JEREMY BENTHAM (/ˈbɛnθəm/ ; 15 February 1748 – 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher , jurist , and social reformer . He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism .
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-American philosophy of law , and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism . He advocated individual and economic freedom , the separation of church and state , freedom of expression , equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of slavery , the abolition of the death penalty , and the abolition of physical punishment , including that of children. He has also become known in recent years 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 and natural rights (both of which are considered "divine" or "God-given" in origin), calling them "nonsense upon stilts". Bentham was also a sharp critic of Legal fictions .
Bentham's students included his secretary and collaborator James Mill
, the latter's son,
John Stuart Mill , the legal philosopher John
Austin , as well as
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 at University College
* 1 Life * 2 Death and the auto-icon
* 3 Work
* 4 Bentham and University College
* 5 Bibliography
* 5.1 Publications
* 5.2 Posthumous publications
* 5.2.1 Bowring (1838–1843) * 5.2.2 Stark (1952–1954) * 5.2.3 Bentham Project (1968–present)
* 6 Legacy * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 External links
Portrait of Bentham by the studio of Thomas Frye , 1760–1762
Bentham was born in
He attended Westminster School and, in 1760, at age 12, was sent by his father to The Queen\'s College, Oxford , 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 in 1769. He became deeply frustrated with the complexity of the English legal code, which he termed the "Demon of Chicane".
When the American colonies published their Declaration of
Independence in July 1776, the British government did not issue any
official response but instead secretly commissioned
Among his many proposals for legal and social reform was a design for
a prison building he called the
Bentham became convinced that his plans for the
More successful was his cooperation with
Bentham was in correspondence with many influential people. In the
1780s, for example, Bentham maintained a correspondence with the aging
In 1823, he co-founded the Westminster Review with James Mill as a journal for the "Philosophical Radicals " – a group of younger disciples through whom Bentham exerted considerable influence in British public life. One was John Bowring , to whom Bentham became devoted, describing their relationship as "son and father": he appointed Bowring political editor of the Westminster Review and eventually his literary executor . Another was Edwin Chadwick , who wrote on hygiene, sanitation and policing and was a major contributor to the Poor Law Amendment Act : Bentham employed Chadwick as a secretary and bequeathed him a large legacy.
An insight into his character is given in Michael St. John Packe's The Life of John Stuart Mill:
During his youthful visits to Bowood House , the country seat of his patron Lord Lansdowne , he had passed his time at falling unsuccessfully in love with all the ladies of the house, whom he courted with a clumsy jocularity, while playing chess with them or giving them lessons on the harpsichord. Hopeful to the last, at the age of eighty he wrote again to one of them, recalling to her memory the far-off days when she had "presented him, in ceremony, with the flower in the green lane" . To the end of his life he could not hear of Bowood without tears swimming in his eyes, and he was forced to exclaim, "Take me forward, I entreat you, to the future – do not let me go back to the past."
A psychobiographical study by Philip Lucas and Anne Sheeran argues that he may have had Asperger\'s syndrome .
Bentham was an atheist.
DEATH AND THE AUTO-ICON
Bentham's auto-icon Public dissection
Bentham died on 6 June 1832 aged 84 at his residence in Queen Square
On 8 June 1832, two days after his death, invitations were distributed to a select group of friends, and on the following day at 3 p.m., Southwood Smith delivered a lengthy oration over Bentham's remains in the Webb Street School of Anatomy however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, and in 2013, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as "present but not voting".
Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. Southwood Smith's experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulfuric acid and drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull. The auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham's own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks . It is now locked away securely.
A 360-degree rotatable, high-resolution 'Virtual Auto-Icon' is available at the UCL Bentham Project's website.
