Bentham: A Fragment on Government

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Cambridge University Press, Oct 28, 1988 - History - 128 pages
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This volume makes available to a student readership one of the central texts in the utilitarian tradition, in the authoritative 1977 edition prepared by Professors Burns and Hart as part of Bentham's Collected works. A Fragment on Government is, as Ross Harrison observes in his introduction, a young man's work, and Bentham's exuberant prose reflects his own confidence that the Fragment 'was the first publication by which men at large were invited to break loose from the trammels of authority and ancestor-wisdom on the field of law'. Certain that history was on his side, Bentham sought to rid the world of the hideous mess wrought by legal obfuscation and confusion, and to transform politics into a rational scientific activity, premised on the hideous politics into a rational scientific activity, premised on the fundamental axiom that 'it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong'. In the context of a European social and political order still based upon privilege and hereditary right, this was a profoundly subversive sentiment. This edition of the Fragment on Government contains several important students aids, including a guide to further reading and a chronology of the principal events in Bentham's life.
  

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Contents

Formation of Government
36
Forms of Government
60
British Constitution
72
Right of the Supreme Power to Make Laws
86
Duty of the Supreme Power to Make Laws
106
From the Preface to the second edition
115
From a draft Preface
123
Index
127
Copyright

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About the author (1988)

Jeremy Bentham was born in London, on February 15, 1748, the son of an attorney. He was admitted to Queen's College, Oxford, at age 12 and graduated in 1763. He had his master's degree by 1766 and passed the bar exam in 1769. An English reformer and political philosopher, Bentham spent his life supporting countless social and political reform measures and trying as well to create a science of human behavior. He advocated a utopian welfare state and designed model cities, prisons, schools, and so on, to achieve that goal. He defined his goal as the objective study and measurement of passions and feelings, pleasures and pains, will and action. The principle of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," set forth in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, governed all of his schemes for the improvement of society, and the philosophy he devised, called utilitarianism, set a model for all subsequent reforms based on scientific principles. Bentham also spoke about complete equality between the sexes, law reform, separation of church and state, the abolition of slavery, and animal rights. Bentham died on June 6, 1832, at the age of 84 at his residence in Queen Square Place in Westminster, London. He had continued to write up to a month before his death, and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

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