Sidor som bilder

I AM aware that the title prefixed to this head or Division of the present publication, is not likely to attract many readers; and, for this reason, I have put much less under it, than under any of the other divisions. But, having been at one time more addicted to the studies to which it relates than to any other— and still confessing to a certain partiality for them — I could not think of letting this collection of old speculations go forth to the world, without some specimen of those which once found so much favour in my eyes.

I will confess, too, that I am not unwilling to have it known that, so long ago as 1804, I adventured to break a spear (and I trust not quite ingloriously) in these perilous lists, with two such redoubted champions as Jeremy Bentham and Dugald Stewart, then in the maturity of their fame; and also to assail, with equal gallantry, what appeared to me the opposite errors of the two great Dogmatical schools of Priestley and of Reid.

I will venture also to add, that on looking back on what I have now reprinted of these early lucubrations, I cannot help indulging a fond, though probably delusive expectation, that the brief and familiar exposition I have there attempted, both of the fallacy of the Materialist theory, and of the very moderate practical value that can be assigned to Metaphysical discussions generally, and especially of the real shallowness and utter insignificance of the thorough-going Scepticism (even if unanswerable) to which they have been supposed to lead, may be found neither so tedious, nor so devoid of interest even to the general reader, as the mere announcement of the subjects might lead him to apprehend.


(APRIL, 1804.)

Traités de Législation Civile et Pénale; précèdès de Principes Générauz de Législation, et d'une Vue d'un Corps complet de Droit; terminés par un Easai sur l'Influence des tems et des lieuw relativement aua Lois. Par M. JéRÉMIE BENTHAM, Jurisconsulte Anglois. Publiés en François par M. DUMONT de Genève, d'après les Manuscrits confiés par l'Auteur. 8vo. 3 tom. Paris, an X. 1802.

THE title-page of this work exhibits a curious instance of the division of labour; and of the combinations that hold together the literary commonwealth of Europe. A living author consents to give his productions to the world in the language of a foreign editor; and the speculations of an English philosopher are published at Paris, under the direction of a redacteur from Geneva. This arrangement is not the most obvious or natural in the world; nor is it very flattering to the literature of this country; but we have no doubt that it was adopted for sufficient reasons. It is now about fifteen years since Mr. Bentham first announced to the world his design of composing a great work on the Principles of morals and legislation. The specimen which he then gave of his plan, and of his abilities, was calculated, we think, to excite considerable expectation, and considerable alarm, in the reading part of the community. While the author displayed, in many places, great originality and accuracy of thinking, and gave proofs throughout of a very uncommon degree of courage, acuteness, and impartiality, it was easy to perceive that he was encumbered with the magnitude of his


subject, and that his habits of discussion were but ill adapted to render it popular with the greater part of his readers. Though fully possessed of his subject, he scarcely ever appeared to be properly the master of it; and seemed evidently to move in his new career with great anxiety and great exertion. In the subordinate details of his work, he is often extremely ingenious, clear, and satisfactory; but in the grouping and distribution of its several parts, he is apparently irresolute or capricious; and has multiplied and distinguished them by such a profusion of divisions and subdivisions, that the understanding is nearly as much bewildered from the excessive labour and complexity of the arrangement, as it could have been from its absolute omission. In following out the discussions into which he is tempted by every incidental suggestion, he is so anxious to fix a precise and appropriate principle of judgment, that he not only loses sight of the general scope of his performance, but pushes his metaphysical analysis to a degree of subtlety and minuteness that must prove repulsive to the greater part of his readers. In the extent and the fineness of those speculations, he sometimes appears to lose all recollection of his subject, and often seems to have tasked his ingenuity to weave snares for his understanding, The powers and the peculiarities which were thus indicated by the preliminary treatise, were certainly such as to justify some solicitude as to the execution of the principal work. While it was clear that it would be well worth reading, it was doubtful if it would be very fit for being read: and while it was certain that it would contain many admirable remarks and much original reasoning, there was room for apprehending that the author's love of method and metaphysics might place his discoveries beyond the reach of ordinary students, and repel the curiosity which the importance of the subject was so likely to excite. Actuated probably, in part, by the consciousness of those propensities (which nearly disqualified him from being the editor of his own speculations), and still too busily occupied with the prosecution of his great work to attend to the nice finishing of its parts, Mr. Bentham, about six years ago, put into the


hands of M. Dumont a large collection of manuscripts, containing the greater part of the reasonings and observations which he proposed to embody into his projected system. These materials, M. Dumont assures us, though neither arranged nor completed, were rather redundant than defective in quantity; and left nothing to the redacteur, but the occasional labour of selection, arrangement, and compression. This task he has performed, as to a considerable part of the papers entrusted to him, in the work now before us; and has certainly given a very fair specimen, both of the merit of the original speculations, and of his own powers of expression and distribution. There are some passages, perhaps, into which a degree of levity has been introduced that does not harmonise with the general tone of the composition; and others in which we miss something of that richness of illustration and homely vigour of reasoning which delighted us in Mr. Bentham's original publications; but, in point of neatnesss and perspicuity, conciseness and precision, we have no sort of doubt that M. Dumont has been of the most essential service to his principal; and are inclined to suspect that, without this assistance, we should never have been able to give any account of his labours.” The principle upon which the whole of Mr. Bentham's system depends is, that Utility, and utility alone, is the criterion of right and wrong, and ought to be the sole object of the legislator. This principle, he admits, has often been suggested, and is familiarly recurred to both in action and deliberation; but he maintains that it has never been followed out with sufficient steadiness and resolution, and that the necessity of assuming it as the exclusive test of our proceedings has never been sufficiently understood. There are two principles, he alleges, that have been admitted to a share of that moral authority which belongs of right to utility alone, and have exercised a control over the conduct and opinions

* A considerable portion of the original paper is here omitted; and those parts only retained which relate to the general principle and scope of the system.


of society, by which legislators have been very frequently misled. One of these he denominates the Ascetic principle, or that which enjoins the mortification of the senses as a duty, and proscribes their gratification as a sin; and the other, which has had a much more extensive influence he calls the principle of Sympathy or Antipathy; under which name he comprehends all those systems which place the basis of morality in the indications of a moral Sense, or in the maxims of a rule of Right; or which, under any other form of expression, decide upon the propriety of human actions by any reference to internal feelings, and not solely on a consideration of their consequences. As utility is thus assumed as the test and standard of action and approbation, and as it consists in procuring pleasure and avoiding pain, Mr. Bentham has thought it necessary, in this place, to introduce a catalogue of all the pleasures and pains of which he conceives man to be susceptible; since these, he alleges, are the elements of that moral calculation in which the wisdom and the duty of legislators and individuals must ultimately be found to consist. The simple pleasures of which man is susceptible are fourteen, it seems, in number; and are thus enumerated — 1. pleasures of sense: 2. of wealth: 3. of dexterity: 4, of good character: 5. of friendship: 6, of power: 7. of piety: 8. of benevolence: 9. of malevolence: 10, of memory, 11. of imagination: 12. of hope: 13. of association: 14. of relief from pain. The pains, our readers will be happy to learn, are only eleven ; and are almost exactly the counterpart of the pleasures that have now been enumerated. The construction of these catalogues, M. Dumont, considers as by far the greatest improvement that has yet been made in the philosophy of human nature It is chiefly by the fear of pain that men are regulated in the choice of their deliberate actions; and Mr. Bentham finds that pain may be attached to particular actions in four different ways: 1. by nature: 2, by public opinion: 3, by positive enactment: and 4. by the doctrines of religion. Our institutions will be perfect

« FöregåendeFortsätt »