Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: PROBLEM I. To divert the course of Dangerous Desires, and direct the inclination towards those amusements which are most conformed to the public interest. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law)
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CHAPTER IV.: PROBLEM I. To divert the course of Dangerous Desires, and direct the inclination towards those amusements which are most conformed to the public interest. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 1.
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The object of direct legislation is to combat pernicious desires, by prohibitions and punishments directed against the hurtful acts to which those desires may give birth. The object of indirect legislation is to countermine their influence, by augmenting the force of the less dangerous desires which may enter into competition with them.
There are two objects to be considered:—What are the desires which it would be desirable to weaken? By what means may we attain this end?
Pernicious desires may arise from three sources:—1st, The malevolent passions; 2d, The fondness for inebriating liquors; 3d, The love of idleness.
The methods of diminishing them may be reduced to three heads:—1. The encouraging kindly feelings; 2. The favouring the consumption of non-inebriating liquors, in preference to those which intoxicate; 3. The avoidance of forcing men into a state of idleness.
Some persons may be astonished that the catalogue of the sources of vicious inclinations is so limited; but they must be made to observe, that in the human heart there is no passion absolutely bad: there is no one which does not need direction—there is no one which ought to be destroyed. It is said, that when the angel Gabriel prepared the prophet Mahomet for his mission, he took out of his heart a black spot which contained the seed of evil. Unhappily this operation is not practicable in the hearts of ordinary men. The seeds of good and evil are inseparately mixed: inclinations are governed by motives. But motives are constituted by pains and pleasures; by all pains to be avoided, by all pleasures to be pursued. Hence all these motives may produce all sorts of effects, from the best to the worst.
They are trees, which bear excellent fruits, or poisons, according to the aspect in which they are found, according to the culture of the gardener, and even according to the wind which prevails, and the temperature of the day. The most pure benevolence, too confined in its object, or mistaking its means, will be productive of crimes: selfish affections, though they may occasionally become hurtful, are constantly most necessary; and notwithstanding their deformity, the malevolent passions are always at least useful—as means of defence, as securities against the invasions of personal interest. No one affection of the human heart ought therefore to be eradicated, since there is not one which does not act its part in the system of utility. All that is required, is to work upon these inclinations according to the direction which they take, and the effects which can be foreseen. It may be possible also to establish a useful balance among them, by fortifying those which are usually weak, and weakening those which are too strong. It is thus that a farmer directs the course of the waters, that he may not impoverish his meadows, and prevents their inundation by dykes. The art of constructing dykes consists in not directly opposing the violence of the current, which would carry away every obstacle placed directly in its front.
The desire for intoxicating liquors is, properly speaking, the only one which can be extirpated without producing any evil, since the irascible passions, as I have said, are a necessary stimulant in the cases in which individuals have to protect themselves from injuries, and to repel the attacks of their enemies. The love of repose is not hurtful in itself; indolence is, however, an evil, inasmuch as it favours the ascendancy of evil passions. At all times, these three desires may be considered as requiring to be equally resisted. It need scarcely be dreaded, lest we should be too successful in overcoming the inclination to idleness, or that it will be possible to reduce the vindictive passions below the point of their utility.
The first expedient, I have said, consists in encouraging innocent amusements. This is one branch of the very complicated but undefined science which consists in advancing civilization. The state of barbarism differs from that of civilization by two characteristics:—1. By the force of the irascible appetites; 2. By the small number of objects of enjoyment which offer themselves to the concupiscible appetites.*
The occupations of a savage, when he has procured the necessaries for his physical wants—the only wants he knows—are soon described: the pursuit of vengeance—the pleasures of intoxication, if he possess the means—sleep, or the most complete indolence: these are all his resources. Each of his inclinations is favourable to the developement and action of every other: resentment finds easy access to an empty mind; idleness is the door of drunkenness, and drunkenness produces quarrels which nourish and multiply quarrels. The pleasures of love not being complicated by the sentimental refinements which embellish and strengthen them, do not occupy a conspicuous part in the life of the savage, and do not go far in filling up the intervals of his labours.
Under a regular government, the necessity of revenge is suppressed by legal protection, and the pleasure of giving way to it is repressed by fear of punishment. The power of indolence is weakened, but the love of intoxicating liquors is not diminished. A nation of savages, and a nation of hunters, are convertible terms. The life of a hunter offers long intervals of leisure, as well as that of a fisherman, provided they understand the means of preserving the species of food which they obtain. But in a civilized state, the mass of the community is composed of labourers and artisans, who have no more leisure than is required for relaxation and sleep. The misfortune is, that the passion for strong drinks may be gratified in the midst of a life of labour, and they may be taken during the hours set apart for repose. Poverty restrains it among the inferior classes; but artisans, whose labour is better paid for, may make great sacrifices to this fatal desire; and the richer classes may devote to it all their time. Hence we see that, in the rude ages, the superior classes have divided their life between war—the chase, which is the image of war—the animal functions, and long repasts, of which drunkenness was the chief attraction. The detail of such scenes formed the whole history of a great proprietor, of a grand feudal Baron, in the Gothic ages. The privilege of this noble warrior, of this noble hunter, seems to have been to prolong, in a more civilized society, the occupations and the character of the savage.
