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Utility, Publicity, and LawEssays on Bentham's Moral and Legal Philosophy$
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Gerald J. Postema

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198793175

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198793175.001.0001

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Human Psychology, Individual and Social

Human Psychology, Individual and Social

(p.26) 2 Human Psychology, Individual and Social
Utility, Publicity, and Law

Gerald J. Postema

Oxford University Press

The second main pillar of Bentham’s thought was his “practicable” psychology. On his view, human beings always act from what they take their most dominant interests at the time to be, but these may be disinterested concerns for the well-being of others, even those of humanity in general. It is trivial and misleading to insist that only their own interests motivate human beings, yet this claim, recast into something more meaningful, can be understood to call attention of moral advisors and designers of political institutions alike to the fact that voluntary human action issues from the subjectively recognized interests of human agents. While self-regarding interests are always powerful, Bentham thought it is possible to construct institutions that cultivate socially oriented motives, even extensive benevolence, to counter powerful self-regarding interests. Human affections are rooted in the constitution of human nature, but they are plastic, responding to education and enlightenment.

Keywords:   cultivation of affections, egoism, hedonism, interests, motives, pleasure, sanctions, sympathy, universal benevolence

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