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Historical Ontology

Ian Hacking


Cambridge 1 .:\lassach usetts.

London, England


In memo ry of my mother, "Peggy,"

ne Margaret Elinor AiacDougall
b. 12 Octobe:r 1905 in Tauranga, 1lew Zealand
d. 19 fu/y 2001 in lVest Vancouver, Ca nada

These eha pters are o ccasional pieces written bet:ween 19 73 and 1999. A.lmost all are literally occa.s.ionall \'r"Titten for an occasion: an in'i-itation to
give a speciallecturei to con tribute to a vol u me o f essaysi to participa te in a
conference; to :fill, ,...,.ithin 24 hour.s., a blank spot in a magazine; orto revie . . v
a book. T'\1.'0 closely connected themes predominate: sorne novel v.m)'"'S in
which a philosopher can make use oflstory, and my uses of the early "archaeological" work of 'v!ichel Foucault. People sometimes take meto advocate the right methodology for philosophy in our times. 1\-othing could be
fa:rther from the case. There are many more ways for a philosopher to use
hi.s.tory than I can imagine, and Foucauh is. an almost endless so urce of inspiration for people whose interests and abilities are very different from


Cop~'Tight "&'.

2002 by th.e Pres~dent :md Rliows of Harvard College

The e.ssays have been revised orliy lo avoid repettion, to correct outright
errors, to make the style more uniform, and to change the tense lj...There the
present has become the past. The opening chapter is new; the dosing one
was published in 2001. l hope in the future to develop two groups of ideas
presented here: about making up people (chapter 6), and about styles of
reasoning {chapters 11 and 12).1 have to thank my editor, Lindsay V{aters,
for encouraging meto put this body of work together, and for his patience
in waiting for the resnlts.

All rights reserwd

P:rinted in the Cnited State~ of _America

Har...-ard Onl\'ersit~' Press paperback e-ditlon, 21}:)4

Catal0ging-in-Publlcatlon Dat<t i.s 8-..:ailable fmm ili<: llbrar:.' of Congre;:,.

!SBN 0674-00616-X


ISB!'\ 0-674-016G7-6 (paper)



Historical Ontolo gy

2 Five Para b les


Two Kinds of ":,:ew Historicism" for Philosophers


The Archaeology of lv!ichel Foucault


Jvlichel Foucault's Immature Science


:'v!aking U p People


7 Self- lmprovem ent


How, Why, When, and Where Did ianguage Go Pub lid


Nigh t Though ts on Philolo gy


1O Was There Ever a Radical :'v!istranslation<



ianguage, Truth, and Reason



"Style" for Hstorians and Philosophers



Leibniz and Descartes: Proof and Eterna! Trnths



Wittgenstein as Philosophical Psychologist



Drearns in Place


Works Cited








Historical Ontology

This. is. a revised version of the Robert and .1-ia urine Rothschild Lecture, 22
Ap.ril1999, given at the Department of the History of -Science, Harvard Univer5ity. 1 'Nas asked to discuss interconnections bet\-{een the history and philosophy of science. Instead, 1 used the o-casion to tie together sorne more
general themes. about philos.ophy and history, already broached in a nurnbe.r
of the- chapte-rs tha t follm\'.

"'Historical ontology" is not, at first sight~ a happy phrase; it is too self-important by half~ lv!orrover, l have always cfuliked the word "ontology." lt
""Tas arormd, in La tin~ in the seven teenth een tury, naming a branch of
metaphysics, alongside cosmology and psychology. Christian Wolff (1730)
pu t it lo use. He though t of ontolo gy as the study of being in general, as
opposed to philosophical reflection on individual but ultimate entities
such as fhe soul, the world, and God. If, like myselt; you can understand
the aims of psychology, cosmology~ and theology but are hard pres.s.ed to
explain what a study ofbeing in general would be, you can hardly welcome
talk of ontology. In the twentieth century the word attracted significan!
philosophers such as W. V. Quine and .\'!artin Heidegger, but their pronouncements on the subject '"''ere sometimes bizarre as "vell as profound.
Tink of Qnine's ontological aphorism, "To be i> to be the value of a variable." And yet, and yet su ppose we want to talk in a quite general way
about all types of objects, and what makes it possible for them to come
into being. It is convenient to group them together by talking about ""what
there is/' or on to logy.


Ontology has been characterized as the study of the most general kinds
that exist in the universe. Usually the emphasis has been on demarcation:
which candidates for existence really do exist. Aristotle and Plato disagreed
in their ansvvers~ and philosophers have gone on disagreeing e-ver .s.ince. In
the chapters that follow l express very little interest in those disputes. As 1
say in chapter 6, I think of ill)'Self as a ((dynamic nominalist," in terested in
hm..,. our practices of naming interact .....ith the things that we name-but
1 could equally be called a dialectical realist, preoccupied by the interactions between what there is {and what comes into being) and our concep

tions of it.

Yet sorne of the old connotations of "ontology" serve me well, for l want
to talk about objects in general. ::-!ot _iust things, but whatever we individuate and allow ourselves to talk about. That indudes not only "material" ob_ect;; bu t al so dasses, kinds of peop le, ami, indeed, ideas. Final! y, if we are
concemed with the coming into being of the very possibility of sorne objects, what is that if not historical>
Ontology has been dry and dusty, but 1 lift my title from an author
whom none consider arid, e\o'en if he has nm.. fallen frorn grace-in sorne
quarters, into a mire of unkind refutations. In bis remarkable essay "\Vhat
ls Enlightenment?" ]1,-!ichel Foucault (1984b) twice reterred to "the historical outo!ogy of ourselves." This could be the name of a study, he said, that

1ms concemed with "truth through lj.'llhich \'le constitute our.s.elves as objects of knmvledge/' lj..,.ith '~pmter through -,.lhich "'le constitute ourselves as

sub_i ects acting on others," and with "ethics tluough which we wnsttute
ourselves as moral agents." He calls these the axes of knowledge, power,
and ethics.
The notion of ''constituting ourselve.s." may seem very fancy and far

from everyday thought, but it isn't. Alter the CDlurnbine School slayings in
Colorado the lead editorial in The New York Times said that "the cultural
fragmeuts out of which Mr. Harris and Mr. Klebold [the two adolescent
murderer.s.~~ invented themselves:, and their death.s., are nml ubiquitous in
every community, urban, suburban} and rural." 1 emphasize those vwrds.,
i nven ted themselves. l do uot aim at exp licating Foucaul t, but per haps l do
not need to, because on days of exceptional stress, like that 22"' of April,
1999, his way of speaking seems bo th natural and dos e to the b one.
In thinking of constitoting ourselves, we should think of constitutiug
as so and so; 'i...,'e are concerned, in the end, '"i th possible ,,.-a_ys to be a person. Foucault .s.poke of three a.,'{es on which we con.s.titute oursebres. Do

not be misled IJy the .s.econd axi.s., named po1ver. /l..lany readers picked
up on Foucault's PoH-'erl.Kno\1.rledge (1980}. The resulting discussions often
seemed to focos on domination from outside, and in English often appeared to confuse in the sen.s.e of political, social, or armed clout, on

the one hand, and causal efficacy ou the other. Vv'hen Foucault wrote of
pm-..Te-r, he did not usually have in mind the pm..Ter e.,'{erted u pon us by a discernible agent or authority or system. lt is rather we who participa te in
anonymous, unowned arrangements that he called power (a theme that is
amplified in chapter 4 below). It is as much our own power as that of anyone else that preoccupied ltim: "power through which we coustitute ourselves as subj ects acting on others;' not ourselves as passive victim.

