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UTILITARIANISM: the ethical theory for all times.

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by John Stuart Mill

London and Westminster Review, Aug. 1838, revised in 1859 in
Dissertations and Discussion, vol. 1.

                           by John Stuart Mill
                           London and Westminster Review, Aug. 1838, revised in 1859 in
                           Dissertations and Discussion, vol. 1.
                           There are two men, recently deceased, to whom their country
                           is indebted not only for the greater part of the important ideas
                           which have been thrown into circulation among its thinking men in
                           their time, but for a revolution in its general modes of thought
                           and investigation. These men, dissimilar in almost all else,
                           agreed in being closet-students -- secluded in a peculiar degree,
                           by circumstances and character, from the business and intercourse
                           of the world: and both were, through a large portion of their
                           lives, regarded by those who took the lead in opinion (when they
                           happened to hear of them) with feelings akin to contempt. But
                           they were destined to renew a lesson given to mankind by every
                           age, and always disregarded -- to show that speculative
                           philosophy, which to the superficial appears a thing so remote
                           from the business of life and the outward interests of men, is in
                           reality the thing on earth which most influences them, and in the
                           long run overbears every other influence save those which it must
                           itself obey. The writers of whom we speak have never been read by
                           the multitude; except for the more slight of their works, their
                           readers have been few.. but they have been the teachers of the
                           teachers; there is hardly to be found in England an individual of
                           any importance in the world of mind, who (whatever opinions he
                           may have afterwards adopted) did not first learn to think from
                           one of these two; and though their influences have but begun to
                           diffuse themselves through these intermediate channels over
                           society at large, there is already scarcely a publication of any
                           consequence addressed to the educated classes, which, if these
                           persons had not existed, would not have been different from what
                           it is. These men are, Jeremy Bentham and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
                           -- the two great seminal minds of England in their age.
                           No comparison is intended here between the minds or
                           influences of these remarkable men: this was impossible unless
                           there were first formed a complete judgment of each, considered
                           apart. It is our intention to attempt, on the present occasion,
                           an estimate of one of them; the only one, a complete edition of
                           whose works is yet in progress, and who, in the classification
                           which may be made of all writers into Progressive and
                           Conservative, belongs to the same division with ourselves. For
                           although they were far too great men to be correctly designated
                           by either appellation exclusively, yet in the main, Bentham was a
                           Progressive philosopher, Coleridge a Conservative one. The
                           influence of the former has made itself felt chiefly on minds of
                           the Progressive class; of the latter, on those of the
                           Conservative: and the two systems of concentric circles which the
                           shock given by them is spreading over the ocean of mind, have
                           only just begun to meet and intersect. The writings of both
                           contain severe lessons to their own side, on many of the errors
                           and faults they are addicted to: but to Bentham it was given to
                           discern more particularly those truths with which existing
                           doctrines and institutions were at variance; to Coleridge, the
                           neglected truths which lay in them.
                           A man of great knowledge of the world, and of the highest
                           reputation for practical talent and sagacity among the official
                           men of his time (himself no follower of Bentham, nor of any
                           partial or exclusive school whatever) once said to us, as the
                           result of his observation, that to Bentham more than to any other
                           source might be traced the questioning spirit, the disposition to
                           demand the why of everything, which had gained so much ground and
                           was producing such important consequences in these times. The
                           more this assertion is examined, the more true it will be found.
                           Bentham has been in this age and country the great questioner of
                           things established. It is by the influence of the modes of
                           thought with which his writings inoculated a considerable number
                           of thinking men, that the yoke of authority has been broken, and
                           innumerable opinions, formerly received on tradition as
                           incontestable, are put upon their defence, and required to give
                           an account of themselves. Who, before Bentham (whatever
                           controversies might exist on points of detail) dared to speak
                           disrespectfully, in express terms, of the British Constitution,
                           or the English Law? He did so; and his arguments and his example
                           together encouraged others. We do not mean that his writings
                           caused the Reform Bill, or that the Appropriation Clause owns him
                           as its parent: the changes which have been made, and the greater
                           changes which will be made, in our institutions, are not the work
                           of philosophers, but of the interests and instincts of large
                           portions of society recently grown into strength. But Bentham
                           gave voice to those interests and instincts: until he spoke out,
                           those who found our institutions unsuited to them did not dare to
                           say so, did not dare consciously to think so; they had never
                           heard the excellence of those institutions questioned by
                           cultivated men, by men of acknowledged intellect; and it is not
                           in the nature of uninstructed minds to resist the united
                           authority of the instructed. Bentham broke the spell. It was not
                           Bentham by his own writings; it was Bentham through the minds and
                           pens which those writings fed -- through the men in more direct
                           contact with the world, into whom his spirit passed. If the
                           superstition about ancestorial wisdom has fallen into decay; if
                           the public are grown familiar with the idea that their laws and
                           institutions are in great part not the product of intellect and
                           virtue, but of modern corruption grafted upon ancient barbarism;
                           if the hardiest innovation is no longer scouted because it is an
                           innovation -- establishments no longer considered sacred because
                           they are establishments -- it will be found that those who have
                           accustomed the public mind to these ideas have learnt them in
                           Bentham's school, and that the assault on ancient institutions
                           has been, and is, carried on for the most part with his weapons.
                           It matters not although these thinkers, or indeed thinkers of any
                           description, have been but scantily found among the persons
                           prominently and ostensibly at the head of the Reform movement.
                           All movements, except directly revolutionary ones, are headed,
                           not by those who originate them, but by those who know best how
                           to compromise between the old opinions and the new. The father of
                           English innovation both in doctrines and in institutions, is
                           Bentham: he is the great subversive, or, in the language of
                           continental philosophers, the great critical, thinker of his age
                           and country.
                           We consider this, however, to be not his highest title to
                           fame. Were this all, he were only to be ranked among the lowest
                           order of the potentates of mind -- the negative, or destructive
                           philosophers; those who can perceive what is false, but not what
                           is true; who awaken the human mind to the inconsistencies and
                           absurdities of time-sanctioned opinions and institutions, but
                           substitute nothing in the place of what they take away. We have
                           no desire to undervalue the services of such persons: mankind
                           have been deeply indebted to them; nor will there ever be a lack
                           of work for them, in a world in which so many false things are
                           believed, in which so many which have been true, are believed
                           long after they have ceased to be true. The qualities, however,
                           which fit men for perceiving anomalies, without perceiving the
                           truths which would rectify them, are not among the rarest of
                           endowments. Courage, verbal acuteness, command over the forms of
                           argumentation, and a popular style, will make, out of the
                           shallowest man, with a sufficient lack of reverence, a
                           considerable negative philosopher. Such men have never been
                           wanting in periods of culture; and the period in which Bentham
                           formed his early impressions was emphatically their reign, in
                           proportion to its barrenness in the more noble products of the
                           human mind. An age of formalism in the Church and corruption in
                           the State, when the most valuable part of the meaning of
                           traditional doctrines had faded from the minds even of those who
                           retained from habit a mechanical belief in them, was the time to
                           raise up all kinds of sceptical philosophy. Accordingly, France
                           had Voltaire, and his school of negative thinkers, and England
                           (or rather Scotland) had the profoundest negative thinker on
                           record, David Hume: a man, the peculiarities of whose mind
                           qualified him to detect failure of proof, and want of logical
                           consistency, at a depth which French sceptics, with their
                           comparatively feeble powers of analysis and abstractions stop far
                           short of, and which German subtlety alone could thoroughly
                           appreciate, or hope to rival.
                           If Bentham had merely continued the work of Hume, he would
                           scarcely have been heard of in philosophy. for he was far
                           inferior to Hume in Hume's qualities, and was in no respect
                           fitted to excel as a metaphysician. We must not look for
                           subtlety, or the power of recondite analysis, among his
                           intellectual characteristics. In the former quality, few great
                           thinkers have ever been so deficient; and to find the latter, in
                           any considerable measure, in a mind acknowledging any kindred
                           with his, we must have recourse to the late Mr. Mill -- a man who
                           united the great qualities of the metaphysicians of the
                           eighteenth century, with others of a different complexion,
                           admirably qualifying him to complete and correct their work.
                           Bentham had not these peculiar gifts; but he possessed others,
                           not inferior, which were not possessed by any of his precursors;
                           which have made him a source of light to a generation which has
                           far outgrown their influence, and, as we called him, the chief
                           subversive thinker of an age which has long lost all that they
                           could subvert.
                           To speak of him first as a merely negative philosopher -- as
                           one who refutes illogical arguments, exposes sophistry, detects
                           contradiction and absurdity; even in that capacity there was a
                           wide field left vacant for him by Hume, and which he has occupied
                           to an unprecedented extent; the field of practical abuses. This
                           was Bentham's peculiar province: to this he was called by the
                           whole bent of his disposition: to carry the warfare against
                           absurdity into things practical. His was an essentially practical
                           mind. It was by practical abuses that his mind was first turned
                           to speculation -- by the abuses of the profession which was
                           chosen for him, that of the law. He has himself stated what
                           particular abuse first gave that shock to his mind, the recoil of
                           which has made the whole mountain of abuse totter; it was the
                           custom of making the client pay for three attendances in the
                           office of a Master in Chancery; when only one was given. The law,
                           he found, on examination, was full of such things. But were these
                           discoveries of his? No; they were known to every lawyer who
                           practised, to every judge who sat on the bench, and neither
                           before nor for long after did they cause any apparent uneasiness
                           to the consciences of these learned persons, nor hinder them from
                           asserting, whenever occasion offered, in books, in parliament, or
                           on the bench, that the law was the perfection of reason. During
                           so many generations, in each of which thousands of educated young
                           men were successively placed in Bentham's position and with
                           Bentham's opportunities, he alone was found with sufficient moral
                           sensibility and self-reliance to say to himself that these
                           things, however profitable they might be, were frauds, and that
                           between them and himself there should be a gulf fixed. To this
                           rare union of self-reliance and moral sensibility we are indebted
                           for all that Bentham has done. Sent to Oxford by his father at
                           the unusually early age of fifteen -- required, on admission, to
                           declare his belief in the Thirty-nine Articles -- he felt it
                           necessary to examine them; and the examination suggested
                           scruples, which he sought to get removed, but instead of the
                           satisfaction he expected was told that it was not for boys like
                           him to set up their judgment against the great men of the Church.
                           After a struggle, he signed; but the impression that he had done
                           an immoral act, never left him; he considered himself to have
                           committed a falsehood, and throughout life he never relaxed in
                           his indignant denunciations of all laws which command such
                           falsehoods, all institutions which attach rewards to them.