This being the case, every innocent amusement that the human heart can invent is useful under a double point of view:—1st, For the pleasure itself, which results from it; 2d, From its tendency to weaken the dangerous inclinations which man derives from his nature. And when I speak of innocent amusements, I mean all those which cannot be shown to be hurtful. Their introduction being favourable to the happiness of society, it is the duty of the legislator to encourage them, or, at least, not to oppose any obstacle to them. I shall mention the sources of some, commencing with those which are regarded as most gross, and proceeding to those which are considered as more refined:—
1. The introduction of a variety of aliments, and the improvement of horticulture applied to the production of nutritive vegetables.
2. The introduction of non-intoxicating liquors, of which coffee and tea are the principal. These two articles, which some superficial minds would be surprised to find occupying a place in a catalogue of moral objects, are so much the more useful, since they come in direct competition with intoxicating liquors.†
3. The improvement of every thing which constitutes elegance, whether of dress or furniture, the embellishment of gardens, &c.
4. The invention of games for passing the time, whether athletic or sedentary, among which the game of chess holds a distinguished rank: I exclude only games of chance. These tranquil games have brought the sexes more nearly upon an equality, and have diminished ennui, the peculiar malady of the human race, and especially of the opulent and the aged.
5. The cultivation of music.
6. Theatres, assemblies, and public amusements.‡
7. The cultivation of the arts, sciences, and literature.
When we consider these different sources of enjoyment, as opposed to the necessary means of providing subsistence, they are called objects of luxury: if their tendency be such as has been suggested, how singular soever it may appear, luxury is rather a source of virtue than of vice.
This branch of policy has not been entirely neglected, but it has been cultivated in a political, rather than in a moral view. The object has rather been, to render the people tranquil and submissive to government, than to render the citizens more united among themselves, more happy, more industrious, more honest.
The games of the circus were one of the principal objects of attention among the Romans. It was not merely a method of conciliating the affections of the people, but also of diverting their attention from public affairs. The saying of Pylades to Augustus is well known.
Cromwell, whose ascetic principles did not allow him to use this resource, had no other means of occupying the minds of his countrymen, than engaging the nation in foreign wars.
At Venice, a government jealous to excess of its authority, showed the greatest indulgence to pleasures.
The processions and other religious festivals of Catholic countries partly accomplished the same object as the games of the circus.
All these institutions have been considered by political writers as so many means of softening the yoke of power—of turning the minds of men towards agreeable objects, and preventing them from occupying themselves with the affairs of government. This effect, without having been the object of their establishment, has caused them to obtain more favour when they have been established.
Peter I. had recourse to a greater and more generous policy.
The manners of the Russians, with the exception of sobriety, were more Asiatic than European. Peter I., desirous of moderating their grossness, and softening the ferocity of their manners, employed some expedients which were perhaps a little too direct. He employed every possible encouragement, and went so far as to use violence, in order to introduce the European dress, the amusements, the assemblies, the arts, of Europeans. To lead his subjects to the imitation of the other nations of Europe, was, in other terms, to civilize them. But he found the greatest resistance to all these innovations. Envy, jealousy, contempt, and a multitude of antisocial passions, rendered them disinclined to an assimilation to these rival strangers. These passions no longer recognised their object when the visible marks of distinction were effaced. By taking away that exterior which distinguished them, he took away from them, so to speak, the pretext and aliment of these hateful rivalries. He associated them with the great republic of Europe, and he gained every thing for them by this association.
The rigid compulsory observance of the Sabbath, as in Scotland, in some parts of Germany, and in England, is a violation of this policy, which has no foundation in the Gospels, and is even contrary to many texts and positive examples.
Happy the people who, rising above brutal and gross vices, study elegance of manners, the pleasures of society, the embellishments of their places of resort, the fine arts, the sciences, public amusements, and exercises of mind. The religions which inspire sadness—the governments which render men mistrustful, and separate them one from another, contain the germs of the greatest vices and of the most hurtful passions.
[* ]This distinction of the schoolmen is sufficiently complete: to the first class belong the pleasures of malevolence; to the second, all other pleasures.
[† ]The celebrated Hogarth painted two pictures, called Beer Street and Gin Street. In the first, every thing breathes an air of gaiety and health; in the second, of misery and disease. This admirable artist wished to instruct by his pencil, and had reflected more upon morals than many who give themselves out as professors of this science.
[‡ ]“I have heard M. d’Argenson say, that when he was lieutenant of police, there were more irregularities and debaucheries committed in Paris during the Easter fortnight, when the theatres were shut, than during the four months of the season during which they were open.”—Memoirs de Pollnitz, tom. iii.