In decidiug about my title, 1 am comforted that "historical ontology" is

not one of the terms on which Foucault seems to have laid much pub!ic
emphasis. It i.;; not like Hdiscursive formation," ''episteme," or "genealogy."
Those expressions have been picked up by bis admirers and worked to
death. He himself did not like to hang on to bis made-up labels for any
length of time, and it is possible that he used "historical ontology" only
during one particular visit lo Berkeley in the early 1980s. He then gave the
te'-1: of "\\'hat Ls Enlightenment?" to Paul Rabinow for first publication in
TI!e Fauwult Reader (Foucault l984a). About the same time he gave an interview that also referred lo historical ontology (Foucault 1983). lt was
printed in the second edition of Dreyfus and Rabinbow's book about
Foucault (1983 ). Neither before nor after that time did he seem to attach
m u eh weight to the p hrase.
Paul Rabinow later organized the three vol u mes of the Essentia! \Vorks
of Foucault (startiug with Foucault 1997) along the three iLxes of ethics,
power, aud was a good old-fashioned way to sor! philosophy.
"Hm-..T we constitute ourselves as moral agents-" -that is the program of

Kant's ethics. Foucault regularly historicized Kant. He clid not think of the
constituton of moral agents as something that is universalizable, apt for all


constitute oursebtes ata place and

rational beings. On the contra~)~
time, using materials that have a distinctive and historically formed organiz.ation. The genealogy to be unraveled is hO'i....Twe, as peoples jn civilizations -,...,ith histories, have become moral agents, through constituting our.selves as moral agents in quite sp ecific, local, historical ways.
Like-,.vise, the constitution of ourselve.s. as sub_jects is at the core of social and political philosophy. The reerence to power is pure Hobbes, but
H o bbes is exactly inverted. Instead of consti tuting the sovereign and in-

vesting Levia than wi th absol ute power in order to stop us from killing ea eh
other ,.._,e are the ones ,..,Tho cons.ti tute ourselves as subjects by the mechanisms uf power in which we participate. And finally, the connections between truth and knowledge, the first of Foucaul three axes, warp yet an
other traditional !heme, for instead of knowledge being knowledge of what
is true, the objects of knowledge become ourselves, beca use of the possibilities for truth and falsehood that are woveo around us. Such possibilities
also involve l"{ays of finding out ,.,rhat is true or false. Think for a rnoment
of t:his obscure idea being bastard kin to .\Ioritz Schlick's (1936) verification principie, according to , . . ,hich the meaning of a statement is its method
of verifica !ion. Except here we realize that the possibilities tor truth, and
hence of what can be found out, and of methods of verification, are them
sekes molded in time. Historical ontology has more in common with both
logical positivism and Auguste Comte's original positivism than might at
first be n oticed.
Foucault vms concerned with hov. "1..,~e~' constitute ourselves. I shall generalize, and examine all manner of corutitutings. To mention only sorne
that 1 have looked into: how what we now cal! probabilty emerged (Hacking 1975a). How chance, once the ultimate other, the unknowable, was
lamed and became the increasingly favored means for predicting and con
trolling the behavior of people and things (1990). How somethng as pain
ful as the abuse of children was made and molded into a focus for action, a
vehide- for judgment, a lament for a generation's lost innocence, a scapegoat tor the eod of the nuclear family, anda ground for repeated interventions, the policing of farnilies (1995c, 1992b, 1991c). How transient mental lurch into our consciou.sness and fade avmy, creating nelj."{ ways to
e} uncontrollable distresst ,.,ray.s to absent oursdves from intolerable
responsibility, and Jegitimating exercises in both constraint and libera!ion
( 1995c, 1998). But above all, how these various concepts, practices, and
corresponding insttutions, which we can treat as objects of knowledge, at
the same time disclose new possibilities for human choice and action, the
tapie 1 begin to discuss in chapter 6 below.
These are disparate tapies, and there is no need to find a unity among
them; you vwuld hardly e},_--pect a quest for commonality from someone
who has tried to enumerate a hodgepodge of disunities among the sciences
(Hacking 1996). Despite the element of sclf-aware irony in my tille, the
catchphrase "historical ontology" helps us think of these diverse inquiries
"' t(Jrming part of a family. The comings, in comings into being, are histor1

ical. The beings that becorne-things, classifications, ideas, kinds of peapie, people, institutions--can they not be lumped under the generic heading of ontology? But notice hm"lt in aU my examples so far, there is a cogent
implication of Foucault's knowledge, power, and ethics . .'llthough 1 want to
genera1ize his historical on tology, I -,vill try to preserve 'i....That was een tral to
his arnbitions, namely his three cardinal axes. Yet l could have subtided this
chapter "n'tensions and contractions." The hstorical ontology preseoted
he re is indeed a generaliza tion, bu t is in many resp ects vasdy more limited
than Fouca ult' s vision. lt lados the poli tical am bition and the engagemen t
in struggle that he intended for his la ter genealogies. It is more reminiscent
of bis earlier archaeological enterpri>es.

Hi.storica 1"

The explicit use of the adjective "historical" w:ith philosophical nouns goes
beyond "ontology." J.believe that Georges Canguilhem (1967), the great
historian of medicine and of life .....Tho 1vas one of Foucault's teachers, ,...,.Tas

the first to state that .'vlichel Foucault's "archaeological" method dug up the
"historical a priori' of a time and place. The historical a priori points
at conditions on the possibilities of knowledge within a "discursive formation;' condltions whose dominion is as inexorable, there and then, as
Kant's synthetic a prim-i. Yet they are at the same time conditioned and
formed in history, and can be uprooted by la ter, radical, historical transformations. T. S. Kuhn's paradigms have sorne of the character of a historical
a priori. For the nonce, l think that philosophy in the twentieth century
drank its fill at the Kan tian source, and shonld now turn back to more empirical springs. 1 learned from Karl Popper ( 1994) tha t we should abjure
what he called the m~nh of the framework, and be firm in our resolve
to stay, for a time, a1vay from ultimate framevwrks that constrain our
thought. There is plenty of room for history plus philosophy "~thout rein-cama ting the syn thetic a priori in historicist garb.
1 have now made plain that Foucault looms in the background of my
discussion. 1 do not want to examine his ,.,mrk, but to use it to combine history and philosophy in a way that mayor may not owe a good deal to him.
Certainly "historical X" 5 not ,imt Foucault.J have recently noticed quite a
fe\V instances of "'history," "philosophy," and "'sdence" ( or their cognates)

