Bentham's Image: The Corpo-Reality Check

Shapiro, Carolyn ORCID logoORCID: (2020) Bentham's Image: The Corpo-Reality Check. In: Bentham and the Arts. UCL Press, London. ISBN 9781787357389 (In Press)

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Abstract / Summary

In the eleventh and final chapter of the volume, dealing appropriately with Bentham’s auto-icon, entitled ‘The Image of Bentham’, Carolyn Shapiro argues that Bentham’s own auto-icon is ‘the corpo-realization of what underlies Bentham’s theories of logic, language, and legislation’. That Bentham wished to ground everything in the physicality of the human body is shown in the constant references in his writings to real entities, that is to physical bodies and in particular the sensations of pleasure and pain—this is the corporeality that underlies the greatest happiness principle. His interest in etymology involved relating the meaning of words to the physical image that lay at their ‘root’. Shapiro points out that Bentham’s writing was a physical activity related by pain and pleasure to every other activity, including those involving sexual gratification. She highlights the parallels between Bentham’s manuscript corpus and his own body—his corpse—in that they both needed to be crafted by other hands—the editor and the surgeon—following instructions of various sorts left by Bentham himself.

Shapiro points out that Bentham criticized religion for its unjustifiable leap from the notion of physical to that of moral impurity, and its consequent demand for punishment, and hence the infliction of physical pain, for those deemed to be impure, despite the lack of any physical grounding. This was an example of the operation of the principle of antipathy, a passion located in the breasts (physical bodies) of rulers, in order to subdue those subject to them. Moving from the real, physical body to the imaginary paved the way for tyranny. The religiously inspired principle of asceticism, propagated by Paul despite being opposed by Jesus, was characterized by groundless pronouncements of immorality. The solution for Bentham was to remove fiction from language and link language to the physical by means of the techniques of phraseoplerosis and paraphrasis. The body, when language loses its connection to the physical, is claimed for mischievous and malign purposes, as exemplified in the condemnation of homosexuality when the body is co-opted by asceticism. Shapiro posits that the homosexual body, like that of Jesus, stands open to other bodies, while Bentham in turn proposes an intercoursing body with its ‘inlets’ to pleasure. Bentham proposed to invite William Beckford, novelist and homosexual, to collaborate with him on the ‘Not Paul, but Jesus’ manuscripts and thereby to give form and order to his corpus, just as his surgeon Thomas Southwood Smith would be invited to give form and order to his corpse.

Item Type: Book Section
ISBN: 9781787357389
Subjects: History
Arts > Fine Art
Public Exhibition
Courses by Department: The Falmouth School of Art > Illustration
Depositing User: Carolyn Shapiro
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2019 10:19
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 16:24


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