Of Sexual Irregularities, and Other Writings on Sexual Morality

By Kris Grint, on 3 February 2014

The Bentham Project is pleased to announce the publication of the 30th volume in the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham series. Of Sexual Irregularities, and Other Writings on Sexual Morality was published by Oxford University Press on 30 January 2014.

The present volume contains three essays, ‘Of Sexual Irregularities’, ‘Sextus’, and ‘General Idea of Not Paul, but Jesus’, written in the mid-1810s but have never before been published in authoritative form. Bentham presents the utilitarian case for sexual liberty on the grounds that the gratification of the sexual appetite constituted the purest form of pleasure, in opposition to the traditional Christian view that the only morally acceptable form of sexual activity was between one man and one woman, within the confines of marriage, for the purpose of procreation. Bentham offers classical Greece and Rome, where certain male same-sex relationships were regarded as normal, as alternative models of sexual morality, condemns the hostile portrayal of homosexuals in eighteenth-century literature, and calls for the removal of sanctions, whether imposed by religion, law, or public opinion, from all forms of consensual sexual activity, at least in so far as practised in private. Bentham was, moreover, persuaded by Malthus’s argument that population growth tended to outstrip food supply. In these circumstances, non-procreative sexual activity had the additional benefit of not contributing to an increase in the size of the population. In the course of his discussion, Bentham expresses forthright views on various aspects of sexuality.

A discount of 30% on the list price is offered for online orders of this volume until 31 March 2014. Please download the promotional flyer for information on ordering.

A related text to the present volume, the preliminary version of volume 3 of Bentham’s Not Paul, but Jesus was published online by the Bentham Project in April 2013.

Jeremy Bentham and the escaped convicts

By Tim Causer, on 13 January 2014

The Bentham Project is delighted to announce the publication, for the first time, a detailed, online annotated edition of the Memorandoms of the transported convict, James Martin, which is the only extant first-hand account of perhaps the most famous escape by prisoners transported to Australia. The manuscripts upon which this work are based are part of UCL’s vast Bentham Papers collection, having seemingly been collected by Bentham when he was writing his attack on convict transportation, Panopticon versus New South Wales.

On the night of 28 March 1791, Martin, in company with his fellow prisoners William Bryant, his wife Mary Bryant (née Broad) and their two young children Charlotte and Emanuel, William Allen, Samuel Bird alias John Simms, Samuel Broom alias John Butcher, James Cox alias Rolt, Nathaniel Lillie, and William Morton, stole the governor’s six-oared cutter. In it, the party sailed out of Port Jackson, and up and along the eastern and northern coasts of the Australian continent, where they encountered Aboriginal peoples, and were fortunate to survive several ferocious storms. They crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria, avoided capture by Torres Strait Islanders, and eventually landed at Kupang, West Timor, on 5 June. There, they successfully (for a while, at least) posed as survivors of a shipwreck and enjoyed the hospitality of their Dutch hosts. Theirs was an incredible feat of endurance and seamanship, in surviving a two-month journey of over five thousand kilometres in an open boat.

The Memorandoms, edited and introduced by Tim Causer, are now freely available to read online, and can also be downloaded as a PDF. For those interested, an XML version of the text is also available.

The introduction to the edition provides information about the manuscripts, Bentham’s interest in convict Australia and his acquisition of the manuscripts, context and background to the escape, and a summary of previous works dealing with this famous absconding. This is followed by annotated versions of Martin’s narrative, which are linked to digital versions of the original manuscripts, allowing readers to fully explore this fascinating primary resource.

We are, as always, very grateful to UCL Library Special Collections for permission to reproduce transcripts of manuscripts in their possession, and for their continuing support, and to UCL Creative Media Services, who created the digital images of the manuscripts for our Transcribe Bentham project. We would welcome any comments or feedback about this edition of Martin’s Memorandoms, or additional information which could further improve the resource. Please send them to t.causer [at] ucl.ac.uk.

