|Born on||15 February 1748|
|Born in||Red Lion Street, Houndsditch in London|
|Died on||06 June 1832|
|Works & Achievements||Associated with the Doctrine of Utilitarianism, Remembered as the ‘spiritual founder’ of University College in London, Debated in favour of abolition of slavery and death penalty for children|
Jeremy Bentham, the key founder of the Principle of Utility, was a voracious reader at a very early age. He was known as a ‘philosopher’ to his family since his interest towards reading had begun in his childhood. Bentham was actually considered a child prodigy, when at the age of 3, he was found reading a multi-volume history of England and other Latin books. Apart from being a philosopher associated with the Doctrine of Utilitarianism, Bentham is also recognized as one of the earliest advocates of animal rights and idea of Panopticon. His keen interest in learning, inventing new theories and creative ideas has given him worldwide success through his writings. Jeremy Bentham debated in favour of abolition of slavery and death penalty for children. He was also pro-individual legal rights and opposed to the idea of natural law and rights. This English scholar is remembered as the ‘spiritual founder’ of University College in London.
Jeremy Bentham’s Childhood And Early Life
Bentham was born on 15th February 1748 to a family where his father and grandfather were attorneys. When Jeremy was just four years old, he developed an interest in reading and began studying Latin. At the age of 7, he was sent to Westminster School for his education and he incurred a proficiency in Greek and Latin verse writing. Bentham learned different languages like Latin, Greek and French while gaining some experience in playing the violin. Most of his early days were spent in his grandmothers’ country homes. In 1760, Bentham went to Queen’s College in Oxford and three years later, he became a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). Once he completed his graduation, Jeremy entered Lincoln’s Inn to pursue law, his father’s profession. He attained a seat in the Queen’s Bench, where he keenly listened to the judgments of Lord Mansfield. Apart from this, he also attended the Blackstone’s lectures at Oxford. He, then, received a Master degree in Arts in 1766; in the succeeding year, Bentham officially entered this legal profession. He did not practice law from the start, instead worked out a system of law to organize and bring about changes to both civil and penal law. Bentham’s work consisted of an authorized, consistent, humane and simplified legal system, where his only motive was a disapproval of both that he witnessed in court, as a student. For Bentham, practices in court seemed cruel, costly and absorbed in obscureness.
Bentham’s thoughts and ideas did not match that of his father’s, who knew of his son’s talents and was disappointed. It was believed that his father was determined in helping Jeremy excel in his profession but the latter chose to spend time in chemical experiments and reflecting upon legal ill-treatments. Bentham continued with his research and he experimented with phials and explored different aspects of chemicals, his inspiration being his friend, Dr. Fordyce. In 1783, an essay by Bergman was translated by Bentham and had the concepts of usefulness of chemistry. Jeremy Bentham then proceeded to study physical sciences and began following up on the suppositions related to politics and law, which eventually became his interest of occupation.
Bentham rejected many of his own proposals for legal and social reform after which he developed a design for a prison. He termed this as the Panopticon and spent 16 years trying to fine-tune his ideas for that building. Bentham was under the presumption that the Government will accept his plans and utilize it for a National Penitentiary and appoint him as the contractor-governor. This prison was never built yet the concept of it had an important influence on the future generation thinkers. There were other philosophers who argued that the Panoptican was a typical example of the 19th century ‘disciplinary’ institutions.
Bentham defined ‘utilitarianism’ as: ‘an act is right or good if it produces pleasure and evil if it leads to pain’. This principle received its recognition from the book, ‘Principles of Morals and Legislation’. Utility is brought out here as the property in any object through which it tends to give rise to joy, good or happiness and forbid to which the occurrence of mischief, evil or unhappiness to the party whose interest is regarded. Many a time, man is deprived of happiness since he goes wrong in comprehending the terms: value, ought, good and right. They are meaningless until they are similar to utility, in the form of pleasure and happiness. Bentham stated that mankind is ruled by two self-governing motives — pain and pleasure. The principle of utility recognizes this state of affairs and declared that the aim of all lawmaking bodies must be ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Jeremy Bentham inferred from this principle that all punishments involve pain and is therefore, considered evil. Thus, it has to be used only for omitting greater evil. This principle of utilitarianism intended to make morals and politics an exact skill based on the objective criteria for assessing both individual and institutional actions. To shape out reasons for the utility of actions, Bentham proposed a ‘felicific calculus’ that was helpful in balancing the pleasures and pains as a result of one’s acts. This is an easy method of evaluation as the value of an action would be high or less depending on the intensity, length of pleasure and certainty and possibility. Bentham is accepted and the ‘Father of the Principle of Utility’ because of his works towards the expanding the principle of utility from social reform to personal conduct. He also became the most important radical in England and influenced several other leaders.
Bentham successfully completed and published his first book, ‘A Fragment on Government’ in 1776. This was designed to demonstrate capital flaws in the comment: ‘in particular this grand and fundamental one, the antipathy to reform and to the universal inaccuracy and confusion which seemed to my apprehension to pervade the whole.’ He wrote that a breakup on the Government is a new way to bring about a difference in law. This was diversely attributed to Lord Mansfield and Lord Camden. The book criticized the renderings of the English common law by Blackstone. Bentham argued that a social contract had a legal basis.
