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Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He is best known for his advocacy of utilitarianism and animal rights, and the idea of the panopticon.
His position included arguments in favour of individual and economic freedom, usury, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He also argued for the abolition of slavery, physical punishment (including that of children) and the death penalty. Although strongly in favour of the extension of individual legal rights, he opposed the idea of natural law and natural rights, calling them "nonsense upon stilts."
He became the most influential of the utilitarians, through his own work and that of his students. These included his secretary and collaborator on the utilitarian school of philosophy, James Mill; James Mill's son John Stuart Mill; John Austin, legal philosopher; and several political leaders, including Robert Owen, a founder of modern socialism. He is also considered the godfather of University College London.
Bentham's ambition in life was to create a "Pannomion", a complete utilitarian code of law. Bentham not only proposed many legal and social reforms, but also expounded an underlying moral principle on which they should be based. This utilitarianism philosophy argued that the right act or policy was that which would cause "the greatest good for the greatest number of people", also known as "the greatest happiness principle", or the principle of utility. He wrote in The Principles of Morals and Legislation:
“ Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think.. ”
He also suggested a procedure for estimating the moral status of any action, which he called the Hedonistic or felicific calculus. Utilitarianism was revised and expanded by Bentham's student, John Stuart Mill. In Mill's hands, "Benthamism" became a major element in the liberal conception of state policy objectives. ---From Wikipedia