chapter  X
11 Pages

Private Deontology

In Chapter I it was claimed that the disciples who gathered around Bentham’s corpse at his death looked up to him as a teacher of public control and organisation (law, institutions, government, education) rather than of purely private morality; and for the twenty years preceding his death Bentham’s main effort was devoted to trying to perfect the separate parts of his pannomiom, that is, his complete legal system, rather than working out a system of personal ethics. Day after day he steadily filled up ten to fifteen pages with writing on the civil code, the penal code, the constitutional code, and the procedure code. As described in Chapter I, for a time at least, the work on private ethics, the Deontology, was left for after dinner, as a comparative frivolity to be dictated to Bowring along with the Autobiography, a work which in many ways it resembles, after the serious business of codification was over. When the Deontology was published by Bowring, shortly after Bentham’s death, it was disowned as a true expression of Bentham’s views by disciples with a good knowledge of his mind, such as Place or the Mills. Since the Deontology is the only work in which Bentham concerns himself at any length with questions of morality, the simplest conclusion might be to ignore private morality altogether in an account of Bentham’s views. Certainly, one modern commentator, Mary Peter Mack, has held that Bentham does not have any views about private morality (Mack 1962); and another, David Baumgardt, in his massive, six hundred page survey of Bentham’s ethics as a whole, refused to subject the Deontology to the same detailed commentary as Bentham’s other works (Baumgardt 1952).