Quotations by Bentham, Jeremy


Secrecy is an instrument of conspiracy; it ought not, therefore, to be the system of a regular government.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
“On Publicity,” The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol 2, part 2 (1836)

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As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to measure it, because it is impossible to tell where it ends.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
“Principles of the Penal Code,” ch. 3, Theory of Legislation (1802)
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The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. 17 “Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence” (1789; 1823)

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The dread of being duped by other nations — the notion that foreign heads are more able, though at the same time foreign hearts are less honest than our own, has always been one of our prevailing weaknesses.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of International Law, Essay 4 “A Plan for Universal and Perpetual Peace” (1796-89)
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It is with government, as with medicine. They have both but a choice of evils. Every law is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty: And I repeat that government has but a choice of evils: In making this choice, what ought to be the object of the legislator? He ought to assure himself of two things; 1st, that in every case, the incidents which he tries to prevent are really evils; and 2ndly, that if evils, they are greater than those which he employs to prevent them.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of Legislation, ch. 10 “Analysis of Political Good and Evil” (1830)
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The question is not,
Can they reason? nor,
Can they talk? but,
Can they suffer?

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

On animals.
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The way to be comfortable is to make others comfortable. The way to make others comfortable is to appear to love them. The way to appear to love them — is to love them in reality.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Letter to Lady Hannah Elice (24 Oct 1831)
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He rather hated the ruling few than loved the suffering many.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
of James Mill (Aug. 1840)

in H. N. Pym (ed.) Memories of Old Friends (1882)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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