Bentham, Jeremy

born Feb. 15, 1748, London died June 6, 1832, London

English philosopher, economist, and theoretical jurist, the earliest and chief expounder of Utilitarianism. In his book, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation(1789), he defined the principle of utility as:

“that property in any object whereby it tends to produce pleasure, good or happiness, or to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered.”

Mankind, he said, was governed by two sovereign motives, pain and pleasure; and the principle of utility recognized this state of affairs. The object of all legislation must be the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.” He deduced from the principle of utility that, since all punishment involves pain and is therefore evil, it ought only to be used “so far as it promises to exclude some greater evil.”

Encyclopedia Britannica