Biography of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Philosopher, jurist, Economist and English politician, born in London February 15, 1748 and died in the same city on June 6, 1832. It had the clear conviction that both laws and procedures should not tender but the men or at least the most utility.

Jeremy Bentham.

Bentham, after obtaining a degree in Oxford in 1763, lawyer practised for some time, but soon left her disgusted by that dark and irrational legalism. Then, he began to write critically about that system and to propose possible solutions. In the mid-1980s from the 18th century moved to the continent, where he visited France and Russia (a country in which his brother was). He returned to England in 1788 and continued writing, an activity that did not abandon since his youth. In 1792, the French Republic recognized his contributions to enlightened and revolutionary thinking to grant him the title of citizen. He had a great influence on the thought of Stuart Mill and was a friend of his father, the philosopher James Mill.

Bentham developed a theoretical work that laid the Foundation of the social and economic utilitarianism and that reflected in his works The Rationale of Reward (the rationality of the reward), and The Rationale of Punishment (the rationality of punishment). For Bentham, the only principle able to explain the birth of the society and the laws is that of the common utility, which is summed up in this sentence: "the maximum happiness for the greatest number of people". On this basis he criticized English law, based on abstract principles and which are considered immutable. If laws should seek the usefulness of men, must be based on facts and reasons that guide human actions. Therefore, they must be mutable to promote individual and collective utility. That man has no interest in doing either will assume it as a duty.

On the principle of the useful, Bentahm also based morality, in order to make it an exact science. Mobile action and judgment are pleasure and pain. What is fair and unfair does not depend on the motives of action, but of the consequences arising from it. The problem is in knowing to calculate in advance the consequences of actions. Bentham considered that it could calculate them in a "table" in which appropriated the characteristics that make it desirable to a pleasure. These are: intensity, duration, certainty, proximity, fertility, purity and extension. The general principle of this table is that the advantageous pleasures for the individual also promote the happiness of society.

His most important works are: A Fragment on Government (1776), Defence of Usury (1787), Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), A Table of Springs of Action (1817), Essai sur the tactique des asamblees legislatives (1815), a Chrestomathy or selection of various philosophical fragments (1816), Deontology or the Science of Morality.

Links on the Internet

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project/; Official website of the Bentham Project intuition (in English). http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/bentham/; Home of the McMaster University with full text and references on Jeremy Bentham (in English).