A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY BENTHAMâS IDEA OF law
A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY BENTHAMâS IDEA OF LAW
The concept of law has always been contentious, resulting in several theories. This has complicated understanding of the law because different minds have perceived and interpreted it differently.
Issues such as correct interpretation, judicial precedence, justice and fairness, punishment and its limits, the rule of law and its preservation, legal knowledge and ignorance, and, most importantly, loyalty to the law for the survival of the community are paramount in the understanding of law.
These were some of the considerations that prompted Bentham to develop his own legal theory based on Hedonistic calculus.
Jeremy Bentham defined human nature as the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. To him, laws are a means of controlling people's behaviour through the fear of pain and punishment.
Human nature, according to Jeremy Bentham, can explain the existence of laws and morals. According to his psychological hedonism theory, there are two main forces that drive human nature and explain why people behave the way they do: pleasure and pain.
Everyone prefers to avoid suffering and seek pleasure in their daily lives. This perspective of human nature differs from that of other thinkers, such as Locke, who claimed that natural law and the social contract may explain human nature.
According to Jeremy Bentham, his positivistic view of human nature is not as theoretical as other views of human nature and may be applied realistically for legislative and political reasons.
Bentham's method of making decisions based on the amount of pain and pleasure generated by the outcome of decisions is known as hedonic calculus.
It will also establish a baseline for understanding Bentham's position on his conceptions of law and determining what gains may be gained from his doctrines, ideas, and theories through philosophical musings, critique, and analysis.
Furthermore, society must be organised in such a way that lives and property may be protected, which necessitates the implementation of a legal system that will checkmate and restrict the excesses of some people.
It is the legislators' responsibility, according to him, to ensure that the laws established encourage the greatest amount of pleasure and happiness for the greatest number of people.
Because human nature is to seek pleasure and avoid suffering, it is the state's responsibility to use their expertise to design laws that maximise pleasure and minimise misery for all.
Punishment is employed to maintain control since it produces suffering, which most individuals would prefer to avoid at all costs.
This work will critically evaluate Bentham's concept of law in order to determine whether Bentham's prescription will work by causing individuals to shun wrongdoing and do what is right out of dread of suffering.
C-L Wayper's book Political Thought attempts to evaluate Bentham's concept of utility, the state, and its significance. Everything that provides happiness is good in Bentham's opinion.
He “holds virtue to be a good thing by reason only of the pleasures which result from the practise of it; he esteems vice to be a bad thing by reason only of the pains which follows in its train” (Wayper, 89).
As a result, the idea of utility is a hedonistic doctrine. Moving on from the utility principle, the utilitarian explanation of the state is a comprehensive explanation in terms of an infinite end. The state utilitarian refers to a group of people who have come together to promote and maintain utility, which is happiness or pleasure.
This utilitarian principle, rather than any fundamentally unlikely contracts, is all that is required to explain why men obey the state.
According to Bentham and the utilitarian, the state is peculiar in that it is the sole source of law, which is the most certain of the four sanctions, or overwhelming motives, that regulate men's lives.
According to Bentham, the state is basically a legislative body (Wayper, 94). A group of people who have banded together to promote and maintain happiness through the use of the law.
Law is a command and restraint, and as such is contrary to liberty; its great mission is to reconcile interests in order to manage the motive of self-interest so that it operates, even against its will, to produce the greatest enjoyment.
This is accomplished by attaching artificial discomfort or punishment to specific activities that are not conducive to general happiness.
Furthermore, because the rule of law is a mandate, it must be issued by a superior authority. Indeed, Bentham is only willing to recognise the existence of civil society when such an authority is routinely obeyed.
Betrand Russel wrote in his book History of Western philosophy that Bentham intended to build a set of rules and, more broadly, a social order that would automatically make men virtuous. Bentham held that what is good is pleasure or happiness, which he used as synonyms, and what is bad is pain.
As a result, one state of affairs is preferable to another if it entails a bigger balance of pleasure over pain, or a smaller balance of pain over pleasure. Of all potential states of affairs, the one with the largest balance of pleasure over pain is preferable (Russel, 741).
Bentham believed that the good is happiness in general, but that each individual should always pursue his or her own happiness. As a result, the legislator's job is to strike a balance between public and private interests. It is in the public's interest for me to refrain from stealing, but it is not in my interest unless there is an effective criminal law.
Thus, the criminal law is a technique of bringing the individual's interests into line with those of the community; this is its justification. Men should be punished within the law in order to prevent crime, not because we despise the criminal. It is more crucial that the penalty is certain than that it is terrible.
In Bentham's day, many small offences carried the death penalty in England, thus jurors frequently refused to convict because they considered the penalty was disproportionate.
In this regard, Bentham pushed for the abolition of the death sentence for all but the most vulnerable. Finally, Bentham states that civil law should have four goals: subsistence, abundance, security, and equality (Russel, 742).
Sabine and Thorson's work, A History of Political philosophy, provided an in-depth examination of Bentham's philosophy of law.
They believe that the greatest happiness, as Bentham believed, placed a nearly universal instrument in the hands of a skilled legislator, with which we can “rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and law” (Sabine and Thorson, 617).
This presents the notion of fundamental human nature, both its valuation and incentives, which Bentham believed to be universal and applicable at all times and in all locations.
The legislator merely needs to be aware of the particular circumstances of time and location that have resulted in peculiar customs and habits in order to govern behaviour by allocating pains and penalties to achieve the most desirable results.
The only restrictions on the approach that Bentham saw were psychological and ethical constraints on what the law can achieve and what it should aim to do. Bentham's jurisprudence consisted in the systematic application to all aspects of the law, civil and criminal, as well as procedural law and judicial system organisation.
In the sphere of criminal law, Bentham argued that the concept of utility provided a natural manner of arriving at a logical theory of sanctions (Sabine and Thorson, 618-619). The technical technique assumes that crime “deserves” punishment, yet the concept of desert is essentially indefinable outside of established practises and conceptions.
The natural method, on the other hand, begins with the notion that punishment is always an evil because it causes suffering and is only justifiable inasmuch as it either prevents a bigger future harm or remedies a wrong that has already occurred.
The rule that a law must be judged by the incidence of its impact on humans, and to the greatest extent feasible on assignable people, was a sound liberal idea that was part of Bentham's jurisprudence.
Maduine Rader's book The Enduring questions: Main Problems in Philosophy includes a section on the notion of morals and legislation.
The author focuses on Bentham's utilitarianism and legal theory. He began with the notion that nature has subjected people to the rule of two sovereign lords, pain and pleasure (Rader, 567).
It also attempts to identify what we should do as well as what we will do. They influence everything we do, everything we say, everything we think.
The utility principle recognises and accepts submission as the cornerstone of that system, the goal of which is to reshape the fabric of happiness via the hands of logic and reason.