Criticism: Jeremy Bentham's Utilitarianism: The Science Of Happiness - Essay

John Stuart Mill

David Lyons (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Bentham's Utilitarianism: A Differential Interpretation” in In the Interest of the Governed: A Study in Bentham's Philosophy of Utility and Law, Clarendon Press, 1973, pp. 19-34.

[In the following excerpt, Lyons explores Bentham's basic principle of utility and its relationship to morality, ethics, and government.]


The principle of utility, Bentham says, is the foundation of his work on morals and legislation. This is so, and in a variety of ways. The criterion of utility shapes his attitudes and judgements in every area of life. No philosopher has embraced a doctrine more consistently; none has...

(The entire section is 6107 words.)

Frederick Rosen (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Greatest Happiness Principle,” in Jeremy Bentham and Representative Democracy: A Study of the ‘Constitutional Code,’ Clarendon Press, 1983, pp. 200-20.

[In the following essay, Rosen analyzes Jeremy Bentham's greatest happiness principle, focusing particularly on the related ideal of equality.]

There is no necessary connection between utilitarianism and democracy. Many democrats have not been utilitarians and many utilitarians (including Bentham himself during a considerable portion of his life) have not been democrats. Nevertheless, the democratic principles of the Constitutional Code rest on a utilitarian foundation, and this study of...

(The entire section is 7998 words.)

James E. Crimmins (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ethics and the Science of Legislation,” in Secular Utilitarianism: Social Science and the Critique of Religion in the Thought of Jeremy Bentham, Clarendon Press, 1990, pp. 66-98.

[In the following excerpt, Crimmins views the scientific basis of Bentham's utility principle and its hostility toward religious ethics.]

Weak reasoners in morals, by a kind of instinct, take shelter behind the altar. Yet not even this shall save [them]. Mankind is too deeply interested in the display of those truths which [they] would keep concealed … to make it pardonable to desist from the pursuit. The Sanctuary is in its own nature common ground, unless...

(The entire section is 12074 words.)