Posted: March 6th, 2023

Analyze the ideas of Jeremy Bentham that man was a “calculating animal” who would balance pain and suffering versus gain when deciding to commit a criminal act.





Jeremy Bentham, a British philosopher and legal theorist, proposed a utilitarian approach to crime and punishment in his ideas of the “calculating animal” theory. According to this theory, human beings are naturally driven by self-interest, which leads them to weigh the potential pain or suffering caused by an action against its benefit (Moore, 2010). Bentham theorized that as long as a criminal act had more positive benefits than negative consequences for the individual committing it, they will be inclined to do so. The ultimate goal of Bentham’s calculating animal was to ensure maximum pleasure and minimum pain for themselves (Tannenbaum & Schmidt 1958). This belief has been used extensively in criminology theory since its introduction over 200 years ago.

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The main premise of Bentham’s idea is that individuals make rational decisions when choosing whether or not to commit a crime; they consider how much pleasure or gain can be gained from the crime compared with any potential punishment that may result from it. If an offender believes that the reward associated with their criminal behavior outweighs any potential costs such as being caught and punished for it then there is an increased likelihood of them engaging in illegal activity (Hirschi & Gottfredson 1983). For example, if someone were considering embezzling money at work they would need to weigh factors such as the amount of money they could gain versus the risks involved such as getting caught and having their career ruined before making their decision.

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Analyze the ideas of Jeremy Bentham that man was a “calculating animal” who would balance pain and suffering versus gain when deciding to commit a criminal act.

Bentham’s thinking also suggests that if punishments are severe enough then people will think twice about committing crimes even if there is some perceived benefit associated with it (Reiss 1971). He argued that increasing penalties should have a deterrent effect on criminal behavior because people would take into account how unpleasant being incarcerated would be compared to whatever rewards might come from successful criminal acts. In other words, harsher punishments should lead individuals to decide not engage in illegal activities because doing so would lead them pain rather than pleasure or profit (Lacey 2015).

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In summary, Jeremy Bentham believed that humans were inherently driven by self-interest when deciding whether or not commit crimes; he referred these individuals as “calculating animals” because he believed that individuals weighed potential benefits versus costs before acting illegally. While this idea has been criticized over time due its overly simplistic view point towards understanding why criminals choose certain behaviors over others it still remains influential within criminological theories today.




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