Ian Hacking

Ian MacDougall Hacking (born February 18, 1936) is a Canadian philosopher specializing in the philosophy of science. Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards, such as the Killam Prize for the Humanities and the Balzan Prize, and been a member of many prestigious groups, including the Order of Canada, the Royal Society of Canada and the British Academy.

Ian Hacking
Ian Hacking
Hacking at the 32nd International
Wittgenstein Symposium in 2009
BornFebruary 18, 1936 (age 83)
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia
Trinity College, Cambridge
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Philosophy of statistics
Notable ideas
Entity realism
Historical ontology (transcendental nominalism)


Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he earned undergraduate degrees from the University of British Columbia (1956) and the University of Cambridge (1958), where he was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. Hacking also earned his PhD at Cambridge (1962), under the direction of Casimir Lewy, a former student of Ludwig Wittgenstein.[1]

He started his teaching career as an instructor at Princeton University in 1960 but, after just one year, moved to the University of Virginia as an assistant professor. After working as a research fellow at Cambridge from 1962 to 1964, he taught at his alma mater, UBC, first as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor from 1964 to 1969. He became a lecturer at Cambridge in 1969 before shifting to Stanford University in 1974. After teaching for several years at Stanford, he spent a year at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld, Germany, from 1982 to 1983. Hacking was promoted to Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto in 1983 and University Professor, the highest honour the University of Toronto bestows on faculty, in 1991.[1] From 2000 to 2006, he held the Chair of Philosophy and History of Scientific Concepts at the Collège de France. Hacking is the first Anglophone to be elected to a permanent chair in the Collège's history.[2] After retiring from the Collège de France, Hacking was a Professor of Philosophy at UC Santa Cruz, from 2008 to 2010. He concluded his teaching career in 2011 as a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town and currently spends his days tending to his inner-city garden in Toronto with his wife, Judith Baker.[1]

Philosophical work

Influenced by debates involving Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend and others, Hacking is known for bringing a historical approach to the philosophy of science. The fourth edition (2010) of Feyerabend's 1975 book Against Method, and the 50th anniversary edition (2012) of Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions include an Introduction by Hacking. He is sometimes described as a member of the "Stanford School" in philosophy of science, a group that also included John Dupré, Nancy Cartwright and Peter Galison. Hacking himself still identifies as a Cambridge analytic philosopher. Hacking has been a main proponent of a realism about science called "entity realism." This form of realism encourages a realistic stance towards answers to the scientific unknowns hypothesized by mature sciences, but skepticism towards scientific theories. Hacking has also been influential in directing attention to the experimental and even engineering practices of science, and their relative autonomy from theory. Because of this, Hacking moved philosophical thinking a step further than the initial historical, but heavily theory-focused, turn of Kuhn and others.[3]

After 1990, Hacking shifted his focus somewhat from the natural sciences to the human sciences, partly under the influence of the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault was an influence as early as 1975 when Hacking wrote Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? and The Emergence of Probability. In the latter book, Hacking proposed that the modern schism between subjective or personalistic probability, and the long-run frequency interpretation, emerged in the early modern era as an epistemological "break" involving two incompatible models of uncertainty and chance. As history, the idea of a sharp break has been criticized, but competing 'frequentist' and 'subjective' interpretations of probability still remain today. Foucault's approach to knowledge systems and power is also reflected in Hacking's work on the historical mutability of psychiatric disorders and institutional roles for statistical reasoning in the 19th century. He labels his approach to the human sciences transcendental nominalism[4][5] (also dynamic nominalism[6] or dialectical realism),[6] a historicised form of nominalism that traces the mutual interactions over time between the phenomena of the human world and our conceptions and classifications of them.[7]

In Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory, by developing a historical ontology of multiple personality disorder, Hacking provides a discussion of how people are constituted by the descriptions of acts available to them (see Acting under a description).

In Mad Travelers (1998) Hacking provided a historical account of the effects of a medical condition known as fugue in the late 1890s. Fugue, also known as "mad travel," is a diagnosable type of insanity in which European men would walk in a trance for hundreds of miles without knowledge of their identities.

Awards and lectures

In 2002, Hacking was awarded the first Killam Prize for the Humanities, Canada's most distinguished award for outstanding career achievements. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2004. Hacking was appointed visiting professor at University of California, Santa Cruz for the Winters of 2008 and 2009. On August 25, 2009, Hacking was named winner of the Holberg International Memorial Prize, a Norwegian award for scholarly work in the arts and humanities, social sciences, law and theology.[8] Hacking was chosen for his work on how statistics and the theory of probability have shaped society.

