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Bentham's An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

A Guide

Steven Sverdlik

Publication Date - 14 February 2023

ISBN: 9780190089917

344 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock


Bentham's An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation is often considered the first work of the philosophical school of utilitarianism and is thus a vital text for students of philosophy. In this comprehensive guide to the text, Steven Sverdlik provides an entry point into this important work, examining the text in its entirety and highlighting its central claims and their relevance to contemporary discussions in a variety of fields.

Sverdlik works through the chapters of Bentham's text sequentially, explaining and evaluating the work's main themes. The Guide emphasizes Bentham's original goal of introducing a utilitarian penal code. Sverdlik explains Bentham's fundamental moral claims and principles: the principle of utility, his hedonistic theory of intrinsic value, and his claims about the measurement of pleasure and pain. Bentham also discusses at length human action, motivation, and decision. Sverdlik discusses these ideas in general terms, and then examines how Bentham applies them in the context of penal or criminal law. All of this lays the groundwork for a careful discussion of Bentham's treatment of the deterrence of potential offenders, the punishment of convicted offenders, and the criminalization of various types of behavior. By restating Bentham's arguments in contemporary philosophical terms, Sverdlik allows readers to see how his thinking connects to current debates about the criminal justice system.

This guide provides a systematic contemporary overview of Bentham's Introduction that will be valuable to undergraduate philosophy students, as well as students and scholars with a working knowledge of basic philosophy who are interested in criminal law, moral philosophy, and moral psychology.


  • Explains the larger themes and most important arguments in Bentham's book
  • Restates Bentham's claims and arguments in contemporary philosophical terms
  • Helps readers see how Bentham's project of designing a utilitarian penal code relates to contemporary legal systems

About the Author(s)

Steven Sverdlik has taught Philosophy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas since 1982. His main interests are philosophy of criminal law, the history of moral philosophy, and moral psychology. His previous works include Motive and Rightness (2011).

Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Bentham's Preface
    2. Bentham's Chapter I
    3. Bentham's Chapter II and the Formal Argument
    4. Bentham's Chapter III
    5. Bentham's Chapter IV
    6. Bentham's Chapter V
    7. Bentham's Chapter VI
    8. Bentham's Chapter VII
    9. Bentham's Chapter VIII
    10. Bentham's Chapter IX
    11. Bentham's Chapter X
    12. Bentham's Chapter XI
    13. Bentham's Chapter XII
    14. Bentham's Chapter XIII
    15. Bentham's Chapter XIV
    16. Bentham's Chapter XV
    17. Bentham's Chapter XVI
    18. Bentham's Chapter XVII and the Concluding Note
    19. Glossary
    20. Bibliography
    21. Index

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