June 6 marks major life events of two eminent British philosophers, Jeremy Bentham’s death* (1832) and Isaiah Berlin’s birth (1909).
Bentham was known as a “philosophical radical” and a major influence on the British utilitarian tradition. He authored numerous books, including Defence of Usury (1787) and An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789). Bentham started out advocating for laissez faire, became obsessed with his own specially designed prison design, the Panopticon, and argued for feminism and animal rights in public but kept his defense of homosexual rights private, to be published long after his death. His treatise on ethics, Deontology: Or, the Science of Morality, in Which the Harmony and Co-incidence of Duty and Self-Interest, Virtue and Felicity, Prudence and Benevolence, Are Explained and Exemplified, was published from his manuscripts two years after his death.
Berlin was best known for several dozen brilliant essays, including the famous, much-quoted “The Hedgehog and the Fox” (a study of Leo Tolstoy) and “Two Concepts of Liberty.”
* Pictured is his remains as housed in a special “closet” in the London Academy. Bentham specified this in his will, and he called this manner of posthumous presentation an “auto-icon.”