Jeremy Bentham further wrote on the jurisprudence in his life: ‘Introductory View of the Rationale of Evidence’ (1812), edited by James Mill and the ‘Rationale of Juridical Evidence’ (1827), edited by John Stuart Mill. In all these theories of law, Bentham was a constant nominalist and utilitarian. This book has precise points which are different from his other works where a mark of the origin of philosophic radicalism can be seen.
In 1781, after reading his book, Lord Shelburne asked for the presence of Bentham and gradually the latter became a frequent visitor at Shelburne’s home.
Bentham visited his brother, Samuel, in 1785 in Russia and wrote ‘Defence of Usury’ two years later. His first essay in economics was presented in the form of letters. Bentham was a disciple of the economist, Adam Smith, who arguably did not adopt his own principles. Bentham believed that every man is the best judge of his own advantages, which from the public point of view he should seek without hindrance.
Bentham’s major success was achieved through the book ‘An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation’ issued in 1789. This book was the greatest, typical and most distinguished work by Bentham. Through this book, he dealt with the principle of utility.
Apart from political views, Bentham was also opinionated on topics like economics, animal rights and gender issues. His focus on monetary expansion was useful in creating full employment. He had knowledge on the relevance of forced saving, tendency to consume, saving-investment relationship and other matters of income and employment. In the model of utilitarian decision making, his views on money were close to the fundamental concepts and his works are regarded as the cutting edge of welfare economics. As far as gender studies went, the placing of women in a sub-standard legal position made him choose the career of a social reformer. Bentham was in favour of complete equality between the male and female races. Patrick Colquhoun and he were successful in dealing with the corruption in London, which led to the Thames Police Bill in 1800. This was later called the Thames River Police – the first preventive police force in the country. He co-founded the Westminster Review with James Mill in 1823, for a journal ‘Philosophical Radicals’. Bentham employed a young writer named Edwin Chadwick as his secretary and left a legacy to him owing to the latter’s excellent work and contribution to the Poor Law Amendment Act.
Jeremy’s works on political economy was followed by individualistic principles with alteration. Through his writings on political economy, he drew a list of what a state should do and should not do. Bentham’s works were laid aside as materials which could be used as future publications so that it can be made a part of the general system of legislation. In 1825, these writings were brought out and published in English due to a pamphlet titled by ‘View of the Hard Labor Bill’ by Bentham.
Bentham was engaged in probes that respect punishment, the results of which were finally incarnated in his foundation of punishments and rewards. This was published in French in 1811, by Étienne Dumont and titled ‘Théorie des peineset des récompenses’. This was then translated into English: ‘The Rationale of Reward’ in 1825 and ‘The Rationale of Punishment’ in 1830.
A Fragment on Government (London, 1776), Defence of Usury (London, 1787), An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (London, 1789), Panopticon (Dublin, 1791), A Protest Against Law Taxes (Dublin, 1793), A Table of the Springs of Action (London, 1817), On the Liberty of the Press and Public Discussion (London, 1821), Three Tracts Relative to Spanish and Portugueze Affairs with a Continental Eye to English Ones (London, 1821), The Elements of the Art of Packing (London, 1821), Truth versus Ashhurst (London, 1823), The Rationale of Reward (London, 1825), The Rationale of Punishment (London, 1830), Of Population – Excerpted from A Manual of Political Economy (Edinburgh, 1843), Critique of the Doctrine of Inalienable, Natural Rights – Excerpted from Anarchical Fallacies (Edinburgh, 1843), Logical Arrangements – Excerpted from Nomography (Edinburgh, 1843), Pannomial Fragments (Edinburgh, 1843), Principles of International Law (Edinburgh, 1843) and Principles of the Civil Code (Edinburgh, 1843).
Jeremy Bentham died on June 6th 1832 in London, England. Nothing else has been revealed about his death.
It is said that Bentham had requested that his body should be preserved and saved in a wooden cabinet and termed as ‘Auto-Icon’. After the death of Bentham, the body was analyzed and dissected by students of the University in the presence of his friends, for medical research. Dr. Southwood Smith reconstructed his skeleton and made a wax head and replacing the original mummified state. The statue was then dressed in Bentham’s clothes and put on a sitting position on his favourite chair. The waxed statue is currently preserved in a glass fronted case in the University College, London.
Jeremy Bentham Timeline:
1748: Bentham was born in London, England.
1760: Completed his education in Westminster School and entered Oxford University.
1763: Completed his graduation in Queens College, Oxford.
1764: Bentham and his father visited France.
1766: Received his Master’s degree from the Lincoln’s Inn.
1767: Bentham was called to the bar to practice his legal profession.
1776: Bentham’s first book, A Fragment on Government was released.
1783: An essay about the usefulness of chemistry written by Bergman was translated.
1785 – 1788: Bentham visited Russia to meet his brother, while travelling around the continent and was also inspired by Lord Shelbourne.
1789: Bentham released a book called Principles of Morals and Legislation.
1808: Met James Mill and founded the radical sect of the Benthamites.
1811: Bentham’s work was published in French by Dumont and titled Théorie des peineset des recompenses.
1819: Factory Bill was passed owing to the influence of writings by Jeremy Bentham.
1824: Bentham co-founded the Westminster Review.
1825: His works were brought out and published in English.
1832: Bentham died.
1850: Bentham’s ‘Auto-Icon’ was acquired by University College, London.
|Source: The Famous People.Com|