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Pleasures of BenthamismVictorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy$
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Kathleen Blake

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563265

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563265.001.0001

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Pleasures of Benthamism—Utility, or, ‘People mutht be amuthed’

Pleasures of Benthamism—Utility, or, ‘People mutht be amuthed’

Bentham and Hard Times

(p.42) 2 Pleasures of Benthamism—Utility, or, ‘People mutht be amuthed’
Pleasures of Benthamism

Kathleen Blake (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter treats the fundamental pleasure principle of Bentham's utility, which is Smith's value‐in‐use. It covers a range of Bentham's writings including Principles of Morals and Legislation, ‘Table of the Springs of Action,’ ‘Manual of Political Economy,’ ‘Panopticon,’ ‘Defense of Usury,’ and ‘Sextus.’ Contrary to expectations of a dry Gradgrindian style, Bentham is a spokesman for pleasure in works that are a pleasure to read. Topics include: self‐interest; sympathy; the moral sanction/impartial spectator; critical thinking; critique of asceticism; fascinations and frustrations of language; push‐pin versus poetry in a Utilitarian assessment. The chapter proceeds to an interpretation of Dickens's Hard Times that goes against the grain of most criticism, arguing that Mr. Gradgrind exemplifies not mistaken faith in a false Smith‐Benthamite creed, but failure to hold true to that creed's own first principle of pleasure.

Keywords:   Bentham's style, critical thinking, critique of asceticism, ‘Defense of Usury’, Dickens's Hard Times, ‘Panopticon’, principle of pleasure, push‐pin versus poetry, ‘sextus’, utility

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