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Benthan & Vaihinger
Compiled and edited by Frederick Mann

Jeremy Bentham formulated his very important "Theory of Fictions," which was compiled and edited into the book Bentham's Theory of Fictions by C.K. Ogden.

Hans Vaihinger wrote The Philosophy of As-If.

In my opinion, these are two of the most important books ever written. If I were to make a list of my ten most useful books, these two would rate near the top. Unfortunately, they've both been out of print for many years. To check availability, I submitted searches to Universal Book Service.

The purpose of this article is to give some idea of what Bentham and Vaihinger revealed to the world. I'll start off with several quotations plucked off the Internet.

The first quotation comes from a talk given on July 15, 1998, at the International New Thought Alliance Congress/Expo in Scottsdale, Arizona by Deb Whitehouse, called "Phoenix Rising":

"The German philosopher Vaihinger had a term for beliefs that we know are not true but still come in handy: he called them useful fictions. That was his great philosophy of AS IF: you act AS IF something were true if it's beneficial to you. Now I'm not a philosopher, but I keep one handy around the house to answer questions about the meaning of life (no home should be without one). However, it just so happens that I heard about Vaihinger's notion of a useful fiction when I studied the great depth psychologist Alfred Adler. Adler was very fond of Vaihinger's philosophy of as if, and he built that concept into his psychology. Now philosophers have the very important task of mediating between mysticism and empiricism and reconciling what we learn from both, and philosophers bend over backward to avoid the use of metaphor, because it's their job as metaphysicians to establish what is real, but as I mentioned earlier, sometimes we have no choice but to resort to metaphor. Still, as much as possible, we should try to work only with broken myths, where we know what the reality is."

The following quotation is from the article "Alfred Adler" (1870 - 1937) by C. George Boeree:

"Another major influence on [Alfred] Adler's thinking was the philosopher Hans Vaihinger, who wrote a book called The Philosophy of "As If." Vaihinger believed that ultimate truth would always be beyond us, but that, for practical purposes, we need to create partial truths. His main interest was science, so he gave as examples such partial truths as protons an electrons, waves of light, gravity as distortions of space, and so on. Contrary to what many of us non-scientists tend to assume, these are not things that anyone has seen or proven to exist: They are useful constructs. They work for the moment, let us do science, and hopefully will lead to better, more useful constructs. We use them "as if" they were true. He called these partial truths fictions.

Vaihinger, and Adler, pointed out that we use these fictions in day to day living as well. We behave as if we knew the world would be here tomorrow, as if we were sure what good and bad are all about, as if everything we see is as we see it, and so on. Adler called this fictional finalism. You can understand the phrase most easily if you think about an example: Many people behave as if there were a heaven or a hell in their personal future. Of course, there may be a heaven or a hell, but most of us don't think of this as a proven fact. That makes it a "fiction" in Vaihinger's and Adler's sense of the word. And finalism refers to the teleology of it: The fiction lies in the future, and yet influences our behavior today.

Adler added that, at the center of each of our lifestyles, there sits one of these fictions, an important one about who we are and where we are going."

The next two quotations are from the article "Knowing without Metaphysics: Aspects of the Radical Constructivist Position" by Ernst von Glasersfeld:

"Another thinker who took up the notion of conceptual construction and produced a truly remarkable compendium of detailed analyses was Jeremy Bentham. He developed his Theory of Fictions between 1760 (when he entered Oxford at the age of twelve and a half!) and 1814, when he published his first systematic exposition. He concluded: 'To language, then - to language alone - it is that fictitious entities owe their existence; their impossible, yet indispensable existence.'(4) Bentham's work supplied conceptual analyses that should be of great interest to contemporary constructivists. They are, in fact, the first 'operational' recipes for the construction of concepts and anticipate in some instances the 'operational definitions' of Percy Bridgman (1936) and consequently the operational analyses of Jean Piaget and the operational semantics of Silvio Ceccato (1964-66). Both Piaget and Ceccato, who hardly ever explicitly agree with other authors, gave an honorable mention to Percy Bridgman for his revolutionary idea of defining concepts in terms of the operations that give rise to them. It was unfortunate for American psychology that the behavioristic establishment propagated the misunderstanding that the operations that generate concepts had to be physical operations. Bridgman's important contribution was the insight that the physical world, in order to be conceptualized, required mental operations on the part of the observer (see Bridgman, 1936)."

"Hans Vaihinger, apparently without drawing on the much earlier analyses of Jeremy Bentham, created the most comprehensive and consistent work on conceptual 'fictions'. His Philosophy of As If (1913)(6) has become particularly interesting today, given the revolution in the philosophy of science and the recognition that, even in the 'hard' sciences, key concepts can be considered convenient ideal fictions. While Vaihinger provides endless ammunition for contemporary constructivists, I would not classify him as 'radical', because when everything is said and done, he anchors the conceptual apparatus that produces the 'fictitious' concepts in the theory of biological evolution. In doing so, he tacitly attributes ontological status to that theory. Konrad Lorenz incidentally falls into the same trap when he argues that the fact that human organisms have evolved and successfully use the categories of space and time, proves that these categories pertain to an 'objective' reality (1977: 9-10)."

