A Being of infinite benevolence ...

< Previous | Next >

bu55ryung

Member
korea, korean
Hi Folks,

Jeremy Bentham states:

Ascetic is a term that has been sometimes applied to Monks…These exercises consisted in so many contrivances they had for tormenting themselves. By this they thought to ingratiate themselves with the Deity. For the Deity, said they, is a Being of infinite benevolence: now a Being of the most ordinary benevolence is pleased to see others make themselves as happy as they can: therefore to make ourselves as unhappy as we can is the way to please the Deity.

The last sentence is not clear to me. Who are a Being of infinite benevolence and a Being of the most ordinary benevolence? Who are others? What other symbol can replace the colon ':' in the sentence?

Thanks.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Folks,

    Jeremy Bentham states:

    Ascetic is a term that has been sometimes applied to Monks…These exercises consisted in so many contrivances they had for tormenting themselves. By this they thought to ingratiate themselves with the Deity. For the Deity, said they, is a Being of infinite benevolence: now a Being of the most ordinary benevolence is pleased to see others make themselves as happy as they can: therefore to make ourselves as unhappy as we can is the way to please the Deity.

    The last sentence is not clear to me. Who are a Being of infinite benevolence and a Being of the most ordinary benevolence? Who are others? What other symbol can replace the colon ':' in the sentence?

    Thanks.
    We've just been told that the Deity is a Being of infinite benevolence.

    Betham posits the behaviour of a Being of less than infinite benevolence, to give himself a handle for an a fortiori argument.

    Others means people other than us.

    You could put a dash, but a colon is best.

    If you find all this puzzling, bear in mind that you are meant to, and read on. Later in the passage Bentham goes on to explain that the Deity will be able to exert his infinite benevolence by changing our supreme misery in this life for supreme felicity in the next, a facility which would be closed to him had we been happy in this.
     

    bu55ryung

    Member
    korea, korean
    Hi Thomas,

    Thank you for your explanation, but I have a couple of questions.

    1) "For the Deity, said they, is a Being of infinite benevolence". Why is a conjunction 'For' necessary for three loosely connected complete sentences? I would have had a better understanding if this sentence has been written:

    The Deity, said they, is a Being of infinite benevolence; now a Being of the most ordinary benevolence is pleased to see others make themselves as happy as they can; therefore to make ourselves as unhappy as we can is the way to please the Deity.

    2) It is not still clear for me to whom a Being of the most ordinary benevolence refers unless it is related to any of the three subjects: the deity, others, and we in the sentence.

    Thanks. Ryung.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    "For" is in the sense of "since" or "because". It introduces a reason to explain the practices of the ascetics. The three sentences are joined by colons because they, together, provide the explanation. The writer feels that they are so closely connected that it would be better that they were not separate sentences. This is a stylistic choice that you may feel is unnecessary, as perhaps I do, but nevertheless it's a legitimate one.

    "A deity of the most ordinary benevolence" is a hypothetical one. The writer says (on behalf of the argument for asceticism) that even if the Deity was of the most ordinary benevolence asceticism would be justified. It is therefore infinitely so in the case (as is their belief) that the Deity's benevolence is infinite.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi bu55ryung,

    To answer your easy question first:

    In modern English, the colons could be replaced by semi-colons or by periods + capital letters (i.e., you could create new sentences in each case).

    Now, in my opinion, this entire paragraph is wonderfully sarcastic. Bentham, I think, is saying: The monks performed exercises to torment themselves (causing pain etc.) because they worshipped "a Being of infinite benevolence," not just your everyday, common ordinary deity. An ordinary deity "is pleased to see others make themselves as happy as they can." BUT for this extraordinary deity, that would be too simple. This "deity of infinite benevolence" wants us "to make ourselves as unhappy as we can ... to please" Him! In my opinion, this is sarcasm of the purest form: any deity who wanted his creatures to be as unhappy as possible is hardly one we would call infinitely benevolent!

    I'm not a specialist in late 18th century philosophy or in Bentham, so I might be wrong...but I don't think so!
     

    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Nor do I , Joelline . It's a long time since I read any Bentham , but even my distant acquaintance with Utilitarianism brings me to the same conclusion .

    Mike
     

    bu55ryung

    Member
    korea, korean
    Thanks for taking the time to provide more explanation; the phrase of an ordinary deity appears to be a good choice.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top