UCL Faculty of Laws


Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition (LAWS0230)

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

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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’: the death and life of Jeremy Bentham 

  1. A Fragment on Government 

  1. The principle of Utility 

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

  1. Bentham’s theory of punishment 

  1. Panopticon: Bentham’s prison scheme 

  1. Logic and language 

  1. The French Revolution  

  1. Parliamentary Reform 

  1. Constitutional Code 

  1. Panopticon versus New South Wales: Bentham and criminal transportation 

  1. Colonies and colonization 

  1. Theory of law 

  1. Codification 

  1. Economics 

  1. Political Fallacies 

  1. Religion 

  1. Sexual Morality 

  1. History of utilitarianism 

  1. Contemporary 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 make class presentations and must write one formative 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. 

  • Stephen Engelmann, Selected Writings: Jeremy Bentham, New Haven and London, 2011. 

  • 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.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:Phillip Schofield
Other Teachers:

Tim Causer

Teaching Delivery:20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Terms One and Two 
Who may enrol:LLM students only
Must not be taken with:Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition A (LAWS0303) 
Qualifying module for:LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory; 
LLM in Legal History 
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:3 Hour in Person Controlled Condition Exam (100%)