UCL Faculty of Laws


Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition A (LAWS0052)

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. Religion and Sex
  6. Theory of Punishment
  7. Indirect Legislation
  8. Subsistence, Abundance, Security and Equality
  9. Political Economy
  10. Panopticon

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.

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:15 credits (7.5 ECTS, 150 learning hours)
Convenor:Philip Schofield
Other Teachers:TBC
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student
Must not be taken with:Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition (LAWS0051)
Qualifying module for:LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory;
LLM in Legal History
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment:Essay (100%)