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1936 - 2023
Dr. Ian MacDougall Hacking (18 February 1936 - 10 May 2023) was a white analytic philosopher whose work drew from multiple disciplines, including the history of science, statistics, physics, and psychology. Recognized as an influential contemporary thinker, Dr. Hacking is noted for his examination of the relationships between the physical and social sciences.
Raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Hacking received his B.A. in Physics and Mathematics (1956) from the University of British Columbia. He later became a student at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College, studying moral sciences. Here, he received a BA (1958), followed by an M.A. and PhD (1962). Between the 1960s and early 1980s, Hacking held academic teaching positions at universities internationally. These included his alma maters, the University of British Columbia (1964-1967) and the University of Cambridge (1969-1974), as well Princeton University (1961-1962), Makerere University College in Uganda (1967-1969), Stanford University (1975-1982), and Germany’s Bielefeld University (1982-1983).
In 1982, Hacking accepted a position at the University of Toronto Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and, in 1991, was awarded the title of University Professor. Following his tenure at the University of Toronto, he was appointed Chaire de philosophie et histoire des concepts scientifiques at the Collège de France. His term from 2000 to 2006 marked the first time an Anglophone philosopher was awarded the prestigious position. Subsequently, Hacking taught at the University of Chicago (2007), the University of California, Santa Cruz (2008-2010), and the University of Cape Town (2011) as a visiting professor. He numerous year he continued his work as University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and Professeur honoraire at the Collège de France.
Hacking published fourteen books in addition to numerous reviews, articles, and editorials. The books he authored comprise both his academic writing as well more popular texts directed to general audiences. His early text, The Emergence of Probability (1975), explores the influence of a 17th century concept of probability in contemporary thought. Logic, statistical theory, and the history of mathematics are also the central topics of Hacking’s Logic of Statistical Interference (1965), Taming of Chance (1990), An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic (2001), and Why is There Philosophy of Mathematics at All? (2014).
Hacking’s later texts, Rewriting the soul: Multiple personality and the sciences of memory (1995) and Mad travelers: Reflections on the reality of transient mental illnesses (1998), discuss psychiatric illness and the behavioral and social effects of diagnosis. These texts also reflect Hacking’s longstanding interest in ‘human kinds’ and the relationship between individuals and social categories.
In response to the philosophical debates surrounding the objectivity of scientific inquiry and theory, often referred to as ‘the science wars’, Hacking published The Social Construction of What? (1999). A collection of Dr. Hacking’s writing was published in the volume Historical Ontology (2002) taking essays authored throughout Hacking’s career to discuss the philosophical uses of history.
Hacking was recognized for his work with numerous awards, fellowships, and honours. In 1991, he was selected to present the Tarner Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge University and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences among other institutions. He was the recipient of the Canadian Council of the Art’s Molson Prize (2000), the inaugural Killam Prize for the Humanities (2002) and the Holberg International Memorial Prize (2009). Hacking was named a Companion to the Order of Canada in 2004.
Ian Hacking had three children, Daniel Hacking, Rachel Hacking, and Jane F. Hacking. Following two previous marriages, Dr. Hacking married Judith Baker (nee Polsky, 1938-2014) in 1983. Prof. Baker was a professor of philosophy at York University, Toronto. Following a period of declining health, Hacking died on May 10, 2023.
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“Ian Hacking”, The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/ian-hacking/
Madsen, Ole Jacob, Johannes Servan, and Simen Andersen Øyen. “‘I am a philosopher of the particular case’: An interview with the 2009 Holberg prizewinner Ian Hacking.” History of the Human Sciences 26 (2013): 32-51. Accessed April 3, 2017. doi: 10.1177/0952695113484318