                           By thus carrying the war of criticism and refutation, the
                           conflict with falsehood and absurdity, into the field of
                           practical evils, Bentham, even if he had done nothing else, would
                           have earned an important place in the history of intellect. He
                           carried on the warfare without intermission. To this, not only
                           many of his most piquant chapters, but some of the most finished
                           of his entire works, are entirely devoted: the 'Defence of
                           Usury'. the 'Book of Fallacies'; and the onslaught upon
                           Blackstone, published anonymously under the title of ' A Fragment
                           on Government', which, though a first production, and of a writer
                           afterwards so much ridiculed for his style, excited the highest
                           admiration no less for its composition than for its thoughts, and
                           was attributed by turns to Lord Mansfield, to Lord Camden, and
                           (by Dr. Johnson) to Dunning, one of the greatest masters of style
                           among the lawyers of his day. These writings are altogether
                           original; though of the negative school, they resemble nothing
                           previously produced by negative philosophers; and would have
                           sufficed to create for Bentham, among the subversive thinkers of
                           modern Europe, a place peculiarly his own. But it is not these
                           writings that constitute the real distinction between him and
                           them. There was a deeper difference. It was that they were purely
                           negative thinkers, he was positive: they only assailed error, he
                           made it a point of conscience not to do so until he thought he
                           could plant instead the corresponding truth. Their character was
                           exclusively analytic, his was synthetic. They took for their
                           starting-point the received opinion on any subject, dug round it
                           with their logical implements, pronounced its foundations
                           defective, and condemned it: he began de novo, laid his own
                           foundations deeply and firmly, built up his own structure, and
                           bade mankind compare the two; it was when he had solved the
                           problem himself, or thought he had done so, that he declared all
                           other solutions to be erroneous. Hence, what they produced will
                           not last; it must perish, much of it has already perished, with
                           the errors which it exploded: what he did has its own value, by
                           which it must outlast all errors to which it is opposed. Though
                           we may reject, as we often must, his practical conclusions, yet
                           his premises, the collections of facts and observations from
                           which his conclusions were drawn, remain for ever, a part of the
                           materials of philosophy.
                           A place, therefore, must be assigned to Bentham among the
                           masters of wisdom, the great teachers and permanent intellectual
                           ornaments of the human race. He is among those who have enriched
                           mankind with imperishable gifts; and although these do not
                           transcend all other gifts, nor entitle him to those honours
                           'above all Greek, above all Roman fame', which by a natural
                           reaction against the neglect and contempt of the ignorant, many
                           of his admirers were once disposed to accumulate upon him, yet to
                           refuse an admiring recognition of what he was, on account of what
                           he was not, is a much worse error, and one which, pardonable in
                           the vulgar, is no longer permitted to any cultivated and
                           instructed mind.
                           If we were asked to say, in the fewest possible words, what
                           we conceive to be Bentham's place among these great intellectual
                           benefactors of humanity; what he was, and what he was not; what
                           kind of service he did and did not render to truth; we should say
                           he was not a great philosopher, but he was a great reformer in
                           philosophy. He brought into philosophy something which it greatly
                           needed, and for want of which it was at a stand. It was not his
                           doctrines which did this, it was his mode of arriving at them. He
                           introduced into morals and politics those habits of thought and
                           modes of investigation, which are essential to the idea of
                           science; and the absence of which made those departments of
                           inquiry, as physics had been before Bacon, a field of
                           interminable discussion, leading to no result. It was not his
                           opinions, in short, but his method, that constituted the novelty
                           and the value of what he did; a value beyond all price, even
                           though we should reject the whole, as we unquestionably must a
                           large part, of the opinions themselves.
                           Bentham's method may be shortly described as the method of
                           detail; of treating wholes by separating them into their parts,
                           abstractions by resolving them into Things, classes and
                           generalities by distinguishing them into the individuals of which
                           they are made up; and breaking every question into pieces before
                           attempting to solve it. The precise amount of originality of this
                           process, considered as a logical conception -- its degree of
                           connexion with the methods of physical science, or with the
                           previous labours of Bacon, Hobbes or Locke -- is not an essential
                           consideration in this pace. Whatever originality there was in the
                           method -- in the subjects he applied it to, and in the rigidity
                           with which he adhered to it, there was the greatest. Hence his
                           interminable classifications. Hence his elaborate demonstrations
                           of the most acknowledged truths. That murder, incendiarism,
                           robbery, are mischievous actions, he will not take for granted
                           without proof; let the thing appear ever so self-evident, he will
                           know the why and the how of it with the last degree of precision;
                           he will distinguish all the different mischiefs of a crime,
                           whether of the first, the second or the third order, namely, 1.
                           the evil to the sufferer, and to his personal connexions; 2. the
                           danger from example, and the alarm or painful feeling of
                           insecurity; and 3. the discouragement to industry and useful
                           pursuits arising from the alarm, and the trouble and resources
                           which must be expended in warding off the danger. After this
                           enumeration, he will prove from the laws of human feeling, that
                           even the first of these evils, the sufferings of the immediate
                           victim, will on the average greatly outweigh the pleasure reaped
                           by the offender; much more when all the other evils are taken
                           into account. Unless this could be proved, he would account the
                           infliction of punishment unwarrantable; and for taking the
                           trouble to prove it formally, his defence is, 'there are truths
                           which it is necessary to prove, not for their own sakes, because
                           they are acknowledged, but that an opening may be made for the
                           reception of other truths which depend upon them. It is in this
                           manner we provide for the reception of first principles, which,
                           once received, prepare the way for admission of all other
                           truths.' To which may be added, that in this manner also we
                           discipline the mind for practising the same sort of dissection
                           upon questions more complicated and of more doubtful issue.
                           It is a sound maxim, and one which all close thinkers have
                           felt, but which no one before Bentham ever so consistently
                           applied, that error lurks in generalities: that the human mind is
                           not capable of embracing a complex whole, until it has surveyed
                           and catalogued the parts of which that whole is made up; that
                           abstractions are not realities per se, but an abridged mode of
                           expressing facts, and that the only practical mode of dealing
                           with them is to trace them back to the facts (whether of
                           experience or of consciousness) of which they are the expression.
                           Proceeding on this principle, Bentham makes short work with the
                           ordinary modes of moral and political reasoning. These, it
                           appeared to him, when hunted to their source, for the most part
                           terminated in phrases. In politics, liberty, social order,
                           constitution, law of nature, social compact, etc., were the
                           catchwords: ethics had its analogous ones. Such were the
                           arguments on which the gravest questions of morality and policy
                           were made to turn; not reasons, but allusions to reasons;
                           sacramental expressions, by which a summary appeal was made to
                           some general sentiment of mankind, or to some maxim in familiar
                           use, which might be true or not, but the limitations of which no
                           one had ever critically examined. And this satisfied other
                           people; but not Bentham. He required something more than opinion
                           as a reason for opinion. Whenever he found a phrase used as an
                           argument for or against anything, he insisted upon knowing what
                           it meant; whether it appealed to any standard, or gave intimation
                           of any matter of fact relevant to the question; and if he could
                           not find that it did either, he treated it as an attempt on the
                           part of the disputant to impose his own individual sentiment on
                           other people, without giving them a reason for it; a '
                           contrivance for avoiding the obligation of appealing to any
                           external standard, and for prevailing upon the reader to accept
                           of the author's sentiment and opinion as a reason, and that a
                           sufficient one, for itself. Bentham shall speak for himself on
                           this subject: the passage is from his first systematic work,
                           'Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation', and
                           we could scarcely quote anything more strongly exemplifying both
                           the strength and weakness of his mode of philosophizing.
                           It is curious enough to observe the variety of inventions men
                           have hit upon, and the variety of phrases they have brought
                           forward, in order to conceal from the world, and, if possible,
                           from themselves, this very general and therefore very pardonable
                           1. One man says, he has a thing made on purpose to tell him
                           what is right and what is wrong; and that is called a 'moral
                           sense'.. and then he goes to work at his ease, and says, such a
                           thing is right, and such a thing is wrong -- why? 'Because my
                           moral sense tells me it is.'
                           2. Another man comes and alters the phrase: leaving out
                           moral, and putting in common in the room of it. He then tells you
                           that his common sense tells him what is right and wrong, as
                           surely as the other's moral sense did; meaning by common sense a
                           sense of some kind or other, which, he says, is possessed by all
                           mankind: the sense of those whose sense is not the same as the
                           author's being struck out as not worth taking. This contrivance
                           does better than the other; for a moral sense being a new thing,
                           a man may feel about him a good while without being able to find
                           it out: but common sense is as old as the creation; and there is
                           no man but would be ashamed to be thought not to have as much of
                           it as his neighbours. It has another great advantage: by
                           appearing to share power, it lessens envy; for when a man gets up
                           upon this ground, in order to anathematize those who differ from
                           him, it is not by a sic volo sic jubeo, but by a velitis
                           3. Another man comes, and says, that as to a moral sense
                           indeed, he cannot find that he has any such thing: that, however,
                           he has an understanding, which will do quite as well. This
                           understanding, he says, is the standard of right and wrong: it
                           tells him so and so. All good and wise men understand as he does:
                           if other men's understandings differ in any part from his, so
                           much the worse for them: it is a sure sign they are either
                           defective or corrupt.
                           4. Another man says, that there is an eternal and immutable
                           Rule of Right: that the rule of right dictates so and so: and
                           then he begins giving you his sentiments upon anything that comes
                           uppermost: and these sentiments (you are to take for granted) are
                           so many branches of the eternal rule of right.
                           5. Another man, or perhaps the same man (it is nO matter),
                           says that there are certain practices conformable and others
                           repugnant, to the Fitness of Things; and then he tells you, at
                           his leisure, what practices are conformable, and what repugnant:
                           just as he happens to like a practice or dislike it.
                           6. A great multitude of people are continually talking of the
                           Law of Nature; and then they go on giving you their sentiments
                           about what is right and what is wrong: and these sentiments, you
                           are to understand, are so many chapters and sections of the Law
                           of Nature.
                           7. Instead of the phrase, Law of Nature, you have sometimes
                           Law of Reason, Right Reason, Natural Justice, Natural Equity,
                           Good Order. Any of them will do equally well. This latter is most
                           used in politics. The three last are much more tolerable than the
                           others, because they do not very explicitly claim to be anything
                           more than phrases: they insist but feebly upon their being looked
                           upon as so many positive standards of themselves, and seem
                           content to be taken, upon occasion, for phrases expressive of the
                           conformity of the thing in question to the proper standards,
                           whatever that may be. On most occasions, however, it will be
                           better to say utility. utility is clearer as referring more
                           explicitly to pain and pleasure.
                           8. We have one philosopher, who says, there is no harm in
                           anything in the world but in telling a lie; and that if, for
                           example, you were to murder your own father, this would only be a
                           particular way of saying, he was not your father. Of course when
                           this philosopher sees anything that he does not like, he says, it
                           is a particular way of telling a lie. It is saying, that the act
                           ought to be done, or may be done, when, in truth, it ought not be
                           9. The fairest and openest of them all is that sort of man
                           who speaks out, and says, I am of the number of the Elect: now
                           God himself takes care to inform the Elect what is right: and
                           that with so good effect, and let them strive ever so, they
                           cannot help not only knowing it but practising it. If therefore a
                           man wants to know what is right and what is wrong, he has nothing
                           to do but to come to me.
                           Few will contend that this is a perfectly fair representation
                           of the animus of those who employ the various phrases so
                           amusingly animadverted on; but that the phrases contain no
                           argument, save what is grounded on the very feelings they are
                           adduced to justify, is a truth which Bentham had the eminent
                           merit of first pointing out.
