Bentham (Arguments of the Philosophers) by Harrison

By Harrison

This publication is accessible both separately, or as a part of the specially-priced Arguments of the Philosphers assortment.

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7 THE END In thinking of Bentham as a philosophe in this way - that is, not just as a latter-day admirer but rather as a fully fledged participant in a contemporary movement - it is important not to be misled by dates, and to remember the great length of Bentham’s active intellectual life. I said above that Bentham started receiving general recognition in England as the leader of an important movement of thought for reform in the 1820s when much of his work first became accessible in English. Yet at that time Bentham was over seventy, and he was over forty before the start of the French Revolution.

The procedure Bentham is describing here was an outstanding contemporary example of this, the writ known as l&at (‘he lurks’), which enabled the Court of King’s Bench to take over the business(and fees) which should on the face of it have gone to the Court of Common Pleas. By falsely claiming that the subject of the writ was imprisoned for, or on the run from, a kind of offence which the Court was empowered to try, any other claim against the person could be brought against the person in the same Court; hence King’s Bench heard caseswith respect to debt.

It was in this spirit that Bentham was told that the law was the perfection of human reason; that is a completed mental artefact, needing no further finishing. However, just asfor Bacon, by any reason that he could recognise as such, it was clearly deficient. For a start the procedure dependedupon uttering straightforward untruths which were not allowed to be questioned in the court. In Bentham’s eyes the artificial reasonof the law had to be reconstructed in the light of the natural, or real, reason of the philosophers.

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