The Social Construction of What?

  • Title: The Social Construction of What?
  • Author: Ian Hacking
  • ISBN: 9780674004122
  • Page: 332
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Social Construction of What Lost in the raging debate over the validity of social construction is the question of what precisely is being constructed Facts gender quarks reality Is it a person An object An idea A theory Eac
    Lost in the raging debate over the validity of social construction is the question of what, precisely, is being constructed Facts, gender, quarks, reality Is it a person An object An idea A theory Each entails a different notion of social construction, Ian Hacking reminds us His book explores an array of examples to reveal the deep issues underlying contentious accoLost in the raging debate over the validity of social construction is the question of what, precisely, is being constructed Facts, gender, quarks, reality Is it a person An object An idea A theory Each entails a different notion of social construction, Ian Hacking reminds us His book explores an array of examples to reveal the deep issues underlying contentious accounts of reality.Especially troublesome in this dispute is the status of the natural sciences, and this is where Hacking finds some of his most telling cases, from the conflict between biological and social approaches to mental illness to vying accounts of current research in sedimentary geology He looks at the issue of child abuse very much a reality, though the idea of child abuse is a social product He also cautiously examines the ways in which advanced research on new weapons influences not the content but the form of science In conclusion, Hacking comments on the culture wars in anthropology, in particular a spat between leading ethnographers over Hawaii and Captain Cook Written with generosity and gentle wit by one of our most distinguished philosophers of science, this wise book brings a much needed measure of clarity to current arguments about the nature of knowledge.

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      Published :2019-05-26T01:27:37+00:00

    About Ian Hacking


    1. Ian Hacking is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, specialised in the History of Science entry


    808 Comments


    1. I know social construction is supposed to be the great bogeyman of the sciences. But as someone who received a strong science education as well as a strong humanities education, I can't help but appreciate both the arguments for and against social construction, and I also can't help but pound my fists at the way the two sides of the debate can't seem to understand each other.Ian Hacking maintains roughly the same position as me-- that the sciences and the social constructionists act as gadflies [...]

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    2. I like to think of Ian Hacking as the "Oliver Sacks" of the philosophy of science. Never boring, and stocked with a seemingly endless supply of interesting facts, details, and stories, Hacking makes reading and thinking about the history of science positively fun (and controversial!). The Social Construction of What? is Hacking's foray into the Science Wars, sometimes called the "Culture Wars". Hacking makes a compelling case that these Wars represent "sticking points" of differing philosophical [...]

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    3. Hacking is remarkable for taking very seriously, with fascinating examples, a topic that many scientists would blow off. He distills much of the social construction literature to three simply put, but not so simple, questions about the nature of scientific facts: What is the role of nominalism? ----->(To what extent are scientific facts a consequence of vocabulary, language, and naming conventions?)What is the role of historical contingency? ----->(Would scientific facts be different if hi [...]

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    4. Hacking must have ADD. Reading this book is like having a conversation with a person who continually changes the subject, though as if the discussion were linear and logical. That is not to say that Hacking draws numerous conclusions from obviously faulty reasoning. Rather, beyond the first few chapters, it is difficult to tell what Hacking's point is. While his stories and analysis are interesting and fun, many of the later chapters do not connect very well (or are just not connected well) with [...]

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    5. This book is all over the place. Much of it feels like a collection of articles rather than a continuous narrative. Despite this, there are some worthwhile nuggets to extract, namely the distinction between idea and object. It may be worth muddling through discussions of dolomite and Captain Cook for this takeaway. Most of my notes, however, were taken in the first third of the book.

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    6. I don't mean to disappoint you, but this book is not actually about the word "what." But you still might want to read it if you've ever wondered whether the concept of "child abuse" makes any sense.

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    7. I'd describe myself as "at-risk" of being a naïve STEMbot sometimes, so over the last few years I've been on the lookout for good mid-level introductions to topics in the "softer" sciences and the humanities. And social construction is a topic that has caused me an awful lot of trouble. I was introduced to the idea of "The Social Construction of Reality" in a freshman-level sociology class, and had an immediate visceral reaction to it. Surely the natural sciences couldn't be said to be construc [...]

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    8. El ya tópico problema de la construcción social, ha caído en el fango de la confusión y de la vulgarización (incluso de la hiperintelectualización). La confusión de temas, conceptos y categorías campa a sus anchas cegando las posibilidades de una discusión que pueda llevar a algo mas que un atolladero. Nuestro autor, en lugar de limitarse a luchar en esta caótica batalla, aun dando su posición sin cobardía, se dedica a una noble misión: abrir un espacio de luz en la oscuridad, clari [...]

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    9. Really enjoyed this book it is rich enough and dense enough to keep you coming back for more. The topics are neatly divided so as to drive home the books primary "sticking" points in a variety of contexts. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys philosophy and linguistics.

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    10. What is objectively real and what is a construct? It may seem like a simple question, but as with all things, the closer you look, the more complex things become. Hacking's 'Social Construction of What' highlights this complexity and helped me to realize how much of reality is constructed in different ways. Hacking points out that seeing constructs can help to shake up a subject and unsettle surface assumptions. He reminds us that they are a tool for critical theory to help unmask structures of [...]

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    11. Hacking considers the idea of "social construction" in a subtle, balanced and argumentatively charitable manner. As the title suggests, one must do a lot of work before even beginning to defend or criticize social construction, because it is not always clear what that means, what it pertains to, and who claims it. He lays out some useful distinctions about what social construction is and is meant to do, which anyone should find helpful. He also takes a closer look at Pickering, Latour, Kuhn and [...]

