Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, not only created a philosophical system which sought a rational solution to the problems of ethics, but was also concerned with the practical application of his theories to social reforms, administration, education and the law. This reissued volume represents a comprehensive collection of essays on Bentham’s work from J. S. Mill to the year of the book’s first publication in 1974.
The wide range of Bentham’s concern and the varied reactions he provoked are well represented by the essays in this volume. It begins with Mill’s famous appraisal of the virtues and deficiencies of the theory that had so much influence on his own, followed by the criticisms of perhaps the ablest of Bentham’s (and Mill’s) contemporary opponents, William Whewell. Bentham’s psychology and analysis of human motivation is dealt with by John Watson, and in the editor’s own essay on the thorny problem of the justification of the principle of utility, the whole question of the link between specific human desires and the general desire for pleasure is examined as a psychological as well as a logical problem.
The seldom-considered subject of Bentham’s logic and the way in which he anticipates in some respects the work of Frege and Wittgenstein is considered by H. L. A. Hart, who has also contributed a paper on the question of sovereignty. Bentham’s Political Fallacies is examined by Professor Burns, and the Constitutional Code and its projection of Bentham’s ideal republic as considered by Thomas Peardon makes interesting reading in the light of David Robert’s analysis of the impact Bentham had on the Victorian administrative state. Finally, there is Wesley C.
Mitchell’s interesting paper on the notorious felicific calculus.
The editor has written an extensive introduction which will prove useful not only to those unfamiliar with Bentham’s writings but to those acquainted with only one aspect of his work. Philosophers, jurists and political scientists should all find something of interest in this collection.