Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Jeremy Bentham

Chapter III, Footnote #01
Sanction, what

Sanctio, in Latin was used to signify the act of binding, and, by a common grammatical transition, any thing which serves to bind a man: to wit, to the observance of such or such a mode of conduct. According to a Latin grammarian, the import of the word is derived by rather a far-fetched process (such as those commonly are, and in a great measure indeed must be, by which intellectual ideas are derived from sensible ones) from the word sanguis, blood: because, among the Romans, with a view to inculcate into the people a persuasion that such or such a mode of conduct would be rendered obligatory upon a man by the force of what I call the religious sanction (that is, that he would be made to suffer by the extraordinary interposition of some superior being, if he failed to observe the mode of conduct in question) certain ceremonies were contrived by the priests: in the course of which ceremonies the blood of victims was made use of.

A Sanction then is a source of obligatory powers or motives that is, of pains and pleasures; which, according as they are connected with such or such modes of conduct, operate, and are indeed the only things which can operate, as motives.

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IPML Chapter 3