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    12. Social Construction is a specter haunting research. Or at least it is one of the focal points of the Science Wars, between figures arguing the objectivity and integrity of science (usually particle physicists) and those arguing the opposite (usually sociologists or historians or anthropologists or some such). Certainly, Hacking was able to find 25 books of the form 'the Social Construction of X", (one for every letter of the alphabet, bar X), but what is socially construction and why does it mat [...]

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    13. I came to this book as a skeptic about social construction. Hacking offers a clear and thorough treatment of social construction that disabused me of most of my concerns. One example of his style is to step back and ask what the /point/ of social construction-type critique is. For example, no one disputes this proposition: "The English language is a social construct." But people do raise eyebrows when critics ask about the social construction of the family, or mental illness, or immigrants. The [...]

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    14. Hacking's The Social Construction of What? is an exemplary glimpse into varied claims that are made by thinkers who assert that "X is socially constructed." Having thoroughly reviewed the relevant literature, Hacking guides readers through the mess of jargon surrounding social construction.While analyzing the "science wars," in which social constructionists clash with scientists, Hacking carefully details several "sticking points." These sticking points constitute fundamental differences between [...]

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    15. Hacking tries to find a middle ground on the great social construction debate. I felt a little bit ignorant while he explained his philosophic structure, which speaks to the lack of philosophy books on my shelves and not to his writing, which was clear enough for me to (barely) follow along.This book is essentially an amalgam of old essays and speeches he made on the topic with a long forward to explain what he meant to say.The latter parts of the book were the most fun part to me and I especial [...]

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    16. Although the writing style and argumentation is a little disjointed, this is an authoritative analysis of the main issues surrounding constructionism. In the debate over the standing of natural science, Hacking distinguishes three main "sticking points" around which disagreement between rationalists and constructionists centres: contingency, nominalism and explanations of stability. Rather than embarking on detailed philosophical analysis, he focusses on the work of 'reputable' constructionists [...]

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    17. Despite his doubts, Hacking makes a nice attempt to sort through the significance and plausibility of various "social construction of x" claims. On the way, he makes a variety of nice, simple distinctions that help bring various issues into relief. This book is, I think, a good instance of the way in which philosophy need not be the manifestation of a research agenda and also need not be a show of pedantry, while still being somewhat rigorous and cautious. His writing style allows the book to go [...]

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    18. This book is mostly about semantics which are important but I have trouble thinking of as anything but a game even when there are real world consequences.I guess I am one of those people who thinks our understanding and definitions of almost all things are social constructions and that we may never get to the reality of anything. I think Ian Hacking would not think that was a problem provided I made sure to use the right words to talk about it?Post Script: I think I was supposed to learn from th [...]

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    19. The books contains some useful history and (as it were) phenomenology of disputes about claims to the effect that X is socially constructed. It is admirably non-committal at appropriate points. Moreover, it contains some useful distinction-mongering near the beginning.It is marred by being somewhat diffuse and, worse, by two major substantive flaws: (i) an unsatisfactory discussion of nominalism and (ii) an entirely too quick "justification" and explanation of the claim that the truth of a propo [...]

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    20. I really enjoyed reading this collection of essays on the notion of social construction and the current controversies related to philosophy of science. Hacking's location of current disputes in long standing philosophical traditions as well as his exploration of concepts like "looping effects" and contingency in the natural sciences are important tools for assessing a lot of other literature within the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. A great way to begin thinking criti [...]

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    21. An interesting attempt at mediating between some more extreme positions in the science/culture wars. But unless you're in SSK, only half of the chapters are practically interesting. I know this has been translated into Finnish as 'What is Social Constructionism', which is about the worst possible translation. Although eminently readable, this is an evaluation of previous claims in the field, not an introduction.

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    22. Fascinating book on Social Constructionism. I was hoping that he would give me ammunition against SoCon's, but instead he gave an in depth analysis of the current state of affairs. He believes that there should be a conflict between Social Constructionism and Essentialsim, and that it should continue. I want to hate him for being an apologist, but he is so clever and British. (Just saw on that he is Canadian. But he was a student at Cambridge. Probably majored in Witticism.)

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    23. Hacking bounces around, so I took the privilege of doing the same. Still, the ideas are so, so interesting. It all comes down to epistemological objectivity and ontological objectivity. If that sentence intrigues you, read this book. If not, carry on.

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    24. This book essentially asks what it means to say that "X is socially constructed". Hacking does a thorough job of pulling apart this over-used phrase, showing that it has come to mean a variety of things, and in some cases nothing at all, depending on the X to which it is applied.

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    25. Love the tone and the accessible discussion of some big issues in philosophy of science. A bit disappointed that he didn't cash his concerns out in terms of consequences or next steps. This book seems largely intended to serve as an introduction and to point readers to his earlier work. Not bad.

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    26. A really clear investigation of a really complicated disagreement

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    27. Excellent, succinct, and therefore, distinct among introductions to postmodernism.

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    28. Hacking gets a 4 for his choice of subject, 2 for his thinking, and 1 for his dog-shit writing.

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    29. This is only for the skeptics of "social construction". Not worth the time otherwise.

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    30. this shit is dope. social constructionism deconstruction. yay!

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