Part of a series on
Types of utilitarianism
* Negative * Rule * Act * Two-level * Total * Average * Prior existence * Preference * Classical
* v * t * e
Bentham's ambition in life was to create a "Pannomion", a complete utilitarian code of law. He not only proposed many legal and social reforms, but also expounded an underlying moral principle on which they should be based. This philosophy of utilitarianism took for its "fundamental axiom", it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong". Bentham claimed to have borrowed this concept from the writings of Joseph Priestley , although the closest that Priestley in fact came to expressing it was in the form "the good and happiness of the members, that is the majority of the members of any state, is the great standard by which every thing relating to that state must finally be determined".
The "greatest happiness principle ", or the principle of utility, forms the cornerstone of all Bentham's thought. By "happiness", he understood a predominance of "pleasure" over "pain". He wrote in The Principles of Morals and Legislation:
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think ...
Bentham was a rare major figure in the history of philosophy to endorse psychological egoism. As to religious values, however, while Hobbes was an avowed Anglican, Bentham was a determined opponent of religion. Crimmins observes: "Between 1809 and 1823 Jeremy Bentham carried out an exhaustive examination of religion with the declared aim of extirpating religious beliefs, even the idea of religion itself, from the minds of men."
Bentham suggested a procedure for estimating the moral status of any
action, which he called the Hedonistic or felicific calculus .
In his exposition of the felicific calculus, Bentham proposed a
classification of 12 pains and 14 pleasures, by which we might test
the "happiness factor" of any action. Nonetheless, it should not be
overlooked that Bentham's "hedonistic" theory (a term from J.J.C.
Smart ), unlike Mill's, is often criticized for lacking a principle of
fairness embodied in a conception of justice . In Bentham and the
Bentham's An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation focuses on the principle of utility and how this view of morality ties into legislative practices. His principle of utility regards "good" as that which produces the greatest amount of pleasure and the minimum amount of pain and "evil" as that which produces the most pain without the pleasure. This concept of pleasure and pain is defined by Bentham as physical as well as spiritual. Bentham writes about this principle as it manifests itself within the legislation of a society. He lays down a set of criteria for measuring the extent of pain or pleasure that a certain decision will create.
The criteria are divided into the categories of intensity, duration, certainty, proximity, productiveness, purity, and extent. Using these measurements, he reviews the concept of punishment and when it should be used as far as whether a punishment will create more pleasure or more pain for a society. He calls for legislators to determine whether punishment creates an even more evil offence. Instead of suppressing the evil acts, Bentham argues that certain unnecessary laws and punishments could ultimately lead to new and more dangerous vices than those being punished to begin with, and calls upon legislators to measure the pleasures and pains associated with any legislation and to form laws in order to create the greatest good for the greatest number. He argues that the concept of the individual pursuing his or her own happiness cannot be necessarily declared "right", because often these individual pursuits can lead to greater pain and less pleasure for a society as a whole. Therefore, the legislation of a society is vital to maintain the maximum pleasure and the minimum degree of pain for the greatest number of people.
Defence of usury, 1788
Part of a series on
* Jeremy Bentham
Julien Offray de La Mettrie
* Fred Feldman
Theodorus the Atheist
Schools of hedonism
* v * t * e
Bentham's opinions about monetary economics were completely different
from those of
Bentham stated that pleasures and pains can be ranked according to their value or "dimension" such as intensity, duration, certainty of a pleasure or a pain. He was concerned with maxima and minima of pleasures and pains; and they set a precedent for the future employment of the maximisation principle in the economics of the consumer, the firm and the search for an optimum in welfare economics.
Bentham was the first person to aggressively advocate for the
codification of all of the common law into a coherent set of statutes;
he was actually the person who coined the verb "to codify" to refer to
the process of drafting a legal code. He lobbied hard for the
formation of codification commissions in both England and the United
States, and went so far as to write to President
During his lifetime, Bentham's codification efforts were completely unsuccessful. Even today, they have been completely rejected by almost every common law jurisdiction, including England. However, his writings on the subject laid the foundation for the moderately successful codification work of David Dudley Field II in the United States a generation later.
