chapter  8
Bentham's Critique of Political Fallacies by J. H. Burns
Pages 14

There is a kind of justice in the concentration of so much academic attention on the fallacies of Bentham's utilitarianism; for Bentham himself was unsparing in his condemnation of what he took to be the fallacies of others. Yet to concentrate on Bentham's defects as a creative or constructive thinker is, however just the censures, to miss one of the most valuable parts of his work. It was perhaps as a critic of ideas and arguments that Bentham most frequently succeeded, and a desirable correction of a certain disequilibrium in common assessments of his achievement may have set in with the reappearance two decades ago, in a modern and somewhat popularized version, of The Book of Fallacies.1 But there is still little evidence that the Bentham known to most readers is other than the old Bentham, to be found in the early chapters of the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation and such parts of the Fragment on Government as the perhaps exasperated reader has got through. True, no one can read even this much without sensing Bentham's critical powers in the detection of fallacious reasoning; but despite Professor Larrabee's edition, the dialectical skill and pungency (and the fun) of The Book of Fallacies remain largely unknown. And apart from an overquoted phrase about natural rights, Bentham's devastating attack on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is still more profoundly buried in the uninviting pages of the Bowring edition of his Works.