The Return of Demonic Bentham

By Michael Quinn, on 26 November 2013

Jeremy Seabrook provides an arresting and provocative challenge to the rhetoric underlying cuts in welfare spending, and is acute in pointing out historical echoes of the effort—undertaken in tandem with the contradictory assurance that we are all in this together—to divide the recipients of such spending into the deserving and undeserving poor. I know of the stresses and paralyzing anxieties imposed on recipients of disability benefits by the fitness for work assessments, and agree that singling out the most vulnerable (and therefore least able to resist?) to bear a disproportionate burden is wrong, however effective as a political strategy. However, I do want to take issue with Seabrook over the attitude of Jeremy Bentham to poor relief in general, and to the deserving/undeserving dichotomy in particular.

For Bentham, the question of poor relief highlighted the conflicting imperatives of the two most important subordinate ends of legislation, namely subsistence and security. In 1796 he began a detailed analysis of poor relief, fundamental to which was the distinction between poverty (i.e. dependence on investment of labour for subsistence), the unavoidable condition of almost all mankind, and indigence (i.e. exposure to starvation through lack of property, and inability either to labour, or to procure subsistence despite labour). Relief of poverty was neither possible, nor desirable: upon the ‘natural’ connection between investment of labour and acquisition of subsistence depended the production of both the matter of subsistence, and, by accumulation of surplus productivity, the matter of abundance, or wealth. Bentham was thus an unapologetic advocate of economic competition between individuals as the motor of increasing wealth, while the energy for driving the motor was derived from individual responsibility for individual subsistence in the first place, and for that of helpless dependents in the second.

Bentham analysed the contingencies responsible for indigence, rejecting desert as a criterion for receipt of relief, to which the fact of indigence alone constituted the legitimate claim. He refused, that is to say, the attempt to allocate relief according to a distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor: ‘Neither by good nor by ill desert, can anything be added to, or taken from, the quantum of demand on the score of indigence.’ That said, the state could and should impose deterrent conditions upon relief, since their absence enhanced the attractiveness of dependence on relief as an alternative to self-maintenance, and since making relief more eligible than (i.e. preferable to) independent labour ultimately threatened generalized indigence or widespread starvation. I hesitate to detail Bentham’s conditions, for fear of putting ideas into heads at the Department of Work and Pensions, but they are: first, since the aim was to prevent starvation, relief should be limited to ‘the necessaries of life’. Second, since labouring for subsistence was mankind’s inescapable condition, the indigent too, excepting only those utterly incapable, should be required to labour. Third, since out-allowances, that is cash welfare payments, were incompatible with the efficient extraction of labour, the indigent should be obliged to enter large-scale Industry-Houses.

Seabrook is also absolutely correct in seeing Bentham as an advocate of the private provision of welfare services. Bentham proposed transferring responsibility for relief to a joint-stock company, the National Charity Company, subsidized by receipt of the existing poor rates. The company would build two hundred and fifty panopticon industry-houses in England and Wales, each accommodating two thousand people. Paupers would be occupied largely in ‘self-supply’, that is the production of their own subsistence. It should also be noted, however, that Bentham’s company would differ from modern private providers in the transparency of its management. It should also be noted that Bentham would have rejected utterly the notion of a cap on benefit spending. He called this idea the ‘Limited or Inadequate Provision System’, and he thought it both intellectually disreputable, in drawing an arbitrary ceiling on that spending, so that once that ceiling is reached, no further claims can be met—‘it admits the propriety of a provision at the public charge, and, at the same time, as far as the deficiency extends, refuses to make any such provision’— and morally bankrupt—pregnant ‘with profusion on one side, homicide on the other’.