mingling in unexpected ways. There is even the "historical anthropology of

science." That was how the late A. C. Crombie ( 1994, 1, 5), a founding fig

H i stor ica 1 On tol ogy

ure in modern history of science, described his monurnentalthree volurnes

on styles of scientific thinking-there is more on that topic in chapter 12
below. Then there is "philosophical history." jonathan Re's (1999) engaging and iconoclastic I See a lice is subtided A, Phiwsophical History. In an
afterword Re enters a plea fur this new endeavor. lt is notthe history of
philosop hy practiced in universities, committed to philosop hical epochs
and schools, and dedicated to a canonicallist of philosophers whom it regards as pen pals across the centuries. lnstead, Re tells us, it is "a discipline
that may not yet exist, (despite sorne prototypes by Foucault and Deleuze),
bu t w hose arrival is long overdue." lt >dll devote itself to "meta physical notions that have infiltrated common sense and become real forces in the
world." lt will not be chronological. like cinema, it w:ill cut between close
shots and distan! perspectives. lt w:ill use the methods of autobiography,
fiction, historical research, and philosophi;al criticism. lt w:ill fall uuder
the broad framework of phenomenology, and will have learned from the
teachings of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and ;'vlerleau- Ponty. 1 admire this
ambition, but cannot agree with the last sentence of Re 's book: "Wth luck
then, a philosophical history will allow us to catch hold of the idea of scientific objectivity before it has broken away from subjective experience,
and observe it in its pristioe state, at the moment when abstraction en ters
our lives, and sense begins to separa te itself from souud" (Re 1999, 386).
There we have it. The pristine state.
There is no such state, most certainly not in the case of scientific objectivity. l do not wish to saddle jonathan Re with a nai\ce belief in the existence of pristioe states of knowledge. He >VTote to me, apropos of my review of his book (1999c), tbat bis mention of a pristine state was an
unguarded "echo of something in ~Ierleau-Ponty, and the ideais not that
there's a single pure state of absolute objectivity, but quite the reverse. 1
meant to suggest that ob,iectivity is constantly being renewed." 1 am notentirely in accord i th this p henomenological stance. Re did wan t to warn
against the "danger that as [ob,i ectivities] grow old we forget their origins
and take them to be infini te!y old and preternaturally wse." Tha t is a danger, but I doubt that obj ecthity is constan tly being rene,Ned. M y picture is
more like that which l describe in the ne.xt section, of significan! singularities during which the coordina tes of "scientific objectvity" are rearranged.
These rearrangements are matters of discourse and practice, which 1 have
seldom found to be clarified b) the idioms of phenomenology.

Hi5torical Ontology

But this is not the place to debate schools of philosophy. Why has there
been, in so many quarters, a longing for the pristine, the innocentl lili (we
hear a whisper from the >Vings), if only we could do a certain kind of historywell enough) ,~,.e could return to origins. There may even be a vision of
an Eden that we have p olluted. Foucaul t fell into this trap in his first studies of madnes.s, for be suggested tha t before the sequence that led us from
incarceration througb Bedlam to the moral treatment of the insane by talk,
and on to the babble of therapies and anti-therapies that swirlaround us
today, there was a purer) truer madne.s..s. Happilyl he renounced this roman tic fan tasy early on.
There are many other m)1hs of originating purity. There is the social
contrae!, which has be en so powerful a too! in liberal poltica! theory.
There is jung: "The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and
most secret of the sout opening into that cosmic night lvhich l ...~a.s.
psyche long befare there was any ego-consciousness ... in dreams we pul
on the likeness of that more universal, truer, m ore ete mal man dwelling in
the darkness of primordiallight" (Jung 1970, 144-5) ..
With only slightly greater modesty, there was once the fantasy of finding
the original human language, Adam's language, more universal and truer
than ours, the root and source of all human language. Since it employed
the first names for things, names given by God himself, that was a language
worth discovering (Aarsleff, 1982). That project once motivated much
first-rate p hilology. Perha ps it is less extinct than m u tated-to Chomsk;/ s
project of finding the universal grammar that underlies all human language. True, that grammar was not decreed in Eden, bu t it evolved in the
first era of the human rae e and is wha t make& us human.
\Vhen hstory and philosophy ntersect, their students must pul aside
the romantc cravings that so often occlude the vision of philosophers,
whether they lust after a moment of original purity or long for an a priori
frame?,mrk. Some mingling of history and philo.s.ophy can, however, ex-

hib t how possibilities carne in to being, creating, as they did so, new conuudrums, confusions, paradoxes, and opportunties for go od and evil. We
can even address exactly that topic mentioned by )onathan Re, namely
"scientfic objectivity." The best present and ongoing investigation of it is
being cond ucted under another !abe! in the "history plus" roster, namely
"historical epistemology." l refer to the work of Lorraine Daston and her
colleagues at the Max Planck lnstitute for the History of Science in Berln.

Historical Ontology

Historica 1 Epi stemology

Scien tille objectivity has a history all righ t, with ramifica tions different
from those imagined by Re. Daston has studied the effect of the camera
on our notiom of objectivity (the objectve lens, no longer the sub.iective
eye). Then there are the massive international projects in the nineteenth
century of collecting data about gravity or meteorology. They deployed
hundreds of observers all over the world, and "thus" were free of subjectivity (Daston 1991 a, b; Daston and Galison 1992). \Ve j udged that we becarne ob_jective as


increasingly placed our trust in numbers (Porter

1995), .\[ore practices like these molded our conception of objectivity

(.'vlegill 1994) ..>..s Re said, objectivity was constantly being renewed-but
there 1ms never a pristine state.

The la be! for this kiud of study, "historical epistemology," may be catching on. There is lvlary Poove? s A H istory of the M odern Fact, which begins
by praising Daston's leadership and the phrase "historical epistemology"
(1998, 7, 22). A..rnold Dmidson (200 la) subttles his new book Historcal
Epistemology and the Fo rmation of Concepts.
\Vhen that expression) "historical epistemology,,.. l ..'as coined.., it Y',rasmean t to convey a concern with ver y general or organizing concepts tha t

have to do with knowledge, belief, opiuion, obiectvity, detachment, argument) reason. rationality) evidence} even facts and truth . ..._-\11 those 'rmrds

suggest epistemology. Proof, rationality, and the like sound so grand that
we think o f them as free- standing obiects without history, Plato's friends.
But 'i.{e se e hm"T local they are l ..yhen we mention their opposites: myth)
imagination, ignorance) folly~ dishonesty} lying, doubt, madnes.s, prejudice.
overcontidence) commi tment ..:~vlost recen tly, Daston and Kathleen Parks

(1998) ha,,e added another dimemion with their beautifully produced

book about wonder. The importan! point of ali these works is that the
epistemological concepts. are not constants) free-standing ideas that are

.iust there, timelessly.

The ideas examined by historical epistemology are the ones we use
to organize the field of knowledge and inquiry. They are, often despite
appearances, historical and "situated." Historical epistemology may even
claim that pre.s.ent ideas have memorie.s.; that is, a oorrect analy-sis of an idea
requires an account of its previou.s. trajectory and uses. Right nmt these

concepts are ours, and they are often essential to the very functioning of
our s.ociety) our laws, our sciences, our argumentation, our reasoning. \Ve Ontolog:y

are stuck 'i.\'th them) \{hich is not to s.ay that we cannot change them, or
that they are not changing as you .s.peak-occasionally, even beca use you

speak. There is also the suggestion that !hose who do not understand the
history of their m'r-n central organizing ideas, such as objectivity or even

facts, are condemned not to understand how they use them. Thus feminist
-critics of objectivity vvho have not studied its meanings in time~ but 'i.{ho
hold objectivity to be a patriarchal value, may be trapped in the sarne
frarne as those who embrace the ideologies that they oppose.
Meta-e piste mology

ls this a kind of epistemology at atl? Certainly it 5 not epistemology in that

tain ted sense tha t Richard Rorty a.ssigned to the wo rd in Ph ilosophy and the
Minor of Nature ( 1979), his wonderful challenge to the entire enterprise of
American analytic philosophy. He took epistemology to be not theory of
knowledge but a search for the foundatons of knowledge. Da.ston and
her colleagues are not looking for foundations. Indeed, the very notion
that knowledge has foundations-or rather, successive groups of such notions-might be a tapie for the historical epistemologist.
There is nevertbeless a problem "ith the narne. In the fall of 1993 l organized a .,Neek-long conference dedicated to "historical epistemolo gy."
The participants t"L'ere graduate students anda fe'rl teachers from Chicago,
Paris, and Toronto. 1\.'fy :\-Iontreal colleague~ Yves Gingras, reminded me