                           It is the introduction into the philosophy of human conduct,
                           of this method of detail -- of this practice of never reasoning
                           about wholes until they have been resolved into their parts, nor
                           about abstractions until they have been translated into realities
                           -- that constitutes the originality of Bentham in philosophy, and
                           makes him the great reformer of the moral and political branch of
                           it. To what he terms the 'exhaustive method of classification',
                           which is but one branch of this more general method, he himself
                           ascribes everything original in the systematic and elaborate work
                           from which we have quoted. The generalities of his philosophy
                           itself have little or no novelty: to ascribe any to the doctrine
                           that general utility is the foundation of morality, would imply
                           great ignorance of the history of philosophy, of general
                           literature, and of Bentham's own writings. He derived the idea,
                           as he says himself, from Helvetius; and it was the doctrine no
                           less, of the religious philosophers of that age, prior to Reid
                           and Beattie. We never saw an abler defence of the doctrine of
                           utility than in a book written in refutation of Shaftesbury, and
                           now little read -- Brown's 'Essays on the Characteristics'; and
                           in Johnson's celebrated review of Soame Jenyns, the same doctrine
                           is set forth as that both of the author and of the reviewer. In
                           all ages of philosophy one of its schools has been utilitarian --
                           not only from the time of Epicurus, but long before. It was by
                           mere accident that this opinion became connected in Bentham with
                           his peculiar method. The utilitarian philosophers antecedent to
                           him had no more claims to the method than their antagonists. To
                           refer, for instance, to the Epicurean philosophy, according to
                           the most complete view we have of the moral part of it, by the
                           most accomplished scholar of antiquity, Cicero; we ask any one
                           who has read his philosophical writings, the 'De Finibus' for
                           instance, whether the arguments of the Epicureans do not, just as
                           much as those of the Stoics or Platonists, consist of mere
                           rhetorical appeals to common notions, to eikita and simeia
                           instead of tekmiria, notions picked up as it were casually, and
                           when true at all, never so narrowly looked into as to ascertain
                           in what sense and under what limitations they are true. The
                           application of a real inductive philosophy to the problems of
                           ethics, is as unknown to the Epicurean moralists as to any of the
                           other schools; they never take a question to pieces, and join
                           issue on a definite point. Bentham certainly did not learn his
                           sifting and anatomizing method from them.
                           This method Bentham has finally installed in philosophy; has
                           made it henceforth imperative on philosophers of all schools. By
                           it he has formed the intellects of many thinkers, who either
                           never adopted, or have abandoned, many of his peculiar opinions.
                           He has taught the method to men of the most opposite schools to
                           his; he has made them perceive that if they do not test their
                           doctrines by the method of detail, their adversaries will. He has
                           thus, it is not too much to say, for the first time introduced
                           precision of thought into moral and political philosophy. Instead
                           of taking up their opinions by intuition, or by ratiocination
                           from premises adopted on a mere rough view, and couched in
                           language so vague that it is impossible to say exactly whether
                           they are true or false, philosophers are now forced to understand
                           one another, to break down the generality of their propositions,
                           and join a precise issue in every dispute. This is nothing less
                           than a revolution in philosophy. Its effect is gradually becoming
                           evident in the writings of English thinkers of every variety of
                           opinion, and will be felt more and more in proportion as
                           Bentham's writings are diffused, and as the number of minds to
                           whose formation they contribute is multiplied.
                           It will naturally be presumed that of the fruits of this
                           great philosophical improvement some portion at least will have
                           been reaped by its author. Armed with such a potent instrument,
                           and wielding it with such singleness of aim; cultivating the
                           field of practical philosophy with such unwearied and such
                           consistent use of a method right in itself, and not adopted by
                           his predecessors; it cannot he but that Bentham by his own
                           inquiries must have accomplished something considerable. And so,
                           it will be found, he has; something not only considerable, but
                           extraordinary; though but little compared with what he has left
                           undone, and far short of what his sanguine and almost boyish
                           fancy made him flatter himself that he had accomplished. His
                           peculiar method, admirably calculated to make clear thinkers, and
                           sure ones to the extent of their materials, has not equal
                           efficacy for making those materials complete. It is a security
                           for accuracy, but not for comprehensiveness; or rather, it is a
                           security for one sort of comprehensiveness, but not for another.
                           Bentham's method of laying out his subject is admirable as a
                           preservative against one kind of narrow and partial views. He
                           begins by placing before himself the whole of the field of
                           inquiry to which the particular question belongs, and divides
                           down till he arrives at the thing he is in search of; and thus by
                           successively rejecting all which is not the thing, he gradually
                           works out a definition of what it is. This, which he calls the
                           exhaustive method, is as old as philosophy itself. Plato owes
                           everything to it, and does everything by it; and the use made of
                           it by that great man in his Dialogues, Bacon, in one of those
                           pregnant logical hints scattered through his writings, and so
                           much neglected by most of his pretended followers, pronounces to
                           be the nearest approach to a true inductive method in the ancient
                           philosophy. Bentham was probably not aware that Plato had
                           anticipated him in the process to which he too declared that he
                           owed everything. By the practice of it, his speculations are
                           rendered eminently systematic and consistent; no question, with
                           him, is ever an insulated one; he sees every subject in connexion
                           with all the other subjects with which in his view it is related,
                           and from which it requires to be distinguished; and as all that
                           he knows, in the least degree allied to the subject, has been
                           marshalled in an orderly manner before him, he does not, like
                           people who use a looser method, forget and overlook a thing on
                           one occasion to remember it on another. Hence there is probably
                           no philosopher of so wide a range, in whom there are so few
                           inconsistencies. If any of the truths which he did not see, had
                           come to be seen by him, he would have remembered it everywhere
                           and at all times, and would have adjusted his whole system to it.
                           And this is another admirable quality which he has impressed upon
                           the best of the minds trained in his habits of thought: when
                           those minds open to admit new truths, they digest them as fast as
                           they receive them.
                           But this system, excellent for keeping before the mind of the
                           thinker all that he knows, does not make him know enough; it does
                           not make a knowledge of some of the properties of a thing suffice
                           for the whole of it, nor render a rooted habit of surveying a
                           complex object (though ever so carefully) in only one of its
                           aspects, tantamount to the power of contemplating it in all. To
                           give this last power, other qualities are required: whether
                           Bentham possessed those other qualities we now have to see.
                           Bentham's mind, as we have already said, was eminently
                           synthetical. He begins all his inquiries by supposing nothing to
                           he known on the subject, and reconstructs all philosophy ab
                           initio, without reference to the opinions of his predecessors.
                           But to build either a philosophy or anything else, there must be
                           materials. For the philosophy of matter, the materials are the
                           properties of matter; for moral and political philosophy, the
                           properties of man, and of man's position in the world. The
                           knowledge which any inquirer possesses of these properties,
                           constitutes a limit beyond which, as a moralist or a political
                           philosopher, whatever be his powers of mind, he cannot reach.
                           Nobody's synthesis can be more complete than his analysis. If in
                           his survey of human nature and life he has left any element out,
                           then, wheresoever that element exerts any influence, his
                           conclusions will fail, more or less, in their application. If he
                           has left out many elements, and those very important, his labours
                           may be highly valuable; he may have largely contributed to that
                           body of partial truths which, when completed and corrected by one
                           another, constitute practical truth; but the applicability of his
                           system to practice in its own proper shape will be of an
                           exceedingly limited range.
                           Human nature and human life are wide subjects, and whoever
                           would embark in an enterprise requiring a thorough knowledge of
                           them, has need both of large stores of his own, and of all aids
                           and appliances from elsewhere. His qualifications for success
                           will be proportional to two things: the degree in which his own
                           nature and circumstances furnish them with a correct and complete
                           picture of man's nature and circumstances; and his capacity of
                           deriving light from other minds.
                           Bentham failed in deriving light from other minds. His
                           writings contain few traces of the accurate knowledge of any
                           schools of thinking but his own; and many proofs of his entire
                           conviction that they could teach him nothing worth knowing. For
                           some of the most illustrious of previous thinkers, his contempt
                           was unmeasured. In almost the only passage of the 'Deontology'
                           which, from its style, and from its having before appeared in
                           print, may be known to be Bentham's, Socrates, and Plato are
                           spoken of in terms distressing to his great admirers; and the
                           incapacity to appreciate such men, is a fact perfectly in unison
                           with the general habits of Bentham's mind. He had a phrase,
                           expressive of the view he took of all moral speculations to which
                           his method had not been applied, or (which he considered as the
                           same thing) not founded on a recognition of utility as the moral
                           standard; this phrase was 'vague generalities'. Whatever
                           presented itself to him in such a shape, he dismissed as unworthy
                           of notice, or dwelt upon only to denounce as absurd. He did not
                           heed, or rather the nature of his mind prevented it from
                           occurring to him, that these generalities contained the whole
                           unanalysed experience of the human race.
                           Unless it can be asserted that mankind did not know anything
                           until logicians taught it to them that until the last hand has
                           been put to a moral truth by giving it a metaphysically precise
                           expression, all the previous rough-hewing which it has undergone
                           by the common intellect at the suggestion of common wants and
                           common experience is to go for nothing; it must be allowed, that
                           even the originality which can, and the courage which dares,
                           think for itself, is not a more necessary part of the
                           philosophical character than a thoughtful regard for previous
                           thinkers, and for the collective mind of the human race. What has
                           been the opinion of mankind, has been the opinion of persons of
                           all tempers and dispositions, of all partialities and
                           prepossessions, of all varieties in position, in education, in
                           opportunities of observation and inquiry. No one inquirer is all
                           this; every inquirer is either young or old, rich or poor, sickly
                           or healthy, married or unmarried, meditative or active, a poet or
                           a logician, an ancient or a modern, a man or a woman; and if a
                           thinking person, has, in addition, the accidental peculiarities
                           of his individual modes of thought. Every circumstance which
                           gives a character to the life of a human being, carries with it
                           its peculiar biases; its peculiar facilities for perceiving some
                           things, and for missing or forgetting others. But, from points of
                           view different from his, different things are perceptible; and
                           none are more likely to have seen what he does not see, than
                           those who do not see what he sees. The general opinion of mankind
                           is the average of the conclusions of all minds, stripped indeed
                           of their choicest and most recondite thoughts, but freed from
                           their twists and partialities: a net result, in which everybody's
                           point of view is represented, nobody's predominant. The
                           collective mind does not penetrate below the surface, but it sees
                           all the surface; which profound thinkers, even by reason of their
                           profundity, often fail to do: their intenser view of a thing in
                           some of its aspects diverting their attention from others.
                           The hardiest assertor, therefore, of the freedom of private
                           judgment the keenest detector of the errors of his predecessors,
                           and of the inaccuracies of current modes of thought -- is the
                           very person who most needs to fortify the weak side of his own
                           intellect, by study of the opinions of mankind in all ages and
                           nations, and of the speculations of philosophers of the modes of
                           thought most opposite to his own. It is there that he will find
                           the experiences denied to himself -- the remainder of the truth
                           of which he sees but half -- the truths, of which the errors he
                           detects are commonly but the exaggerations. If, like Bentham, he
                           brings with him an improved instrument of investigation, the
                           greater is the probability that he will find ready prepared a
                           rich abundance of rough ore, which was merely waiting for that
                           instrument. A man of clear ideas errs grievously if he imagines
                           that whatever is seen confusedly does not exist: it belongs to
                           him, when he meets with such a thing, to dispel the mist, and fix
                           the outlines of the vague form which is looming through it.
