Jeremy Bentham quotes

Jeremy Bentham photo
25   1

Jeremy Bentham

Birthdate: 15. February 1748
Date of death: 6. June 1832

Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer 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 freedoms, 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, capital punishment and physical punishment, 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 and natural rights , 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 Robert Owen, one of the founders of utopian socialism. 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" , which would be his memorial. This was done, and the auto-icon is now on public display at University College London . 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.

Works

„Judges of elegance and taste consider themselves as benefactors to the human race, whilst they are really only the interrupters of their pleasure“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Théorie des peines et des récompenses (1811); translation by Richard Smith, The Rationale of Reward, J. & H. L. Hunt, London, 1825, Bk. 3, Ch. 1
Context: Judges of elegance and taste consider themselves as benefactors to the human race, whilst they are really only the interrupters of their pleasure … There is no taste which deserves the epithet good, unless it be the taste for such employments which, to the pleasure actually produced by them, conjoin some contingent or future utility: there is no taste which deserves to be characterized as bad, unless it be a taste for some occupation which has mischievous tendency.

„Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty: And I repeat that government has but a choice of evils“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Principles of Legislation (1830), Ch. X : Analysis of Political Good and Evil; How they are spread in society
Context: It is with government, as with medicine. They have both but a choice of evils. Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty: And I repeat that government has but a choice of evils: In making this choice, what ought to be the object of the legislator? He ought to assure himself of two things; 1st, that in every case, the incidents which he tries to prevent are really evils; and 2ndly, that if evils, they are greater than those which he employs to prevent them.
There are then two things to be regarded; the evil of the offence and the evil of the law; the evil of the malady and the evil of the remedy.
An evil comes rarely alone. A lot of evil cannot well fall upon an individual without spreading itself about him, as about a common centre. In the course of its progress we see it take different shapes: we see evil of one kind issue from evil of another kind; evil proceed from good and good from evil. All these changes, it is important to know and to distinguish; in this, in fact, consists the essence of legislation.

„He ought to assure himself of two things; 1st, that in every case, the incidents which he tries to prevent are really evils; and 2ndly, that if evils, they are greater than those which he employs to prevent them.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Principles of Legislation (1830), Ch. X : Analysis of Political Good and Evil; How they are spread in society
Context: It is with government, as with medicine. They have both but a choice of evils. Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty: And I repeat that government has but a choice of evils: In making this choice, what ought to be the object of the legislator? He ought to assure himself of two things; 1st, that in every case, the incidents which he tries to prevent are really evils; and 2ndly, that if evils, they are greater than those which he employs to prevent them.
There are then two things to be regarded; the evil of the offence and the evil of the law; the evil of the malady and the evil of the remedy.
An evil comes rarely alone. A lot of evil cannot well fall upon an individual without spreading itself about him, as about a common centre. In the course of its progress we see it take different shapes: we see evil of one kind issue from evil of another kind; evil proceed from good and good from evil. All these changes, it is important to know and to distinguish; in this, in fact, consists the essence of legislation.

„That which has no existence cannot be destroyed — that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

A Critical Examination of the Declaration of Rights
Anarchical Fallacies (1843)
Context: That which has no existence cannot be destroyed — that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense for immediately a list of these pretended natural rights is given, and those are so expressed as to present to view legal rights. And of these rights, whatever they are, there is not, it seems, any one of which any government can, upon any occasion whatever, abrogate the smallest particle.

„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.“

—  Jeremy Bentham, book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Source: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789; 1823), Ch. 1 : Of the Principle of Utility
Context: 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: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.

„The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.“

—  Jeremy Bentham, book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Source: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789; 1823), Ch. 17 : Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence
Context: The day has been, I grieve 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 withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of 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 they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?

„The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?“

—  Jeremy Bentham, book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Source: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789; 1823), Ch. 17 : Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence
Source: The Principles of Morals and Legislation
Context: The day has been, I grieve 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 withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of 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 they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?

„Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Advise to a young girl (22 June 1830)
Context: Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find a harvest in your own bosom; while every sorrow which you pluck out from the thoughts and feelings of a fellow creature shall be replaced by beautiful peace and joy in the sanctuary of your soul.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„No power of government ought to be employed in the endeavor to establish any system or article of belief on the subject of religion.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Source: Constitutional Code; For the Use All Nations and All Governments Professing Liberal Opinions Volume 1

„Priestley was the first (unless it was Beccaria) who taught my lips to pronounce this sacred truth — that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

"Extracts from Bentham's Commonplace Book", in Collected Works, x, p. 142; He credits Priestley in his Essay on the First Principles of Government (1768) or Beccaria with inspiring his use of the phrase, often paraphrased as "The greatest good for the greatest number", but the statement "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" actually originates with Francis Hutcheson, in his Inquiry concerning Moral Good and Evil (1725), sect. 3. In an unpublished manuscript on utilitarianism, written for James Mill, he later criticized this formulation: "Greatest happiness of the greatest number. Some years have now elapsed since, upon a closer scrutiny, reason, altogether incontestable, was found for discarding this appendage. On the surface, additional clearness and correctness given to the idea: at bottom, the opposite qualities. Be the community in question what it may, divide it into two equal parts, call one of them the majority, the other minority, layout of the account of the feelings of the minority, include in the account no feelings but those in the majority, the result you will find is that of this operation, that to the aggregate stock of happiness of the community, loss not profit is the result of the operation. Of this proposition the truth will be the more palpable, the greater the ration of the number of the minority to that of the majority: in other words, the less difference between the two unequal parts: and suppose the condivident part equal, the quantity of the error will then be at its maximum." — as quoted in The Classical Utilitarians : Bentham and Mill (2003) by John Troyer, p. 92;

„Secrecy is an instrument of conspiracy; it ought not, therefore, to be the system of a regular government.“

—  Jeremy Bentham

On Publicity http://books.google.com/books?id=AusJAAAAIAAJ&q="Secresy+is+an+instrument+of+conspiracy+it+ought+not+therefore+to+be+the+system+of+a+regular+government"&pg=PA315#v=onepage from The Works of Jeremy Bentham volume 2, part 2 (1839)

„To what shall the character of utility be ascribed, if not to that which is a source of pleasure?“

—  Jeremy Bentham

Théorie des peines et des récompenses (1811); translation by Richard Smith, The Rationale of Reward, J. & H. L. Hunt, London, 1825, Bk. 3, Ch. 1

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Francis Bacon photo
Francis Bacon290
English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and auth…
Jean Jacques Rousseau photo
Jean Jacques Rousseau91
Genevan philosopher
John Locke photo
John Locke144
English philosopher and physician
Claude Adrien Helvétius photo
Claude Adrien Helvétius8
French philosopher
Thomas Hobbes photo
Thomas Hobbes95
English philosopher, born 1588
Denis Diderot photo
Denis Diderot105
French Enlightenment philosopher and encyclopædist
Immanuel Kant photo
Immanuel Kant198
German philosopher
David Hume photo
David Hume135
Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian
Adam Smith photo
Adam Smith173
Scottish moral philosopher and political economist
Friedrich Schiller photo
Friedrich Schiller108
German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright
Today anniversaries
Rollo May photo
Rollo May129
US psychiatrist 1909 - 1994
Timothy Leary photo
Timothy Leary54
American psychologist 1920 - 1996
Franz Liszt photo
Franz Liszt3
Hungarian romantic composer and virtuoso pianist 1811 - 1886
Pablo Casals photo
Pablo Casals10
Catalan cellist and conductor 1876 - 1973
Another 69 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Francis Bacon photo
Francis Bacon290
English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and auth…
Jean Jacques Rousseau photo
Jean Jacques Rousseau91
Genevan philosopher
John Locke photo
John Locke144
English philosopher and physician
Claude Adrien Helvétius photo
Claude Adrien Helvétius8
French philosopher
Thomas Hobbes photo
Thomas Hobbes95
English philosopher, born 1588