that the !abe! would not do, became Gastan Bachelard pre-empted it long
befo re the Second World War.l have t..'>.-plained elsewhere how his idea dit~
fers from Daston's (Hacking l999b}. But we are not concerned 1vith ques-

tions of who owns a label. The fact is that Daston and her colleagues do
not do epistemology. They do not propose, ad,,ocate, or refute theories of
knowledge. They study epistemological concepts as objects that evolve and
m utate. Their work would be more trul y narned were it called "historical meta-epistemology." Where Bachelard insisted that historical considerations are essential for the practice of epistemology, the historica! metaepistemologist examines the trajectories of the objects that play certain

roles in thinking about knowledge and belief. (That could indude reflection on Bachelard's mn1 role in transforming epistemological

thought.) Hi<torical meta-epistemology, thus understood, falls under the

generalized concept of historical ontology that l am now developing.
Let us use Daston on the camera and the international proiects for data


H istorh:al Ontology

collection a.s the paradigms (in the strict Kuhnian sense of the word-an
achievement and exemplar for future work) of historical meta-epi>temology..A.lthough those two examples are quite different from any examined
by Foucault, his three axes are plain lo see. Da.ston's work wa.s directed at
the truth/kuowledge axis. but it al so implica tes the other two. The camera
becarue the agent for identif}ng and controlling criminals and immigran 15. Even the pa.ssport, a long -standing device for regulating travelers,
was completely transformed wth the advent of the photograph. The coordination of observers all mer the globe is one small a.spect of the exercise
of imperial power, but there was also a profound ethical dimension. The
obseners were morally bound to report absolutely truthfully. There, rather
than in individuallaboratory work, we formed the ethos of keeping a notebook in which one scrupulously records the data. The book must never be
al tered. That is a categorical imperative if e\'er there ,.,.yas one. The camera,
it was said, "keep.s. us honest," for it .s.howed hm"{ things really were. It ,..,.~as a
great ethical le,eler. Despi te rus es in the, only now have we learned
how to outit it "ith digital processing of photographed images. The person ....,Tho us.ed the camera for .s-cientific ,.vork, or for police v.:ork, or for the

photograph on the identity card, was a newly possible type of moral agent,
as was the .s.crupulous obsen'er of meteorological or gravitational facts on

Baffin Island or in Polyne&ia.

Lively scholars do not stay still. The historical epistemology (which 1 insist is meta~epistemology) encouraged by Daston"s group has expanded.
Very recently (long after the present e&say was, for most intents and pur~
poses, complete), 1 received the lates! prod uction of the 1\la.x Planck lnstitute in Berlin, with the telling title Biographies of Sciwt(fic Ob}ects (Daston
2000a). "This is a book about applied metaphysics. [In fact it is a collection
of 11 papers revised from a conference held in Berln in the fall of l995.]It
i.s. about how v~o'hole domains of phenomena--dream.s, atom.s, monster.s,
cul trne, mortali ty~ een ters of gravi ty, val u e, q-rtop lasmic particles, the self,

Historic:at Ontology


radical here: of course s.ome object& are .s.tudied at one time and not atan-

o ther. Bu t atoms have be en he re, in exactly their present form, longer than
the solar system, even if they becarne objects of scientific study (as opposed
to Democritean or Daltonian speculation} only at the start of the twenteth
century} and only, per haps, in consequence o f a curious transmuta tion in
the stud of the cosmic ether (Buchwald 2000}. Buchwald is not writing

about the coming into being of atoms, the objects. ('There could be a history of the creation by human beings of atoms of transuranic e]ements

such as plutonium; that would be a history of wming into being all right,
bu t it would not be applied meta physics.)
Tuberculosis bacilli, ancestors of the ones that still infect us, did come
into being late in the history of our planet, but long enongh ago to inhabit
the world of the pharaohs. That coming into being is a tapie not for applied metaphysics but for evolutionary bacteriology and hi.storical epide~
miology. There are questions about the confidence "ith which !hose two
hstoricalsciences loca te the bacilli in the daily life of ancient Egypt. Bruno
Latour (2000) raises these questions in his characteristically iconodastic
way. But onl the most irresponsibly playful of writers (plus sorne fools
who ape the playful) would assert that TB bacilli, or their baleful effects on
humans, carne into existence in 1882 under the gaze of Wilhelm Koch.
lv!y historical ontology is concerned with objects or their effects which
do not exi.s.t in any recognizable form until they are objects of scientific

study. Daston describes her applied metaphysics as about the coming into
being of objects of study-and not the coming into being of obi ects, pe
riod. Ah, but that is complicated. "Ob,iect" tself is an idea with a history, to
which Daston dedicates an introduction rich "ith historical meta-episte
m ology (Daston 2000b).
I have a more direct reason for segregating what 1 cal! historical ontology. 1 should like it to retain a close connection with Foucault's three axes
of knm:,dedge, pml.'er, and ethics. These concerns are present to sorne of

q u ir y" (Daston 2000b, 1). He re we have essays, by divers han&, on the

coming into being, or going out of existence, of the study of jmt these ob_iects. Does this applied metaphysics differ from historical ontology? 'Well,

Daston"s authors, but b no means to all. Let mleave it there and see how
future inquiries develop. Say, perhaps, that historical ontology is a species
of applied metaphysics, just as traditional ontology was a species of traditional metap hysics. But before giving exam p les of historical on to logy, let

there are difference.s. in emphasis..

us round out our dis.cussion of historical meta-epistemology.

tuberculosis-come into and pass m{ay as objects of .s.cientific in-

One difference s not decisive. because it i.s likely to prompt too m ueh
argument, not to mention sorne equivocation. Das-ton is cautious: "come

into being and pass away as objeds of scientific inquiry." Nothing overtly

Has historical meta-epistemology an1hing to do with philosoph)', or is it

just a speces of history? Well, "the problem of induction" is commonly


H is tor ic. a t On tol ogy

H is tor 1e_ a 1 Ont ol ogy

taken to be one of the central problems of philosophy. I might add here

that this is not strictly the way Hume pul it: the Yery notion of philosophy
coming packaged in "problems" of free wiil, induction, and so fort, may itselfbe an invention of the early twentefh century. Since 1 like fraudulently
precise dates, 1 haYe long been saying that "the problem" as definitve of a
m o de of philosophizing was canonized in English around 191 O"i fh ttles
by G. E. :\Joore. \lruliam james, and Bertrand Russell-for a few more details, see chapter 2 below. It is neverfheless almos! unanimously agreed that
what we now call the problem of inducton was set up by David Hume. Of
course there were anticipation.s., but they tended to be visible as precur.s.or.s
only after Hume created the issues---one fhinks of Joseph Glanvill's work
( 1661 ). Unlike Garb er and Zabell (1979), 1 do not rate the alleged anticipation by Sex~us Empiricus very highly (see my !975a, 178-9).
Why no problem of inducton betore Hume? Let us return lo PooYey's
History of the },.fodern Fact. By modem fact Poovey means the tiny partide
of informa tion, the ca psule, the n ugget, and su eh meta phors as come to

mind; somefhing compact, robust, down to earfh, neutral, bite-sized, byte.s.ized1 the ver y oppo.s.ite of theory, conJ ecture 1 hypothesi.s., generalization.

