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Lost in the Forest

Ian Hacking: Who needs the DSM?, 8 August 2013

DSM-5: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition 
by the American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric Publishing, 947 pp., £97, May 2013, 978 0 89042 555 8
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... 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 ...

Almost Zero

Ian Hacking: Ideas of Nature, 10 May 2007

The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature 
by Pierre Hadot, translated by Michael Chase.
Harvard, 399 pp., £19.95, November 2006, 0 674 02316 1
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... 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 discuss ...

‘Screw you, I’m going home’

Ian Hacking, 22 June 2000

Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction Versus the Richness of Being 
by Paul Feyerabend, edited by Bert Terpstra.
Chicago, 285 pp., £19, February 2000, 0 226 24533 0
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... Paul Feyerabend, the philosopher of science and famous iconoclast about the sciences, wrote in Killing Time, his autobiography published post-humously in 1996, that ‘in an incautious moment’ he had promised his young wife that he would produce ‘one more collage, a book no less, on the topic of reality’. He stopped work in November 1993 when he became ill, and died soon afterwards, at the age of seventy ...

Aloha, aloha

Ian Hacking, 7 September 1995

What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 316 pp., £19.95, July 1995, 0 226 73368 8
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... This is a splendid work of refutation and revenge, judicious but remorseless, urbane yet gritty. It is germane to the American culture wars but vastly more interesting. It is an adventure story in itself, and a stepping-stone to better ones. My only regret is that this book – you can think of it as the third of a trilogy – will be more widely read than Sahlins’s Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities (1981) and Islands of History (1985 ...


Ian Hacking, 5 April 1990

Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf 
by Oliver Sacks.
Picador, 186 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 330 31161 1
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When the mind hears: A History of the Deaf 
by Harlan Lane.
Penguin, 537 pp., £6.99, August 1988, 0 14 022834 9
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Deafness: A Personal Account 
by David Wright.
Faber, 202 pp., £4.99, January 1990, 0 571 14195 1
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... For deaf people, especially for those born deaf, this has been the best of quarter-centuries. The happy events have not been medical but social. The deaf have been irreversibly granted their own language. Sign languages are now known not to be parasitic on spoken ones, and not to be a form of pantomime, a kind of charades. They do not have anything much like the structure of any spoken language, but they have comparable expressive power ...

Taking Bad Arguments Seriously

Ian Hacking, 21 August 1997

... The idea of social construction is wonderfully liberating. It reminds us, for example, that motherhood and its meanings are not the fixed and inevitable consequence of child-bearing and rearing, but the product of historical events, social forces and ideology. Mothers who know but fear standard canons of emotion and behaviour may see that the ways they are supposed to feel and act are not ordained by human nature ...

Get knitting

Ian Hacking: Birth and Death of the Brain, 18 August 2005

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Cape, 344 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 224 06254 9
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... Steven Rose is a well-known public scientist who has dedicated his career to the study of brains. He has lived through the early days of the technical revolution that has involved increasingly powerful ways of imaging activity in the brain. But he is first of all a biologist. His guiding principle is that we cannot understand the human brain unless we understand how it came into being ...

What did Aum Shinrikyo have in mind?

Ian Hacking: Sarin in the Subway, 19 October 2000

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Harvill, 309 pp., £20, June 2000, 1 86046 757 1
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... Every once in a while, something happens to you that makes you realise that the human race is not quite as bad as it so often seems to be. In 1972, I was on the London Underground when a man failed to mind the gap. Not only did he put his foot between the train and the platform, but he did so as the train was starting; he was dragged a short distance before the train was halted, and his leg was pulled downwards ...

What is Tom saying to Maureen?

Ian Hacking: What We Know about Autism, 11 May 2006

The Science and Fiction of Autism 
by Laura Schreibman.
Harvard, 293 pp., £17.95, December 2005, 0 674 01931 8
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Send in the Idiots, or How We Grew to Understand the World 
by Kamran Nazeer.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 7475 7910 5
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... Autism is devastating – to the family. Children can be born with all manner of problems. Some begin life in great pain that can never be relieved, but at least there is a child there. An autistic child – and here I am talking about what’s known as core autism – is somehow not there. ‘Nobody Nowhere’, as the title of Donna Williams’s autobiography (1992) has it ...

Whose body is it?

Ian Hacking: Transplants, 14 December 2006

Strange Harvest: Organ Transplants, Denatured Bodies and the Transformed Self 
by Lesley Sharp.
California, 307 pp., £15.95, October 2006, 0 520 24786 8
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... Perhaps ‘medical anthropology’ has not yet become a household term. Although anthropologists still go to Papua New Guinea, Mayotte, or the headwaters of the Amazon, many now work closer to home, on the border between Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, or in a venture capital company that does gene-sequencing. Nevertheless, the core themes of myth, death and reproduction draw even these new anthropologists back into the traditional fold ...

Making Up People

Ian Hacking: Clinical classifications, 17 August 2006

... I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the affects on the people in turn change the classifications. We think of many kinds of people as objects of scientific inquiry. Sometimes to control them, as prostitutes, sometimes to help them, as potential suicides. Sometimes to organise and help, but at the same time keep ourselves safe, as the poor or the homeless ...

How Shall We Repaint the Kitchen?

Ian Hacking: The Colour Red, 1 November 2007

Cognitive Variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Human Mind 
by G.E.R. Lloyd.
Oxford, 201 pp., £27.50, April 2007, 978 0 19 921461 7
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... 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 love, how we argue, how we get angry – is peculiar to our local ways of living, and how much is determined by our shared animal nature? Geoffrey Lloyd’s book is the best recent overall summary of the state of play in the discussion of our social behaviour ...


Judith Baker and Ian Hacking: Walking in the Andes, 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 ...

Guilty Statements

Hilary Putnam, 3 May 1984

Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science 
by Ian Hacking.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 521 23829 3
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... 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 introduction is alarming indeed. After describing Feyerabend’s position (‘There are many rationalities, many styles of reason, and also many good modes of life where nothing worth calling reason matters very much’), Hacking adds: ‘My own attitude to rationality is too much like that of Feyerabend to discuss it further ...

Faith, Hope and Probability

Mary Douglas, 23 May 1991

The Taming of Chance 
by Ian Hacking.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £27.50, November 1990, 0 521 38014 6
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... it had seeped from games and mathematics to marine insurance, and thence moved on to produce what Ian Hacking calls an avalanche of numbers in every kind of public concern, established theories of causality were ready to be toppled. As he said in the earlier book, the world was about to become safe for future Galileos. But the change was slow, and not in ...

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