Jeremy Bentham's symposium : Of the limits of the penal branch of jurisprudence.
This symposium intends to improve the study of Jeremy Bentham’s legal thought, thanks to the publication, in June 2010, of Of The Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence, his masterpiece in the field of legal theory.
The text was written in 1780 and 1782 and is the sequel of Bentham’s major work in moral philosophy, the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. In the latter, he intended to lay the theoretical foundations that would allow him to write a penal code. But he wondered what would need to be included in such a code, and asked himself how to delineate the specificity of the penal branch of the law, especially vis-à-vis the civil branch: how can one identify each of them? How can one distinguish a penal law from a civil law? More fundamentally, Bentham was compelled to wonder how to define the very concept of a law, which is to guide the legislator in the devising of a complete and rational code of laws. All those difficulties led Bentham to be immerged in legal theory.
These writings were never published when he was alive. The text, which was discovered in 1945 and edited anew in 1970, is nowadays published anew by Philip Schofield, according to the more rigorous editorial methods defined by the Bentham Project (University College London). This edition of Limits thus appears as reflecting more precisely Bentham’s intentions.
Along with its tremendous editorial adventure, this text is very interesting, for it represents the historical birth of analytical legal theory, and is in itself one of the deepest and most creative works of the discipline. With this international symposium, in the country who offered a springboard to Bentham’s thought, the objective is to underline the importance of this new edition and the intrinsic interest of this work for contemporary legal thought. This text is also to be located in the Benthamian legal and political project, i.e. in his ambition to promote a major political reform of both the form and substance of the law, at the end of the XVIIIth and the beginning of the XIXth centuries.
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