Meeting Jeremy Bentham

Footnotes to Plato

Jeremy Bentham auto-icon Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon, photo by the Author

I am not a Utilitarian, when it comes to moral philosophy. And I am not into celebrities. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to “meet” Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism, who is currently in visit at the Met-Breuer museum in New York City. To be precise, of course, it is Bentham’s famous “auto-icon” that is visiting, as part of the fascinating “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body” exhibit, which has just opened and will go on until July 22nd.

The auto-icon is made of the preserved remains of Bentham, dressed with his own clothes and sporting his favorite cane, which he nicknamed “Dapple.” The head is actually a very realistic wax replica based on portraits from the time, as the actual one did not fare well during the chemical process that Bentham instructed his friend and physician Thomas Southwood Smith…

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