Talk:Jeremy Bentham

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Attributed?

Nonsense, as Bentham would have it, for it is to be found in Anarchical Fallacies Vol. 2, in context:

"That which has no existence cannot be destroyed -- that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonscnse, -- nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense for immediately a list of these pretended natural rights is given, and those are so expressed as to present to view legal rights. And of these rights, whatever they are, there is not, it seems, any one of which any government can, upon any occasion whatever, abrogate the smallest particle."

—This unsigned comment is by 91.106.49.138 (talkcontribs) .
In that case, you should have edited the article as I just have. That's how things improve. Postmodern Beatnik 20:45, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

"Submit not..." needs context[edit]

The following quotation is so desperately lacking in context that it appears to attribute to Bentham an attitude that is the very opposite of what he clearly intended (and the error is exacerbated by the bolding):

  • Submit not to any decree or other act of power, of the justice of which you are not yourself perfectly convinced. If a constable call upon you to serve in the militia, shoot the constable and not the enemy; — if the commander of a press-gang trouble you, push him into the sea — if a bailiff, throw him out of the window. If a judge sentences you to be imprisoned or put to death, have a dagger ready, and take a stroke first at the judge.

As stated on the page, the above is from Anarchical Fallacies, which is "an examination of the Declaration of Rights issued during the French Revolution," as the sub-title declares. Anyone reading the work will immediately realize that the examination is a critical one. In it, Bentham takes the Declaration apart word by word and offers his objections. The above quotation is from the section where he turns his focus on Article II, which he quotes as follows:

"The end in view of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression."

Specifically, Bentham is at this point examining the phrase "resistance to oppression." The message of the quotation excerpted on this page ("Submit not...") is not even presented by him as being his own -- he is writing on behalf of the authors of the Declaration, as he imagines their thoughts as they conceived Article II. Nor does he agree with them; to the contrary: he is practically mocking them.

Rather than explain further on my own, let me simply quote the entire passage (with the currently-excerpted part entirely bolded):

  • 4. Resistance to oppression. Fourth and last in the list of natural and imprescriptible rights, resistance to oppression—meaning, I suppose, the right to resist oppression. What is oppression? Power misapplied to the prejudice of some individual. What is it that a man has in view when he speaks of oppression? Some exertion of power which he looks upon as misapplied to the prejudice of some individual—to the producing on the part of such individual some suffering, to which (whether as forbidden by the laws or otherwise) we conceive he ought not to have been subjected. But against everything that can come under the name of oppression, provision has been already made, in the manner we have seen, by the recognition of the three preceding rights; since no oppression can fall upon a man which is not an infringement of his rights in relation to liberty, rights in relation to property, or rights in relation to security, as above described. Where, then, is the difference?—to what purpose this fourth clause after the three first? To this purpose: the mischief they seek to prevent, the rights they seek to establish, are the same; the difference lies in the nature of the remedy endeavoured to be applied. To prevent the mischief in question, the endeavour of the three former clauses is, to tie the hand of the legislator and his subordinates, by the fear of nullity, and the remote apprehension of general resistance and insurrection. The aim of this fourth clause is to raise the hand of the individual concerned to prevent the apprehended infraction of his rights at the moment when he looks upon it as about to take place.
  • Whenever you are about to be oppressed, you have a right to resist oppression: whenever you conceive yourself to be oppressed, conceive yourself to have a right to make resistance, and act accordingly. In proportion as a law of any kind—any act of power, supreme or subordinate, legislative, administrative, or judicial, is unpleasant to a man, especially if, in consideration of such its unpleasantness, his opinion is, that such act of power ought not to have been exercised, he of course looks upon it as oppression: as often as anything of this sort happens to a man—as often as anything happens to a man to inflame his passions,—this article, for fear his passions should not be sufficiently inflamed of themselves, sets itself to work to blow the flame, and urges him to resistance. Submit not to any decree or other act of power, of the justice of which you are not yourself perfectly convinced. If a constable call upon you to serve in the militia, shoot the constable and not the enemy;—if the commander of a press-gang trouble you, push him into the sea—if a bailiff, throw him out of the window. If a judge sentence you to be imprisoned or put to death, have a dagger ready, and take a stroke first at the judge.

(Source)

That ought to suffice to show the egregiousness of the error in quoting the currently-excerpted part out of context; but really one ought to read the entire work, in order to become familiar with Bentham's general tone. At the very least, one ought to read the entire critique of Article II, in order to get the full context of the currently-excerpted quotation (since the above refers back to the previously-critiqued sections of that Article).

Having said all that, a decision must now be made as to how much context is necessary and sufficient to show that the currently-excerpted quotation does not express Bentham's own attitude. That I'll leave undecided for now, in anticipation of discussion. --Anticap 14:11, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the examination and critique — I had not spent any time on Bentham in quite a while. I have extended the quote and references in the article for further context, and you are certainly welcome to add any additional material you believe appropriate for explicating Bentham's views. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 22:06, 20 May 2010 (UTC)