Facts are ugly ducklings, ungainly, unordered, "brute facts:' But fhen they
are supposed to speak, if only we get enough of fhem. And fhere we have
the germ of a problem. Facts are fhese ugly dry little items. Why should
they be so 'calued? Simon Schaffer and Steven Shapin ( !985) have shown
hm,.~ the particula te fact ...,.as essential to the ne'i... sciences of the se venT

teenth century: e.ssential for creating a rhetoric of trust and beliet: while at
fh e same time creating an elite society of selt~ professed eqnals. Poovey
moves to v. here trust matters e"r'en more, in the keeping of accountsl and
argues for an essential tacticity for the ne ...,r modes of commerce. She sees

in double entry bookkeeping the origin of the modern fact, curiously

timeless and temporal. Timeless, beca use the entries in the ledger are
eh ecked both ways lo be right, for all time; temporal, because those en tries
refer to dated events, fhe state of the counting house at fhe moment of a
Yet such facts were supposed to speak for general themes and rightminded ron el usi ons. Hm,r could anything so particular} no m atter hm,,r
well marshaled, support anything of general interest? That is exactly,
Poovey implies, how David Hume saw it around 1739, when he formulated
his problem of induction. We experience only particular bits of intormation. all in the present or the past. Yet that is our sale basis for expectations
"bo ut t l1c fu ture, or for general lmowledge. H ow can tha t possibly be?


A striking thesis arises~ the problem of induction requires for its formulation a particular conception of fhe world. It may have had any number of
sources, but it seems to be derived principaHy from commercial transactons, for whose purposes the world, or at any rate its wealth, is so ab-

stracted that it consists only of particulate facts. All data, all rock -b ottom
givens, are permanent momentary items of fact like those that appear in a
ledger book. Tbat is a conception within which the pro blem of induction
seems almost ine'i.itable. Hume thought that all our impressions are of

particulate facts. If you want to undo fhe problem of induction, yo u have

to observe that our impressions are not of particulate facts but of the pro-

verbial billiard balli in motion, anda billiard hall is not somefhing particulate, momentary. In short, one has to undo the starting poiut. Both modern probabilistic evasions of fhe problem of induction are quite effective,
e>.'en if not decisive. Here 1 mean both the Bayesian evaon-the so-called
"subjective" approach that analyzes degrees of belief~d the Peircian
one-fhe so-called "obi ective" approach tha t anal-zes fieq uencies and
confidence intervals. {! e>.-plain bofh these matters in an elementary way at
the end of my [200lc].) But neither evasion can get started in a vacuum:
they begin to work only when we conceive of our beliefs ata time as not
encoded solely in particulate facts.
l\.Jy cautious enfhusiasm for evasions of Hume's skeptical problem
about induction does not imply fhat all skepticism can be evaded. 1 refer
only to Hume's inducti,-e skepticism, couched in his examples of the postman's step on the stairs, and of fhe bread and whether it will nourish me.
;;.Jaybe fhat skepticism can be evaded. A total skepticism, which we did no!
learn from Hume, remains on the cards. "For all


know,"' AXYTHIXG

could happen next. If so, there is no poin t in worrying with Hu me whether

my moming's toast "ill be healthful. The worry that ><OTHING might happen from nmv on ,.._,as familiar to the schoolmen, sorne _of il'{hom very sen1

sibly invoked God as a necessary condition for there being something,

ra ther than nothing, after nm..T. Their worry 'i...Tas not in the least like

1 mention the philosophical and skeptical problem of induction because

it is taken to be a central problem of philosophy. Occasionally, it is relegated to the philosophy of science (as if science 11.rere concemed vw.'ith my
morning toas!, billiard.s, or the delivery of mail). Hume\ closely related
queries about causality roused Kant. An even more profound philosophical difficulty occurred to Hume when he had got lo fhe end of the Il'eati. .c....._he had given no account of himself. of the 'T' that gets. impression.w;.

14 Ontofogy

and is a nnity.ln his scheme of things the only impressions are particulate,
and if there is a getter of impres.sions.) it too is particulate; i:\'hence, then,
my idea of a person, of me? Kant took this so seriously that he proposed
one of those massce absurdi ties tha t are the preserve of the truly great figures who take philosophical rea.soning seriously and plunge on: I mean the
transcendental unity of apperception. Every one of my noticings of anything is accompanied by a noticing that 1 notice it. Thus the particulate
fact, child of double-entry bookkeeping and the new commercial practices,
engendered transcendental philosophy. And when we realize this, we may
want to store transcendental philosophy in the attic (do not thmw it out: it
might be needed again).
T'his cli5cussion i.s. the merest indicator of how historical meta-epistemology might bear on philosophy. Poovey does not say such things outright, and quite probably would think 1 am grossly overstating is
the philosopher's privilege to stand on the extreme margin. But these
thoughts are natural forme beca use l had the idea, in the course of writing
T'he Emergence of Probabilit)"; that philosophical problems are created when
the space of possibilities in which we organize our thoughts has mutated.
In line with that speculation, I offered my own account of "how Hume becarne po&sible" {1975a, ch. 19; the sentence "Hume has become possible"
comes from Foucault :1970, 60]). I hope the acwunt given there is not superseded by Poovey's but complementary to it.

The Creation of Phen o m en a

Al! sorts of things come into being in the course of human history. Not all,
not even those of great philosophical interest, fall nnder my conception of
historical ontology. 'What about what 1 have called "the creation of phenomena"? (Hacking 1983a, ch. 13). In 1879, a graduate student at johns
Hopkins University was following up a mistaken idea suggested by lv!axwellian th eory, or ra ther suggested to him by his teacher, Rowland,
.\"!axwell's leading e.:qJOnent in the United States. What Edward Hall found,
largely by serendipity, was that when he passed a curren! through a sheet of
gold leaf, in a magnetic field perpendicular to the current, he produced a
potential difference perpendicular to both field and curren t. I stated that
this phenomenon had never existed any-,..,.There in the universe untill879, at
leas! not in a pure form. l was willing to be inoffens'e and say that Hall
purified a natural! y existing phenomenon, but 1 did not really mean any-

