From Fourth International, Vol.2 No.10, December 1941, pp.309-311.
Transcription & mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Jeremy Bentham is a purely English phenomenon. Not even excepting our German philosopher, Christian Wolff, in no time and in no country has the most homespun commonplace ever strutted about in so self-satisfied a way. The principle of utility was no discovery of Bentham. He simply reproduced in his own untalented way what Helvetius and other Frenchmen had said so spiritedly in the 18th century. To know what is useful, say, for a dog, one must study dognature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticize all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the “principle of utility” must first deal with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. But for Bentharn these questions are inconsequential. With the dullest naivetÃ© he takes the modern petty-bourgeois philistine, especially the English philistine, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer variety of normal man, and to his world, is useful in and for itself. This yardstick, then, he applies to past, present and future. The Christian religion, for example, is “useful,” because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law. Artistic criticism is “harmful,” because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Tupper (the Edgar Guest of his day – Ed.) et cetera. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, “nulla dies sine lineas” (let no day pass without writing your quota), piled up mountains of books. Had I the courage of my friend Heinrich Heine, I should call Mr. Jeremy a genius of bourgeois stupidity. – Karl Marx, Das Kapital, vol.I. Footnote to Chapter XXII.
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