The focus in Bentham’s Limits is on legislative action for instituting an ideal code. His concern is ‘to lay the foundation for the plan of a compleat body of laws, supposing it to be constructed ab origine , according to a method of division grounded on natural and universal principles’. 2

The ideal Bentham has in view puts great demands on the rationality of the legislator. The body of laws envisaged for the code would be complete and it would exhibit in a transparent way which aspect (command, prohibition, permission, non-command) the legislator’s will has to any conceivable human act. 3 The theoretical framework would ‘exhibit a common standard, to which the several systems of law prevailing in every country may respectively be compared’. 4 It would be part of ‘universal jurisprudence’. 5 And so, in the method of teaching the art of legislation, ‘the imagination of the legislator may make room for the judgment and industry of the Professor’. 6

Bentham had great confidence in the future role of logic for pursuing the plan he had in view. He referred to Aristotle’s theory of syllogisms and its elaboration for the several kinds of deduction known as barbara, celarent, darii, etc. 7 Also, he was assured of the great future possibilities of the logic of imperation introduced by himself, this logic having for its object, not sentences of assertion but rather sentences of volition . 8

Modern deontic logic is a successor of Bentham’s logic of imperation. For doing justice to the richness of ideas in Bentham’s project of a legal code, the field of deontic logic, however, is too narrow. The present essay has a wider perspective, starting from the formal theory of normative systems. Since Bentham’s project is much concerned with the activity of a rational legislator, there will be a focus on legislative action. With a few exceptions for some well-known and elementary signs, the exposition is formulated in ordinary language without logical symbols.