                           Bentham's contempt, then, of all other schools of thinkers;
                           his determination to create a philosophy wholly out of the
                           materials furnished by his own mind, and by minds like his own;
                           was his first disqualification as a philosopher. His second, was
                           the incompleteness of his own mind as a representative of
                           universal human nature. In many of the most natural and strongest
                           feelings of human nature he had no sympathy; from many of its
                           graver experiences he was altogether cut off; and the faculty by
                           which one mind understands a mind different from itself, and
                           throws itself into the feelings of that other mind, was denied
                           him by his deficiency of Imagination.
                           With Imagination in the popular sense, command of imagery and
                           metaphorical expression, Bentham was, to a certain degree,
                           endowed. For want, indeed, of poetical culture, the images with
                           which his fancy supplied him were seldom beautiful, but they were
                           quaint and humorous, or bold, forcible, and intense: passages
                           might be quoted from him both of playful irony, and of
                           declamatory eloquence, seldom surpassed in the writings of
                           philosophers. The Imagination which he had not, was that to which
                           the name is generally appropriated by the best writers of the
                           present day; that which enables us, by a voluntary effort, to
                           conceive the absent as if it were present, the imaginary as if it
                           were real, and to cloth it in the feelings which, if it were
                           indeed real, it would bring along with it. This is the power by
                           which one human being enters into the mind and circumstances of
                           another. This power constitutes the poet, in so far as he does
                           anything but melodiously utter his own actual feelings. It
                           constitutes the dramatist entirely. It is one of the constituents
                           of the historian; by it we understand other times; by it Guizot
                           interprets to us the middle ages; Nisard, in his beautiful
                           Studies on the later Latin poets, places us in the Rome of the
                           Caesars; Michelet disengages the distinctive characters of the
                           different races and generations of mankind from the facts of
                           their history. Without it nobody knows even his own nature,
                           further than circumstances have actually tried it and called it
                           out; nor the nature of his fellow-creatures, beyond such
                           generalizations as he may have been enabled to make from his
                           observation of their outward conduct.
                           By these limits, accordingly, Bentham's knowledge of human
                           nature is bounded. It is wholly empirical; and the empiricism of
                           one who has had little experience. He had neither internal
                           experience nor external; the quiet, even tenor of his life, and
                           his healthiness of mind, conspired to exclude him from both. He
                           never knew prosperity and adversity, passion nor satiety. he
                           never had even the experiences which sickness gives; he lived
                           from childhood to the age of eighty-five in boyish health. He
                           knew no dejection, no heaviness of heart. He never felt life a
                           sore and a weary burthen. He was a boy to the last.
                           Self-consciousness, that daemon of the men of genius of our time,
                           from Wordsworth to Byron, from Goethe to Chateaubriand, and to
                           which this age owes so much both of its cheerful and its mournful
                           wisdom, never was awakened in him. How much of human nature
                           slumbered in him he knew not, neither can we know. He had never
                           been made alive to the unseen influences which were acting on
                           himself, nor consequently on his fellow-creatures. Other ages and
                           other nations were a blank to him for purposes of instruction. He
                           measured them but by one standard; their knowledge of facts, and
                           their capability to take correct views of utility, and merge all
                           other objects in it. His own lot was cast in a generation of the
                           leanest and barrenest men whom England had yet produced, and he
                           was an old man when a better race came in with the present
                           century. He saw accordingly in man little but what the vulgarest
                           eye can see; recognized no diversities of character but such as
                           he who runs may read. Knowing so little of human feelings, he
                           knew still less of the influences by which those feelings are
                           formed: all the more subtle workings both of the mind upon
                           itself, and of external things upon the mind, escaped him; and no
                           one, probably, who, in a highly instructed age, ever attempted to
                           give a rule to all human conduct, set out with a more limited
                           conception either of the agencies by which human conduct is, or
                           of those by which it should be, influenced.
                           This, then, is our idea of Bentham. He was a man both of
                           remarkable endowments for philosophy, and of remarkable
                           deficiencies for it: fitted, beyond almost any man, for drawing
                           from his premises, conclusions not only correct, but sufficiently
                           precise and specific to be practical: but whose general
                           conception of human nature and life furnished him with an
                           unusually slender stock of premises. It is obvious what would be
                           likely to be achieved by such a man; what a thinker, thus gifted
                           and thus disqualified, could do in philosophy. He could, with
                           close and accurate logic, hunt half-truths to their consequences
                           and practical applications, on a scale both of greatness and of
                           minuteness not previously exemplified; and this is the character
                           which posterity will probably assign to Bentham.
                           We express our sincere and well-considered conviction when we
                           say, that there is hardly anything positive in Bentham's
                           philosophy which is not true: that when his practical conclusions
                           are erroneous, which in our opinion they are very often, it is
                           not because the considerations which he urges are not rational
                           and valid in themselves, but because some more important
                           principle, which he did not perceive, supersedes those
                           considerations, and turns the scale. The bad part of his writings
                           is his resolute denial of all that he does not see, of all truths
                           but those which he recognizes. By that alone has he exercised any
                           bad influence upon his age; by that he has, not created a school
                           of deniers, for this is an ignorant prejudice, but put himself at
                           the head of the school which exists always, though it does not
                           always find a great man to give it the sanction of philosophy.
                           thrown the mantle of intellect over the natural tendency of men
                           in all ages to deny or disparage all feelings and mental states
                           of which they have no consciousness in themselves.
                           The truths which are not Bentham's, which his philosophy
                           takes no account of, are many and important; but his
                           non-recognition of them does not put them out of existence; they
                           are still with us, and it is a comparatively easy task that is
                           reserved for us, to harmonize those truths with his. To reject
                           his half of the truth because he overlooked the other half, would
                           be to fall into his error without having his excuse. For our own
                           part, we have a large tolerance for one-eyed men, provided their
                           one eye is a penetrating one: if they saw more, they probably
                           would not see so keenly, nor so eagerly pursue one course of
                           inquiry. Almost all rich veins of original and striking
                           speculation have been opened by systematic half-thinkers: though
                           whether these new thoughts drive out others as good, or are
                           peacefully superadded to them, depends on whether these
                           half-thinkers are or are not followed in the same track by
                           complete thinkers. The field of man's nature and life cannot be
                           too much worked, or in too many directions; until every clod is
                           turned up the work is imperfect; no whole truth is possible but
                           by combining the points of view of all the fractional truths,
                           nor, therefore, until it has been fully seen what each fractional
                           truth can do by itself.
                           What Bentham's fractional truths could do, there is no such
                           good means of showing as by a review of his philosophy: and such
                           a review, though inevitably a most brief and general one, it is
                           now necessary to attempt.
                           The first question in regard to any man of speculation is,
                           what is his theory of human life? In the minds of many
                           philosophers, whatever theory they have of this sort is latent,
                           and it would be a revelation to themselves to have it pointed out
                           to them in their writings as others can see it, unconsciously
                           moulding everything to its own likeness. But Bentham always knew
                           his own premises, and made his reader know them: it was not his
                           custom to leave the theoretic grounds of his practical
                           conclusions to conjecture. Few great thinkers have afforded the
                           means of assigning with so much certainty the exact conception
                           which they had formed of man and of man's life.
                           Man is conceived by Bentham as a being susceptible of
                           pleasures and pains, and governed in all his conduct partly by
                           the different modifications of self-interest, and the passions
                           commonly classed as selfish, partly by sympathies, or
                           occasionally antipathies, towards other beings. And here
                           Bentham's conception of human nature stops. He does not exclude
                           religion; the prospect of divine rewards and punishments he
                           includes under the head of 'self-regarding interest', and the
                           devotional feeling under that of sympathy with God. But the whole
                           of the impelling or restraining principles, whether of this or of
                           another world, which he recognizes, are either self-love, or love
                           or hatred towards other sentient beings. That there might be no
                           doubt of what he thought on the subject, he has not left us to
                           the general evidence of his writings, but has drawn out a 'Table
                           of the Springs of Action', an express enumeration and
                           classification of human motives, with their various names,
                           laudatory, vituperative, and neutral: and this table, to be found
                           in Part I of his collected works, we recommend to the study of
                           those who would understand his philosophy.
                           Man is never recognized by him as a being capable of pursuing
                           spiritual perfection as an end; of desiring, for its own sake,
                           the conformity of his own character to his standard of
                           excellence, without hope of good or fear of evil from other
                           source than his own inward consciousness. Even in the more
                           limited form of Conscience, this great fact in human nature
                           escapes him. Nothing is more curious than the absence of
                           recognition in any of his writings of the existence of
                           conscience, as a thing distinct from philanthropy, from affection
                           for God or man, and from self-interest in this world or in the
                           next. There is a studied abstinence from any of the phrases
                           which, in the mouths of others, import the acknowledgment of such
                           a fact. If we find the words 'Conscience', 'Principle', 'Moral
                           Rectitude', 'Moral Duty', in his Table of the Springs of Action,
                           it is among the synonymes of the 'love of reputation'. with an
                           intimation as to the two former phrases, that they are also
                           sometimes synonymous with the religious motive, or the motive of
                           sympathy. The feeling of moral approbation or disapprobation
                           properly so called, either towards ourselves or our
                           fellow-creatures, he seems unaware of the existence of; and
                           neither the word self-respect, nor the idea to which that word is
                           appropriated, occurs even once, so far as our recollection serves
                           us, in his whole writings.
                           Nor is it only the moral part of man's nature, in the strict
                           sense of the term -- the desire of perfection, or the feeling of
                           an approving or of an accusing conscience -- that he overlooks;
                           he but faintly recognizes, as a fact in human nature, the pursuit
                           of any other ideal end for its own sake. The sense of honour, and
                           personal dignity -- that feeling of personal exaltation and
                           degradation which acts independently of other people's opinion,
                           or even in defiance of it; the love of beauty, the passion of the
                           artist; the love of order, of congruity, of consistency in all
                           things, and conformity to their end; the love of power, not in
                           the limited form of power over other human beings, but abstract
                           power, the power of making our volitions effectual; the love of
                           action, the thirst for movement and activity, a principle
                           scarcely of less influence in human life than its opposite, the
                           love of ease: None of these powerful constituents of human nature
                           are thought worthy of a place among the 'Springs of Action'; and
                           though there is possibly no one of them of the existence of which
                           an acknowledgment might not be found in some corner of Bentham's
                           writings, no conclusions are ever founded on the acknowledgment.
                           Man, that most complex being, is a very simple one in his eyes.
