Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Bentham, Jeremy (1748–1832)
In an autobiographical letter, written toward the end of his long life, Jeremy Bentham describes a dream in which he sees himself as the founder and leader of a sect named the utilitarians. This dream was indeed prophetic, for while he was not the first to use the concept of utility—indeed, he acknowledged David Hume, Cesare Beccaria, Claude-Adrien Helvétius, and Joseph Priestley as sources of his own utilitarian ideas—he can, with no distortion, be seen as the first of a distinctive tradition in moral and political theory that continues to have advocates and apostles to this day. Many scholars deny that Hume was a utilitarian, but no serious scholar would deny that Bentham was the first in a tradition of thinkers that includes John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick, as well as contemporary philosophers such as J. J. C. Smart, R. M. Hare, R. B. Brandt, and Peter Singer. Utilitarianism ...