Bentham is widely regarded as one of the earliest proponents of
animal rights , and has even been hailed as "the first patron saint of
animal rights". He argued that the ability to suffer, not the ability
to reason, should be the benchmark, or what he called the "insuperable
line". If reason alone were the criterion by which we judge who ought
to have rights, human infants and adults with certain forms of
disability might fall short, too. In 1789, alluding to the limited
degree of legal protection afforded to slaves in the French West
Indies by the
The day has been, I am sad to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing, as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse ? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
Earlier in that paragraph, Bentham makes clear that he accepted that animals could be killed for food, or in defence of human life, provided that the animal was not made to suffer unnecessarily. Bentham did not object to medical experiments on animals, providing that the experiments had in mind a particular goal of benefit to humanity, and had a reasonable chance of achieving that goal. He wrote that otherwise he had a "decided and insuperable objection" to causing pain to animals, in part because of the harmful effects such practices might have on human beings. In a letter to the editor of the Morning Chronicle in March 1825, he wrote:
I never have seen, nor ever can see, any objection to the putting of dogs and other inferior animals to pain, in the way of medical experiment, when that experiment has a determinate object, beneficial to mankind, accompanied with a fair prospect of the accomplishment of it. But I have a decided and insuperable objection to the putting of them to pain without any such view. To my apprehension, every act by which, without prospect of preponderant good, pain is knowingly and willingly produced in any being whatsoever, is an act of cruelty; and, like other bad habits, the more the correspondent habit is indulged in, the stronger it grows, and the more frequently productive of its bad fruit. I am unable to comprehend how it should be, that to him to whom it is a matter of amusement to see a dog or a horse suffer, it should not be matter of like amusement to see a man suffer; seeing, as I do, how much more morality as well as intelligence, an adult quadruped of those and many other species has in him, than any biped has for some months after he has been brought into existence; nor does it appear to me how it should be, that a person to whom the production of pain, either in the one or in the other instance, is a source of amusement, would scruple to give himself that amusement when he could do so under an assurance of impunity.
GENDER AND SEXUALITY
Bentham said that it was the placing of women in a legally inferior position that made him choose, at the age of eleven, the career of a reformist. Bentham spoke for a complete equality between sexes.
The essay Offences Against One's Self, argued for the liberalisation of laws prohibiting homosexual sex. The essay remained unpublished during his lifetime for fear of offending public morality. It was published for the first time in 1931. Bentham does not believe homosexual acts to be unnatural, describing them merely as "irregularities of the venereal appetite". The essay chastises the society of the time for making a disproportionate response to what Bentham appears to consider a largely private offence – public displays or forced acts being dealt with rightly by other laws. When the essay was published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 1978, the "Abstract" stated that Bentham's essay was the "first known argument for homosexual law reform in England".
For Bentham, transparency had moral value. For example, journalism puts power-holders under moral scrutiny. However, Bentham wanted such transparency to apply to everyone. This he describes by picturing the world as a gymnasium in which each "gesture, every turn of limb or feature, in those whose motions have a visible impact on the general happiness, will be noticed and marked down". He considered both surveillance and transparency to be useful ways of generating understanding and improvements for people's lives.
Bentham distinguished among fictional entities what he called
"fabulous entities" like
Prince Hamlet or a centaur , from what he
termed "fictitious entities", or necessary objects of discourse,
BENTHAM AND UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
Bentham is widely associated with the foundation in 1826 of London
University (the institution that, in 1836, became University College
Bentham and his ideas can nonetheless be seen as having inspired
several of the actual founders of the University. He strongly believed
that education should be more widely available, particularly to those
who were not wealthy or who did not belong to the established church;
in Bentham's time, membership of the
Church of England
The more direct associations between Bentham and UCL – the College's custody of his Auto-icon (see above) and of the majority of his surviving papers – postdate his death by some years: the papers were donated in 1849, and the Auto-icon in 1850. A large painting by Henry Tonks hanging in UCL's Flaxman Gallery depicts Bentham approving the plans of the new university, but it was executed in 1922 and the scene is entirely imaginary. Since 1959 (when the Bentham Committee was first established) UCL has hosted the Bentham Project, which is progressively publishing a definitive edition of Bentham's writings.