                           Even under the head of sympathy, his recognition does not extend
                           to the more complex forms of the feeling -- the love of loving,
                           the need of a sympathizing support, or of objects of admiration
                           and reverence. If he thought at all of any of the deeper feelings
                           of human nature, it was but as idiosyncrasies of taste, with
                           which the moralist no more than the legislator had any concern,
                           further than to prohibit such as were mischievous among the
                           actions to which they might chance to lead. To say either that
                           man should, or that he should not, take pleasure in one thing,
                           displeasure in another, appeared to him as much an act of
                           despotism in the moralist as in the political ruler.
                           It would be most unjust to Bentham to surmise (as
                           narrow-minded and passionate adversaries are apt in such cases to
                           do) that this picture of human nature was copied from himself;
                           that all those constituents of humanity which he rejected from
                           his table of motives, were wanting in his own breast. The unusual
                           strength of his early feelings of virtue, was, as we have seen,
                           the original cause of all his speculations; and a noble sense of
                           morality, and especially of justice, guides and pervades them
                           all. But having been early accustomed to keep before his mind's
                           eye the happiness of mankind (or rather of the whole sentient
                           world), as the only thing desirable in itself, or which rendered
                           anything else desirable, he confounded all disinterested feelings
                           which he found in himself, with the desire of general happiness:
                           just as some religious writers, who loved virtue for its own sake
                           as much perhaps as men could do, habitually confounded their love
                           of virtue with their fear of hell. It would have required greater
                           subtlety than Bentham possessed, to distinguish from each other,
                           feelings which, from long habit, always acted in the same
                           direction; and his want of imagination prevented him from reading
                           the distinction, where it is legible enough, in the hearts of
                           Accordingly, he has not been followed in this grand oversight
                           by any of the able men who, from the extent of their intellectual
                           obligations to him, have been regarded as his disciples. They may
                           have followed him in his doctrine of utility, and in his
                           rejection of a moral sense as the test of right and wrong: but
                           while repudiating it as such, they have, with Hartley,
                           acknowledged it as a fact in human nature; they have endeavoured
                           to account for it, to assign its laws: nor are they justly
                           chargeable either with undervaluing this part of our nature, or
                           with any disposition to throw it into the background of their
                           speculations. If any part of the influence of this cardinal error
                           has extended itself to them, it is circuitously, and through the
                           effect on their minds of other parts of Bentham's doctrines.
                           Sympathy, the only disinterested motive which Bentham
                           recognized, he felt the inadequacy of, except in certain limited
                           cases, as a security for virtuous action. Personal affection, he
                           well knew, is as liable to operate to the injury of third
                           parties, and requires as much to be kept under government, as any
                           other feeling whatever: and general philanthropy, considered as a
                           motive influencing mankind in general, he estimated at its true
                           value when divorced from the feeling of duty -- as the very
                           weakest and most unsteady of all feelings. There remained, as a
                           motive by which mankind are influenced, and by which they may be
                           guided to their good, only personal interest. Accordingly,
                           Bentham's idea of the world is that of a collection of persons
                           pursuing each his separate interest or pleasure, and the
                           prevention of whom from jostling one another more than is
                           unavoidable, may be attempted by hopes and fears derived from
                           three sources -- the law, religion and public opinion. To these
                           three powers, considered as binding human conduct, he gave the
                           name of sanctions. the political sanction, operating by the
                           rewards and penalties of the law; the religious sanction, by
                           those expected from the Ruler of the Universe; and the popular
                           which he characteristically calls also the moral sanction,
                           operating through the pains and pleasures arising from the favour
                           or disfavour of our fellow-creatures.
                           Such is Bentham's theory of the world. And now, in a spirit
                           neither of apology nor of censure, but of calm appreciation, we
                           are to inquire how far this view of human nature and life will
                           carry any one: how much it will accomplish in morals, and how
                           much in political and social philosophy: what it will do for the
                           individual, and what for society.
                           It will do nothing for the conduct of the individual, beyond
                           prescribing some of the more obvious dictates of worldly
                           prudence, and outward probity and beneficence. There is no need
                           to expatiate on the deficiencies of a system of ethics which does
                           not pretend to aid individuals in the formation of their own
                           character. which recognizes no such wish as that of self culture,
                           we may even say no such power, as existing in human nature; and
                           if it did recognize, could furnish little assistance to that
                           great duty, because it overlooks the existence of about half of
                           the whole number of mental feelings which human beings are
                           capable of, including all those of which the direct objects are
                           states of their own mind.
                           Morality consists of two parts. One of these is
                           self-education; the training, by the human being himself, of his
                           affections and will. That department is a blank in Bentham's
                           system. The other and co-equal part, the regulation of his
                           outward actions, must be altogether halting and imperfect without
                           the first; for how can we judge in what manner many an action
                           will affect even the worldly interests of ourselves or others,
                           unless we take in, as part of the question, its influence on the
                           regulation of our, or their, affections and desires? A moralist
                           on Bentham's principles may get as far as this, that he ought not
                           to slay, burn, or steal; but what will be his qualifications for
                           regulating the nicer shades of human behaviour, or for laying
                           down even the greater moralities as to those facts in human life
                           which tend to influence the depths of the character quite
                           independently of any influence on worldly circumstances -- such,
                           for instance, as the sexual relations, or those of family in
                           general, or any other social and sympathetic connexions of an
                           intimate kind? The moralities of these questions depend
                           essentially on considerations which Bentham never so much as took
                           into the account; and when he happened to be in the right, it was
                           always, and necessarily, on wrong or insufficient grounds.
                           It is fortunate for the world that Bentham's taste lay rather
                           in the direction of jurisprudential than of properly ethical
                           inquiry. Nothing expressly of the latter kind has been published
                           under his name, except the 'Deontology' -- a book scarcely ever,
                           in our experience, alluded to by any admirer of Bentham without
                           deep regret that it ever saw the light. We did not expect from
                           Bentham correct systematic views of ethics, or a sound treatment
                           of any question the moralities of which require a profound
                           knowledge of the human heart; but we did anticipate that the
                           greater moral questions would have been boldly plunged into, and
                           at least a searching criticism produced of the received opinions;
                           we did not expect that the petite morale almost alone would have
                           been treated, and that with the most pedantic minuteness, and on
                           the quid pro quo principles which regulate trade. The book has
                           not even the value which would belong to an authentic exhibition
                           of the legitimate consequences of an erroneous line of thought;
                           for the style proves it to have been so entirely rewritten, that
                           it is impossible to tell how much or how little of it is
                           Bentham's. The collected edition, now in progress, will not, it
                           is said, include Bentham's religious writings; these, although we
                           think most of them of exceedingly small value, are at least his,
                           and the world has a right to whatever light they throw upon the
                           constitution of his mind. But the omission of the 'Deontology'
                           would be an act of editorial discretion which we should seem
                           entirely justifiable.
                           If Bentham's theory of life can do so little for the
                           individual, what can it do for society?
                           It will enable a society which has attained a certain state
                           of spiritual development, and the maintenance of which in that
                           state is otherwise provided for, to prescribe the rules by which
                           it may protect its material interests. It will do nothing (except
                           sometimes as an instrument in the hands of a higher doctrine) for
                           the spiritual interests of society; nor does it suffice of itself
                           even for the material interests. That which alone causes any
                           material interests to exist, which alone enables any body of
                           human beings to exist as a society, is national character: that
                           it is, which causes one nation to succeed in what it attempts,
                           another to fail; one nation to understand and aspire to elevated
                           things, another to grovel in mean ones; which makes the greatness
                           of one nation lasting, and dooms another to early and rapid
                           decay. The true teacher of the fitting social arrangements for
                           England, France, or America, is the one who can point out how the
                           English, French or American character can be improved, and how it
                           has been made what it is. A philosophy of laws and institutions,
                           not founded on a philosophy of national character, is an
                           absurdity. But what could Bentham's opinion be worth on national
                           character? How could he, whose mind contained so few and so poor
                           types of individual character, rise to that higher
                           generalization? All he can do is but to indicate means by which,
                           in any given state of the national mind, the material interests
                           of society can be protected; saving the question, of which others
                           must judge, whether the use of those means would have, on the
                           national character, any injurious influence.
                           We have arrived, then, at a sort of estimate of what a
                           philosophy like Bentham's can do. It can teach the means of
                           organizing and regulating the merely business part of the social
                           arrangements. Whatever can be understood or whatever done without
                           reference to moral influences, his philosophy is equal to; where
                           those influences require to be taken into account, it is at
                           fault. He committed the mistake of supposing that the business
                           part of human affairs was the whole of them; all at least that
                           the legislator and the moralist had to do with. Not that he
                           disregarded moral influences when he perceived them; but his want
                           of imagination, small experience of human feelings, and ignorance
                           of the filiation and connexion of feelings with one another, made
                           this rarely the case.
                           The business part is accordingly the only province of human
                           affairs which Bentham has cultivated with any success; into which
                           he had introduced any considerable number of comprehensive and
                           luminous practical principles. That is the field of his
                           greatness; and there he is indeed great. He has swept away the
                           accumulated cobwebs of centuries -- he has untied knots which the
                           efforts of the ablest thinkers, age after age, had only drawn
                           tighter; and it is not exaggeration to say of him that over a
                           great part of the field he was the first to shed the light of
                           We turn with pleasure from what Bentham could not do, to what
                           he did. It is an ungracious task to call a great benefactor of
                           mankind to account for not being a greater -- to insist upon the
                           errors of a man who has originated more new truths, has given to
                           the world more sound practical lessons, than it ever received,
                           except in a few glorious instances, from any other individual.
                           The unpleasing part of our work is ended. We are now to show the
                           greatness of the man; the grasp which his intellect took of the
                           subjects with which it was fitted to deal; the giant's task which
                           was before him, and the hero's courage and strength with which he
                           achieved it. Nor let that which he did be deemed of small account
                           because its province was limited: man has but the choice to go a
                           little way in many paths, or a great way in only one. The field
                           of Bentham's labours was like the space between two parallel
                           lines; narrow to excess in one direction, in another it reached
                           to infinity.
                           Bentham's speculations, as we are already aware, began with
                           law; and in that department he accomplished his greatest
                           triumphs. He found the philosophy of law a chaos, he left it a
                           science; he found the practice of the law an Augean stable, he
                           turned the river into it which is mining and sweeping away mound
                           after mound of its rubbish.
