From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Jeremy Bentham, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Bentham. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Bentham for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Jeremy Bentham in no particular order.
Bentham: A Guide for the Perplexed – Philip Schofield
Publisher description: Bentham: A Guide for the Perplexed presents a clear account of his life and thought, and highlights his relevance to contemporary debates in philosophy, politics, and law. Key concepts and themes, including Bentham’s theory of logic and language, his utilitarianism, his legal theory, his panopticon prison, and his democratic politics-together with his views on religion, sex, and torture-are lucidly explored. The book also contains an illuminating discussion of the nature of the text from the perspective of an experienced textual editor.
Bentham – James Steintrager
Publisher description: First published in 1977 this volume challenges the accepted interpretations of Bentham’s political thought and in particular the landmark criticism by John Stuart Mill and Elie Halévy, the author consulted the extensive manuscript collections left by Bentham to the University of London and the British museum in the preparation of this volume.
Selected Writings – Jeremy Bentham
Publisher description: Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), philosopher and reformer, is one of the most influential thinkers of the modern age. This introduction to his writings presents a representative selection of texts authoritatively restored by the Bentham Project, University College London. As well as more familiar pieces on utility, law, and politics/policy, highlights include the succinct essay “On Retrenchment” and a never-before-published treatise on sex. The volume is completed by major interpretative essays by Mark Canuel, David Lieberman, Jennifer Pitts, and Philip Schofield.
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation – Jeremy Bentham
Publisher description: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislations, Jeremy Bentham’s best-known work, is a classic text in modern philosophy and jurisprudence. First published in 1789, it contains the important statement of the foundations of utilitarian philosophy and a pioneering study of crime and punishment, both of which remain at the heart of contemporary debates in moral and political philosophy, economics, and legal theory. A new introduction by the leading Bentham scholar F. Rosen, specially written for this edition, provides students with a helpful survey of Bentham’s main ideas and an extensive bibliographical study of recent critical work on Bentham.
The following sources were used to build this list:
- Jeremy Bentham and the Utilitarian Tradition – University College London
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Bentham
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Bentham
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on Utilitarianism
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet. To get started, check out this organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide range of philosophical topics.
A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.