UCL now endeavours to acknowledge Bentham's influence on its foundation, while avoiding any suggestion of direct involvement, by describing him as its "spiritual founder".
Bentham was an obsessive writer and reviser, but was constitutionally
incapable, except on rare occasions, of bringing his work to
completion and publication. Most of what appeared in print in his
lifetime (see list of published works online) was prepared for
publication by others. Several of his works first appeared in French
translation, prepared for the press by Étienne Dumont , for example,
Theory of Legislation, Volume 2 (Principles of the Penal Code) 1840,
Weeks, Jordan, "> The back of No. 19, York Street (1848). In 1651
Works published in Bentham's lifetime include:
* Short Review of the Declaration (1776). An attack on the United
States Declaration of Independence .
* A Fragment on Government (1776). This was an unsparing criticism
of some introductory passages relating to political theory in William
Commentaries on the Laws of England . The book,
published anonymously, was well received and credited to some of the
greatest minds of the time. Bentham disagreed with Blackstone's
defence of judge-made law, his defence of legal fictions, his
theological formulation of the doctrine of mixed government, his
appeal to a social contract and his use of the vocabulary of natural
law. Bentham's "Fragment" was only a small part of a Commentary on the
Commentaries, which remained unpublished until the twentieth century.
* An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
(printed for publication 1780, published 1789).
* Defence of Usury (1787). Bentham wrote a series of thirteen
"Letters" addressed to Adam Smith, published in 1787 as Defence of
Usury. Bentham's main argument against the restriction is that
"projectors" generate positive externalities . G.K. Chesterton
identified Bentham's essay on usury as the very beginning of the
"modern world". Bentham's arguments were very influential. "Writers of
eminence" moved to abolish the restriction, and repeal was achieved in
stages and fully achieved in England in 1854. There is little evidence
as to Smith's reaction. He did not revise the offending passages in
The Wealth of Nations , but Smith made little or no substantial
revisions after the third edition of 1784.
* Essay on Political Tactics (1791)
* Emancipate your Colonies! (1793)
* Anarchical Fallacies (printed 1796, published 1816). An attack on
the Declaration of the
On his death, Bentham left manuscripts amounting to an estimated 30
million words, which are now largely held by UCL's
John Bowring , the young radical writer who had been Bentham's
intimate friend and disciple, was appointed his literary executor and
charged with the task of preparing a collected edition of his works.
This appeared in 11 volumes in 1838–1843. Bowring based much of his
edition on previously published texts (including those of Dumont)
rather than Bentham's own manuscripts, and elected not to publish
Bentham's works on religion at all. The edition was described by the
Edinburgh Review on first publication as "incomplete, incorrect and
ill-arranged", and has since been repeatedly criticised both for its
omissions and for errors of detail; while Bowring's memoir of
Bentham's life included in volumes 10 and 11 was described by Sir
In 1952–1954, Werner Stark published a three-volume set, Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings, in which he attempted to bring together all of Bentham's writings on economic matters, including both published and unpublished material. Although a significant achievement, the work is considered by scholars to be flawed in many points of detail, and a new edition of the economic writings is currently in preparation by the Bentham Project.
Bentham Project (1968–present)
Further information: Transcribe Bentham
In 1959, the Bentham Committee was established under the auspices of
To assist in this task, the Bentham papers at UCL are being digitised
by crowdsourcing their transcription.
Transcribe Bentham is an
award-winning crowdsourced manuscript transcription project, run by
The Faculty of Laws at University College
Bentham's name was adopted by the Australian litigation funder IMF Limited to become Bentham IMF Limited on 28 November 2013, in recognition of Bentham being "among the first to support the utility of litigation funding".