Historical Onto,ogy


thing as mealy-mouthed as that. Hall brought ths phenomenon into

The example '~Nas a happy choice, beca use when I used it, it 1vas ancient
historyl but subsequently it carne alive again, 'i."l.'ith two .s.ucce.s.sive Xobel
prizes for Hall effects: one for the quantum Hall effect. and oue for the
fractional quan tum Hall effect awarded in the fall of 1998. The Hall phenomenon is quantized; that is, the potential does not increase continuously but by quantum steps. ]1.-!ore surprisingly: build an e>."tremely thin niobium supercooled "leaf;" a leaf so thin that electrons do not have a chance
to vbrate sideways. Then the potential steps are a quarky 1/3 of the standard quantum steps. This wa.s not a theoretical prediction; the No be! prize
\ms shared vth the man ""Tho, deeming himself a mathematician, not a
physicist, figured out why the fractional effect the original Hall
effect, this is a nice example for discussing the question, V'hich comes fir.s-t,
theory or ..'Periment? Ex--periment often comes fir.s.t.
Hall effects are nel.,T things in the 'i-mrldJ brought into being in the course
of human history. For a more familiar example, nothing lased an;rT'iNhere in
the universe until fifty years ago. Today lasers are ever;;-,...,here on the industralized world, and especially dense in the vicinity of compact discs. This
remark deeply offends sorne physicists, who triumphantly proclaim that
masing (not lasing) phenomena would explain sorne weird a.strophysical
events. But what they really mean is that the universe was made, from the
very beginning, in such a way that the la.ser wa.s there, ;,, poten tia. Snch talk
is a sure .s.ign that 'i-..Te have passed from phy.s.ics to metaphysics-and a very
effective and natural meta physics t is, too. I had expected m y tal k of the
creation of phenomena to be greeted with such resistance that it would be
silenced. So I was very pleased to see The Creation of Scient(fic ~lfects, the
title ofled Buchwald's (1994) book about Heinrich Hertz.
Schaffer and Shapin's Leviathan and the Air Pump i.s the classic study of
one of the fust groups of artificial phenomena. One part of their truly innovative book that fascinated me ,..._,as their translation of a little anti-manifesto by Hobbes {1985; cf. Hacking 1991b). He was prescient. He was
afraid of these phenomena that we would create all over the tace of the
earth and beyond, and so, in the end, destroy the metaphysics, epistemology, and the approach to science that he held so dear. Hobbes believed in
the thesis that phenomena are created, and, for hi.s. mvn reasons, hated it:
we have quite enough phenomena already, thank yo u very much} he ...,.Tote~
and lost the match with Boyle, torever.


H isto ri<:al O nto lo gy Onto,ogy

1 am dead serous about the "creation" of phenomena, phenomena of

cosmic significance that come into being in the course of human history.
\Vhy not include the creation of phenomena as a topic for historical ontology? Beca use they do not mesh with our three axes of knowledge, power,
and ethics. Obviously, Hall produced his effect only because he was properJy nen.mrked into a microsociology of po'iNer. One can cite some ethical

concerns. Certainly, he added to our store of knowledge, both of knowledge that and knowledge how. But there was no constituting of anything,
not ourselve.s-, electromagnetism, or anything else "~Nithin those three axes.
Mlcrosociolog y


Bloor, and Henry [1996) make plain the school's dedication to empiricism,
as its adherents understand it. For more specific detail, Pickering's ( 1996)
idea of "interactive stabiliza tion/' 'i:{hich ihvolves the sheer cussedness of
a pparatus as well as the resilience o f lheories abo u 1 how the appara tus
\..,Torks, is cacophonous but exhilarating music to my ears. Ido not go a:s far
as Bruno La tour {1993) aud advocate a parliamenl of things. 1 query his
intention to minimize the differences ben...Teen the human and the nonhu-

man (latour 1999). He advocates what he calls a "cosmopolitics" in contras! to which 1 have to own u p to old-fashioned humanism (Hacking
1999d}. Far from deserving Kuhn-like criticism on the .score of "nature'-'
not having a majar place in the sciences, this branch of social studies of
science seems to me to assign too much agency to nature.

lviention of ''microsodology '' invites a relevant digression. Thomas Kuhn)s

Roth.s.child lecture is v~.;ell remembered) with sorne hostility, by sociologists

of scientific knowledge. "! am among !hose who have found.the daims of

the strong program absurd," he said, "an example of deconstruction gone
mad . .. There's a continuous 1ine {or continuous slippery slope) from the
inescapable initial ob.s.ervation.s. that underlie micro.s.ociological s.tudies to
their still entirely unacceptable conclusions" (Kulm 1992, 7). Sorne years
la ter, l do not share Kuhn's hostility. The strong program is no longer a
demon. During the intervening years many flov. 'ers have bloomed, and

\Vhat role should social studies have in historical ontology? Thi> is precisely the sort of methodological question that I find useless. 1 help myself
to ,...,.hatever 1 can, from e'i.>ef)l1-lhere. If we stick to meta-epistemol ogy for

the moment, and use Daston's work as paradigma tic, then of course the
events she describes take place in a social matrix, but the point of the inquiry is to understand hov"' the uses of the idea of objectivity are themselves affected and have affected the l'mys in \"{hich l{e today use jt in our
discussions and in our organizations.. Ins.titutional history is essentiat as

are many other kinds of history, but one overall project is, in the end, what

quite a few withered, in the science studie.> patch.

In The Soal Construction of lVhat! (1999a) 1 devoted chapter 3 to the

concepts, bul a concept is nothing other than a word in its sites. That

therne of social construction in the sciences. It de fin ed three substantive

means attending to a variety of types of s-ites: the sentences in 1iVhic_h the

and ju.stified differences of doctrine that tend lo separa te scientists from

sorne of their critics. (It wenl so far as lo suggest where Thomas Kuhn himself might have come out on each of them.) lt examined the Edinburgh
strong program only in passing, for although Barry Barnes and David
Blo?r are happy to be grouped among the social constrnctionists, they
hardly use the term "social comtruction." 1 wanted n-emplars who pul the
phrase up front in their tilles or subtitles. So 1 chose Bruno latour andAn
dreiN Pickering} 'rvho tend to be regarded as the bad boys

by many social

students of science, as well as being counted public enemies "1 and #2

by sorne protagonists. in the science wars. I like them because they share
with Kuhn and myself a repugnance to analyses in which, to use words
fmm Kuhn's Rothschild lecture, "[n]ature itself, whate,cer that may be, has
seemed lo have no part in the development of beliefs aboul it." Perhaps
tha 1 reading of the I-d in burgh School was penni tted a decade ago. Barnes,

I can only call philosophical. Its practitioners are engaged in the analysis of

word is actually (not potentially) used, those who speak those senlences,
l'rith .....,.~ha t authori ty, in .....That insti tu tional .s.ettings., in o rder to influence
"rlhom, l'rith .....That consequences for the speakers. \Ve first lose our.s.elves., as

befits philosophy, in total complexity, and then escape from it by craft and
skills and, among other things, philowphical reflection . .'vly little sketch of
the problem of induction, while of course too brief, suggests one (and only
one) . . . .Tay to go. 1 have, however~ spent too m u eh time on m atter.s. p eri ph-

eral of historical ontology. Kow 1 shall pi unge in lo its heartland with two

Among the thoughts that underlie hislorical ontology is this: "one cannot
speak of anything at any time; it i.s. not easy to say something new; it is not


Historical Ontology

Historical Ontology

enough for us to open our eyes, to pay attention, or to be a....Tare, for nev"'

objects suddenly light up and emerge out of the ground" (Foucault 1971,
44(1. Take psychic trauma, for example. That might sound altogether too
local an idea to matter to the historical ontologist, who should be preoccupied by general and organzing concepts and the institutions and practices
in '"''hich they are materialized. Tb the con trary, tra urna has become a remarkable organizing conCept. Trauma used to -mean a physicallesion or

wound. When did it cometo mean a psychic wound? People did no! simply open their eyes and notice psychic trauma all around them. Dictonaries cite Freud about 1893; one can do better than that, but the point is
tha t this is an en tirely ne-,...,. idea of trauma dosely connected ,...,, th the soulJ
and which has radically transformed our sense of our selves. Compared to
trauma, the more familiar Freudian ideas of the_ .s.ubconsci?us a-nd the
comple.."'{es may prove to be mere epiphenomena. Traumatology has, become the science of the troubled soul, with victmology one of its bitter