Finally, it really is time that Bentham’s reference to ‘that part of the national live stock which has no feathers to it, and walks upon two legs’ was recognized for what it is, namely a humorous allusion to Plato’s definition of man in The Statesman, and its parody by Diogenes the Cynic, rather than as an example of Bentham’s own casual inhumanity. Bentham alluded to the definition twice in his poor law writings, the second time in the admittedly complacent and underwhelmingly funny reference quoted by Seabrook, but first in attacking the notion of the rights of man:

‘the pompous, the wordy, the nonsensical, the pretending Plato, fancying he had discovered and was explaining the secret of man’s nature, defined him a two-footed animal without feathers. Stripping a fowl of its feathers and tossing it down into the street among the by-standers, there, cried a contemporary philosopher of more acuteness and pleasantry than humanity, there, cried he, runs Plato’s man. Take a new-born infant, and setting it down in a cart-rut just before a Cart were passing by, thus (might a philosopher of like complection say to a French Constitution-maker) there lies your man, with all his rights. Hold! What are you about? Dare you snatch him up without his consent?—if you do, he is your slave.’

The relentless economies of the National Charity Company are rebarbative enough to a twenty-first century reader—even when set against the raft of ancillary services which they helped to make possible—without adding ill-founded character assassination.

Michael Quinn is Senior Research Associate at the Bentham Project, UCL and editor of two volumes of Jeremy Bentham’s Writings on the Poor Laws (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2001 and 2010).

Bentham and Colombia

By Kris Grint, on 29 July 2013

Bentham and Colombia posterIn July 2013 we welcomed Professor Gonzalo Ramírez from the Universidad Externado de Colombia to the Bentham Project as part of UCL’s International Teaching Excellence Bursary Scheme. In the course of his stay, Professor Ramírez  delivered two fascinating seminars on the subject of Jeremy Bentham and the influence of his philosophy on Colombia.

Professor Ramírez’s first seminar attracted scholars from a wide range of disciplines, from legal philosophers and historians to to those with interests in South American studies. Commencing with an overview of the constitutional history of nineteenth-century Colombia, Professor Ramírez went on to trace the specific influence of Bentham’s thought on this topic. Although Bentham himself never visited Latin America, his philosophy was diffused via the Spanish translation of Dumont’s Traités (published in 1821) and through his extensive correspondence with important Latin American political figures, such as General Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander. The seminar also included a survey of scholarly work which has hitherto focused on Bentham and Colombia, and several hints at where future research should be directed. We are excited to see where this line of study will take Professor Ramírez in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

Gonzalo Ramírez at UCL

In the second seminar, focus switched from the historical to the pedagogical, with Professor Ramírez discussing the novel teaching methods he has employed whilst teaching a course on Bentham at the Universidad Externado de Colombia. Highlighting the use of blogs, social media and podcasts, Professor Ramírez offered valuable advice on how to adopt and utilize these new technologies for teaching purposes. Indeed, perhaps the most impressive feature of the Colombian Bentham course is the weekly podcast produced by the students, which both builds upon the ideas discussed in the seminars and allows distant learners to develop a taste for Bentham scholarship. The seminar also featured a video of Professor Philip Schofield’s (Director of the Bentham Project) recent Skype appearance at the Universidad Externado de Colombia – another example of the innovative use of new technology in academic teaching.

The Bentham Project wishes to thank Professor Ramírez for his excellent contributions whilst at UCL and Ciarán Moynihan and Lorraine Dardis at UCL’s Office for International Affairs for their assistance in organizing the visit.

View or download the slides for these seminars: Bentham and Colombia slides 1Bentham and Colombia slides 2

 

Transcribe Bentham on display

By Tim Causer, on 6 June 2013

Earlier this year, UCL opened its new Octagon Gallery, a new exhibition space for displaying research being carried out at the College. Each exhibition lasts six months, and the newest is on the theme of ‘Digital Transformations’, curated by Claire Ross, Research Assistant at UCL’s Department of Information Studies and Centre for Digital Humanities (amongst other things, Claire is the lead researcher on the award-winning QRator project).

