Bentham Project


Political Fallacies

Work is well under way on Bentham's writings on Political Fallacies. The new edition will present Bentham's work on Fallacies for the first time in the form which he originally intended.

Two editions of the work appeared during Bentham's lifetime: in 1816 a French version, 'Traité des sophismes politiques', edited by Etienne Dumont, was published with Tactique des assemblées législatives; and in 1824 The Book of Fallacies appeared, edited by 'A Friend' (Peregrine Bingham). Through these two editions, Bentham's work on Fallacies became quite well known, yet neither edition, although prepared from Bentham's manuscripts, was particularly close or faithful to the original work.

The 'Traité des sophismes', in common with all Dumont's French versions of Bentham's works, was a recension rather than a translation - in other words, a reworking of the text which condensed, simplified and changed the emphasis of Bentham's work.

Although Bingham made fewer substantive changes to the text than Dumont, he still wielded his red pen frequently, as a cursory glance at the manuscripts reveals. He cut, rephrased or added to Bentham's text on many occasions. A comparison of Bingham's work with the manuscripts also reveals that in many cases he has simply misread Bentham's difficult handwriting.

Both the 'Traité des sophismes politiques' and The Book of Fallacies have been considered as the work of Jeremy Bentham, whereas in truth the influence of the respective editors has been significant. The new edition of Political Fallacies will present the work in its original form, in its full glory and with all editorial accretions removed. Initial transcripts have been made of the 1200 folios which make up the work, and approximately half of these have been checked and corrected so far.

Catherine Pease-Watkin

This research is funded by the ESRC.