Sunday, January 25, 2009
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832 A.D.)
By Richard E. Noble
This guy is a classic! You have to see this guy to believe him. And if you would like to see him, even though he has been dead for quite some time, all that you have to do is go to University College in London; open up this cabinet and there he sits. He had his body mummified and placed in a hermetically sealed cabinet so that at any time after his death his friends and supporters could come and visit and have an intellectual chit chat in his presence. His head is actually a wax replica. His real mummified head, at first, sat at his feet. This was considered to be a little much and Jeremy's actual head is now sitting in a cabinet above his waxed duplicate.
He is pretty much acclaimed to be the father or prophet of 'Utilitarianism'. The basic notion of this school of thought is that Human Beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. On the surface most people would automatically accept this as true, and still do today, but in my viewing of the history of Mankind it seems obviously false. If this principle is even remotely accurate you will then have to explain to me the ever prevalent phenomenon of War. If you can accomplish this rationalization, then explain to me the basic punitive and punishing philosophies of nearly all major religions, which seem to deal almost exclusively with the basic evil nature of the human beast and the justification of his punishment and suffering, or purification in this life and the next. And if you can conquer this obstacle to the pleasure/pain principle then explain to me the female penchant for child birth.
Jeremy was a prolific writer, but he was never concerned in publishing anything that he wrote, obviously delighting in the task for his own edification. He carried this self-edification to even more personalization by writing in a language of his on making. Some enterprising scholar, a guy named Dumont, managed to translate Bentham into French which led his critics to challenge that if only someone could now translate Jeremy into English.
He developed a Hedonic or Felicific Calculus, which was a refined or detailed system for logically deducing the pleasure/pain quotient of any situation. For example which is more pleasurable; drinking beer, playing poker and telling dirty jokes with Billy Graham, the Pope and Fulton Sheehan or; having a sex orgy with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bella Absug, and Gloria Childes? By applying the Felicific Calculus we come to the obvious and universal decision that it will be more pleasurable to play poker, drink beer and tell dirty jokes with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bella Absug and Gloria Childs than to engage in a sexual orgy with Billy Graham, the Pope, and Fulton Sheehan.
From Hedonic Calculus he went to the Panopticon. The Panopticon was a theoretical private enterprise prison designed to be operated by one man, supervising a large number of inmates. He couldn't find any government funding for this idea. He would obviously be one of today's entrepreneurs.
It is estimated that he wrote twenty million words in his days, and it does seem to me that the quantity of words one is able to accomplish in his lifetime is directly proportional to his later historical fame. I have therefore set my personal goal to write more words than any man yet to have existed.