Jeremy Bentham’s Social Ontology: Fictionality, Factuality and Language Critique

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 52 (3):107-131 (2022)
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Abstract

In terms of the distinction between relationalist and substantialist philosophies of science opened up by American pragmatist thinkers like Dewey and Bentley, Bentham’s social ontology is relationalist and anti-substantialist. When the ontology is combined with his emphasis on ordinary language as the basis of social reality, it is seen to have thematic connections to later developments in social science such as social constructionism, social phenomenology, ethnomethodology and, due to its intent to critically question-received fictions, to neo-Marxian and other concerns about objectivation and reification. Also, by re-reading Bentham’s theory of fictions as a theory of vernacular language habits, it can be shown to have empirical relevance for the sociology of language.

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