Sample Essay

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Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a utilitarian philosopher who believed that the morally correct action was the one that brought about the most good (Jamieson). In addition he was a hedonist who identified good with pleasure and identified evil with pain (Rogers).

Bentham’s formulation of utilitarianism in light of his understanding of good and evil necessitates that a moral individual try to minimize the pain and maximize the pleasure of primarily themselves and then that of everyone else.

Bentham’s ideas have important consequences for the moral dilemma created of Dr. Frankenstein. On one hand there is the possibility of doing away with death, which is an utterly terrifying and painful prospect for most people, on the other hand there is the possibility that the creature would turn out the way it did.

If Dr. Frankenstein subscribed to Bentham’s ideas of good and evil he would weigh the potential pain caused by the creation of a monster against the potential alleviation of the pain of millions of people.

However Bentham did not obligate people to use his hedonistic calculus prior to making decisions, he says:

“It is not to be expected that this process should be strictly pursued previously to every moral judgment.” (MacIntyre).

In other words, Bentham’s hedonistic calculus’s correct use is to apply it to the actual consequences of each action, after the action has taken place and not to the potential consequences of the action while deciding whether or not to perform it. This means that the ideas of Bentham are not supposed to be guiding principles but only the means of criticizing an action, once it has taken place.

Taking this in account, it becomes obvious that the creation of the monster, since it brought about so much pain to Dr. Frankenstein and the monster itself and led to the death of many of Dr. Frankenstein’s loved ones, was a highly immoral act according to the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham.

An interesting fact about Bentham is that he left instructions for his dead body to be dissected during a public lecture on anatomy and then stuffed and set up as an ‘auto-icon’ (i.e. becoming his own statue). The Bentham auto icon is still partially preserved and in put on display at important occasions at the University College of London (Collings). From this we can infer that perhaps Bentham would have no objection to Frankenstein’s stealing of body parts from cemeteries to further his experiments.

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