UCL Faculty of Laws


Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition (LAWS0051)

This module provides a unique opportunity to study the ideas and influence of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), the famous jurist, philosopher, and political scientist.

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Despite concentrating on the thought of one person, the module is surprisingly wide-ranging, since Bentham made significant contributions across a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, law, politics, and economics. Bentham’s ideas are related to the social, political and intellectual context of his own time, and an assessment made of their significance for the contemporary world. 

The module is taught by scholars associated with the Bentham Project, which is currently producing a new authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, published by Oxford University Press.

Module syllabus

The syllabus is subject to change:

  1. ‘Of the further uses of the dead to the living’
  2. A Fragment on Government
  3. Principle of Utility
  4. Logic and Language
  5. Theory of Law
  6. Theory of Punishment
  7. Indirect Legislation
  8. Subsistence, Abundance, Security and Equality
  9. Political Economy
  10. Panopticon: Prison and Poorhouse
  11. Panopticon vs New South Wales
  12. Colonies and Colonization
  13. Politics and the French Revolution
  14. French Nonsense
  15. Liberty of the Press
  16. Parliamentary Reform and Fallacies
  17. Codification
  18. Constitutional Code
  19. Religion and sex
  20. Post-Benthamite Utilitarianism

Note: Students are encouraged to attend the Bentham seminars, which usually take place during the second term, and where invited speakers who are carrying out research in Bentham studies are invited to present a paper and to answer questions.

Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

For each seminar, students will be guided through the relevant section of the reading list, and essential and supplementary reading assigned. Each student is expected to read the essential materials, and preferably one or more of the supplementary materials, and be prepared to discuss their thoughts and ideas in class. Students are encouraged to write one short informal essay each term.

Preliminary reading

  • J.R. Dinwiddy, Bentham, Oxford Past Masters, Oxford, 1989; also published in J.R. Dinwiddy, Bentham: Selected Writings of John Dinwiddy, ed. W. Twining, Stanford, 2004.
  • Philip Schofield, Bentham: A Guide for the Perplexed, London, 2009.
  • There is more information and links to resources at the Bentham Project’s website ucl.ac.uk/bentham-project

Key information

Module details
Credit value:30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor:Philip Schofield
Other Teachers:TBC
Teaching Delivery:20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Term One and Two
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student
Must not be taken with:Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition A (LAWS0052)
Qualifying module for:LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory;
LLM in Legal History
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay per term (two in total)
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)