Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: ALLEGORICAL IDOLS—( ad imaginationem. ) - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER IV.: ALLEGORICAL IDOLS—( ad imaginationem. ) - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ALLEGORICAL IDOLS—(ad imaginationem.)
Exposition.—The use of this fallacy is the securing to persons in office, respect independent of good behaviour. This is in truth only a modification of the fallacy of vague generalities, exposed in the preceding chapter. It consists in substituting for men’s proper official denomination, the name of some fictitious entity, to whom, by customary language, and thence opinion, the attribute of excellence has been attached.
Examples:—1. Government; for members of the governing body. 2. The law; for lawyers. 3. The church; for churchmen. The advantage is, the obtaining for them more respect than might be bestowed on the class under its proper name.
Exposure.—I. Government. In its proper sense, in which it designates the set of operations, it is true, and universally acknowledged, that everything valuable to man depends upon it: security against evil in all shapes, from external adversaries as well as domestic.
II. Law: execution of the law.—By this it is that men receive whatsoever protection they receive against domestic adversaries and disturbers of their peace. By government—law—the law—are therefore brought to view the naturalest and worthiest objects of respect and attachment within the sphere of a man’s observance: and for conciseness and ornament (not to speak of deception) the corresponding fictitious entities are feigned, and represented as constantly occupied in the performance of the above-mentioned all-preserving operations. As to the real persons so occupied, if they were presented in their proper character, whether collectively or individually, they would appear clothed in their real qualities, good and bad together. But, as presented by means of this contrivance, they are decked out in all their good and acceptable qualities, divested of all their bad and unacceptable ones. Under the name of the god Æsculapius, Alexander the impostor, his self-constituted high priest, received to his own use the homage and offerings addressed to his god. Acquired, as it is believed, comparatively within late years, this word government has obtained a latitude of import in a peculiar degree adapted to the sinister purpose here in question. From abstract, the signification has become, as the phrase is, concrete. From the system, in all its parts taken together, it has been employed to denote the whole assemblage of the individuals employed in the carrying on of the system—of the individuals who, for the time being, happen to be members of the official establishment, and of these more particularly, and even exclusively, such of them as are members of the administrative branch of that establishment. For the designation either of the branch of the system, or of the members that belong to it, the language had already furnished the word administration. But the word administration would not have suited the purpose of this fallacy: accordingly, by those who feel themselves to have an interest in the turning it to account, to the proper word administration, the too ample, and thence improper word government, has been, probably by a mixture of design and accident, commonly substituted.
This impropriety of speech being thus happily and successfully established, the fruits of it are gathered in every day. Point out an abuse—point to this or that individual deriving a profit from the abuse: up comes the cry, “You are an enemy to government!” then, with a little news in advance, “Your endeavour is to destroy government!” Thus you are a Jacobin, an anarchist, and so forth: and the greater the pains you take for causing government to fulfil, to the greatest perfection, the professed ends of its institution the greater the pains taken to persuade those who wish, or are content to be deceived, that you wish and endeavour to destroy it.
III. Church.—This is a word particularly well adapted to the purpose of this fallacy. To the elements of confusion shared by it with government and law, it adds divers proper to itself. The significations indifferently attachable to the word Church are—1. Place of worship; 2. Inferior officers engaged by government to take a leading part in the ceremonies of worship;* 3. All the people considered as worshippers; 4. The superior officers of government by whom the inferior, as above, are engaged and managed; 5. The rules and customs respecting those ceremonies.
The use of this fallacy to churchmen, is the giving and securing to them a share of coercive power; their sole public use, and even original destination, being the serving the people in the capacity of instructors—instructing them in a branch of learning, now more thoroughly learnt without than from them.† In the phrase “church and state,” churchmen are represented as superior to all non-churchmen. By “church and king,” churchmen are represented as superior to the king. Fox and Norfolk were struck off the the list of privy councillors for drinking “The sovereignty of the people:” the reduction would be greater, were all struck off who have ever drank “Church and king.” According to Bishop Warburton’s Alliance, the people in the character of the church, meeting with all themselves in the character of the state, agreed to invest the expounders of the sacred volume with a large share of the sovereignty. Against this system, the lawyers, their only rivals, were estopped from pleading its seditiousness in bar. In Catholic countries, the churchmen who compose Holy Mother Church possess one beautiful female, by whom the people are governed in the field of spiritual law, within which has been inclosed as much as possible of profane law. By Protestants, on Holy Mother Church the title of Whore of Babylon has been conferred: they recognise no Holy Mother Church. But in England, churchmen, a large portion of them, compose two Almæ Matres Academiæ—kind Mother Academies or Universities. By ingenuity such as this, out of “lubberly post-masters’ boys” in any number, one “sweet Mrs. Anne Page” is composed, fit to be decked out in elements of amiability to any extent. The object and fruit of this ingenuity is the affording protection to all abuses and imperfections attached to this part of the official establishment. Church being so excellent a being, none but a monster can be an enemy, a foe to her. Monster, i. e. anarchist, Jacobin, leveller, &c. To every question having reform or improvement in view as to this part of the official establishment, the answer is one and the same: “You are an enemy to the church.” For instance, among others, to such questions as follow:—1. What does this part of the official establishment do, but read or give further explanation to one book, of which more explanation has been given already than the longest life would suffice to hear? 2. Does not this suppose a people incapable of being taught to read? 3. Would it not be more read if each of them, being able to read, had it constantly by him to read all through, than by their being at liberty some of them to go miles to hear small parts of it? Suppose it admitted, that by the addition of other services conducive to good morals and good government, business for offices not much inferior to the existing ecclesiastical offices might be found, then go on and ask—1. As to the connexion between reward and service, do not the same rules apply to these as to profane offices? 2. Pay unconditioned-for service,—is it more effectual in producing service here than there? 3. Here more than there,—can a man serve in a place without being there? 4. Here, as there, is not a man’s relish for the business proved the greater, the smaller the factitious reward he is content to receive for doing it? 5. The stronger such his relish, is not his service likely to be the better? 6. Over and above what, if anything, is necessary to engage him to render the service, does not every penny contribute to turn him aside to other and expensive occupations, by furnishing him with the means? 7. In Scotland, where there is less pay, is not residence more general, and clerical service more abundant and efficient?
Answer: Enemy!—and, if English-bred, Apostate!
1. In Scotland, does any evil arise from the non-existence of bishops? 2. In the House of Lords, any good? 3. Is not non-attendance there more general than even non-residence elsewhere? 4. In judiciali, does any bishop ever attend, who is not laid hold of after reading prayers? 5. In legislatura, ever, except where personal interest wears the mask of gratitude? 6. Such non-attendance, is it not felt rather as a relief than as a grievance?
Answer: “Enemy to the church!”
1. In Ireland, what is the use of Protestant priests to Catholics, who will neither hear nor see them? to whom they are known but as plunderers? 2. By such exemption from service, is not value of preferment increased? 3. By patrons, as by incumbents, are not bishopricks thus estimated? 4. Is it not there a maxim, that service and pay should be kept in separate hands? 5. In eyes not less religious than gracious, is not the value of religion inversely as the labour, as well as directly as the profit? 6. Is not this estimate the root of those scruples, by which oaths imposed to protect Protestantism from being oppressed, are employed in securing to it the pleasure of oppressing?
Answer: “Enemy to the church!”
[* ]Articles 19, 20.
[† ]Ex. gr. from unordained Methodists, &c. and Quakers.