the lengt ...
in 1769. He became deeply frustrated with the complexity of English law, which he termed the "Demon of Chicane". When the American colonies published their
in July 1776, the British government did not issue any official response but instead secretly commissioned London lawyer and pamphleteer John Lind
to publish a rebuttal. His 130-page tract was distributed in the colonies and contained an essay titled "Short Review of the Declaration" written by Bentham, a friend of Lind, which attacked and mocked the Americans'
Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical
Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence
Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or menta ...
Abortive prison project and the Panopticon
In 1786 and 1787, Bentham travelled to
Krychaw or Krichev ( be, Кры́чаў, Belarusian Latin alphabet, Łacinka: Kryčaŭ, ; russian: Кричев, , pl, Krzyczew) is a city in the eastern Belarusian Mogilev Region. Krychaw is the Capital city, administrative center of Krychaw Dist ...
in White Russia (modern
, image_map =
, map_caption =
, capital = Minsk
Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niam ...
) to visit his brother,
Samuel ''Šəmūʾēl''; ar, إِشْمَوِيل ' or '; el, Σαμουήλ ''Samouḗl''; la, Samūēl is a figure who, in the narratives of the , plays a key role in the transition from the period of the to the institution of a under ...
, who was engaged in managing various industrial and other projects for
Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tauricheski (, also , ; rus, Григо́рий Алекса́ндрович Потёмкин-Таври́ческий, Grigórij Aleksándrovich Potjómkin-Tavrícheskij, ɡrʲɪˈɡorʲɪj ɐlʲɪkˈsandrəv ...
. It was Samuel (as Jeremy later repeatedly acknowledged) who conceived the basic idea of a circular building at the hub of a larger compound as a means of allowing a small number of managers to oversee the activities of a large and unskilled workforce.
Bentham began to develop this model, particularly as applicable to prisons, and outlined his ideas in a series of letters sent home to his father in England. He supplemented the supervisory principle with the idea of ''
contract managementContract management or contract administration is the management of contracts made with customers, vendors, partners, or employees. Contract management includes negotiating the terms and conditions in contracts and ensuring compliance with the terms ...
''; that is, an administration by contract as opposed to trust, where the director would have a