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Jeremy Bentham


The question is not, "can they reason?" nor, "can they talk?" but "can they suffer?"

The rarest of all human qualities is consistency

Every law is an infraction of liberty

Is it possible for a man to move the earth? Yes; but he must first find out another earth to stand upon

Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you--will invite you to add something to the pleasure of others--or to diminish something of their pains

Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet

Reputation is the road to power

Jeremy Bentham was an influential British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer who lived during the 18th and 19th centuries. He is best known for his development of utilitarianism, a moral theory centered around the principle of maximizing utility. He supported the idea of equal opportunity in education and his ideas contributed to the foundation of University College London in 1826, the first institution in England to admit students of any race, class or religion and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men. 

Utilitarianism, as advocated by Bentham, posits that the morally right action is the one that produces the greatest amount of happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people. In other words, the consequences of an action determine its morality, and the goal is to maximize overall happiness or well-being.

Bentham believed that pleasure and pain were the only intrinsic goods and evils, respectively, and he sought to quantify them using his "hedonic calculus." This calculus involved assessing the intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity, and extent of pleasure or pain resulting from an action. By quantifying these factors, Bentham aimed to provide a systematic method for determining the morally correct course of action in any given situation.

Bentham's utilitarianism had significant implications for various aspects of society, including law, politics, and economics. He argued for legal and social reforms that would maximize happiness and minimize suffering for the greatest number of people, advocating for principles such as individual liberty, equality, and the abolition of practices like slavery and capital punishment.

Despite criticisms of utilitarianism, particularly regarding its potential to justify actions that violate individual rights or lead to the neglect of minority interests, Bentham's ideas have had a lasting impact on moral philosophy and continue to inform debates about ethics and public policy to this day. Bentham passed away in Westminster, London in 1832. His remains are on display to this day at University College London.

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