The Formation of Jeremy Bentham’s Universal Egoism
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Jeremy Bentham was a British political reformist and philosopher. Bentham is best known for his moral philosophy and philosophy of law. While Bentham’s work was not heavily influential during his lifetime most historians agree his works published posthumously had a huge impact on western philosophy and law. Bentham lived from 1748 to 1832 and lived primarily on his wealthy fathers inheritance allowing him to focus on writing. Most of Bentham’s work was philosophy of law - his most famous work being An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation which focuses primarily on moral philosophy.
On January 1, 1879 Clarendon Press published An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. It was the most important piece of Bentham’s moral philosophy. In 1913, Elie Halévy author of History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century and historian wrote “there are three principal characteristics of which constitute the basis of Bentham’s moral and political philosophy: (i) the greatest happiness principle, (ii) the artificial identification of one’s interests with those of others and (iii) universal egoism” (page # of quote). Since this book most historians have used this three-part theory to divide An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. It begins with the greatest happiness principle where we see the birth of utilitarianism, then the artificial identification of one’s interests with those of others, and lastly Bentham introduces universal egoism.
The Merriam-Webster definition of universal is “done or experienced by everyone” This is the definition that will be used with this word when applied to egoism. The Merriam Webster definition for egoism is “a doctrine that individual self-intere...
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