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Ian Hacking · Making Up People: clinical classifications · LRB 17 Aug...

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Ian Hacking
I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the affects on the people in turn change the classifications. We think of many kinds of people as objects of scientific inquiry. Sometimes to control them, as prostitutes, sometimes to help them, as potential suicides. Sometimes to organise and help, but at the same time keep ourselves safe, as the poor or the homeless. Sometimes to change them for their own good and the good of the public, as the obese. Sometimes just to admire, to understand, to encourage and perhaps even to emulate, as (sometimes) geniuses. We think of these kinds of people as definite classes defined by definite properties. As we get to know more about these properties, we will be able to control, help, change, or emulate them better. But it’s not quite like that. They are moving targets because our investigations interact with them, and change them. And since they are changed, they are not quite the same kind of people as before. The target has moved. I call this the ‘looping effect’. Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before. I call this ‘making up people’. What sciences? The ones I shall call the human sciences, which, thus understood, include many social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and, speaking loosely, a good deal of clinical medicine. I am only pointing, for not only is my definition vague, but specific sciences should never be defined except for administrative and educational purposes. Living sciences are always crossing borders and borrowing from each other. The engines used in these sciences are engines of discovery but also engines for making up people. Statistical analysis of classes of people is a fundamental engine. We constantly try to medicalise: doctors tried to medicalise suicide as early as the 1830s. The brains of suicides were dissected to find the hidden cause. More generally, we try to biologise, to recognise a biological foundation for the problems that beset a class of people. More recently, we have hoped to geneticise as much as possible. Thus obesity, once regarded as a problem of incontinence, or weakness of the will, becomes the province of medicine, then of biology, and at present we search for inherited genetic tendencies. A similar story can be told in the search for the criminal personality. These reflections on the classification of people are a species of nominalism. But traditional nominalism is static. Mine is dynamic; I am interested in how names interact with the named. The first dynamic nominalist may have been Nietzsche. An aphorism in The Gay


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This fed back into the diagnoses. This banal framework can be used for many examples. More and more unhappy people started manifesting these Science begins: ‘There is something that causes me the greatest difficulty. but roles and weights will be different in every case. a loose alliance of patients. the presumptions that are taught. there are (e) the experts or professionals who generate (d) the ‘unable to cope’. There is also an obvious complication: there are different schools of thought. when ‘everyone’ believed that multiple personality was caused by early sexual abuse. associated with what at the time was called a ‘disorder’. but knowledge in Popper’s sense of conjectural knowledge. there arose a few paradigm cases of strange behaviour similar to phenomena discussed a century earlier and largely forgotten. a person had two or three personalities. and created a primitive. Especially the basic facts (not ‘so-called facts’. Psychiatrists cast around for causes. There is expert knowledge. At first they had the symptoms they were expected to have. once upon a time).. the knowledge of the professionals. partly thanks to those talkshows and other media. In this first instance. that multiple personality is caused by early sexual abuse. There is no reason to suppose that we shall ever tell two identical stories of two different instances of making up people. disseminated and refined within the context of the institutions. who believed in this 2/3 2012/03/10 18:00 . First. there was the multiple movement. multiple personality. We have (a) a classification. once the mantra of analytic philosophers.’ Making up people would be a special case of this phenomenon. more specifically.’ It ends: ‘Creating new names and assessments and apparent truths is enough to create new “things”. easily understood pseudoFreudian aetiology of early sexual abuse. They study. or advise on the control of (b) the people who are (a) classified as of a given kind. and there is popular knowledge. and became part of the standard set of symptoms. therapists and psychiatric theorists. We have (b) the people. shared by a significant part of the interested population. and the like.lrb. Finally. analogous to gay bars. and. There is (d) the knowledge: not justified true belief. This kind of person is now a moving target. but then they became more and more bizarre. those I call ‘unhappy’. There are (c) institutions. authenticity and status as experts. or whatever relatively non-judgmental term you might prefer. coupled with repressed memories. http://www. It became part of the therapy to elicit more and more alters. some of which I attended. try to help. which include clinics. In 1991 I went to my first split bar. judge its validity. Knowing this was the cause. that 5 per cent of the population suffer from it. and weekend training programmes for therapists. In 1986.. This story can be placed in a five-part framework. Within a decade the mean number was 17. and use it in their practice. and continues to do so without relief: unspeakably more depends on what things are called than on what they are. on the one hand. afternoon talkshows on television (Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera made a big thing of multiples. They work within (c) institutions that guarantee their legitimacy. the patients obligingly retrieved the memories. annual meetings of the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation. Around 1970. A few psychiatrists began to diagnose multiple personality.Ian Hacking · Making Up People: clinical classifications · LRB 17 Aug. this became a way to be a person. It was rather sensational. I wrote that there could never be ‘split’ bars. There was a time. or ‘facts’ in scare-quotes): for example. More than that.

28 No.. You are not logged in If you have already registered please login here If you are using the site for the first time please register here If you would like access to all 12. 1997-2012 ^ Top 3/3 2012/03/10 18:00 . the multiple personality. their families. B. Dublin ISSN 0260-9592 Copyright © LRB Ltd. as a psychiatric social worker (LRB. for example. to live in society. http://www. they did not interact with their friends. There were no multiple personalities in but careful philosophical language is not prepared for it.000 articles subscribe here Institutions or university library users please login here Learn more about our institutional subscriptions here Vol.Ian Hacking · Making Up People: clinical classifications · LRB 17 Aug. demands to be shown her Ontario Health Insurance card (which has a photograph and a name on it) and says: ‘This is the person I am treating. their counsellors. their employers. nobody else. 28 No. 16 · 17 August 2006 » Ian Hacking » Making Up People (print version) pages 23-26 | 5737 words Letters Vol. I would argue that the multiple personality of the 1980s was a kind of person previously unknown in the history of the human race. people did not experience themselves in this way. there were many in 1985. the multiple. in this way. the world’s outstanding autism expert. Pedantry is in order.lrb. 17 August).uk/v28/n16/ian-hacking/making-up-people/print diagnosis and in a certain kind of person. and reactions and counter-actions between them further contribute to the working out of this kind of person. she will very probably become a very different kind of person from the one she would have been had she been treated for multiple personality by a believer. Michael Fitzgerald Trinity College.’ Thus there are rival frameworks.. In 1955 this was not a way to be a person. when a patient arrives announcing she has multiple personality. Distinguish two sentences: A. In fact. If my sceptical colleague convinces his potential patient. who. she is a consultant psychiatrist. to experience oneself. 18 · 21 September 2006 From Michael Fitzgerald Ian Hacking describes Lorna Wing. There was the larger psychiatric establishment that rejected the diagnosis altogether: a doctor in Ontario. This is a simple idea familiar to novelists. but in 1985 this was a way to be a person.