A Table of the Springs of Action

Jeremy Bentham

Observations on the Table

§6. Causes of Misjudgment and Misconduct---Intellectual Meakness, inborn and adoptive---Sinister Interest, and Interest-begotten Prejudice.

As between the two main departments of the human mind, viz. the volitional and the intellectual---according as it is the one or the other, the state of which is under consideration, as being subjected or exposed to the operation of interest,---termed, in so far as the direction in which it is considered as operating is considered as sinister, sinister interest, as above,---the result of the operation will receive a different description: in so far as it is the volitional department---in so far as it is the will---delinquency, with or without immorality,---or immorality,---with or without delinquency,----is the result: in so far as it is the intellectual faculty, misjudgment---with or without misconduct---is the result. As to error, though mostly employed as synonymous to misjudgment, it is not unfrequently employed as synonymous to misconduct, and therefore not fit to be employed in contradistinction to it.

Indigenous intellectual weakness---adoptive intellectual weakness---or, in one word, prejudice---sinister interest (understand self-conscious sinister interest)---lastly, interest begotten (though not self-conscious) prejudice---by one or other of these denominations, may be designated (it is believed) the cause of whatever is on any occasion amiss, in the opinions or conduct of mankind.

Of these several distinguishable psychological causes of misjudgment and misconduct, the mutual relations may be stated as follows: Of the intellectual department, the condition of the intellectual faculties, the operation is, on every occasion, exposed to the action and influence of the sensitive and the volitional: judgment---opinion---is liable to be acted upon, influenced, and perverted, by interest. On the occasion in question, suppose misjudgment alone, or misconduct alone, or both together, to have had place;---suppose a judgment more or less erroneous to have been pronounced---an opinion in some way or other erroneous to have been formed. In this case, in the production of the result, as above, interest may have had, or may not have had, a share: if no, the result has had for its cause mere weakness---intellectual weakness;---whether it be indigenous or adoptive, i.e. prejudice: if yes, then whatsoever of misconduct may happen to be included in it, has had for its cause, either sinister interest (i.e. self-conscious sinister interest), or interest-begotten prejudice.

Back to: Proper subjects of the attributives good and bad are consequences, intentions, acts, habits, dispositions, inclinations, and propensities: so of the attributives virtuous and vitious, except consequences: how as to interests and desires. [Section 5, A Table of the Springs of Action]
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