                           Without joining in the exaggerated invectives against
                           lawyers, which Bentham sometimes permitted to himself, or making
                           one portion of society alone accountable for the fault of all, we
                           may say that circumstances had made English lawyers in a peculiar
                           degree liable to the reproach of Voltaire, who defines lawyers
                           the 'conservators of ancient barbarous usages'. The basis of the
                           English law was, and still is, the feudal system. That system,
                           like all those which existed as custom before they were
                           established as law, possessed a certain degree of suitableness to
                           the wants of the society among whom it grew up -- that is to say,
                           of a tribe of rude soldiers, holding a conquered people in
                           subjection, and dividing its spoils among themselves. Advancing
                           civilization had, however, converted this armed encampment of
                           barbarous warriors in the midst of enemies reduced to slavery,
                           into an industrious, commercial, rich, and free people. The laws
                           which were suitable to the first of these states of society,
                           could have no manner of relation to the circumstances of the
                           second; which could not even have come into existence unless
                           something had been done to adapt those laws to it. But the
                           adaptation was not the result of thought and design; it arose not
                           from any comprehensive consideration of the new state of society
                           and its exigencies. What was done, was done by a struggle of
                           centuries between the old barbarism and the new civilization;
                           between the feudal aristocracy of conquerors, holding fast to the
                           rude system they had established, and the conquered effecting
                           their emancipation. The last was the growing power, but was never
                           strong enough to break its bonds, though ever and anon some weak
                           point gave way. Hence the law came to be like the costume of a
                           full-grown man who had never put off the clothes made for him
                           when he first went to school. Band after band had burst, and, as
                           the rent widened, then, without removing anything except what
                           might drop off of itself, the hole was darned, or patches of
                           fresh law were brought from the nearest shop and stuck on. Hence
                           all ages of English history have given one another rendezvous in
                           English law; their several products may be seen all together, not
                           interfused, but heaped one upon another, as many different ages
                           of the earth may be read in some perpendicular section of its
                           surface -- the deposits of each successive period not substituted
                           but superimposed on those of the preceding. And in the world of
                           law no less than in the physical world, every commotion and
                           conflict of the elements has left its mark behind in some break
                           or irregularity of the strata: every struggle which ever rent the
                           bosom of society is apparent in the disjointed condition of the
                           part of the field of law which covers the spot: nay, the very
                           traps and pitfalls which one contending party set for another are
                           still standing, and the teeth not of hyenas only, but of foxes
                           and all cunning animals, are imprinted on the curious remains
                           found in these antediluvian caves.
                           In the English law, as in the Roman before it, the
                           adaptations of barbarous laws to the growth of civilized society
                           were made chiefly by stealth. They were generally made by the
                           courts of justice, who could not help reading the new wants of
                           mankind in the cases between man and man which came before them;
                           but who, having no authority to make new laws for those new
                           wants, were obliged to do the work covertly, and evade the
                           jealousy and opposition of an ignorant, prejudiced, and for the
                           most part brutal and tyrannical legislature. Some of the most
                           necessary of these improvements, such as the giving force of law
                           to trusts, and the breaking up of entails, were effected in
                           actual opposition to the strongly-declared will of Parliament,
                           whose clumsy hands, no-match for the astuteness of judges, could
                           not, after repeated trials, manage to make any law which the
                           judges could not find a trick for rendering inoperative. The
                           whole history of the contest about trusts may still be read in
                           the words of a conveyance, as could the contest about entails,
                           till the abolition of fine and recovery by a bill of the present
                           Attorney-General; but dearly did the client pay for the cabinet
                           of historical curiosities which he was obliged to purchase every
                           time that he made a settlement of his estate. The result of this
                           mode of improving social institutions was, that whatever new
                           things were done had to be done in consistency with old forms and
                           names; and the laws were improved with much the same effect as
                           if, in the improvement of agriculture, the plough could only have
                           been introduced by making it look like a spade; or as if, when
                           the primeval practice of ploughing by the horse's tail gave way
                           to the innovation of harness, the tail, for form's sake, had
                           still remained attached to the plough.
                           When the conflicts were over, and the mixed mass settled down
                           into something like a fixed state, and that state a very
                           profitable and therefore a very agreeable one to lawyers, they,
                           following the natural tendency of the human mind, began to
                           theorize upon it, and, in obedience to necessity, had to digest
                           it and give it a systematic form. It was from this thing of
                           shreds and patches, in which the only part that approached to
                           order or system was the early barbarous part, already more than
                           half superseded, that English lawyers had to construct, by
                           induction and abstraction, their philosophy of law; and without
                           the logical habits and general intellectual cultivation which the
                           lawyers of the Roman empire brought to a similar task. Bentham
                           found the philosophy of law what English practising lawyers had
                           made it; a jumble, in which real and personal property, law and
                           equity, felony, praemunire, misprision and misdemeanour, words
                           without a vestige of meaning when detached from the history of
                           English institutions -- mere tide-marks to point out the line
                           which the sea and the shore, in their secular struggles, had
                           adjusted as their mutual boundary -- all passed for distinctions
                           inherent in the nature of things; in which every absurdity, every
                           lucrative abuse, had a reason found for it -- a reason which only
                           now and then even pretended to be drawn from expediency. most
                           commonly a technical reason, one of mere form, derived from the
                           old barbarous system. While the theory of the law was in this
                           state, to describe what the practice of it was would require the
                           pen of a Swift, or of Bentham himself. The whole progress of a
                           suit at law seemed like a series of contrivances for lawyers'
                           profit, in which the suitors were regarded as the prey; and if
                           the poor were not the helpless victims of every Sir Giles
                           Overreach who could pay the price, they might thank opinion and
                           manners for it, not the law.
                           It may be fancied by some people that Bentham did an easy
                           thing in merely calling all this absurd, and proving it to be so.
                           But he began the contest a young man, and he had grown old before
                           he had any followers. History will one day refuse to give credit
                           to the intensity of the superstition which, till very lately,
                           protected this mischievous mess from examination or doubt --
                           passed off the charming representations of Blackstone for a just
                           estimate of the English law, and proclaimed the shame of human
                           reason to be the perfection of it. Glory to Bentham that he has
                           dealt to this superstition its deathblow -- that he has been the
                           Hercules of this hydra, the St. George of this pestilent dragon!
                           The honour is all his -- nothing but his peculiar qualities could
                           have done it. There were wanted his indefatigable perseverance,
                           his firm self-reliance, needing no support from other men's
                           opinion; his intensely practical turn of mind, his synthetical
                           habits -- above all, his peculiar method. Metaphysicians, armed
                           with vague generalities, had often tried their hands at the
                           subject, and left it no more advanced than they found it. Law is
                           a matter of business; means and ends are the things to be
                           considered in it, not abstractions: vagueness was not to be met
                           by vagueness, but by definiteness and precision: details were not
                           to be encountered with generalities, but with details. Nor could
                           any progress be made, on such a subject, by merely showing that
                           existing things were bad; it was necessary also to show how they
                           might be made better. No great man whom we read of was qualified
                           to do this thing except Bentham. He has done it, once and for
                           Into the particulars of what Bentham has done we cannot
                           enter. many hundred pages would be required to give a tolerable
                           abstract of it. To sum up our estimate under a few heads. First:
                           he has expelled mysticism from the philosophy of law, and set the
                           example of viewing laws in a practical light, as means to certain
                           definite and precise ends. Secondly. he has cleared up the
                           confusion and vagueness attaching to the idea of law in general,
                           to the idea of a body of laws, and the various general ideas
                           therein involved. Thirdly: he demonstrated the necessity and
                           practicability of codification, or the conversion of all law into
                           a written and systematically arranged Code: not like the code
                           Napoleon, a code without a single definition, requiring a
                           constant reference to anterior precedent for the meaning of its
                           technical terms; but one containing within itself all that is
                           necessary for its own interpretation, together with a perpetual
                           provision for its own emendation and improvement. He has shown of
                           what parts such a code would consist; the relation of those parts
                           to one another; and by his distinctions and classifications has
                           done very much towards showing what should be, or might be, its
                           nomenclature and arrangement. What he has left undone, he had
                           made it comparatively easy for others to do. Fourthly: he has
                           taken a systematic view(1*) of the exigencies of society for
                           which the civil code is intended to provide, and of the
                           principles of human nature by which its provisions are to be
                           tested: and this view, defective (as we have already intimated)
                           wherever spiritual interests require to be taken into account, is
                           excellent for that large portion of the laws of any country which
                           are designed for the protection of material interests. Fifthly:
                           (to say nothing of the subject of punishment, for which something
                           considerable had been done before) he found the philosophy of
                           judicial procedure, including that of judicial establishments and
                           of evidence, in a more wretched state than even any other part of
                           the philosophy of law; he carried it at once almost to
                           perfection. He left it with every one of its principles
                           established, and little remaining to be done even in the
                           suggestion of practical arrangements.
                           These assertions in behalf of Bentham may be left, without
                           fear for the result, in the hands of those who are competent to
                           judge of them. There are now even in the highest seats of
                           justice, men to whom the claims made for him will not appear
                           extravagant. Principle after principle of those propounded by him
                           is moreover making its way by infiltration into the
                           understandings most shut against his influence, and driving
                           nonsense and prejudice from one corner of them to another. The
                           reform of the laws of any country according to his principles,
                           can only be gradual, and may be long ere it is accomplished; but
                           the work is in process, and both parliament and the judges are
                           every year doing something, and often something not
                           inconsiderable, towards the forwarding of it.
                           It seems proper here to take notice of an accusation
                           sometimes made both against Bentham and against the principle of
                           codification -- as if they required one uniform suit of
                           ready-made laws for all times and all states of society. The
                           doctrine of codification, as the word imports, relates to the
                           form only of the laws, not their substance; it does not concern
                           itself with what the laws should be, but declares that whatever
                           they are, they ought to be systematically arranged, and fixed
                           down to a determinate form of words. To the accusation, so far as
                           it affects Bentham, one of the essays in the collection of his
                           works (then for the first time published in English) is a
                           complete answer: that 'On the Influence of Time and Place in
                           Matters of Legislation'. It may there be seen that the different
                           exigencies of different nations with respect to law, occupied his
                           attention as systematically as any other portion of the wants
                           which render laws necessary: with the limitations, it is true,
                           which were set to all his speculations by the imperfections of
                           his theory of human nature. For, taking, as we have seen, next to
                           no account of national character and the causes which form and
                           maintain it, he was precluded from considering, except to a very
                           limited extent, the laws of a country as an instrument of
                           national culture: one of their most important aspects, and in
                           which they must of course vary according to the degree and kind
                           of culture already attained; as a tutor gives his pupil different
                           lessons according to the process already made in his education.
                           The same laws would not have suited our wild ancestors,
                           accustomed to rude independence, and a people of Asiatics bowed
                           down by military despotism: the slave needs to be trained to
                           govern himself, the savage to submit to the government of others.
                           The same laws will not suit the English, who distrust everything
                           which emanates from general principles, and the French, who
                           distrust whatever does not so emanate. Very different
                           institutions are needed to train to the perfection of their
                           nature, or to constitute into a united nation and social polity,
                           an essentially subjective people like the Germans, and an
                           essentially objective people like those of Northern and Central
                           Italy. the one affectionate and dreamy, the other passionate and
                           worldly. the one truthful and loyal, the other calculating and
                           suspicious; the one not practical enough, the other overmuch; the
                           one wanting individuality, the other fellow-feeling; the one
                           failing for want of exacting enough for itself, the other for
                           want of conceding enough to others. Bentham was little accustomed
                           to look at institutions in their relation to these topics. The
                           effects of this oversight must of course be perceptible
                           throughout his speculations, but we do not think the errors into
                           which it led him very material in the greater part of civil and
                           penal law: it is in the department of constitutional legislation
                           that they were fundamental.
