Bentham

Bentham

Bentham

Bentham

Synopsis

First published in 1977 this volume challenges the accepted interpretations of Bentham's political thought and in particular the landmark criticism by John Stuart Mill and Elie Halevy, the author consulted the extensive manuscript collections left by Bentham to the University of London and the British museum in the preparation of this volume.

Excerpt

The present study was begun a number of years ago as the result of dissatisfaction with the accepted interpretations of Bentham’s political thought, and in particular with the landmark criticisms by John Stuart Mill and Elie Halévy which set the tone for what one might call the standardised, textbook version. My dissatisfaction with that version, I soon discovered, was shared by others. Thus in my research and reflection I have benefited in many respects from the work of other Bentham scholars, even when I disagreed with their particular interpretations. a complete list of those whose work has been of use could not be culled from the bibliography of the present study since that, by necessity, has been kept selective. At the risk of failing to mention some who should be mentioned, I would cite, in particular, the works of C.W. Everett, C.K. Ogden, Mary Mack, David Baumgardt, H.L.A. Hart, David Manning, David Lyons, Bhikhu Parekh, Warren Roberts and J.H. Burns.

In contrast with many other revisionist interpretations, I am convinced that there is some truth in the older view, although I came to realise that even when it appeared to be correct the supporting evidence was often either weak or distorted. It became apparent at an early stage that to make a just statement about Bentham’s political thought it would be necessary to examine the extensive manuscript collections which he left, especially those at University College, London, and in the British Museum. But I considerably underestimated the difficulty of that undertaking, given the quantity of the material, the illegible nature of Bentham’s handwriting, and the problem of estimating the merits of material which was often fragmentary in nature. First in 1966–7, and again in 1968–9 and 1973–4, worked through as many of the manuscripts as I could until I became convinced that the law of diminishing returns was clearly coming into play. I am quite aware of the fact that there are manuscripts . . .

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