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Because I can’t come up with a good title, but also because this book (what little of it I’ve read, but ascertaining from what I’ve read of it) is sort of everything I’m coming to love about philosophy i.e. goofy mental wanking combined with methodological rigour to create something genuinely insightful. What’s interesting is that I find most of the conclusions he reaches, like “action is action under a description” to be those conclusions that seem painfully obvious in hindsight but is hard to come to. The way Hacking approaches his questions is actually kind of a joy to behold.

Also, I don’t rely buy Jung, but the things I’ve ended up studying in Arts One seem to be eerily synchronous with the things I’ve been thinking about. His exploration of the assumption that “memory is the key to the soul” (p. 20), and how we understand ourselves by the causal descriptions we apply to our past are pretty much the theme of a play I’ve been writing (which also makes me a little apprehensive to finish it because I’m always terrified of over-intellectualizing my creative writing).

An idea that raises dizzying, and honestly a little disturbing, possibilities is that of ‘semantic contagion’. That possibilities and causalities present themselves as we describe them is something that I feel most people intuitively grasp, but when it’s implications are laid out like that the far-reaching effects of it is stunning.

To just add one closing remark: I love the ambition of this book. The questions it tackles have implications beyond its field (philosophy of science) and the fact that it makes those really big mental wanky questions (what are our memories? why are our memories? how do I understand who I am?) into something coherent is something that amazes me.

One Comment

  1. ” goofy mental wanking combined with methodological rigour to create something genuinely insightful.” hahahahah. Nice. I feel you on that. It’s interesting though because he does seem to jump around a lot in terms of disciplines. Not only are the implications “beyond its field,” his discussion of statistical analysis, history of science and psych mean that it kind of falls outside of philosophy as a work. Although it’s organized rigorously, and he’s definitely not meandering, I can’t really tell if he has a rigorous methodology or not.


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