Meaning, Analysis, and Exposition: Bentham on the Technology of Thought

Utility, Publicity, and Law: Essays on Bentham's Moral and Legal Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Forthcoming)

UNC Legal Studies Research Paper

26 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2018

See all articles by Gerald J. Postema

Gerald J. Postema

University of North Carolina - Philosophy

Date Written: February 19, 2018

Abstract

First and foremost a social and legal reformer, Bentham undertook philosophical reflection on language—its nature, use and abuse—in an effort to understand and improve the world. His intellectual energy was trained primarily on law and political ordering, but he looked to every mode of inquiry (“science”) available for analytic and normative tools with which to “rear the fabric of felicity.” The most important of his theoretical innovations, in his view, was his theory of meaning, the heart of which was his analysis of language in terms of “real” and “fictitious” entities. This theory mapped the relations between the domain of thought and physical reality and devised a method of analysis—definition by “paraphrasis”—that enabled systematic ordering of thought. Late in his life, Bentham set out the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of his life’s work, articulating and grounding the philosophical principles that had governed his thinking from the beginning of his career. Reflecting on language and its relation to thought and reality, he produced sophisticated theories of meaning and of the technology of thought—the techniques and principles by which the active mind populates and orders the domain of thought. With this technology, Bentham sought to discipline potentially wayward language and thereby to deprive arbitrary power of one of its favorite weapons.

Keywords: Bentham, Philosophy of Language, Logic, Fictious Entities, Ontology, Pragmatism, Jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Postema, Gerald J., Meaning, Analysis, and Exposition: Bentham on the Technology of Thought (February 19, 2018). Utility, Publicity, and Law: Essays on Bentham's Moral and Legal Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Forthcoming); UNC Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3126370

Gerald J. Postema (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina - Philosophy ( email )

Caldwell Hall
CB #3125
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3125
United States

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