In 2003, he gave The Sigmund H. Danziger, Jr. Memorial Lecture in the Humanities, and in 2010 he gave the René Descartes Lectures at the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS).007. Hacking also gave the Howison lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, on the topic of mathematics and its sources in human behavior ('Proof, Truth, Hands and Mind') in 2010. In 2012, Hacking was awarded the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, and in 2014 he was awarded the Balzan Prize.[9]

Selected works


Hacking's works have been translated into several languages. His works include:

  • The Logic of Statistical Inference (1965)
  • The Emergence of Probability (1975)
  • Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? (1975)
  • Representing and Intervening, Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1983.
  • The Taming of Chance (1990)
  • Scientific Revolutions (1990)
  • Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory (1995)
  • Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses (1998)
  • The Social Construction of What? (1999)
  • An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic (2001)
  • Historical Ontology (2002)
  • Why Is There Philosophy of Mathematics at All? (2014)

Chapters in books

  • Hacking, Ian (1992), "The self-vindication of the laboratory sciences", in Pickering, Andrew (ed.), Science as practice and culture, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 29–64, ISBN 9780226668017.



  1. ^ a b c "Ian Hacking, Philosopher". www.ianhacking.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  2. ^ Jon Miller, "Review of Ian Hacking, Historical Ontology", Theoria 72(2) (2006), p. 148.
  3. ^ Grandy, Karen. "Ian Hacking". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  4. ^ See Transcendence (philosophy) and Nominalism.
  5. ^ A view that Hacking also ascribes to Thomas Kuhn (see D. Ginev, Robert S. Cohen (eds.), Issues and Images in the Philosophy of Science: Scientific and Philosophical Essays in Honour of Azarya Polikarov, Springer, 2012, pp. 313–315).
  6. ^ a b Ş. Tekin (2014), "The Missing Self in Hacking's Looping Effects".
  7. ^ "Root and Branch". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  8. ^ Michael Valpy (August 26, 2009). "From autism to determinism, science to the soul". The Globe and Mail. pp. 1, 7. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  9. ^ "Ian Hacking - Balzan Prize Epistemology/Philosophy of Mind". www.balzan.org. Retrieved 2016-06-10.

External links

1999 in philosophy

1999 in philosophy

Acting under a description

Acting under a description is a conception of the intentionality of human action introduced by philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe.

Casimir Lewy

Casimir Lewy (Polish: Kazimierz Lewy; 26 February 1919 in Warsaw – 8 February 1991 in Cambridge) was a Polish philosopher of Jewish descent. He worked in philosophical logic but published scantly. According to Ian Hacking, "He had early acquired the conviction that one should publish only when one got something absolutely right, so he left very little in print." He was an influential teacher; several of his students went on to be prominent philosophers, including Simon Blackburn, Edward Craig, Ian Hacking, Roger Scruton, and Crispin Wright.

Entity realism

Entity realism (also selective realism), sometimes equated with referential realism, is a philosophical position within the debate about scientific realism. It is a variation of realism (independently proposed by Stanford School philosophers Nancy Cartwright and Ian Hacking in 1983) that restricts warranted belief to only certain entities.

Forms of Desire

Forms of Desire: Sexual Orientation and the Social Constructionist Controversy (1990; second edition 1992) is an anthology of articles about social constructionist approaches to sexual orientation edited by the philosopher Edward Stein. It includes an introduction from Stein, as well as selections from authors such as Michel Foucault, Mary McIntosh, Ian Hacking, Arnold Davidson, John Boswell, James Weinrich, Wayne Dynes, Steven Epstein, and Leonore Tiefer. The work was criticized for not representing more female authors.

Inverse gambler's fallacy

The inverse gambler's fallacy, named by philosopher Ian Hacking, is a formal fallacy of Bayesian inference which is an inverse of the better known gambler's fallacy. It is the fallacy of concluding, on the basis of an unlikely outcome of a random process, that the process is likely to have occurred many times before. For example, if one observes a pair of fair dice being rolled and turning up double sixes, it is wrong to suppose that this lends any support to the hypothesis that the dice have been rolled many times before. We can see this from the Bayesian update rule: letting U denote the unlikely outcome of the random process and M the proposition that the process has occurred many times before, we have

and since P(U|M) = P(U) (the outcome of the process is unaffected by previous occurrences), it follows that P(M|U) = P(M); that is, our confidence in M should be unchanged when we learn U.

John Dupré

John A. Dupré (born July 3rd 1952) is a professional philosopher of science. He is the director of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society and professor of philosophy at the University of Exeter. Dupré was educated at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge and taught at Oxford, Stanford University and Birkbeck College of the University of London before moving to Exeter. Dupré's chief work area lies in philosophy of biology, philosophy of the social sciences, and general philosophy of science. Dupré, together with Nancy Cartwright, Ian Hacking, Patrick Suppes and Peter Galison, are often grouped together as the "Stanford School" of philosophy of science.

