Utilitarianism as a school of jurisprudence arose at roughly the same time as Legal Positivism. Certain scholars of the time, most notably Jeremy Bentham, are recognized as supporting tenets of both schools.

Adherents of the Utilitarian school believe in an admixture of Natural and Positive Law. While they accept that law's power derives from the lawgiver, they also believe the lawgiver to possess an ultimate responsibility to craft moral law. The ancient credo "Salus populi suprema est lex" (the health of the people is the supreme law) is the watchword of Utilitarianism.

Law is inherently unfair or biased. Therefore, the object of the lawgiver must be to minimize the impact of that bias. Proponents of Utilitarianism regard the lawgiver as morally constrained to seek the greatest good for the greatest portion of society. Law is thus judged by its effect, rather than its intent. According to this philosophy, the law is determined to be unenforceable if and only if the bias of injustice inherent in the law exceeds the popular support of the authority of the lawgiver.

Definitions and Works of Utilitarianism Adherents

Utilitarianism: Definition and History of the School

Utilitarian Theory

Beccaria, Cesare Biographical Information

Beccaria: Life and Influence


Essay on Crimes and Punishment

Bentham, Jeremy Biographical Information
  Selected Works
  Additional Works
Hume, David Biographical Information

David Hume: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Selected Works

Mill, John Stuart

Autobiographical Information


John Stuart Mill: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Speech favoring Capital Punishment


On Liberty


Additional works and commentary

Sidgwick, Henry

Biographical Information


Selected Works

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This page last updated 3 May 2002 by John Stradling

Copyright John Stradling 2002. All rights reserved.