This article uses Jeremy Bentham’s comments on taste and ethics to analyse the efforts of ‘Philosophical Radical’ members of the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures of 1835/6, including Bentham’s executor and editor John Bowring, to apply utilitarianism to questions of public taste. The application of utilitarian thinking to questions of public taste by Members of Parliament was an unlikely occurrence, but it raised problems of ethics, governance and public pedagogy that persist to this day. Bentham had sketched out a utilitarian approach to public taste in his writing on ‘Rules Respecting the Method of Transplanting Laws’, where the correspondence between individuals and tastes is presented as a set of contingent statements within a signifying system. However, the problem of describing taste as a set of contingent statements is that it challenges the ‘interest begotten prejudice’ that may be expressed in judgments of sympathy or antipathy. My analysis of the problems attending Bentham’s wish to set ‘prejudice apart’ in discussions of taste, is undertaken with specific reference to the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s emphasis on the importance of what he termed ‘the utilitarian conversion’ in ethics. Lacan’s praise for Bentham and the ‘Theory of Fictions’ demonstrates a limited insight into the importance of Bentham’s ethics, while misunderstanding some of its most important features. I argue that Bentham’s treatment of fact, rather than fiction, gives us a more precise route to the place of the unconscious in Bentham’s thought, as well as a better understanding of a utilitarian consciousness of taste.
|Type of Research:||Article|
|Additional Information (Publicly available):|
Revue d'Etudes Benthamite is an online publication in refereed coordinated by the Centre Bentham since 2006. It aims to contribute to the scientific debate on all aspects of classical and contemporary utilitarianism. The issue of fall 2011 will be devoted to the "utilitarian". The editorial calls on this basis, researchers from all disciplines to propose contributions on this theme.
From the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), J. Bentham presents the calculation of utility as a method of arbitration on moral issues. A consequentialist approach, based on pleasure and pain arising from actions is opposed to religious imperatives or a "moral sense" universal. If Bentham seems to overlook the ethical issues in favour of political and legal implications of utilitarianism, from the Victorian era J. Stuart Mill, H. Sidgwick and GE Moore have at heart to build a utilitarian ethic on solid philosophical foundations.
Since the early twentieth century, utilitarian arguments have been thoroughly recast, especially theoretically. For the past thirty years, utilitarian theories are the subject of renewed interest in the Anglo-Saxon in the field of normative ethics, as in that of applied ethics. These debates often remain unknown in France, where they are not caricatured.
This special issue of the Journal of Studies Bentham intends to highlight the vitality of utilitarianism in moral matters and assess the relevance of its contribution to ethical reflection. Contributions may focus on classical or contemporary utilitarian, normative or applied ethics, or on the echo that these theories have met in France in the Anglo-Saxon.
|Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed:||Taste, public, prejudice, Bentham, Lacan. utilitarian ethics, utilitarianism|
|Publisher/Broadcaster/Company:||Centre Bentham, Paris|
|Your affiliations with UAL:||Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art|
|Projects or Series:||Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011)|
|Deposited By:||Prerna Bhatt|
|Deposited On:||10 Feb 2012 13:17|
|Last Modified:||09 May 2013 15:02|