Claire has very kindly included Transcribe Bentham in her exhibition. Four Bentham manuscripts have been installed in the exhibition: JB/027/026/004 (transcribed by Diane Folan), in which Bentham recalls setting fire to ear-wigs as a child; JB/107/110/001 and JB/107/110/002 (transcribed by Joy Lloyd, Chris Leeder, and Melissa Rogers), in which Bentham sets out a series of recipes for his panopticon prison; and JB/079/047/001 as an (admittedly extreme) example of the challenges faced by Transcribe Bentham volunteers in attempting to decipher Bentham’s manuscripts. Below the manuscripts is an interactive ‘data rail’, which shows the transcripts and some contextual information.

Needless to say, we are delighted that the work of Transcribe Bentham‘s volunteers is being showcased in such a prominent spot, and will show off both their considerable efforts and the sort of discoveries which are being made through their transcripts.

We hope that those in the London area might be able to visit, and for those further away, below are a few pictures of the TB part of the exhibit.

(Thanks again to Claire for having TB included in the exhibition, and to UCL Special Collections for their work in preparing and installing the manuscripts).

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Foreign language Bentham scholarship

By Tim Causer, on 10 May 2013

International Bentham scholarship has rarely been in a more healthy shape, and is if to prove the fact, we have received several non-English works on Bentham which we are delighted to tell you about

 

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First is Ο Ιερεμίας Μπένθαμ και η Ελληνική Επανάσταση (Jeremy Bentham and the Greek Revolution), published by the Greek Foundation for Parliamentarism and Democracy (Athens, 2012). The volume was composedby Konstantinos Papageorgiou (scientific direction, Introduction, Appendix, translation, and commentary), Filimon Peonidis (Introduction, Appendix, translation, and commentary), Andreas Takis (translation and commentary), and Yiannis Tassopoulos (translation and commentary).

The book seeks to study the relationship between Bentham and the revolutionary Greek governments, and presents the first critical Greek translations of the many essays and letters Bentham addressed to the Greeks, in the hopes that his philosophy might be put into practice.

Cover Das PanoptikumCover Der radikale Narr des Kapitals

Bentham’s Panopticon is given attention in two German works. First, Panoptikum, oder Das Kontrollhaus (Panopticon, or the Inspection House), published by Matthes & Seitz (Berlin, 2013), edited by Christian Welzbacher and translated by Andreas Leopold Hofbaueur, provides the first critical German translation of Bentham’s Panopticon writings.

Also by Christian Welzbacher is Der Radikale Narr des Kapitals: Jeremy Bentham, das Panoptikum und die Auto-Ikone (The Radical Fool of Capital: Jeremy Bentham, the Panopticon, and the Auto-Icon), published again by Matthes & Seitz (Berlin, 2011). According to the publisher’s website, Welzbacher explores Bentham’s ideas, and ‘shows how the Panopticon and the Auto-Icon were developed in a cosmos of bourgeois cultural history full of abysses and scurrilities’.

Another work in German is Eine Einführung in die Prinzipien der Moral und Gesetzgebung, a translation of Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, published by Verlag Senging (2013), and translated by Irmgard Nash and Richard Seidenkranz.

Finally, is Una Protesta Contra las Tasas Judiciales, a translation of Bentham’s Protest Against Law Taxes, introduced and edited by Andrés de la Oliva Santos, and translated by Guadalupe Rubio de Urquía, published by Thomson Reuters (Madrid, 2013).

If you know of any other recent translations of Bentham’s works, or scholarship on Bentham, do let us know!

 

Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III

By Kris Grint, on 30 April 2013

 

The Bentham Project is pleased to announce the publication of a preliminary edition of Jeremy Bentham’s Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III.

