My object in this paper is to suggest a few reflections on some themes in Bentham's work which others as well as I have noted, without perhaps developing them as fully as might with advantage be done. There will be nothing like full development in the limited compass of what is said here, but what is said may at least indicate possible directions for further exploration. The greater part of the paper will be concerned with the notion of natural authority; (...) but I want to begin by taking a broader, though no doubt rather superficial, view of the role in Bentham's thinking of the concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘the natural’. (shrink)
The object of this article is to examine, with the work of Jeremy Bentham as the principal example, one strand in the complex pattern of European social theory during the second half of the eighteenth century. This was of course the period not only of the American and French revolutions, but of the culmination of the movements of thought constituting what we know as the Enlightenment. Like all great historical episodes, the Enlightenment was both the fulfilment of long-established processes and (...) the inauguration of new processes of which the fulfilment lay in the future. Thus the seminal ideas of seventeenth-century rationalism realized and perhaps exhausted their potentialities in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The ideas with which this article is concerned, however—conveniently grouped and labelled as the ideas of utilitarianism—only began to achieve systematic development in these later decades of the eighteenth century. Within that period—during the first half and more of Bentham's long life—attempts to apply those ideas to the solution of social problems met largely with failure and frustration. Yet unrealized potentialities remained, the realization of which was reserved for a time when the world of the philosophes no longer existed. The movements for social and political reform which have played so large a part in modern history since the French Revolution may be judged in widely differing ways; but whatever the verdict, these movements surely cannot be understood without due consideration of that part of their origins which lies in eighteenth-century utilitarianism. (shrink)
In the two related works in this volume, Bentham offers a detailed critique of William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. He provides important refelctions on the nature of law, and more particularly on the nature of customary and statute law, and on judicial interpretation.
Doubts about the origin of Bentham's formula, ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’, were resolved by Robert Shackleton thirty years ago. Uncertainty has persisted on at least two points. (1) Why did the phrase largely disappear from Bentham's writing for three or four decades after its appearance in 1776? (2) Is it correct to argue (with David Lyons in 1973) that Bentham's principle is to be differentially interpreted as having sometimes a ‘parochial’ and sometimes a ‘universalist’ bearing? These issues (...) are reopened here with particular reference to textual evidence overlooked in earlier discussions and contextual evidence on the development of Bentham's radicalism in the last two decades of his life. In conclusion some broader issues are raised concerning the character of Bentham's understanding of ‘happiness’ itself. (shrink)
By the death, last summer, of Jack Robson, the world of utilitarian studies and a wider world of scholarship on both sides of the Atlantic lost one of their most distinguished figures. It would not be appropriate here, even if it were possible now, to attempt a full and measured assessment of his work. Writing only a few months after the news of his death, while the sense of loss is still so sharp for all his many friends, two things (...) are possible. Something can and should be said to acknowledge and celebrate Robson's achievement as a scholar; and to this can be added some personal recollections of one whose human qualities were as outstanding as his scholarship. (shrink)
The full range of Bentham's engagement with Blackstone's view of law is beyond the scope of a single article. Yet it is important to recognize at the outset, even in a more restricted enquiry into the matter, that the engagement, begun when Bentham, not quite sixteen years of age, started to attend Blackstone's Oxford lectures, was indeed a lifelong affair. Whatever Bentham had in mind when, at the age of eighty, in 1828, he began to write a work entitled ‘A (...) familar view of Blackstone: or say Blackstone familiarized’, the manuscripts at least suffice to prove that ‘Our Author’ was still in the forefront of his mind at that octogenarian but still indefatigably active stage of his career. Every aspect of Bentham's multifarious intellectual activity over the intervening decades had been touched in some measure by his response to Blackstone's ideas. It still seems true to say what was said a dozen years ago: It would be an exaggeration to say that Bentham elaborated his own conception of law by way of a constant and conscious dialectic with the views of Blackstone. But it would be an exaggeration for which the evidence would afford some excuse. (shrink)
From the late 1790s to the early 1890s, Scottish scholars contributed, as translators, commentators, or critics to the ‘reception’ of Kant's philosophy in Britain. The discussion here considers particularly the work of Richardson, Semple, Gillies, MacVicar, Ferrier, Meiklejohn, and Hastie, and attempts to assess the character, quality, and value of their contributions to Kantian scholarship. An important question throughout is whether – and if so, how far and why – the work of Scottish Kantians can be meaningfully discussed apart from (...) their English contemporaries – one relevant consideration being the distinctive rôle of philosophy in the Scottish M.A. curriculum. (shrink)
The notion of a distinct 'executive power' was famously employed by Locke and Montesquieu; but the term potestas executiva, coined by medieval canonists, had been adopted by the early sixteenth-century theologian Cajetan, who located it as regimen medium in his defence of papal power against a revived 'conciliarist' challenge. The distinction between legislative sovereignty and a power effectively executive was used in post- Reformation political controversy and in Bodin's République. From those beginnings it was developed by mid-seventeenth-century writers, from whom (...) it passed to Locke; and the concept of the executive as a 'mediating' power was notably echoed by Rousseau. (shrink)
This volume offers a comprehensive and authoritative account of the history of a complex and varied body of ideas over a period of more than one thousand years. A work of both synthesis and assessment, The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought presents the results of several decades of critical scholarship in the field, and reflects in its breadth of enquiry precisely that diversity of focus that characterized the medieval sense of the "political," preoccupied with universality at some levels, and (...) with almost minute particularity at others. Among the vital questions explored by the distinguished team of contributors are the nature of authority, of justice, of property; the problem of legitimacy, of allegiance, of resistance to the powers that be; the character and functions of law, and the role of custom in maintaining a social structure. (shrink)
One of the earliest and best-known of Bentham's works, the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation sets out a profound and innovative philosophical argument. This definitive edition includes both the late H. L. A. Hart's classic essay on the work and a new introduction by F. Rosen.