Reading Ian Hacking:

Ian Hacking's argument is much more difficult to understand than you might expect. He talks about different cultures "forging" connections, just the way that a blacksmith forges molten metal. Cultures forge connections between ideas that make possible ways of understanding the world, such as understanding strange behavior as coming from a "disease" called "multiple personality disorder" that is "caused by" childhood memories. But when he asks himself, are these "forged" connections Real, he REJECTS the question. Sometimes simply ANSWERING a question is a way of buying into a worldview that is false. Simply to debate the question as to differences between people of different races is to presume that the idea of "race" makes sense, whereas it may not. So for Hacking, "is [multiple personality disorder] Real?" shouldn't be answered -- or even asked -- because it presumes that there is a fundamental difference between ideas connected by cultures and reality. Whereas there might be microbes that exist in a reality outside culture, when you talk about ways of being alive, there is no "outside culture." We are all born into our cultures. The only ways we have of talking, thinking, being, connecting with others, feeling -- the ways and means of doing these things are something we inherit at birth precisely by being born into the culture we inhabit. In another essay he has written, Hacking says, "does that mean that we are limited?" Well, maybe, he answers: the number of choices we can make in expressing ourselves, in action and feeling, "are inexhaustible but bounded" (229). We live in culture like we live on the ground, and it is as real to us as the ground (go ahead, stomp on it!). So culturally-forged connections are "real," as real as it gets.

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