Jeremy Bentham’s Life, Works, PersonalityJune 27, 2021
The first proponent of utilitarianism was Jeremy Bentham (1784-1832), born into a wealthy family in London.
It was clear that Bentham was a child prodigy. He learned Latin at the age of three, and by the age of twelve his father sent him to Queens College, Oxford. He graduated from university at the age of fifteen, and completed his master’s degree at the age of eighteen. Benthan received training as a lawyer, as his father decided that Bentham should turn to the field of law, just like him; because his father was certain that he would one day become England’s minister of justice and head of the house of lords (one of the most important posts in the UK government). Bentham, however, soon became disillusioned with British law—layered and complex, favoring the few rather than the majority—so he decided to write on law and spent the rest of his life criticizing existing laws and suggesting new ways to improve them.
In 1780, he wrote his major work, “Introduction to Morals and Legislative Principles”. Bentham may be described as the greatest of the “philosophical radicals” in that he proposed many legal and social reforms, but he also found the principles on which they should be based. So much so that the work of principles was written with such a reform in his mind. The philosophy expressed in his book—utilitarianism—has argued that right action or policy is “that creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Later, he removed the “for the greatest number” part of his principle, since the expression “the greatest number” may contradict the expression “the greatest happiness”. (For example, you can create ten units of happiness for two people—twenty—which is greater than creating three units of happiness—fifteen—for five people combined.)
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; “Understanding Philosophy in All Its Aspects” by Kenneth Shouler