Within the vast, and still not completely published, body of Bentham’s writings the strictly ethical element bulks very small. In effect this element consists of the first five chapters of his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789). This book, which had been printed but not published, in a manner highly characteristic of Bentham’s literary enterprises, in 1780, was the somewhat overgrown outcome of what had originally been intended as the introduction to a plan for a rational penal code. That intention was representative of Bentham’s concern with the practical and minutely detailed work of carrying out a thorough reform, rationalisation and codification of the legal system, its laws, its procedure, its institutional arrangements and its system of punishments. This may explain an air of bluff impatience, an animated desire to get on with it, that surrounds Bentham’s exposition and defence of his fundamental criterion against abstractly philosophical criticism. Indications that his primary interest was in the use of his principle to devise new schemes of legislation abound in the ethical part of the book. Indeed, as will be seen, his conviction of the obvious correctness of the principle of utility is too absolute to allow him to examine alternatives to it in more than a dismissive and perfunctory way.
KeywordsMoral Sentiment Philosophical Criticism Distinct Principle General Happiness Ethical Element
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