UCL Faculty of Laws


Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition A (LAWS0303)

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

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

  1. 'Of the further uses of the dead to the living’
  2. A Fragment on Government
  3. Principle of Utility
  4. Subsistence, Abundance, Security and Equality
  5. Logic and Language
  6. Politics and the French Revolution
  7. Parliamentary Reform and Democratic Ascendancy
  8. Constitutional Code and Republicanism
  9. History of Utilitarianism from Locke to Sidgwick
  10. Contemporary Utilitarianism

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 make one class presentation and 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 lots of information and links to resources at the Bentham Project’s website https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bentham-project/

Key information

Module information
Credit value:22.5 Credits (225 Learning Hours)
Convenor:Philip Schofield
Other Teachers:Dr Tim Causer
Teaching Delivery:Teaching for all LLM modules in 2020-21 will be delivered through a combination of pre-recorded and synchronous live teaching
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition
Qualifying module for:

LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory
LLM in Legal History

Practice Assessment:TBC
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)