Jeremy Bentham Concept of Utilitarianism

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Pages 8 (2008 words)
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The measure of right and wrong, according to Jeremy Bentham, can be understood through the principle of utility which advocates "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Although Bentham brought forth his controversial assertion more than two hundred years ago, contemporary scholars continue to deconstruct utilitarian ideals, while critics of the theory argue that the utilitarian principles are inconsistent with human rights.


In order to understand Bentham's concept of right and wrong, a close examination of the context of which it was declared, should be put into consideration. It should be remembered that in Bentham's previous works, he had been critical of the concept and the proposed theories of natural rights which he dismissed as a 'rhetorical nonsense'1, mainly based on "imaginary laws...fancied and invented by poets and dealers of moral and intellectual poisons".2 For Bentham, these abstractions cannot replace specific legislations. Furthermore, he shows scepticism on the existence of universal absolutes - the preliminary foundation of human right laws - as there are rarely absolutes in multicultural and diverse societies. Rights, according to Bentham, are afforded by the state, instituted by an established government3 to which an individual belongs; endowing human beings with natural rights is akin to granting them imaginary rights. ...
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