Jeremy Bentham is known as a great English thinker, scholar, philosopher, jurisprudent, promoter of education, as well as political and social innovator. His most significant contribution into the development of world’s social science is introduction of Utilitarianism as one of the most principal doctrines of British philosophic thought. Besides, Bentham was among the most significant theorists of political liberalism, as well as scientific analyst of morals, ethics, education, civil rights, etc.
Born in 1748 into a wealthy family of attorney, Bentham received a brilliant education in the Queen’s College and Lincoln Inn, where he was studying law. But he never had an opportunity to practice his knowledge in jurisprudence, because he totally devoted himself to scientific analysis and philosophic exploration of important social matters. He started with criticizing English Code of laws in his book Commentaries on the Laws of England, followed by a number of other writings on topical political and economic issues.
Being an ideologist of market economy in times of Industrial Revolution in Britain, Bentham praised «sober» mind and considered contemporary British political and economic system to be an ideal social regime. In his further writings Bentham was advocating for such economic concepts and ideas, as free trade and free competition, governmental control of monopoly and so on. He believed that these economic principles could assure proper development of British society, justice, equality, etc. Certainly, the greatest achievements of Bentham are his philosophic approaches to the problems of ethics.
Bentham’s morals (publicized in the work «Deontology; or the Science of Morality» (Vol. 1-2, 1834)) was based on «the principle of utilitarianism», according to which actions and relations of people must be evaluated from the point of the utility of such actions or relations. Therefore, Bentham interpreted the findings of early scholars into a concept of «.. the greatest happiness for the greatest number [of individuals].. » or into a call for every individual to achieve personal thriving, which will increase total amount of happiness in the society (The Columbia Encyclopedia).
That’s why Bentham severely criticized J. J. Rousseau’s theory of Social Contract as the one which evoked the spirit of rebellion. Along with all above mentioned, Bentham was a promoter of the freedom of expression, prohibition of slavery, separation of church from state, extension of electoral rights, granting equal rights to women, granting the legal right to divorce, abolition of punishment for homosexuals, abolition of torture and physical punishment, as well as animal protection.
He even came up with the ideas of reformation of British prisons and improvement of British social health insurance system. Despite of his being quite eccentric and odd person, Bentham’s perceptions and works were filled with positive and idealistic thoughts. “Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you, –will invite you to add something to the pleasure of others, –or to diminish something of their pains…
[from “Advise to a young girl”, 1830] (Utilitarian Philosophers). He used to receive a lot of criticism and negative reaction, in particular, from such world known scholars, as Marx and Popper. Nevertheless, it is impossible to underestimate the historical importance of Bentham’s social and philosophic developments. He formulated the principal concepts which worked on formation of the main personal and pubic morality values for British nation.
Besides, undoubtedly, within the next 100 years the majority of principal reformations of laws, juridical system or governmental structure in the Great Britain were made under heavy influence of Bentham’s thoughts and findings.
Bibliography: • “Jeremy Bentham. ” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. NY: Columbia University Press, 2004. 5126. • “Jeremy Bentham. ” Utilitarian Philosophers. Ed. Danny Sullivan. 24 Aug. 2004. 4 Nov. 2007 <http://www. utilitarian. net/bentham/> • Tyle, Laura. “Jeremy Bentham. ” UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. 1. Farmington Hills, MI: UXL (Gale), 2002. 253.