An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

by Jeremy Bentham
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How does Bentham relate to Locke in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation?

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While they disagreed on many things, John Locke and Jeremy Bentham both agreed that all people have the same capacity for morality. However, they reached this conclusion in different ways. Bentham took the utilitarian approach that posits that all humans equally experience the world the same through feelings of pain...

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While they disagreed on many things, John Locke and Jeremy Bentham both agreed that all people have the same capacity for morality. However, they reached this conclusion in different ways. Bentham took the utilitarian approach that posits that all humans equally experience the world the same through feelings of pain and pleasure. This endows them with the same source of morality. Locke, on the other hand, considered morality as a gift from God. Since God imbues all people with the same ability to form judgments, everyone has equal access to morality.

Locke's basis of moral rights is based on individual freedoms. These are derived from our natural rights which, in turn, are derived from the individual as a gift of the divine. According to Locke, a government's primary responsibility is to safeguard these rights. Bentham disagreed. He felt that individual rights could be in conflict with collective rights. To him, the whole notion of natural rights was a fallacy. Therefore, a government's responsibility was first and foremost the protection of the collective good. An individual's moral rights, according to Bentham, are too subjective for a government to protect. However, the rights of the collective are easy to discern and therefore take precedence. Bentham felt that Locke's notions that a government can protect everyone's natural rights was a fanciful idea that could never be achieved. Therefore, he considered Locke's support of revolutions as dangerous folly.

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