In 2010 Dupré was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in

recognition of his work on Darwinism, and became President-Elect of the British Society for the

Philosophy of Science. He is also an elected member of the governing board of the Philosophy of Science

Association (USA) and of the council of the International Society for the History Philosophy and Social

Studies of Biology.

List of Honorary Fellows of Peterhouse, Cambridge

This is a list of Honorary Fellows of Peterhouse, Cambridge. A list of current honorary fellows is published on the college's website at Fellows by Seniority.

Sir Hugh Beach

Alfred Brendel

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Baroness Butler-Sloss

Sir Ian Corder

Adrian Dixon

Sir Richard Eyre

Sir Nicholas Fenn

Chan Gunn

Ian Hacking

Angela Hewitt

Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne

Sir John Kendrew

Sir Aaron Klug

Michael Levitt

Anthony Lloyd, Baron Lloyd of Berwick

Denis Mack Smith

Sir Noel Malcolm

Simon McBurney

Sam Mendes

Sir Christopher Meyer

Sir Declan Morgan

Klaus Roth

Nicholas Stern, Baron Stern of Brentford

James Stirling

Sir John Meurig Thomas

Martin Thomas, Baron Thomas of Gresford

David Wilson, Baron Wilson of Tillyorn

Sir David Wright

Sir Tony Wrigley

List of mathematical probabilists

See probabilism for the followers of such a theory in theology or philosophy.This list contains only probabilists in the sense of mathematicians specializing in probability theory.

This list is incomplete; please add to it.David Aldous (1952–)

Robert Azencott - Professor of Mathematics, University of Houston, Emeritus Professor, Ecole Normale Superieure, France

Thomas Bayes (1702–1761) - British mathematician and Presbyterian minister, known for Bayes' theorem

Gerard Ben-Arous - Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Itai Benjamini

Jakob Bernoulli (1654–1705) - Switzerland, known for Bernoulli trials

Joseph Louis François Bertrand (1822–1900)

Abram Samoilovitch Besicovitch (1891–1970)

Patrick Billingsley (1925–2011)

Carlo Emilio Bonferroni (1892–1960)

Émile Borel (1871–1956)

Kai Lai Chung (1917–2009)

Erhan Cinlar

Harald Cramér (1893–1985)

Persi Diaconis (1945–)

Joseph Leo Doob (1910–2004)

Lester Dubins (1920–2010)

Eugene Dynkin (1924–2014)

Robert J. Elliott (1940–)

Paul Erdős (1913–1996)

Alison Etheridge

Steve Evans

William Feller (1906–1970)

Bruno de Finetti (1906–1985) - Italian probabilist and statistician

Geoffrey Grimmett (1950–)

Alice Guionnet

Ian Hacking (1936–)

Paul Halmos (1916–2006)

Joseph Halpern

David Heath

Wassily Hoeffding (1914–1991)

Kiyoshi Itō (1915–2008)

Edwin Thompson Jaynes (1922–1998)

Mark Kac (1914–1984)

Olav Kallenberg

Rudolf E. Kálmán (1930–2016)

Samuel Karlin (1924–2007)

David George Kendall (1918–2007)

Richard Kenyon - Brown University

Harry Kesten (1931–)

John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) - best known for his pioneering work in economics

Aleksandr Khinchin (1894–1959)

Andrey Kolmogorov (1903–1987)

Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827)

Gregory Lawler

Lucien Le Cam (1924–2000)

Jean-François Le Gall

Paul Lévy (1886–1971)

Jarl Waldemar Lindeberg (1876–1932)

Andrey Markov (1856–1922)

Stefan Mazurkiewicz (1888–1945)

Henry McKean (1930–)

Paul-André Meyer (1934–2003)

Richard von Mises (1883–1953)

Abraham de Moivre (1667–1754)

Octav Onicescu (1892–1983)

K. R. Parthasarathy

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

Charles E. M. Pearce (1940–)

Judea Pearl (1936–)

Yuval Peres

Edwin A. Perkins

Siméon Denis Poisson (1781–1840)

Yuri Vasilevich Prokhorov (1929–)

Frank P. Ramsey (1903–1930)

Alfréd Rényi (1921–1970)

Oded Schramm (1961–2008)

Romano Scozzafava

Scott Sheffield

Albert Shiryaev (1934–)

Yakov Sinai (1935–)

Ray Solomonoff (1926–2009)

Frank Spitzer (1926–1992)

Ruslan L. Stratonovich (1930–1997)

Daniel W. Stroock (1940–)

Alain-Sol Sznitman

Michel Talagrand (1952–)

Heinrich Emil Timerding (1873–1945)

Andrei Toom (1942–)

S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan (1940–) - 2007 Abel Prize laureate

Bálint Virág (1973–)

Wendelin Werner (1968–)

Norbert Wiener (1894–1964)

David Williams

Ofer Zeitouni (1960–) - Weizmann Institute

Rudolf Carnap (1891–1970) - one of the giants among twentieth-century philosophers (best known for confirmation probability)

Harold Jeffreys (1891–1989) - one of the giants within Bayesian statistics school

Richard Jeffrey (1926–2002) - best known for the philosophy of radical probabilism and Jeffrey conditioning

Terence Tao

Richard M. Dudley

William Timothy Gowers

Bálint Tóth

List of philosophers of science

This is a chronological list of philosophers of science. For an alphabetical name-list, see Category:Philosophers of science.

