Jeremy Bentham


Born: 15 February 1748
Died: 6 June 1832
Birthplace: London, England
Best known as: The father of Utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham was a key founder of Utilitarianism -- simply put, the philosophy that a moral act is one which produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Bentham outlined this theory in his 1789 work, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Bentham's outlook made him a vocal critic of many legal and political institutions, and he was considered quite radical for his day. (He was particularly critical of Sir William Blackstone, author of Blackstone's Commentaries and the most famous English legal mind of that era.) Jeremy Bentham also is known for an odd request in his will: he ordered that his remains be preserved and kept in a box, to be displayed on occasion to friends and followers. This "auto-icon," duly dressed in Bentham's own clothes, is kept in a special cabinet at University College London to this day.

Extra credit:

Jeremy Bentham strongly influenced the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who wrote the 1861 book Utilitarianism… Bentham entered Queen’s College, Oxford at age 12 and graduated in 1764.

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