Utilitarian prison cells tower Friman/Wikimedia Commons

El antes y el ahora de las falacias de Bentham

MELBOURNE – En el año 1809, Jeremy Bentham, fundador del utilitarismo, se puso a trabajar en su libro titulado The Book of Fallacies. Su objetivo era exponer los argumentos falaces que se utilizaban para bloquear reformas, como por ejemplo la abolición de los “distritos municipales podridos” – electorados con tan pocos electores que un lord o un terrateniente poderoso podía seleccionar, en los hechos, al miembro del parlamento que iría a representar a dicho distrito, mientras que ciudades más nuevas, como ser Manchester, permanecían sin representación.

Bentham recolectó ejemplos de falacias, a menudo provenientes de los debates parlamentarios. Hasta el año 1811, había clasificado las falacias en cerca de 50 tipos diferentes, utilizando títulos como “Si nos atacas, atacas al Gobierno”,  “El argumento de la no existencia de precedentes” y la falacia denominada como “bueno en teoría, malo en la práctica”. (Una cosa sobre la que tanto Immanuel Kant como Bentham están de acuerdo es que este último ejemplo realmente es una falacia: Si algo sale mal en la práctica, debe existir alguna falla en la teoría).

Bentham fue así un pionero de un área de la ciencia que ha avanzado considerablemente en los últimos años. Él habría disfrutado el trabajo de los psicólogos que muestran que tenemos un sesgo hacia la confirmación (favorecemos y recordamos información que apoya, en vez de contradecir, nuestras creencias); que sobreestimamos sistemáticamente la exactitud de nuestras creencias (el efecto de exceso de confianza); y que tenemos una propensión a responder ante una mala situación que enfrenta una sola persona identificable, en lugar de responder ante una mala situación que atraviesan un gran número de personas, sobre las que tenemos sólo información estadística.

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