                           The Benthamic theory of government has made so much noise in
                           the world of late years; it has held such a conspicuous place
                           among Radical philosophies, and Radical modes of thinking have
                           participated so much more largely than any others in its spirit,
                           that many worthy persons imagine there is no other Radical
                           philosophy extant. Leaving such people to discover their mistake
                           as they may, we shall expend a few words in attempting to
                           discriminate between the truth and error of this celebrated
                           There are three great questions in government. First, to what
                           authority is it for the good of the people that they should be
                           subject? Secondly, how are they to be induced to obey that
                           authority? The answers to these two questions vary indefinitely,
                           according to the degree and kind of civilization and cultivation
                           already attained by a people, and their peculiar aptitudes for
                           receiving more. Comes next a third question, not liable to so
                           much variation, namely, by what means are the abuses of this
                           authority to be checked? This third question is the only one of
                           the three to which Bentham seriously applies himself, and he
                           gives it the only answer it admits of Responsibility:
                           responsibility to persons whose interest, whose obvious and
                           recognizable interest, accords with the end in view -- good
                           government. This being granted, it is next to be asked, in what
                           body of persons this identity of interest with good government,
                           that is, with the interest of the whole community, is to be
                           found? In nothing less, says Bentham, than the numerical
                           majority: nor, say we, even in the numerical majority itself; of
                           no portion of the community less than all, will the interest
                           coincide, at all times and in all respects, with the interest of
                           all. But since power given to all, by a representative
                           government, is in fact given to a majority; we are obliged to
                           fall back upon the first of our three questions, namely, under
                           what authority is it for the good of the people that they be
                           placed? And if to this the answer be, under that of a majority
                           among themselves, Bentham's system cannot be questioned. This one
                           assumption being made, his 'Constitutional Code' is admirable.
                           That extraordinary power which he possessed, of at once seizing
                           comprehensive principles, and scheming out minute details, is
                           brought into play with surpassing vigour in devising means for
                           preventing rulers from escaping from the control of the majority;
                           for enabling and inducing the majority to exercise that control
                           unremittingly; and for providing them with servants of every
                           desirable endowment, moral and intellectual, compatible with
                           entire subservience to their will.
                           But is this fundamental doctrine of Bentham's political
                           philosophy an universal truth? Is it, at all times and places,
                           good for mankind to be under the absolute authority of the
                           majority of themselves? We say the authority, not the political
                           authority merely, because it is chimerical to suppose that
                           whatever has absolute power over men's bodies will not arrogate
                           it over their minds -- will not seek to control (not perhaps by
                           legal penalties, but by the persecutions of society) opinions and
                           feelings which depart from its standard; will not attempt to
                           shape the eduction of the young by its model, and to extinguish
                           all books, all schools, all combinations of individuals for joint
                           action upon society, which may be attempted for the purpose of
                           keeping alive a spirit at variance with its own. Is it, we say,
                           the proper condition of man, in all ages and nations, to be under
                           the despotism of Public Opinion?
                           It is very conceivable that such a doctrine should find
                           acceptance from some of the noblest spirits, in a time of
                           reaction against the aristocratic governments of modern Europe;
                           governments founded on the entire sacrifice (except so far as
                           prudence, and sometimes humane feeling interfere) of the
                           community generally, to the self-interest and ease of a few.
                           European reformers have been accustomed to see the numerical
                           majority everywhere unjustly depressed, everywhere trampled upon,
                           or at the best overlooked, by governments; nowhere possessing
                           power enough to extort redress of their most positive grievances,
                           provision for their mental culture, or even to prevent themselves
                           from being taxed avowedly for the pecuniary profit of the ruling
                           classes. To see these things, and to seek to put an end to them,
                           by means (among other things) of giving more political power to
                           the majority, constitutes Radicalism; and it is because so many
                           in this age have felt this wish, and have felt that the
                           realization of it was an object worthy of men's devoting their
                           lives to it, that such a theory of government as Bentham's has
                           found favour with them. But, though to pass from one form of bad
                           government to another be the ordinary fate of mankind,
                           philosophers ought not to make themselves parties to it, by
                           sacrificing one portion of important truth to another.
                           The numerical majority of any society whatever, must consist
                           of persons all standing in the same social position, and having,
                           in the main, the same pursuits, namely, unskilled manual
                           labourers; and we mean no disparagement to them: whatever we say
                           to their disadvantage, we say equally of a numerical majority of
                           shopkeepers, or of squires. Where there is identity of position
                           and pursuits, there also will be identity of partialities,
                           passions, and prejudices; and to give to any one set of
                           partialities, passions and prejudices, absolute power, without
                           counter-balance from partialities, passions and prejudices of a
                           different sort, is the way to render the correction of any of
                           those imperfections hopeless; to make one narrow, mean type of
                           human nature universal and perpetual, and to crush every
                           influence which tends to the further improvement of man's
                           intellectual and moral nature. There must, we know, be some
                           paramount power in society; and that the majority should be that
                           power, is on the whole right, not as being just in itself, but as
                           being less unjust than any other footing on which the matter can
                           be placed. But it is necessary that the institutions of society
                           should make provision for keeping up, in some form or other, as a
                           corrective to partial views, and a shelter for freedom of thought
                           and individuality of character, a perpetual and standing
                           Opposition to the will of the majority. All countries which have
                           long continued progressive, or been durably great, have been so
                           because there has been an organized opposition to the ruling
                           power, of whatever kind that power was: plebians to patricians,
                           clergy to kings, freethinkers to clergy, kings to barons, commons
                           to king and aristocracy. Almost all the greatest men who ever
                           lived have formed part of such an Opposition. Wherever some such
                           quarrel has not been going on -- wherever it has been terminated
                           by the complete victory of one of the contending principles, and
                           no new contest has taken the place of the old -- society has
                           either hardened into a Chinese stationariness, or fallen into
                           dissolution. A centre of resistance, round which all the moral
                           and social elements which the ruling power views with disfavour
                           may cluster themselves, and behind whose bulwarks they may find
                           shelter from the attempts of that power to hunt them out of
                           existence, is as necessary where the opinion of the majority is
                           sovereign, as where the ruling power is a hierarchy or an
                           aristocracy. Where no such point d'appui exists, there the human
                           race will inevitably degenerate; and the question, whether the
                           United States, for instance, will in time sink into another China
                           (also a most commercial and industrious nation), resolves itself,
                           to us, into the question, whether such a centre of resistance
                           will gradually evolve itself or not.
                           These things being considered, we cannot think that Bentham
                           made the most useful employment which might have been made of his
                           great powers, when, not content with enthroning the majority as
                           sovereign, by means of universal suffrage without king or house
                           of lords, he exhausted all the resources of ingenuity in devising
                           means for riveting the yoke of public opinion closer and closer
                           round the necks of all public functionaries, and excluding every
                           possibility of the exercise of the slightest or most temporary
                           influence either by a minority, or by the functionary's own
                           notions of right. Surely when any power has been made the
                           strongest power, enough has been done for it; care is thenceforth
                           wanted rather to prevent that strongest power from swallowing up
                           all others. Wherever all the forces of society act in one single
                           direction, the just claims of the individual human being are in
                           extreme peril. The power of the majority is salutary in so far as
                           it is used defensively, not offensively -- as its exertion is
                           tempered by respect for the personality of the individual, and
                           deference to superiority of cultivated intelligence. If Bentham
                           had employed himself in pointing out the means by which
                           institutions fundamentally democratic might be best adapted to
                           the preservation and strengthening of those two sentiments, he
                           would have done something more permanently valuable, and more
                           worthy of his great intellect. Montesquieu, with the lights of
                           the present age, would have done it; and we are possibly destined
                           to receive this benefit from the Montesquieu of our own times, M.
                           de Tocqueville.
                           Do we then consider Bentham's political speculations useless?
                           Far from it. We consider them only one-sided. He has brought out
                           into a strong light, has cleared from a thousand confusions and
                           misconceptions, and pointed out with admirable skill the best
                           means of promoting, one of the ideal qualities of a perfect
                           government -- identity of interest between the trustees and the
                           community for whom they hold their power in trust. This quality
                           is not attainable in its ideal perfection, and must moreover be
                           striven for with a perpetual eye to all other requisites; but
                           those other requisites must still more be striven for without
                           losing sight of this: and when the slightest postponement is made
                           of it to any other end, the sacrifice, often necessary, is never
                           unattended with evil. Bentham has pointed out how complete this
                           sacrifice is in modern European societies: how exclusively,
                           partial and sinister interests are the ruling power there, with
                           only such check as is imposed by public opinion -- which being
                           thus, in the existing order of things, perpetually apparent as a
                           source of good, he was led by natural partiality to exaggerate
                           its intrinsic excellence. This sinister interest of rulers
                           Bentham hunted through all its disguises, and especially through
                           those which hide it from the men themselves who are influenced by
                           it. The greatest service rendered by him to the philosophy of
                           universal human nature, is, perhaps, his illustration of what he
                           terms 'interest-begotten prejudice' -- the common tendency of man
                           to make a duty and a virtue of following his self-interest. The
                           idea, it is true, was far from being peculiarly Bentham's: the
                           artifices by which we persuade ourselves that we are not yielding
                           to our selfish inclinations when we are, had attracted the notice
                           of all moralists, and had been probed by religious writers to a
                           depth as much below Bentham's, as their knowledge of the
                           profundities and windings of the human heart was superior to his.
                           But it is selfish interest in the form of class-interest, and the
                           class morality founded thereon, which Bentham has illustrated:
                           the manner in which any set of persons who mix much together, and
                           have a common interest, are apt to make that common interest
                           their standard of virtue, and the social feelings of the members
                           of the class are made to play into the hands of their selfish
                           ones; whence the union so often exemplified in history, between
                           the most heroic personal disinterestedness and the most odious
                           class-selfishness. This was one of Bentham's leading ideas, and
                           almost the only one by which he contributed to the elucidation of
                           history: much of which, except so far as this explained it, must
                           have been entirely inexplicable to him. The idea was given him by
                           Helvetius, whose book, 'De l'Esprit', is one continued and most
                           acute commentary on it; and, together with the other great idea
                           of Helvetius, the influence of circumstances on character, it
                           will make his name live by the side of Rousseau, when most of the
                           other French metaphysicians of the eighteenth century will be
                           extant as such only in literary history.
                           In the brief view which we have been able to give of
                           Bentham's philosophy, it may surprise the reader that we have
                           said so little about the first principle of it, with which his
                           name is more identified than with anything else; the 'principle
                           of utility', or, as he afterwards named it, 'the
                           greatest-happiness principle'. It is a topic on which much were
                           to be said, if there were room, or if it were in reality
                           necessary for the just estimation of Bentham. On an occasion more
                           suitable for a discussion of the metaphysics of morality, or on
                           which the elucidations necessary to make an opinion on so
                           abstract a subject intelligible could be conveniently given, we
                           should be fully prepared to state what we think on this subject.
