Jeremy Bentham(redirected from Bentham, Jeremy)
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See his Correspondence, ed. by T. L. Sprigge et al. (9 vol., 1968–89); biographies by R. Harrison (1985) and J. Dinwiddy (1989); study by G. J. Posthema (1989).
Born Feb. 15, 1748, in London; died there June 6, 1832. English sociologist, jurist, and founder of utilitarianism, a school of English philosophy.
Bentham was the son of a lawyer. An ideologist of the bourgeoisie in the epoch of the industrial revolution in England, he glorified “sober” bourgeois common sense and considered the English capitalist system to be the natural and ideal social structure and the English bourgeois to be “reasonable” man. Bentham’s ethics, expounded in Deontology, or the Science of Morality (vols. 1–2, 1834), are metaphysical, based on the principle of “utility,” according to which people’s actions and relationships are given a moral evaluation depending on the benefits they bring. Man’s personal interests were taken into account in defining utility. In Bentham’s treatment, the teachings of the Enlightenment lost their revolutionary content: the idea of a rational, harmonious union between personal and social interests was turned into the principle of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of individuals” and into a call for attaining personal happiness, as if this would automatically increase the overall sum of happiness.
Bentham sharply criticized Rousseau’s theory of a social contract for its tendency to inspire a spirit of rebellion. However, he supported the demands to reform the English parliament by broadening the electoral enfranchisement. Bentham defended the idea of free trade and unrestricted competition, which, in his opinion, was supposed to guarantee social tranquillity, justice, and equality.
Karl Marx called Bentham a “genius of bourgeois stupidity” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 624, note). The classics of Marxism-Leninism considered Bentham’s views a typical expression of vulgar prejudices regarding “freedom” and “equality” under capitalism.
WORKSThe Works of J. Bentham, vols. 1–2. Edinburgh, 1838–43. Published by J. Bowring.
The Correspondence of J. Bentham, vols. 1–2. London, 1968.
In Russian translation:
lzbrannye sochineniia, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1867.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 2–4, 23, 27. (See Name Index.)
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5thed., vol. 38, pp. 346, 376; vol. 39, pp. 132–33.
Istoriia politic he skikh uchenii. Moscow, 1955. Pages 374–80.
Atkinson, M. J. Bentham: His Life and Work. London, 1905.
Manning, D. J. The Mind of Jeremy Bentham. [London, 1968.]