[참조] Paul Roach, Bentham’s Utilitarianism in Victorian England

The philosophy of Utilitarianism influenced many of the social reforms in Great Britain during the early half of the nineteenth century. The name most frequently associated with Utilitarianism is that of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham’s philosophical principles extended into the realm of government. These principles have been associated with several reform acts entered into English law such as the Factory Act of 1833, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the Prison Act of 1835, the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the Committee on Education in 1839,the Lunacy Act of 1845, and the Public Health Act of 1845. In terms of their effect on Victorian era reform Bentham’s two most influential works appear to be An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) and Constitutional Code (1830-1841). Utilitarianism as a philosophy was also known as Benthamism or Philosophical Radicalism. Opponents to utilitarian thought included Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, and Charles Dickens.

Bentham’s basic premise to his philosophy can be found in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation: Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as to determine what we shall do (225) 1. Along with this idea of pleasure and pain as sovereign masters Bentham introduced what he called the principle of utility. This principle can be summarized as the principle that “every action should be judged right or wrong according to how far it tends to promote or damage the happiness of the community” (29),2. Bentham believed that human behavior was motivated by the desire to obtain pleasure and to avoid pain. In Introduction to the Principles he states that it is ” the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” (229) 1. These principles were intended by Bentham to be ” a precept addressed to the legislators, to those responsible for the management of society” (27)2. Bentham hoped to affect some social change rather than to merely influence intellectual beliefs. He even went so far as to suggest that legislators should regulate the ways in which individuals sought their own happiness. The idea of punishment and reward were to be the means by which the legislator could control the people’s pursuit of happiness. Rewards were regarded as a less important method than punishments. Utilitarianism taught that through the infliction and threat of pain people would be provided with motives for abstaining from socially harmful behavior.

Bentham sought to create what he termed a “Pannomion” or a codification of the entire body of English laws as they were known at that time. He believed that the one constant in all these laws should be that they were derived from the will of the legislator. these laws were to be made up of a command or prohibition supported by the threat of punishment. Bentham’s emphasis on law and punishment reflected the fears he had towards the natural rights ideology that had resulted in the French Revolution. The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” found in the French Constitution of 1791 proclaimed that all men had unlimited rights to “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression”. Bentham felt that such unlimited rights were incompatible with any type of law or government.

- by Paul Roach
from http://www.gober.net/victorian/reports/utilitar.html