Jeremy Bentham's ideology on human pursuit of pleasure contains many strengths and weaknesses. Bentham's essay, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, separates the two root drives of human essence into categories of pleasure and pain. Bentham stresses the duality of the human mind's pursuit of pleasure, continuing from subjugation of others for ultimate attainment. He states that humans should not be grouped, due to personal conviction and perspective. Although the individual is part of a community, the individual's own pursuance of pleasure categorizes them as a utility; resulting in the term `utilitarianism.'
Several principles are listed by Bentham to support his argument that humanity has a distinct set of motives to create happiness or malcontent amongst the masses. Bentham relates these principles with empowered political bodies and why they continue to rule. One of Bentham's principles, the principle of sympathy and antipathy, praises the human ability to generally accept certain actions as an impersonal blow. Thus, if a utility does not feel threatened or in err, why relate consequences of actions to personal welfare? In turn, should that individual measure out the consequences of others' actions fearing for their own external welfare?
Bentham's perspective on human methodology as a strict functioning environment of social cues has many flaws. Determination of values as `right' or `wrong' does not review the complexities of human social environment. Empowerment was not an anti-puritanical event that occurred in society; but a constitution of human need for order. Bentham suggests that "principle is something that points out some external consideration, as a means of warranting and guiding the internal sentiments of approbation and disapprobation"(75). Assertion of principle as influence on human external action suggests a strong moral power present in an individual's everyday life. Perhaps the rebellion of moral principle has an antipathic effect on moral judgement. The pleasure produced by rebellion of principle dictates a return to instinctual roots; excluding the `civilizing' factor.
Bentham's open acknowledgement that asceticism violates the nature laws of human government, and cannot be fully pursued, illustrates the ties between the Catholicism and enlightened despotism. The origin of Catholicism and despotism, according to Bentham, stems from an unrealistic aim to impose a standard of morality on the masses. His criticizing of saints best illustrates an open reaction to the weakness of asceticism. Bentham states that, "though many persons of this class have wielded the reins (sic) of empire, we read of none who have set themselves to work, and made laws of purpose"(73). Unfortunately, his touting of utilitarianism above the principle of asceticism, as a proper way to establish a governing body, is only comparative with traditional social classification in the eighteenth century.
Bentham proposed a new way to establish morality and just governmental action from traditional monarchical rule. The imposed Rule of Right, whereas kings justified rule as eternal over his people and empowered by God, was a shifting environment that came into question in Bentham's lifetime. Utilitarianism provided an answer to strategic social problems that came with new leadership apart from a monarchy. Moral advocating by reformers as something an individual instinctually knows is right, was a key concept in utilitarianism. Therefore, pursuance of pleasure above pain would produce just results in a newly formed government.
Pleasure, in the strictest sense, took a prominent place in executive rule over a government. Bentham also writes that good tendency sometimes counteracts pursuance of pleasure in legislative and judicial matters. He best expresses this by writing, "It is not to be expected that this process should be strictly pursued previously to every moral judgement"(88). Considering the objective process of judicial decision as a moral and just environment was revolutionary. Morality, without the ties of asceticism, could and did exist in a ruling environment, ultimately usurping previous ideas that Rule of Right contained eternal, prophetic principle. Bentham's ideas set a cornerstone for other studies of social morality, thus contributing to the new field of sociology.
Bentham's idea of human pleasure and pain being either simple or complex seems very generalistic in approach. He suggests that pleasure and pain are bound into simple and complex categories, therefore never transpiring into different classifications. The elementary view on pursuance of pleasure and pain seems vague for a study of the human condition. Bentham writes that, "the simple ones are those which cannot any one of them be resolved into more," creating a moral quandary (90). For example, Bentham's idea that "the end of the law is to augment happiness" is a just principle of government (97). Unfortunately, law must sometimes contain happiness to produce security. Duality of principle is discussed in his writings, but for every dark and light area there is a gray area.
Jeremy Bentham pioneered root elements of human motivation and morality. He conceptualized a government that founded itself on pursuance of pleasure as just rule. Character of individuals is attained through positive motivation, but for every individual of good character lies the possibility of bad character. Corruption was possible, and presented itself in many forms throughout human history. Efforts to catalogue unpleasant and pleasant dispositions find that government that is founded on positive principle is always corrupted by human condition. Jeremy Bentham's approach in rediscovery of individual strains, through principles, shed a new light on morality.
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