Visiting Jeremy Bentham at the University College London

After learning about Jeremy Bentham in my History 200 class in first year university, I was inspired to visit his auto-icon (self-image) at the University College London. As the father of utilitarianism, Bentham argued: “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.” He promoted the “greatest happiness for the greatest number” and advocated in favour of anything that could be calculated as maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

Here is an excerpt from Jeremy Bentham’s Last Will and Testament:

“My body I give to my dead friend Doctor Southwood Smith to be disposed of in a manner hereinafter mentioned and I direct that as soon as it appears to any one that my life is at an end my executor or any other person by whom on the opening of this paper the contents thereof shall have been observed shall send an express with information of my decease to doctor Southwood Smith requesting him to repair to the place where my body is lying and after ascertaining by appropriate experiment that no life remians it is my rewuest that he will take my body under his charge and take the requisite and appropriate measures for the disposal and preservation of the several parts of my bodily frame in the manner expressed in the paper annexed to this my will and at the top of which I have written ‘Auto-Icon’… 

For more information on the Bentham Project at the University College London, click here.

Thanks to Dr. Marco Navarro-Génie for introducing me to Bentham and for sharing the anecdotes about his narcissistic eccentricism that prompted my visit to the auto-icon.


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