fruits. ~.!!Jl of thi.s. interest plays into lvhat is at present a moving target, the
idea of memory. So here is an example of a -~gay in .....Thich the historical understanding of an empirical concept, psychic tra urna,.. may be essen tial to
understanding the ways in which we constitute ourselves. Sorne of the
story of psychic trauma is told in my Rnvriting the Soul ( 1995), anda good
deal more is elaborated in Ruth leys's A, Genealogy ofTrauma (2000). Allan
Young'.s TJu Harmony ofii!usiom ( 1995) is a stunning archaeology of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder, even if he would identifr his work as medica!
anthropology. His primary material> were observations, made in (U.S.)
Veterans' Administration hospital.s, of inten'iev..s of J'unerican veterans of
the Vietuam War. Young now makes the n"traordinary suggestion that
PTSD, in the current diagnmtic manuals, is !aking u p the space of neuroses. In 1980 American psychiatrists were told that they should never again
speak of neuroses. That concept was abolished by their new diaguostic
handbook. Of course, it still remains part of common speech. A syndicated
cartoon showed a sign in the psychiatric wing of a hmpi tal: "First 11om,
neurotics. Second t1oor, psychotics. Third t1oor, people who really think
they want to be presiden t" (Non Sequi tur, 27 .!>lay 1999), Bu t Young' s provocative thesis is that PTSD is rapidly absorbing all the symptom profiles
of the old neuroses, with an added nonoptional extra. The neurotic of
olden times must now, as a matter of PTSD logic and definition, have hada
traumatic experience. But that definitional requirement is easily met, because no adult human lite lack.s events that can now be counted as "traumatic''-recounted, told, experienced as1 trauma tic.







The story of trauma can be looked atas a sequence of events in the history of psycho logy and psychia try. Bn t my concern is the way in which the
trauma concept figures in the constitu ton of selves. \Ve can even display
this history along the three on tological axes men tioned earlier. Fir.s4 there
is the person as known about, as having a kind of behavior and sense of
self that is produced by psychic trauma. Today there is a vast body of
"knm~,-~ledge" in the burgeoning field of tra umatolo gy.
Second, in the field of power, we have a congeries of possibilities: selfenipowerment; pm. .Ter of ~oictims over abusers; the pov. er of the courts and
the legislatures, dedaring that statutes oflimitatiom do not apply to !hose
who caused pain long ago, when the pain has been forgotten by the victim;
the power of soldiers to daim special pensiom and other benefits for wartime trauma. But most importantly, it is the anonymous pm.,ler of the very
concept of tra urna that works in our lives.
Let ns be more speciiic An admirable Canadian charity that 1 support
has been prmiding funds and helpers in Central America in the wake of
the worst storm in two centuries, Hurricane ~v1itch. An appeal for more
support, listiug recent good deeds, ends with the "-ords "The remaining
funds ill be used in post-trauma counseling for children and families."
The concept of psychological trauma has always been presented as emancipatory. We need not disagree to see the eftects of power that it produces.
Those children and families in a t1ood-ravaged region of Nicaragua will,
for the first time, live in a world in which they n1'erience themselves not
j ust as ravaged by floo ds, but as having suffered trauma.
This is not to say the export of the trauma idea with its embodied practices cannot be ressted. The children who had been inducted into rebellious armies in Korthern Uganda are given trauma counseling for the
potential etTects of post-traumatk stress (Rubin 1998). There is protest
against this interven!ion, with sorne effect in the field, and preference expre.s.sed for indigenous ,..,.Ta.os of dealing 1rd th cruelty, violence, abductionl
and physical pain that do not require the recent V{estern organizations of
ideas and emotiom. ='lote that a ne<:essary condition for powerful effects is
the lmowledge about trauma, the science of trawna, to which four majar
scientific joumals are now dedicate<L But that is not sufficient. There must
also be "'uptake," a trauma "movement," and the material resources to export the knowledge aud practices.
The third axis is ethical. Al the moral leve!, e''ents, present or remembered, e'-1'erienced as trauma, exculpate. A trauma tic childhood is used to
explain or excuse a later antisocial person, who may also be diagnosed


His.torlcal Ontology

His.torical Ontology

with, for example, "antisocial personality disorder." Trauma tic memories

create a new moral being. Trauma offers not only a new sense of who others are, and why sorne m ay be that way, but it also produces a new sense of
self, of who one is and why one is as one is. It takes us into the very heart of
what, in traditional philosophy, has been called the theory of responsibility
and duty:
1 would add only one caution. Foucault did from time lo time emphasize the importance of si tes, but too often these have been read as reference
lo sites of action for power: the dinic, the prison. Yes, but there are also
material sites, buildings, offices, Veterans' Adminis.tration interviel..~ rooms,
devices lo measure electrical and chemical changes supposedly associated
wi th post-traumatic stress. At a more mundane leve! are the tape recorders
and the video tapes playing back in terviews to dinicians and even to the


Our idea of what a child is has been formed by a scientific theory of development. lt forms our whole body of practices of child-rearing today,
and, in tum, forms our concept of the child. Those ideas and practices
form children themselves, and they a!so form parents. The child, its playmates, and ts family are oonstituted within a world of knowledge about
child development. In fact, so certain are we Df this knowledge that it can
even be used as a registered brand trademark. 1 recently noticed a sulmay
advertisement for an institution named lnvest in Kids. lts ad, whch featured a child of color emerging from an egg, asked, "will a child stay in an
emotional shell or emerge sunny-.side up," already a choice of metaphors.

tha t l find, to say the least, equivoca!. The ad con tin u es by citing sorne
"hard-boiled facts, namely knowledge about child development. The advertisement indudes the trademarkof Invest in Kids:

veterans them.selves. The ,...,,orld of trauma is a very material vwrld, full of

essential artifacts that idea-oriented thinkers tend not to notice. If you

were an ethnographer, the first things you would describe would be the
material artitacts used by traumatologists.
Child Development

Now Jet us turn lo something more agreeable, the notion of child development. lt sounds like a purely emprica! ooncept. Yet it has come, in the past
150 years, lo determine in the most minute details how we organize our
thinking about children. It now s;,~ngs into action long before birth, but at
birth it is dep loyed, in our ch~liza tion, at one of the mysteriom momen ts
in life. )/ot birth itself, which has been with us always, but something bizarre and local. The first fact to be announced after the birth of the baby
( whose sex, by now, is likel y lo be known in advance) is the weight at birth,
a number that is doubtless of use, albeit pretty limited use, to the nurse,
midwife, or peda trician. But it is ritually conveyed to family and friendo,
announced in the 1'mrkplace, as a holy number, as if it ,.vere the e.s.sence of
the child. lt is the signa! tha t from now on the child "ill develop. Every feature of the child's physical, intellectual, and moral development is to be
measured b)' standards of normalcy, starting with its weight.
ls this a topic for historical ontology? Anecdotally, at least, the answer is
a ringing ''yes." It was not 1 who thought of this extension of Foucault's labe!, but James Wong, the author of a doctoral dissertation on child development (Wong 1995). He snggested to me that many enterprises, including his own, should be called "historical on tology."

