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The Principles of Morals and Legislation (Great Books in Philosophy)

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  135 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Jeremy Bentham's work on The Principles of Morals and Legislation emerges from its historic roots in hedonism and teleology as a scientific attempt to assess the moral content of human action by focusing on its results or consequences. Proceeding from the assumption that human beings desire pleasure (and avoid pain), Bentham's unique perspective, known as utilitarianism, i...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 1st 1988 by Prometheus Books (first published 1789)
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M. Ashraf
The principle of maximizing utility, applying the rule the greatest good for the greatest number with all the objection this idea get the reason behind it, the drive is sound and up for debate... the welfare of the community as a whole even if some/few of them suffer is good for the total! analyzing the cost and benefit of actions to happiness and pain to going far to assigning a cost for the life itself. Putting that in the hand of legislator for the government to decide the greater good for th...more
All told a pretty tedious slog. There are flashes of humor and insight however. One is stuck, also, that as much as Bentham is blamed for the parsimony-fetishism of the dismal science, he actually offers quite nuanced readings of the variety of moral outlets.

Although obviously the hedgehog to end all hedgehogs, Bentham was also capable of seeing his single basic insight about the hedonic calculus could have many surprising implications. The most interesting chapter, for example, is "Of Motives"...more
Kw Estes
I only read a few chapters (those that I heard were 'relevant', whatever is to be taken by that), and was not incredibly impressed. What I was most unclear of--and this is no doubt an issue stemming from my relative lack of knowledge regarding Bentham's work--was whether he had in mind the provision of long-term happiness or immediate happiness as the only legitimate end of governments. The most cogent example where this would become an issue is that of economic austerity measures: in the short...more
Its appeal lies mostly in its known influence on John Stuart Mill, and the entire thesis of utilitarianism. It is interesting to see that he used his concern over the maximization of pleasure to apply to his economic views as well. It's extremely dry (as you would expect from a 19th century philosopher), and at times seems liable to digress from certain points he's attempting to make. But it's amazing that he could have the foresight to not only touch on issues of decriminalization of homosexual...more
Job Dalomba
Like a train wreck but you want to see what happens. Terrible content.
Wow. 4 footnotes alone account for over 5% of this book. He has, or at least parrots, some good ideas, but most of the book is setting up a none-too-well organized, incomplete catalogue of offenses. Wow.
Jason Canada
read last night before bed. i took no notes only because it is jsut an introduction to john mill whom i will be reading next. i kept wondering what epictetus and kant would have to say to this.
May 07, 2012 falling.gator marked it as to-read
Shelves: unfinished
Difficult to slog through. I gave up about half way in. Skip to John Stuart Mill for a much more concise and easily readable treatment of the subject matter.
Pierre A Renaud
Copyleft ebook: Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
Jan 04, 2013 Keaton marked it as purposely-partially-read  ·  review of another edition
Read: Excerpts from "Chap. 1: Of the principle of utility" and "Chap. 4: Value of a Lot of Pleasure or Pain, How to Be Measured"
I've only read the first 6 chapters. They're good. I can email them to interested readers.
Interesting epistemological themes underlying Bentham's primary social theses
Jonny Berglind
A book that changed the way we view law and morality.
Rupali Mitra
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In 1748, Jeremy Bentham was born in London. The great philosopher, utilitarian humanitarian and atheist began learning Latin at age four. He earned his B.A. from Oxford by age 15 or 16, and his M.A. at 18. His Rationale of Punishments and Rewards was published in 1775, followed by his groundbreaking utilitarian work, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Bentham propounded his...more
More about Jeremy Bentham...
The Panopticon Writings The Panopticon and Other Prison Writings Bentham: A Fragment on Government Selected Writings on Utilitarianism Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

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“The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but "Can they suffer?” 254 likes
“The day may come when the rest of 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?” 30 likes
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