Since the very beginning of his inquiries into the fields of legal, political and moral philosophy, always guided by the principle of utility - “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” -, Jeremy Bentham entertained a complex relationship with matters regarding religion in every form. Bentham’s utilitarianism was a “secular” one, unlike the ethical theories of “theological” utilitarian thinkers such as William Paley, Richard Cumberland, John Gay, and Thomas Brown. These Anglican philosophers were looking for a middle path between Calvinist extreme theological voluntarism and Hobbes’ conventionalist ethics and politics (which were generally deemed to be atheistic). Bentham thought that the union of religion and utility was perverse, because it deflected the “science of morals” from careful calculation of pains and pleasures, substituting to it the knowledge of the will of God. (Continua)
Assegnista di ricerca in Filosofia del Diritto nella Facoltà di Giurisprudenza dell’Università degli Studi di Milano.
This paper was originally delivered at the Conference “Religions, Law, and Democracy”, organized by Università degli Studi di Milano, held in Gargnano del Garda (on October 1-2, 2007)