Jeremy Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation: "Chapter I: Of the Principle of Utility"

Read the first chapter, "Of the Principle of Utility," from this 1780 text in which Bentham justifies the principle that the morality of our actions depends on the consequences produced. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham was the first to formalize the moral principle that whether our actions are right or wrong is a matter of the consequences they produce (i.e. how much happiness and how much unhappiness results from them). It is important to note that, although Bentham places a lot of emphasis on the pleasure and pain experienced by the individual person, he is not recommending that our laws should be guided purely by individual hedonism, but by a collective responsibility to improve the happiness of everyone in society.