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Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832)


British gentleman, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer.
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Jeremy Bentham
The principle of utility judges any action to be right by the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interests are in question... if that party be the community the happiness of the community, if a particular individual, the happiness of that individual.
Bentham quotes
Judges of elegance and taste consider themselves as benefactors to the human race, whilst they are really only the interrupters of their pleasure ... There is no taste which deserves the epithet good, unless it be the taste for such employments which, to the pleasure actually produced by them, conjoin some contingent or future utility: there is no taste which deserves to be characterized as bad, unless it be a taste for some occupation which has mischievous tendency.
Bentham
Whenever you are about to be oppressed, you have a right to resist oppression: whenever you conceive yourself to be oppressed, conceive yourself to have a right to make resistance, and act accordingly. In proportion as a law of any kind—any act of power, supreme or subordinate, legislative, administrative, or judicial, is unpleasant to a man, especially if, in consideration of such its unpleasantness, his opinion is, that such act of power ought not to have been exercised, he of course looks upon it as oppression: as often as anything of this sort happens to a man—as often as anything happens to a man to inflame his passions,—this article, for fear his passions should not be sufficiently inflamed of themselves, sets itself to work to blow the flame, and urges him to resistance. Submit not to any decree or other act of power, of the justice of which you are not yourself perfectly convinced. If a constable call upon you to serve in the militia, shoot the constable and not the enemy;—if the commander of a press-gang trouble you, push him into the sea—if a bailiff, throw him out of the window. If a judge sentence you to be imprisoned or put to death, have a dagger ready, and take a stroke first at the judge.




Bentham Jeremy quotes
Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished.
Bentham Jeremy
The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?
Jeremy Bentham quotes
Priestley was the first (unless it was Beccaria) who taught my lips to pronounce this sacred truth — that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.
Jeremy Bentham
It is with government, as with medicine. They have both but a choice of evils. Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty: And I repeat that government has but a choice of evils: In making this choice, what ought to be the object of the legislator? He ought to assure himself of two things; 1st, that in every case, the incidents which he tries to prevent are really evils; and 2ndly, that if evils, they are greater than those which he employs to prevent them.
There are then two things to be regarded ; the evil of the offence and the evil of the law; the evil of the malady and the evil of the remedy.
An evil comes rarely alone. A lot of evil cannot well fall upon an individual without spreading itself about him, as about a common centre. In the course of its progress we see it take different shapes: we see evil of one kind issue from evil of another kind; evil proceed from good and good from evil. All these changes, it is important to know and to distinguish; in this, in fact, consists the essence of legislation.
Bentham Jeremy quotes
Prose is when all the lines except the last go on to the end. Poetry is when some of them fall short of it.
Bentham
Destitute of the lawful means of supporting his rank, his dignity presents a motive for malversation, and his power furnishes the means.
Bentham Jeremy
Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find a harvest in your own bosom; while every sorrow which you pluck out from the thoughts and feelings of a fellow creature shall be replaced by beautiful peace and joy in the sanctuary of your soul.
Jeremy Bentham
Ethical hedonism was originally tied to psychological hedonism about human motivation. Bentham assumed that all humans are basically and exclusively motivated by the desire to gain pleasure and avoid pain, but it is possible to maintain ethical hedonism while rejecting, as most present utilitarians are inclined to do, psychological hedonism. However, certain later and contemporary versions of utilitarianism broaden the notion of ethical hedonism so that human or personal good is understood to be constituted by whatever satisfies people's desires or preferences or makes people happy.




Jeremy Bentham quotes
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.
Jeremy Bentham
To what shall the character of utility be ascribed, if not to that which is a source of pleasure?
Bentham quotes
[I]n principle and in practice, in a right track and in a wrong one, the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.
Bentham Jeremy
That which has no existence cannot be destroyed — that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense for immediately a list of these pretended natural rights is given, and those are so expressed as to present to view legal rights. And of these rights, whatever they are, there is not, it seems, any one of which any government can, upon any occasion whatever, abrogate the smallest particle.
Bentham Jeremy quotes
Secresy is an instrument of conspiracy; it ought not, therefore, to be the system of a regular government.
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