This is the first time that the third volume of Not Paul, but Jesus has been published in any form. The first volume, appearing in 1823, was published under the pseudonym Gamaliel Smith. In the work as a whole, Bentham aimed to drive a wedge between the religion of Jesus and the religion of Paul — between Christianity and Paulism. In this third volume, he focused on sexual morality. This version will eventually be superseded by an authoritative version in the complete edition of Not Paul, but Jesus in the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III by Jeremy Bentham, edited by Philip Schofield, Michael Quinn and Catherine Pease-Watkin, is now freely available to view online, and can also be downloaded as a PDF. An XML version of the text is also available.

Encoding text with XML to the standards of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has been a practice at the heart of the Bentham Project’s research ever since the launch of Transcribe Bentham in 2010. Since that time, Bentham’s manuscripts have been transcribed directly into TEI-compliant XML by volunteers using our Transcription Desk software. We are also converting our legacy transcripts (over 13,000 folios) into this format to ensure their preservation and future usability. These transcripts, along with high-resolution photographs of the original manuscripts, are collected together in UCL’s online digital repository. Not Paul, but Jesus, however, marks the first time an edition of Bentham’s work suitable for publication has been encoded into XML. It has subsequently been transformed, via XSLT, into online and PDF versions. This process posed numerous technical challenges, some of which will be described in subsequent blog posts.

We are grateful to the Leverhulme Trust whose generous grant has made possible the online publication of this important work. We are also grateful to University College London Library for permission to reproduce this transcript of manuscripts in their possession.

We would welcome any comments or feedback about this electronic edition of Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III. Please send them to k.grint [at] ucl.ac.uk.

tranScriptorium

By Tim Causer, on 8 February 2013

We are delighted to say that the Bentham Project, along with UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities, is taking part in tranScriptorium, a project funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme in the ICT for Learning and Access to Cultural Resources challenge.

tranScriptorium intends to develop innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions for the indexing, searching, and full transcription of manuscript images, using Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology.

The project consortium is as follows:

For our part, UCL will be providing expertise in manuscripts, transcription, digital humanities and crowdsourcing, and images and transcripts of Bentham manuscripts.

tranScriptorium promises to be an extremely exciting project, and one in which we are greatly looking forward to participating in. For more detail, please visit the project website, and keep up to date at the Facebook page, or follow @tranScriptorium on Twitter.

Transcribe Bentham’s second anniversary

By Tim Causer, on 14 September 2012

On 7 September 2010, Transcribe Bentham was officially launched upon an unsuspecting public, with the aim of recruiting volunteers from around the world, whatever their background, to help transcribe the unpublished manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham. Our initial progress was steady, if not necessarily spectacular: by the end of our testing period on 8 March 2011 (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council), 1,009 manuscripts had been transcribed or partially transcribed, of which 569 (56%) were complete. The end of April 2011 also saw the cessation of our twelve-month AHRC grant, and the project’s future did not look particularly promising.

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article (citing a paper by TB staff published in Literary and Linguistic Computing earlier this year), notes our finding that had the two full-time members of staff employed for Transcribe Bentham instead been devoted to transcription alone for twelve months, then they could have produced around two and-a-half times as many transcripts as volunteers would have done in the same period. This finding is certainly true of the state of play at the end of the testing period, but due to the vagaries of academic publishing schedules, it by no means represents what TB and its volunteers have done since, nor the current state of progress. After the testing period ended, Transcribe Bentham won a major international award, its ‘Transcription Desk’ software (developed by the University of London Computer Centre) was released on an open source basis for others to reuse and customise, and (we hope) the project has helped to promote scholarly crowdsourcing and Bentham studies over the past two years.

