UCL Faculty of Laws


Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition A (LAWS0052/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, history, 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.

Module syllabus

The syllabus is subject to change:

  1. ‘Of the farther uses of the dead to the living’

  2. A Fragment on Government

  3. The principle of Utility

  4. Subsistence, Abundance, Security, and Equality: the subordinate ends of utility

  5. Logic and Language

  6. Theory of Law

  7. Codification

  8. The French Revolution

  9. Parliamentary Reform

  10. Constitutional Code

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 class presentations.

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 ucl.ac.uk/bentham-project

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Tim Causer
Other Teachers:TBD
Teaching Delivery:

10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, term 1

Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition (LAWS0051/LAWS0230)
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)