* * * * *

The next thing that needs to be grasped is that words can be used by some to get unwarranted advantages over others. Consider the notion of "mental illness," which Dr. Thomas Szasz has spent much of his professional life debunking. See '#TL05T: Thomas Szasz and Slavespeak'.

The term "mental illness" is an example of "Slavespeak." So-called "mental illness" is a fiction in the classical sense described by both Bentham and Vaihinger. It's a useful fiction for the political bureaucrat and the psychiatrist because they can forcibly incarcerate people convicted as "mentally ill" -- without judge or jury. It's a devastatingly harmful fiction to the victim.

I use the term "terrocrat" to describe a coercive political agent or terrorist bureaucrat. This certainly applies to political psychiatrists who forcibly incarcerate people against their will.

* * * * *

Extracts from '#TL07A: The Anatomy of Slavespeak':

As Voltaire said, "People who believe absurdities, will commit atrocities." And Jeremy Bentham wrote, "Out of one foolish word may start a thousand daggers." (Bentham's Theory of Fictions by C.K. Ogden.)

In Bentham's Theory of Fictions, Jeremy Bentham wrote:

"Behold here one of the artifices of lawyers. They refuse to administer justice to you unless you join with them in their fictions; and then their cry is, see how necessary fiction is to justice! Necessary indeed; but too necessary; but how came it so, and who made it so?

As well might the father of a family make it a rule never to let his children have their breakfast till they had uttered, each of them, a certain number of lies, curses, and profane oaths; and then exclaim, "You see, my dear children, how necessary, lying, cursing, and swearing are to human sustenance!"

So what you have to do, is to "unlearn" the basic political Slavespeak concepts/words/ideas that were shoved down your throat by terrocrats and their helpers, witting and unwitting. You need to destroy in your mind the validity of Slavespeak words/concepts -- reduce their validity to zero -- to the point that you agree with the way Jeremy Bentham described political rhetoric (what I call political Slavespeak) in Bentham's Theory of Fictions: "Look to the letter, you find nonsense -- look beyond the letter, you find nothing."

Once you realize the extent to which, at bottom, the entire political/legal system is a word-game; a relatively fixed word-game; in the words of Jonathan Swift, a word-game, "hollow, and dry, and empty, and noisy, and wooden, and given to Rotation"; a word-game in the words of Jeremy Bentham such that: "Look to the letter, you find nonsense -- look beyond the letter, you find nothing" -- once you realize the nature of the word-game designed to enslave you, then you can create your own superior word-game to beat the system and, in the words of the libertarian friend I met in Luxembourg, "I live my life out of a context of liberty, a libertarian enclave, an anarcho-libertarian enclave. I carry it with me like an aura."

Hypostatization represents extreme intensional evaluation -- an empty description, such that, if you look, observe, touch, feel, test, sample, etc., you fail to find a referent. Vonnegut in effect said, "government represents a granfalloon." Bentham's "Look to the letter, you find nonsense -- look beyond the letter, you find nothing" applies here. For a philosophical analysis of "government" (or "state") as an empty linguistic convenience, see 'Report #TL07D: Deep Anarchy'.

Extracts from '#TL07B: The Nature of Government":

"It is illusions and words that have influenced the mind of the crowd, and especially words - words which are as powerful as they are chimeral, and whose astonishing sway we shall shortly demonstrate," wrote Gustave le Bon in his classic The Crowd, a hundred years ago. About two hundred years ago, Jeremy Bentham wrote, "Out of one foolish word may start a thousand daggers" - Bentham's Theory of Fictions by C.K. Ogden. And 160 years ago Jonathan Swift wrote in Gulliver's Travels:

"There was another point which a little perplexed him... I had said, that some of our crew left their country on account of being ruined by 'law'... but he was at a loss how it should come to pass, that the 'law' which was intended for 'every' man's preservation, should be any man's ruin. Therefore he desired to be further satisfied what I meant by 'law,' and the dispensers thereof... because he thought nature and reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, as we pretended to be, in showing us what we ought to do, and what to avoid... I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, accordingly as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves."

Extracts from '#TL01: Behold! - Build Freedom':

There is a human tendency to use our reason to prove that we are right, instead of focusing on producing the results we want. The philosopher Hans Vaihinger (author of The Philosophy of As-If) formulated the principle of The Preponderance of Means over Ends. We tend to get lost in the means while losing sight of the ends.

* * * * *

We can easily fall into the trap of using certain words the way "everyone uses them," not realizing the possible consequences of using those words. The words themselves can become more important than what they supposedly stand for, and more important than the consequences produced by their use. The words as means become more important than the ends we desire -- the "preponderance of means over ends."

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