Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section 4.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires, that, of this Rationale, the several parts be placed in the most immediate contact with the several arrangements to which they respectively apply. Rationale, interwoven, not detached. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Section 4.: The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires, that, of this Rationale, the several parts be placed in the most immediate contact with the several arrangements to which they respectively apply. Rationale, interwoven, not detached. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 4.
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.
The greatest happiness of the greatest number requires, that, of this Rationale, the several parts be placed in the most immediate contact with the several arrangements to which they respectively apply. Rationale, interwoven, not detached.
1. Instances have appeared, in which, in the place of sets of reasons, attached, each set, to a correspondent arrangement taken by itself,—in place of this perpetually interwoven accompaniment,—a general preliminary discourse has been employed, prefixed, the whole of it, to this or that portion of the body of the laws. Forming a body apart, this substitute to sets of separately and contiguously attached reasons, will not, in any tolerable degree, fulfil any one of the purposes above mentioned.
Neither in respect of clearness, of correctness, nor of completeness, will it be able to stand any comparison with them.
Taken together, it will constitute a work, altogether distinct and detached from the work to which it professes to give a support, and of which it professes to make a part.
In the case of no one of the several classes of persons in question—neither in the case of the draughtsman, nor in the case of the subject citizen, nor in the case of the judge, nor in the case of the legislator, will it operate with any considerable effect, towards any of the purposes above enumerated: in particular, neither to the feet of the subject citizen will it be a lamp, nor in the case of the draughtsman, the legislator, or the judge, a bridle to the mouth. In the mind of the reader, losing their appropriate contiguity, the several parts of it will lose their application, if they have any: their application, their import, their binding force, their instructive effect.
2. When the first of the codes established by Buonaparte was first published—(it was the penal code)—attached to it was a sort of accompaniment, in the form above mentioned, viz. that of a separate and preliminary discourse. It was composed of a tissue of vague generalities, floating in the air, in the character of general principles. In that form was it delivered, and not in the form of reasons,—reasons applied, in the discourse, to the several particular arrangements, to which, in each man’s mind, they were respectively meant to apply? In that nebulous form,—and why? Because this rule of action, not having for its main end in view the above-mentioned all-comprehensive and only proper end, the greatest happiness of the greatest number,—not having for its main end any other object than the individual happiness of the individual despot of whose will it was the expression, and from whose power it was to derive its force,—the tenor of it was, from first to last, in numerous points, such, for which no reasons that could bear the light could be given: and it was for this same cause that a clear arrangement, which he knew of, and which had passed under his review, had been actually put aside: yes, contained as it was in a work, his approbation of which had been pointedly declared,* put aside, and an arrangement, which had for its undeniable purpose the organization of an all-comprehensive and appropriate system of confusion, was employed in preference.
The one put aside? Why? Because, having throughout for its object the greatest happiness of the greatest number, it took throughout, for its principle or source of distribution, the manner in which, by the several acts in question, that happiness is effected. The other employed? Why? Because, having for its main object the personal interest of the lawgiver, as above, it had for its principle or source of distribution, the manner in which, in respect of those acts, it was his will, because, in his view of the matter, it was his interest, according to his own conception of his interest, that men should be dealt with. Offences made punishable in the highest degree,—offences made punishable in the next highest degree but one—offences made punishable in the lowest degree: such has been, such continues to be, the classification—the logic—of tyranny and misrule, every where. Look for example to the matchless constitution—the envy and admiration of the world. Would you learn the difference in the nature of different classes of punishable misdeeds? It is from the intimation given of the several masses of punishment attached to them, that you must guess at it as well as you can: this must be your clue; for there is no other. It is from the words treason, unclergyable felony, clergyable felony, premunire, and misdemeanor.
3. Such being the principle of arrangement,—instead of reasons, formed by application of the principle of utility, and making reference throughout to the only legitimate end,—reasons all along particularly apposite to, and placed in contiguity with, the several particular arrangements they were meant to be applied to,—instead of any such really useful accompaniment, came the above-mentioned preliminary discourse: a glittering object, floating in the air, and composed of clouds. Why any such preliminary discourse? Answer: that, in the eyes of the prostrate multitude, a display might be made of extent and profundity of reflection: that where, in comparison of what might have been done, little good was really done, much might be thought to be done.
4. In the newly-erected kingdom of Bavaria—erected under that same ever-selfish, though never needlessly cruel despot’s influence—under that same influence, a penal code, with the same arrangement, and the same sort of accompaniment, was established.†
5. Not many years ago, in a political state not altogether so ample in extent, the above-mentioned natural principle of arrangement having been adopted,—the attaching of a rationale, samples of which lay on the table, was proposed. It was not accepted. For what alleged reason was it that reasons were not to be admitted? For this reason—that reasons are dry things. Gay and amusing in its own nature, a code of law would be divested of those its pleasant qualities, if any such dry matter as that which is composed of reasons were intermixed with it. This gay reason, is it possible that it should have been the real one? Impossible. What, then, could have been the real one? What but this—that, in the place of the sort of matter thus cast out,—those by whom it was cast out having to insert some matter of their own, by which no such test as that of reason, deduced as above from the greatest-happiness principle, could have been endured,—having some object of particular and latent interest—of interest-begotten prejudice—of authority-begotten, or of habit-begotten prejudice or caprice,—to stick in—or something good, to which those powers were adverse, to keep out—thus it was, that against an inmate so inconvenient and troublesome as reason, the door was shut. If any cause that can better bear the light can be found, it were well that it should see the light: if, in the eyes of those by whom this exclusion was effected, it be honourable to them, it were pity the honour should not be reaped by them. Invitation is here given to them to produce their names, and thus to come forth and claim it.
6. To the draughtsman principal in labour and eminence, permission was (it is said) given to give reasons: but these reasons were to be his, and not the legislator’s, and, lest they should be too clear, too closely apposite, too instructive,—they were to put off the garb of particular reasons—they were to be rarefied and sublimated, and confounded as above, into the form of a general preliminary discourse.
In a lately published tract on the Spanish proposed penal code,‡ may be seen the sort of notice taken by the draughtsman in the Cortes, of the demand that (it seems) had on that occasion been made, for something in the nature of a rationale, and the sort of apology by which the giving satisfaction to that demand was evaded. So far as regarded the legislators themselves, assurance was given to them, that every demand of that sort stood completely superseded, by the consummateness of the wisdom of those same legislators: and, as to the rest of the people—of that people for whose benefit the demand for this instrument of elucidation, justification, instruction, and satisfaction, might by some be thought to have place—that people from whom the draughtsman, and those colleagues of his whom he was addressing, derived all the authority they could pretend to—no such objects (it should seem) happened to present themselves to the draughtsman’s view.
Whatsoever cause for regret the omission may in that case have afforded, no just cause of wonder can it afford in any case. The easiest of all literary works, bulk for bulk, is a code of law stark naked: a code altogether bare of reasons in any shape: next to the easiest, a code with no other habiliment than a separate tissue of vague and commonplace generalities, with a gloss of reason on the surface of it. Not only the most important, but the most difficult of all human works, may be safely pronounced, an uniformly apt and all-comprehensive code of law, accompanied with a perpetually-interwoven rationale, drawn from the greatest happiness principle, as above.
[* ]“C’est un ouvrage de genie” were the words, as almost immediately reported to the author of this address. Not to speak of discernment, such was the candour and magnanimity which, in the mind of that extraordinary man, embellished his selfish prudence.
[† ]See Papers on Codification, &c. p. 514.
[‡ ]Letters to Count Toreno, &c. Letter V.