Most impressive of all, however, has been the sheer volume of work carried out by (an admittedly small core of) TB volunteers, despite the project being run on minimal funding for the past eighteen months, and having rather less staff time devoted to it than is ideal. As 7 September 2012, 4,255 manuscripts have been transcribed or partially transcribed. 4,033 (94%) of these transcripts are now complete. This means that they are of the required standard for uploading to UCL’s digital repository, and for use, ultimately, in the production of future volumes of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

This means that volunteer transcribers have achieved yet another landmark, having completed over 4,000 transcripts (or over 2.1 million words, plus extensive XML markup). There are often worries about the quality of the products of crowdsourced tasks, but we are delighted to report that despite having to deal with Bentham’s handwriting, syntax, style, and occasional habit of almost obliterating a page with deletions, marginalia and interlineal additions, the work of transcribers is of an extremely high standard. The amount of effort, care and attention that TB volunteers put in to ensure that their work is accurate is second to none. They are also transcribing at a faster rate than one full-time member of staff could manage if she or he were devoted solely to transcribing; an unlikely scenario, given our multifarious duties! We are very lucky that they have chosen to participate, and that they continue to do so.

So, where next for the intiative? Transcribe Bentham will at the heart of the Consolidated Bentham Papers Repository, a project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which begins officially on 1 October, and is funded for two years. This will see much of the UCL Bentham Papers digitised and made available for transcription and research, as well as all of the Bentham material held by our new partner institution, the British Library. Significant improvements will be made to the transcription interface to make the process more straightforward for volunteers, and we will be consulting with transcribers as to what kind of improvements they would find useful (this software will, again, be released on an open source basis for other projects to utilise). We hope this new interface will prove to be more attractive to current and potential volunteers, and further increase the rate of transcription. We have also received some further exciting news, and look forward to talking about that in the coming months.

As ever, we end by thanking our volunteers as without them, there would be no Transcribe Bentham. We remain hugely grateful for their time and efforts, and think that the work they do should be celebrated. You can keep up to date with the progress of Transcribe Bentham at the project’s blog, and register to participate at the Transcription Desk.

Jeremy Bentham’s third head

By Tim Causer, on 23 July 2012

Of those who know something of Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon—his preserved skeleton, dressed in his clothes, which sits in a box here at UCL—a few will be aware that Bentham originally planned that his real (preserved) head would form part of the display. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your point of view—the result of the preservation process was decidedly unpleasant; those brave enough can have a look at the real thing in this Bentham Project video. Though the real head used to be displayed in a box of its own, on top of the auto-icon cabinet, it is no longer on public display as it has been classed as ‘human remains’. The head is extremely fragile (don’t believe those myths about students kicking it around like a football), and is now stored in environmentally-controlled conditions at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology. Access to it is very rarely granted, as even the slightest motion can cause hairs to fall off.

Bentham’s auto-icon, with Bentham’s first head

The preserved original head has never been part of the auto-icon. Since the process went so awry, a second head was created and it is this one with which most will be familiar. It wears Bentham’s hat, and some of his real hair was threaded into the wax. This second head is apparently an extremely good likeness—Bentham’s friend (Lord) Henry Brougham suggested that it was ‘so perfect that it seems as if alive’—and is certainly far less disturbing than the first.

The second head: the official version

Much less well-known is Bentham’s third head, though it is far less official than the other two. It is another (much cruder) wax head, this time dating from the 1980s. One suspects that Lord Brougham would not have been so taken with this likeness, which is more country squire than utilitarian philosopher. Housed in a wooden box of its own, it was on display at the Jeremy Bentham pub—located just a quick walk from the auto-icon, on University Street—until a few years ago, when the pub underwent renovation works. The head was going to be disposed of and was salvaged by the Bentham Project, and had been stored in Room 112 at 26 Gordon Square (currently my office) ever since.

The third head: a little too long out in the sun

We are currently in the process of moving offices, and there will be no room for the third head in my new room. Fortunately, UCL’s Student Union is providing it with sanctuary, and it should ultimately be displayed there. We are very glad that it is going to a good home, and look forward to seeing it on public access again. (I must admit that I won’t miss its orange visage staring out at me from its box).

Update, 21 May 2013: If you want to see Bentham’s third head, it is now on display in the Huntley Bar at UCLU.