chapter  1
38 Pages

The distinction between reality and fiction

WithPiero Tarantino

A major but unrecognized and unexplored development in the history of thought is the systematic and consistent account of the fictitious character of mathematical objects, physical properties, moral values, legal rules and religious norms provided by Bentham. He questioned the nature of the elements making up the various domains of knowledge, because he was convinced of the falsity of certain linguistic constructs which contain an implicit ontological claim. Bentham’s fictionalist approach challenges the effective correspondence of beliefs and statements to an alleged external reality, on which the idea of truth resides, giving rise to the view that the human mind has, through language, autonomous constructive ability in conceiving of the world. Bentham understands a fictitious entity as something false, which is, however, regarded as if it were true. Terms such as motion, quality, relation, cause, virtue, goodness, obligation, right and power represent mere artefacts characterized by a nominal form of existence. They are products of the activity of the human mind carried out on sensory experience, which provides the real foundations from which it constructs a fictitious ontology, made up of linguistic elements.