Ian Hacking

Ian Hacking is the author of The Social Construction of What? and, on mental illness, Rewriting the Soul and Mad Travellers.

The new edition of the DSM replaces DSM-IV, which appeared in 1994. The DSM is the standard – and standardising – work of reference issued by the American Psychiatric Association, but its influence reaches into every nook and cranny of psychiatry, everywhere. Hence its publication has been greeted by a flurry of discussion, hype and hostility across all media, both traditional and social. Most of it has concerned individual diagnoses and the ways they have changed, or haven’t. Most critics attended to the trees, but few thought about the wood.

Diary: Walking in the Andes

Judith Baker and Ian Hacking, 10 September 2009

Our first glimpse of life in the highlands of the Andes was at the end of our last dirt road before ten days of walking. We were descending on Cachora in a van and encountered a girl-woman of 14 or 15 years of age. She was running fast uphill, above 9500 feet, number 11 on the back of her jersey. JB thinks she is training for football: Peruvian women do better at it than the men. IH imagines...

We are creatures: therefore biological, but also social. How much of each of us is biological, how much social? Usually, the question is asked about individuals: how much of what you do is the working out of innate, inherited capacities, how much acquired from people around you? There is also a more communal question: how much of our social behaviour as a group – how we talk, how we...

Almost Zero: Ideas of Nature

Ian Hacking, 10 May 2007

‘The word “nature” is encountered everywhere,’ notably in the writing and talk of poets, scientists, ecologists and even politicians. ‘But though they frequently employ the word, they seem not to have much considered what notion ought to be framed of the thing, which they suppose and admire, and upon occasion celebrate, but do not call in question or...

Whose body is it? Transplants

Ian Hacking, 14 December 2006

Harvest festivals, whether American Thanksgiving or the more modest celebration in the Church of England, are about fertility: the harvest referred to here is the harvesting, in the official euphemism, of organs from dead people. This book is about a new kind of fertility called rebirth, which allows people to celebrate their rebirthday after they have received a life-saving organ. It is a book about the soul, and how much of it gets transferred when a body part is transferred from one person to another.

What made Albert run: Mad Travellers

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 27 May 1999

You wake up one morning, the whole world is grey, you have had enough of your cold, colourless life. You want to drop everything, escape, far away, where life is real. Who has not had this dream from time...

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When I was a graduate studying psychology in the Seventies, I was taught that multiple personality was a rare, almost unheard of disease. One textbook said that there was one multiple per million...

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Faith, Hope and Probability

Mary Douglas, 23 May 1991

The author of The Emergence of Probability (1975) has written another formidable book on the history of probability theory. The first described the development in the 17th and 18th centuries of a...

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Guilty Statements

Hilary Putnam, 3 May 1984

Ian Hacking has written an interesting, confusing, fast-reading, slow-digesting, exasperating, idiosyncratic book which is must reading for anyone interested in the philosophy of science. The...

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