Ivan Vazov , national poet and man of letters of
* ^ "Ancestry of
* ^ Bentham, Jeremy. "Offences Against One\'s Self", first published in Journal of Homosexuality, v.3:4 (1978), pp. 389–405; continued in v.4:1 (1978).
* Also see Boralevi, Lea Campos. Bentham and the Oppressed. Walter de Gruyter, 1984, p. 37.
* ^ Bedau, Hugo Adam (1983). "Bentham's Utilitarian Critique of
the Death Penalty". The Journal of Criminal
* ^ Sunstein, Cass R. "Introduction: What are Animal Rights?", in Sunstein, Cass R. and Nussbaum, Martha (eds.). Animal Rights. Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 3–4.
* Francione, Gary. Animals –
* ^ Harrison, Ross (1995). "Jeremy Bentham". In Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 85–88.
* Also see Sweet, William (11 April 2001). "Jeremy Bentham". The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
* ^ A B "UCL Academic Figures". Archived from the original on 18
* ^ "Jeremy Bentham". University College London. Archived from the
original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
* ^ Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America's
Founding Document. Edited by Christian Y. Dupont and Peter S. Onuf.
University of Virginia Library (Charlottesville, VA: 2008) pp.
32–33. ISBN 978-0-9799997-0-3 .
* ^ "Short Review of the Declaration" (1776) as found in The
Declaration of Independence: A Global History by David Armitage
* ^ See "An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress"
(First ed.). London: T. Cadell. 1776. Retrieved 11 December 2012
* ^ "Panopticon".
* ^ Foucault, Michel (1977). Discipline and Punish: the Birth of
the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp.
200, 249–56. ISBN 9780140137224 .
* ^ Schofield 2009, pp. 90–93.
* ^ An Act for the More Effectual Prevention of Depredations on the
River Thames (39 "Thames Police: History – Thames Magistrates\'
Court". Retrieved 12 February 2013.
* ^ Everett 1966 , pp. 67–69
* ^ Persky, Joseph (2007-01-01). "Retrospectives: From Usury to
Interest". The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 21 (1): 228.
* ^ Bentham, Jeremy, Philip Schofield, Catherine Pease-Watkin, and
Cyprian Blamires (eds), Rights, Representation, and Reform: Nonsense
upon Stilts and Other Writings on the French Revolution, Oxford:
Oxford UP, 2002, p. 291.
* ^ Joseph Hamburger, Intellectuals in politics: John Stuart Mill
and the Philosophical Radicals (Yale University Press, 1965); William
Thomas, The philosophic radicals: nine studies in theory and practice,
1817–1841 (Oxford, 1979)
* ^ Bartle 1963
* ^ Everett 1968 , p. 94
* ^ St. John Packe, Michael. The Life of John Stuart Mill. 1952, p.
* ^ Asperger’s Syndrome and the Eccentricity and Genius of Jeremy
Bentham, By Philip Lucas and Anne Sheeran, UCL Bentham Project,
Journal of Bentham Studies, vol. 8 (2006)
* ^ James E. Crimmins (1986). Bentham on Religion: Atheism and the
Secular Society. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 95. Retrieved 4
May 2013. Bentham was an atheist and in no sense of the word could he
be described as a theologian.
* ^ Ana Marta González, ed. (2012). Contemporary Perspectives on
Natural Law: Natural
* ^ Вазов, Иван (1942). Събрани съчинения, пълно издание под редакцията на проф. Михаил Арнаудов. I лирика. София: Хемус. p. 247.
* Bartle, G.F. (1963). "
* Francisco Vergara, « Bentham and Mill on the “Quality” of Pleasures », Revue d'études benthamiennes, Paris, 2011. * Francisco Vergara, « A Critique of Elie Halévy; refutation of an important distortion of British moral philosophy », Philosophy, Journal of The Royal Institute of Philosophy, London, 1998.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to JEREMY BENTHAM .
Wikiquote has quotations related to: JEREMY BENTHAM
* Works by Jeremy