Ideas of Jeremy Bentham, by Theme

[British, 1748 - 1832, Born in London. Helped to found University College, London.]

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22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / c. Right and good
Is 'productive of happiness' the definition of 'right', or the cause of it?
     Full Idea: Bentham has not made up his mind whether he thinks that 'right' means 'productive of the general happiness', or that being productive of the general happiness is what makes acts right (and he would have thought the difference unimportant).
     From: comment on Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789]) by W. David Ross - The Right and the Good I
     A reaction: The issue is whether rightness exists as a concept separate from happiness. I take it Bentham would vote for the first reading, as he has no interest in what is right, apart from increasing happiness.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / b. Types of pleasure
Of Bentham's 'dimensions' of pleasure, only intensity and duration matter
     Full Idea: Most of Bentham's 'dimensions' of pleasure refer to further pleasures, or are irrelevant to the pleasure; we are left with intensity and duration as the characteristics on which depend the value of a pleasure qua pleasure, and there is nothing to add.
     From: comment on Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789]) by W. David Ross - The Right and the Good VI
     A reaction: I agree. When Bentham produces his list he seems to be trying to add a bogus enrichment to what is really a rather crude and basic notion of the aim of life. Your simple hedonist appears to only desire high intensity and long duration.
Prejudice apart, push-pin has equal value with music and poetry
     Full Idea: Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and science of music and poetry.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Constitutional Code I [1827], p.139), quoted by J.R. Dinwiddy - Bentham p.114
     A reaction: Mill quoted this with implied outrage, but Bentham was attacking public subsidies to the arts when he said it. It is a basic idea in the debate on pleasure - that pleasures are only distinguished by their intensity, not some other value.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / e. Role of pleasure
Pleasure and pain control all human desires and duties
     Full Idea: 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.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], I.1)
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 2. Ideal of Pleasure
Bentham thinks happiness is feeling good, but why use morality to achieve that?
     Full Idea: It is easy to fall into Bentham's mindless assumption that happiness must be a specific state of feeling good about something, but it is mysterious why anyone would think morality a good strategy for achieving this.
     From: comment on Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789]) by Julia Annas - The Morality of Happiness 2.7
The value of pleasures and pains is their force
     Full Idea: It behoves the legislator to understand the force of pleasures and pains, which is their value.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], IV.1)
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 3. Animal Rights
Large mature animals are more rational than babies. But all that really matters is - can they suffer?
     Full Idea: A full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational animal than an infant of a day, or even a month, old. But suppose they be otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], XVIII 1 n), quoted by Peter Singer - Practical Ethics 03
     A reaction: This is certainly an inspiring, and even shocking question, which never seems to have been so directly asked before in the entire history of European thought. Awesome.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 2. Natural Values / c. Natural rights
Natural rights are nonsense, and unspecified natural rights is nonsense on stilts
     Full Idea: Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense nonsense upon stilts.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Anarchical Fallacies: on the Declaration of Rights [1796])
     A reaction: If you want your opinion to be remembered, express it memorably! I take natural rights to be the basic principles and values which are obvious to almost everyone when they come for formulate legal rights (which are the only true rights).
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / e. General will
The community's interest is a sum of individual interests
     Full Idea: The interest of the community is the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], I.4)
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
Only laws can produce real rights; rights from 'law of nature' are imaginary
     Full Idea: Right, the substantive right, is the child of law; from real laws come real rights; but from imaginary laws, from 'law of nature' can come only imaginary rights.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Anarchical Fallacies: on the Declaration of Rights [1796], II.523), quoted by Amartya Sen - The Idea of Justice 17 'Ethics'
     A reaction: I am coming to agree with this. What are called 'natural rights' are just self-evident good reasons why someone should be allowed a right. A right can, of course, come from an informal agreement. The question is: why award that particular legal right?
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 1. Nature
Unnatural, when it means anything, means infrequent
     Full Idea: Unnatural, when it means anything, means unfrequent.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], II.14 n8.9)
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / b. Euthyphro question
We must judge a thing morally to know if it conforms to God's will
     Full Idea: It is necessary to know first whether a thing is right in order to know from thence whether it be conformable to the will of God.
     From: Jeremy Bentham (Intro to Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], II.18)