Mad Travelers

Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses (1998) is a book by the Canadian philosopher of science Ian Hacking. The book provides an historical account of a medical condition that used to be known as fugue or mad travel. Fugue emerged as ‘a specific, diagnosable type of insanity’ (p. 8) in late nineteenth century France and then spread to Italy, Germany and Russia. The book was published in London nu: Free Association Books in, 1999. ISBN 9781853434556 According to WorldCat, the book is held in 1486 libraries.

Peter Galison

Peter Louis Galison (born May 17, 1955, New York) is the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor in history of science and physics at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard University in both physics and in the history of science in 1983. His publications include Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (1997) and Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time. His most recent book (2007), co-authored with Lorraine Daston, is titled Objectivity.

Before moving to Harvard, Galison taught for several years at Stanford University, where he was professor of history, philosophy, and physics. He is considered part of the Stanford School of philosophy of science along with Ian Hacking, John Dupré, and Nancy Cartwright.

Galison developed a film for the History Channel on the development of the hydrogen bomb, and has done work on the intersection of science with other disciplines, in particular art (along with his wife, Caroline A. Jones) and architecture. He is on the editorial board of Critical Inquiry and was a MacArthur Fellow in 1996.


In philosophy and models of scientific inquiry, postpositivism (also called postempiricism) is a metatheoretical stance that critiques and amends positivism. While positivists emphasize independence between the researcher and the researched person (or object), postpositivists accept that theories, background, knowledge and values of the researcher can influence what is observed. Postpositivists pursue objectivity by recognizing the possible effects of biases. While positivists emphasize quantitative methods, postpositivists consider both quantitative and qualitative methods to be valid approaches.

Rewriting the Soul

Rewriting the Soul is a 1995 book by the Canadian philosopher Ian Hacking, who offers an account of the formative influences that shape people’s understandings of their lives and their understanding of the lives of those around them. Hacking's work is both a theoretical account of the concepts and modes of agentic engagement through which people encounter the world and make sense of themselves, and a psychological account of how minds relate to memories and the fragility of this relationship, especially in the lives of people exposed to extremes of suffering and cruelty. Through a study of the history and manifestations of Multiple Personality Disorder, Hacking describes how people come to an understanding of their lives through their own memories and autobiographies. Hacking describes the shifting shared meanings that shape our memories and become the threads with which people weave their biographies.

Stanford School

The Stanford School (humorously also called the Stanford Disunity Mafia) is a group of philosophers of science, the members of which taught at various times at Stanford University, who share an intellectual tradition of arguing against the unity of science.These criticisms draw heavily from research on science as a social and cultural process as well as arguments regarding ontological and methodological plurality found in different scientific fields. This group includes Nancy Cartwright, John Dupré, Peter Galison, Ian Hacking and Patrick Suppes. A notable position put forward by members of the Stanford School is entity realism.

A major conference with all the original members (except Hacking) plus original scientific collaborators, parallel philosophers, and the next generation of philosophers in this vein took place on Stanford's Campus on October 25–26, 2013. An anthology of this conference is being prepared, and will also include contributors not present at the conference.

The Emergence of Probability

The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference is a 1975 book by the philosopher Ian Hacking.

The Taming of Chance

The Taming of Chance is a 1990 book about the history of probability by the philosopher Ian Hacking. It is a sequel to his earlier The Emergence of Probability (1975). The book received both positive and mixed reviews.

World disclosure

World disclosure (German: Erschlossenheit, literally "development, comprehension") refers to how things become intelligible and meaningfully relevant to human beings, by virtue of being part of an ontological world – i.e., a pre-interpreted and holistically structured background of meaning. This understanding is said to be first disclosed to human beings through their practical day-to-day encounters with others, with things in the world, and through language.

The phenomenon was described by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger in his landmark book Being and Time. It has also been discussed by philosophers such as John Dewey, Jürgen Habermas, Nikolas Kompridis and Charles Taylor.Some philosophers, such as Ian Hacking and Nikolas Kompridis, have also described how this ontological understanding can be re-disclosed in various ways (including through innovative forms of philosophical argument).

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