                           At present we shall only say, that while, under proper
                           explanations, we entirely agree with Bentham in his principle, we
                           do not hold with him that all right thinking on the details of
                           morals depends on its express assertion. We think utility, or
                           happiness, much too complex and indefinite an end to be sought
                           except through the medium of various secondary ends, conceding
                           which there may be, and often is, agreement among persons who
                           differ in their ultimate standard; and about which there does in
                           fact prevail a much greater unanimity among thinking persons,
                           than might be supposed from their diametrical divergence on the
                           great questions of moral metaphysics. As mankind are much more
                           nearly of one nature, than of one opinion about their own nature,
                           they are more easily brought to agree in their intermediate
                           principles, vera illa et media axiomata, as Bacon says, than in
                           their first principles: and the attempt to make the bearings of
                           actions upon the ultimate end more evident than they can be made
                           by referring them to the intermediate ends, and to estimate their
                           value by a direct reference to human happiness, generally
                           terminates in attaching most importance, not to those effects
                           which are really the greatest, but to those which can most easily
                           be pointed to and individually identified. Those who adopt
                           utility as a standard can seldom apply it truly except through
                           the secondary principles; those who reject it, generally do no
                           more than erect those secondary principles into first principles.
                           It is when two or more of the secondary principles conflict, that
                           a direct appeal to some first principle becomes necessary; and
                           then commences the practical importance of the utilitarian
                           controversy; which is, in other respects, a question of
                           arrangement and logical subordination rather than of practice;
                           important principally in a purely scientific point of view, for
                           the sake of the systematic unity and coherency of ethical
                           philosophy. It is probable, however, that to the principle of
                           utility we owe all that Bentham did; that it was necessary for
                           him to find a first principle which he could receive as
                           self-evident, and to which he could attach all his other
                           doctrines as logical consequences: that to him systematic unity
                           was an indispensable condition of his confidence in his Own
                           intellect. And there is something further to be remarked. Whether
                           happiness be or be not the end to which morality should be
                           referred -- that it be referred to an end of some sort, and not
                           left in the dominion of vague feeling or inexplicable internal
                           conviction, that it be made a matter of reason and calculation,
                           and not merely of sentiment, is essential to the very idea of
                           moral philosophy; is, in fact, what renders argument or
                           discussion on moral questions possible. That the morality of
                           actions depends on the consequences which they tend to produce,
                           is the doctrine of rational persons of all schools; that the good
                           or evil of those consequences is measured solely by pleasure or
                           pain, is all of the doctrine of the school of utility, which is
                           peculiar to it.
                           In so far as Bentham's adoption of the principle of utility
                           induced him to fix his attention upon the consequences of actions
                           as the consideration determining their morality, so far he was
                           indisputably in the right path: though to go far in it without
                           wandering, there was needed a greater knowledge of the formation
                           of character, and of the consequences of actions upon the agent's
                           own frame of mind, than Bentham possessed. His want of power to
                           estimate this class of consequences, together with his want of
                           the degree of modest deference which, from those who have not
                           competent experience of their own, is due to the experience of
                           others on that part of the subject, greatly limit the value of
                           his speculations on questions of practical ethics.
                           He is chargeable also with another error, which it would be
                           improper to pass over, because nothing has tended more to place
                           him in opposition to the common feelings of mankind, and to give
                           to his philosophy that cold, mechanical and ungenial air which
                           characterizes the popular idea of a Benthamite. This error, or
                           rather one-sidedness, belongs to him not as a utilitarian, but as
                           a moralist by profession, and in common with almost all professed
                           moralists, whether religious or philosophical: it is that of
                           treating the moral view of actions and characters, which is
                           unquestionably the first and most important mode of looking at
                           them, as if it were the sole one: whereas it is only one of
                           three, by all of which our sentiments towards the human being may
                           be, ought to be, and without entirely crushing our own nature
                           cannot but be, materially influenced. Every human action has
                           three aspects: its moral aspect, or that of its right and wrong.
                           its aesthetic aspect, or that of its beauty; its sympathetic
                           aspect, or that of its loveableness. The first addresses itself
                           to our reason and conscience; the second to our imagination; the
                           third to our human fellow-feeling. According to the first, we
                           approve or disapprove; according to the second, we admire, or
                           despise; according to the third, we love, pity or dislike. The
                           morality of an action depends on its foreseeable consequences;
                           its beauty, and its loveableness, or the reverse, depend on the
                           qualities which it is evidence of. Thus, a lie is wrong, because
                           its effect is to mislead, and because it tends to destroy the
                           confidence of man in man; it is also mean, because it is cowardly
                           -- because it proceeds from not daring to face the consequences
                           of telling the truth -- or at best is evidence of want of that
                           power to compass our ends by straightforward means, which is
                           conceived as properly belonging to every person not deficient in
                           energy or in understanding. The action of Brutus in sentencing
                           his sons was right, because it was executing a law essential to
                           the freedom of his country, against persons of whose guilt there
                           was no doubt: it was admirable, because it evinced a rare degree
                           of patriotism, courage and self-control; but there was nothing
                           loveable in it; it affords either no presumption in regard to
                           loveable qualities, or a presumption of their deficiency. If one
                           of the sons had engaged in the conspiracy from affection for the
                           other, his action would have been loveable, though neither moral
                           nor admirable. It is not possible for any sophistry to confound
                           these three modes of viewing an action; but it is very possible
                           to adhere to one of them exclusively, and lose sight of the rest.
                           Sentimentality consists in setting the last two of the three
                           above the first; the error of moralists in general, and of
                           Bentham, is to sink the two latter entirely. This is
                           pre-eminently the case with Bentham: he both wrote and felt as if
                           the moral standard ought not only to be paramount (which it
                           ought), but to be alone; as if it ought to be the sole master of
                           all our actions, and even of all our sentiments; as if either to
                           admire or like, or despise or dislike a person for any action
                           which neither does good nor harm, or which does not do a good or
                           a harm proportioned to the sentiment entertained, were an
                           injustice and a prejudice. He carried this so far, that there
                           were certain phrases which, being expressive of what he
                           considered to be this groundless liking or aversion, he could not
                           bear to hear pronounced in his presence. Among these phrases were
                           those of good and bad taste. He thought it an insolent piece of
                           dogmatism in one person to praise or condemn another in a matter
                           of taste: as if men's likings and dislikings, on things in
                           themselves indifferent, were not full of the most important
                           inferences as to every point of their character; as if a person's
                           tastes did not show him to be wise or a fool, cultivated or
                           ignorant, gentle or rough, sensitive or callous, generous or
                           sordid, benevolent or selfish, conscientious or depraved.
                           Connected with the same topic are Bentham's peculiar opinions
                           on poetry. Much more has been said than there is any foundation
                           for, about his contempt for the pleasures of imagination, and for
                           the fine arts. Music was throughout life his favourite amusement;
                           painting, sculpture and the other arts addressed to the eye, he
                           was so far from holding in any contempt, that he occasionally
                           recognizes them as means employable for important social ends;
                           though his ignorance of the deeper springs of human character
                           prevented him (as it prevents most Englishmen) from suspecting
                           how profoundly such things enter into the moral nature of man,
                           and into the education both of the individual and of the race.
                           But towards poetry in the narrower sense, that which employs the
                           language of words, he entertained no favour. Words, he thought,
                           were perverted from their proper office when they were employed
                           in uttering anything but precise logical truth. He says,
                           somewhere in his works, that, 'quantity of pleasure being equal,
                           push-pin is as good as poetry' -- but this is only a paradoxical
                           way of stating what he would equally have said of the things
                           which he most valued and admired. Another aphorism is attributed
                           to him, which is much more characteristic of his view of this
                           subject: 'All poetry is misrepresentation'. Poetry, he thought,
                           consisted essentially in exaggeration for effect: in proclaiming
                           some one view of a thing very emphatically, and suppressing all
                           the limitations and qualifications. This trait of character seems
                           to us a curious example of what Mr Carlyle strikingly calls 'the
                           completeness of limited men'. Here is a philosopher who is happy
                           within his narrow boundary as no man of indefinite range ever
                           was: who flatters himself that he is so completely emancipated
                           from the essential law of poor human intellect, by which it can
                           only see one thing at a time well, that he can even turn round
                           upon the imperfection and lay a solemn interdict upon it. Did
                           Bentham really suppose that it is in poetry only that
                           propositions cannot be exactly true, cannot contain in themselves
                           all the limitations and qualifications with which they require to
                           be taken when applied to practice? We have seen how far his own
                           prose propositions are from realizing this Utopia: and even the
                           attempt to approach it would be incompatible not with poetry
                           merely, but with oratory, and popular writing of every kind.
                           Bentham's charge is true to the fullest extent; all writing which
                           undertakes to make men feel truths as well as see them, does take
                           up one point at a time, does seek to impress that, to drive that
                           home, to make it sink into and colour the whole mind of the
                           reader or hearer. It is justified in doing so, if the portion of
                           truth which it thus enforces be that which is called for by the
                           occasion. All writing addressed to the feelings has a natural
                           tendency to exaggeration; but Bentham should have remembered that
                           in this, as in many things, we must aim at too much, to be
                           assured of doing enough.
                           From the same principle in Bentham came the intricate and
                           involved style, which makes his later writings books for the
                           student only, not the general reader. It was from his perpetually
                           aiming at impracticable precision. Nearly all his earlier and
                           many parts of his later writings, are models, as we have already
                           observed, of light, playful and popular style: a Benthamiana
                           might be made of passages worthy of Addison or Goldsmith. But in
                           his later years and more advanced studies, he fell into a Latin
                           or German structure of sentence, foreign to the genius of the
                           English language. He could not bear, for the sake of clearness
                           and the reader's ease, to say, as ordinary men are content to do,
                           a little more than the truth in one sentence, and correct it in
                           the next. The whole of the qualifying remarks which he intended
                           to make, he insisted upon imbedding as parentheses in the very
                           middle of the sentence itself. And thus the sense being so long
                           suspended, and attention being required to the accessory ideas
                           before the principal idea had been properly seized, it became
                           difficult, without some practice, to make out the train of
                           thought. It is fortunate that so many of the most important parts
                           of his writings are free from this defect. We regard it as a
                           reductio ad absurdum of his objection to poetry. In trying to
                           write in a manner against which the same objection should not
                           lie, he could stop nowhere short of utter unreadableness, and
                           after all attained no more accuracy than is compatible with
                           opinions as imperfect and one-sided as those of any poet or
                           sentimentalist breathing. Judge then in what state literature and
                           philosophy would be, and what chance they would have of
                           influencing the multitude, if his objection were allowed, and all
                           styles of writing banished which would not stand his test.
                               We must here close this brief and imperfect view of Bentham
                           and his doctrines; in which many parts of the subject have been
                           entirely untouched, and no part done justice to, but which at
                           least proceeds from an intimate familiarity with his writings,
                           and is nearly the first attempt at an impartial estimate of his
                           character as a philosopher, and of the result of his labours to
                           the world.
                               After every abatement, and it has been seen whether we have
                           made our abatements sparingly -- there remains to Bentham an
                           indisputable place among the great intellectual benefactors of
                           mankind. His writings will long form an indispensable part of the
                           education of the highest order of practical thinkers; and the
                           collected edition of them ought to be in the hands of everyone
                           who would either understand his age, or take any beneficial part
                           in the great business of it.
                           1. See the 'Principles of Civil Law' contained in Part II of his
                           collected works.

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