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An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (Dover Philosophical Classics) [Paperback]

Jeremy Bentham
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2007 Dover Philosophical Classics
A classic of both philosophy and jurisprudence, this 1789 work articulates an important statement of the foundations of utilitarian philosophy. It also represents a pioneering study of crime and punishment. Bentham's reasoning remains ever relevant and central to contemporary debates in moral and political philosophy, economics, and legal theory.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. (1 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486454525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486454528
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.5 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Publisher

The new critical edition of the works and correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is being prepared and published under the supervision of the Bentham Committee of University College London. Despite his importance as jurist, philosopher, social scientist, and leader of the Utilitarian reformers, the only previous edition of his works was a poorly edited and incomplete one brought out within a decade or so of his death. Eight volumes of the new Collected Works (five of correspondence and three of writings on jurisprudence) were published between 1968 and 1981 by the Athlone Press. A further six volumes of correspondence and eleven other works have been published by Oxford University Press since 1983. Work is currently being undertaken on further volumes of correspondence, and writings on political reform at the time of the French Revolution, on the Poor Laws, on Language and Logic, and on Evidence and Judicial Procedure. The overall plan and principles of the edition are set out in the General Preface to The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, volume 1. It is now estimated that the edition will run to some sixty or so volumes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The content is just as expected, the Bentham original text. It is great that Dover is publishing these Philosophical Classics to make them accessible. It is a shame that the quality of the binding is so poor that it will not cope with regular use without the pages coming loose. I would be prepared to pay more for a quality product that these books deserve. The books should be made to last as long as the ideas they contain.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bentham presented the original subjective expected utility approach to decision making 18 July 2008
By Michael Emmett Brady - Published on
Jeremy Bentham's Bentham Utilitarianism is essentially based on his desire to move away from the moral philosophy of Judeo-Christian ethics ,or the deism of Adam Smith, and move toward a philosophy that could under pin an atheistic perspective.Bentham wants to come up with a decision making calculus which is simultaneously applicable to issues in economics(politics)and ethics(morals).Bentham claims that for all actions there are two distinctly measurable outcomes,pain and pleasure. Bentham comes up with a Principle of Utility(p.1).This essentially boils down to the observation that positive utility(pleasure) is generated by activities that generate sensations of pleasure while negative utility(pain) is generated by activities which generate sensations of pain.One can approve or disapprove of any action to the extent that it increases happiness(pleasure)or decreases pain.Approve ,in Bentham's system,translates as good or right.Disapprove,in Benthams system, translates as bad or wrong.How is this system implemented ? Bentham claims that there are lots(units) of pleasure and pain that all decisionmakers can calculate precisely and exactly.The value of the lots will be more or less depending on the duration,intensity,and certainty of the pleasure.All actions are equally good if the sum of the amounts of pleasure resulting from each action is equal.This is where economists come up with their indifference curve analysis and hedonic calculus.Unfortunately,Bentham fails miseribly in his attempt to demonstrate that human decision makers have the capacity to calculate exactly in quantitative terms.He never answers the question ," How do humans actually make the quantitative calculations ? ", upon which Bentham's entire edifice of decision amking is so precariously balanced .He merely asserts it:" ...who is their who does not calculate ? Men calculate,some with less exactness,indeed,and some with more:but all men calculate.I would not say,that even a madman does not calculate ".(p.188) .This is very similar to the modern neoclassical economist who simply asserts that the normal distribution is applicable even if goodness of fit tests demonstrate that the data from the time series observations does not come close to fitting the normal probability distribution.

Bentham is the founder of both Classical and Neoclassical economics.Smith explicitly rejected Bentham's arguments in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759;sixth edition,1790)some 28 years before Bentham decided to eliminate conscience(Smith's impartial spectator) and substitute utility.It is easy to see that the modern Benthamite approach is to combine the Bayesian ,subjectivist approach to probability of F Ramsey,B De Finetti,and L Savage with the game theoretic,expected utility approach to utility of von Neumann and Morgenstern to obtain the Subjective Expected Utility (SEU)approach, which is the fundamental foundation of all neoclassical economics and economists.Any economist ,who claims that he is not a neoclassical economist ,but who fervently supports SEU,is a neoclassical economist.Only risk,usually represented by the standard deviation of a normal probability distribution
,exists in SEU.Keynes demonstrated that SEU is a very special theory that only is sound when the weight of the evidence,w, supporting the estimate of the probabilty relation, is complete.w must have a value of 1.Only in this case can a decision maker define a single probability distribution to represent his preferences.Only in this case can the standard deviation represent the risk involved . A value of w < 1 means that decisions are being made in conditions of partial ignorance.A value of w=0 means decisions are being made in total ignorance.One can just as easily work with D Ellsberg's rho index.A rho = 1 allow a decision maker to specify a single unique distribution.A rho value less than one requires a set of different possible distributions.A rho =0 means that no distribution can be used.Note that this only deals with the nature of the probabilities.The outcomes themselves may also have to be represented as intervals.This is the case with the very strange Kahneman-Tversky battlefield and rare Asian disease problems which were put forth by them as cases of decision making with either w or rho < 1.Yet Kahneman and Tversky claimed that the decision maker had exact,precise point probabilities and exact,precise outcomes attached to the point probabilities.This made no sense either in theory or to the experimental subjects subjected to this kind of bizarre decision problem.

It is extremely important to read Bentham's book in order to understand modern day approaches to decision making.The modern approach merely rewrites Bentham's book using more up to date mathematical techniques and formal exposition.The ideas are the same.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's all downhill from here. 13 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Jeremy Bentham was an important social reformer and a major figure in the history of ethics. However you might not know it from reading this dense and forbidding tract. Even a short excerpt can be tough going. However, utilitarianism has been, and remains, one of the most influential ethical philosophies of all time, and this was among its modern founding documents.
If one can come away from it with a general sense of what utilitarianism is, what act utilitarianism is, and how it gets from egoism in psychology to neutralism in ethics, one has done pretty well. This should help the reader start thinking about what some of the problems with this theory are, how it measures up to its competitors, and how it can be applied to specific problems.
The best news for those who have braved this text is that Mill and other later thinkers will seem like poetry in motion by comparison.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual feast 20 Dec 2005
By Book Lover - Published on
Jeremy Bentham (IPA: ['ben??m]) (February 15, 1748 - June 6, 1832) was an English gentleman, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism and animal rights.

Bentham was one of the most influential (classical) liberals, partially through his writings but particularly through his students all around the world, including John Stuart Mill and several political leaders.

He argued in favor of individual and economic freedom, including the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, animal rights, the end of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (also of children), the right to divorce, free trade, and no restrictions on interest. But, he was not a libertarian, and supported inheritance tax, restrictions on monopoly power, pensions, and health insurance.

In 1776, Bentham published his Fragment on Government anonymously, a criticism of Blackstone's Commentaries, and in 1780 his Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation was published.

A truly influential author!
5.0 out of 5 stars Andrés Mauricio Briceño Chaves 9 Nov 2013
By Andres Briceno - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So a great book for Jeremy Bentham, and work about the utilitarism system. Always Bentham works it is fantastic and formative.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bentham is much more sophisticated in his thinking than many realize 22 April 2013
By Chuck - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Bentham is much more sophisticated in his thinking than many realize.He is the most important political phllosopher of all time.
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