Fictionalism in ontology

the 2011 Paolo Bozzi lecture

Achille C. Varzi

pp. 253-270

Fictionalism in ontology is a mixed bag. Here I focus on three main variants – which I label after the names of Pascal, Berkeley, and Hume – and consider their relative strengths and weaknesses. The first variant is just a version of the epistemic Wager, applied across the board. The second variant builds instead on the fact that ordinary language is not ontologically transparent; we speak with the vulgar, but deep down we think with the learned. Finally, on the Humean variant it’s the structure of the ontological inventory, not its content, that may turn out to involve fictional elements. That is, for the Humean the fiction lies, not in the reality of common-sense ontology, but in the laws – of unity, identity, causation, etc. – in terms of which we articulate our experience of that reality. In the end, this is the kind of fictionalism that I find most interesting, sensible, and tenable. And I argue that it is even compatible with the sort of “naive” realism we have all come to appreciate in the work of Paolo Bozzi, to whom the paper is dedicated.

Publication details

DOI: 10.4000/estetica.906

Full citation:

Varzi, A.C. (2014). Fictionalism in ontology: the 2011 Paolo Bozzi lecture. Rivista di estetica 56, pp. 253-270.

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