The years. betOre five

Last the rest of their lives. '-M

Child developmen t and psychic trauma are hardly transcendental ooncepts

of the sort that might appeal to Kant. They are, in his terminology, empirical concepts. But they are used for the intellectual and practica! organizalan of a panoply of activties. They are historically situated, and their present versiom are highly colored by their predecessors. They seem lo be
inescapable. 1nescapable? The celebrated Dr. Spock tried to nudo the regimen of normal development with bis maxim that children should develop
a t their own ra te-bu t develop they must, and a t a rate, if only their own.
Spock himself was merely modifying the draconian laws of child development set out by that guru of the interwar years, Dr. Gessell, the homehold name for a generation ofXorth American mothers-including my
mother -leaming how their infan ts wonld develop, and wha t mothers
m ust do lo optimize the wor Id of their children.
These concepts produce a feeling of inevitability. How could we not
think in term; of child development if we interact with children at alll
Well, 1 noticed recendy when pla~ng with two of my grandchildren, aged
tvm and four, thati really did not think of them that way. They are changing daily. Since 1 see them less frequently than l would like, 1 notice change
more than their parents. But the changes are totally}"TIC-ratic, personat
and do not strike me as matters of development. Yes, the children are gelting older, and are able to do new thngs every day. But 1 do not conceptualze the>e as "development." But then, 1 am a grandfather pla~ng, unre-


Historlcar Ontology

lated to the real wm Id. It is parents ra ther than grand parents who are
wnstituted by doctrines of developmen t.
The only time 1 got clase to thinking about development was one rainy
aftemoon. plaing store-bought garues. They were clearly labeled "age 3
and u p." Chloe, then 4i;, could play these garues with only whimsical deviations from the rules, but Charlie, aged two anda bit, who hada lot of fun,
could have been trying out fm a carneo part in a satirical movie called
"Wittgenstein: to follow a rule." So 1 had to admit, the packaging was cor
rect, "age 3 and up." Shouldn't that be enough to comince me that as a
matter of tact children do "develop"? Not so The garues we were playing were all thoroughly modern garues, that had been designed in order to
incorporate and promote certain skills. They l ..Tere not innocent children)s

garues, but garues man utactured in the world of child development.

Historical Ontology


free choices can only be from among the actions that are open to us, the
po.s.sible actions. imd our 'i.vays of being, chosen freely or not, are from

possible ways of being. At the time Sartre wrote about the classic Parisian
garron de caf, it was possible for a young man in France to be one. That
was not ""'hat \\'illiam James. calls a "live" option for me} when I was a

screwed up la te-adolescen t reading Being and Nothingness in Northem Alberta. Com'ersely, a Parisian lad could hardly have contemplated working
in oil lields in the tundra. But al least either of us could have changed
places by train, stearuer, and more courage than ei ther of us p ossessed.
Those options ...,tere not open to many earlier generationsl and v. 'ill be

closed off to future ones. Indeed, many options that were open to me are
not, l think, open to my grandchildren, who in turn can decide to be hack

That lmr ld is pervasive 1.sometimes to the point of parody. 1\ly other t.....-ro

ers., or v{hate'i.t;::r role will correspond to that in a fe,...Tyears} but ,,.rhich ,..,_Tas
literally not a way to be a p erson when 1 was a young man.

grandchildren, Ca therine and Sam, only a Ji ttle older than the two j ust
mentioned, 'i.Vent to an e..,'{cellent dayc.are preschool that is obsessive]y concerned with developmen t. Every week the children ca me with the na me of

Foucault observes, near the end of The Order of Things, that "At any
given instan!, the .structure proper to individual experience linds a certain
number of possible choices (and of excluded possibilites) in the .systems

sorne nev~o' achievement tied around their neck, a bit like Ha1vthome~s scar-

of the societ}'i inversely, at each of their points of choice the social struc~

let letter A, in fact sometimes literally a red letter A, as in a card tied round
the neck saying, in red, "\Vonderful! Can recognize the wund 'N. in the
written word 'BAT'." The lirst lesson learned in this school-a lesson so

tures encounter a certain number of possible indiv:iduals (and others who

are not}" (Foucault 1970, 380). Historical ontology is about the ways in
which the possibili ties for choice, and for being, arise in hstory. lt is not to
be practiced in terrm of grand abstractions, but in terms of the explicit for

pervasive that the carers and teachers do not even notice that they are in-

culcating it-is that each child i> a developing entity, so that the child canno! wnceke of its.elf otherwise. And the child who i> a bit slow at acquir
ing the ability to remgnize the sound of the letter "A:' in "BAT" willlearn
that lesson-that he is a developer, indeed a slow developer-quicker than
the other children who are in other respects quicker than he. Notice that,
once again, we are not talking about "ideas." We are t.alking about institutions} practices, and very material objects: games made of plastic and

strings to tie rewards around a child's neck. Without these material and institutional artifacts, many of which litter rniddle-class homes across Korth
America, there would be no evere:.\"Panding concept of child development.
l have been giving examples of organizing concepts that mme into being
through quite sp ecilic historical processes. They lead us to lllitorical ontology proper. We are directed to what it is possible to be orto do. There is,
not surprisingly) a certain vestgial existentialism in this vvay of thinking.
Existence comes before essence; , ..Te are consti tuted by . . .That ,...,;e do. Bu t our

mations in which we can constitute ourselves~ formations . . . .Those trajecto~

ries can be plotted as dearly as those of trauma or child development, or, at

one remove) that can be traced more obscurely by larger organizing con~

cepts such as objecti,ity or even facts themselves. Historical ontology s not

so much about the formation of character as about the space of possibilities for character formation that .surround a person, and crea te the poten~

tials for "indi,idual experience."

1 should empha.size here that there is hardly a grain of so-called relatY
ism in what I have been saying. To bring new possibilities into being is, of

to introduce new criteria for the objective application of the new

ideas that permeate our world. Traumatology and child development, to

begin 'i.....Tithl are rich in what are eAplicitly called instruments/' a metaphorical use of the word to designate endless objective test protocols, many
of which are printed with assessments of their validty in The Mental 1Vfeasurements Handbook, while other handbooks and other more material, nay
electrical, instruments are described in texts of physiology.


H i stori c.a 1 Ontol ogy

His.torical Ontolog:y

History and Philosophy

1 may seem to have gone a great distance from history and philosophy, as
commonl)' understood. Certainly the Parisian v. aiter in the caf is more

the stuff of novels than of science, and the applied geophysics of the l950s
will never make it out ofthe in-house chronologies of oil corporations and
into mainstrearn history of science. But notice hm.r I emphasize that trau-

matology and child development do present themselves as positive knowledge, the bearers of general facts and !estable truths about the human coudition. They are fragmeul5 of knowledge in which a person is constituted
as a certain type of being: a victim of Ira urna, a developing child. A person
becomes able to act on others in such and such ways. The person becomes
a special type of moral agent with both responsibilities and exculpations.


alyzing our wncepts, but not in the timeless way for which I was educated
as an undergraduate, in the fines! tradition of philosophical analysis. That
is because the concepts have their being in historical sites. The logical relations among them \..Tere formed in time~ and the)' cannot be perceived correctly unless their temporal dimensions are kept in view. This dedication to
analysis makes use of the past, but it is not history.
1 must avoid one misunderstanding that comes from a quite different
source. Sometimes my readers take me to urge that epistemology should

phasized the contingency of the even 15 that led lo the predicaments we find
pressing or inescapable. At its boldest, historical ontology would show how
to understand, act out~ and resolve present pro blems, even ,..,.rhen in so do-

be conducted as historical meta-epistemology, and philosophy itself, or

metaphysics, or at leas! ontology, should be conducted as historical ontol
ogy. Of course not. 1\-ly first methodological statement of any program
whatsoever was a fond tarewell to Cambridge University, a talk al the
.1>-!ora\ Sciences Club in the spring of 1974: "One Way toDo Philosophy." It
is summarized in eh apter 2 b elow. l 'i.muld never advoca te anr program as
an1:hing more than one way. J do not do anyepistemology aside from the
orizing about probable inference, but 1 certainly do not assert tha t epistemology has come to an end, or that l5 end is in sight (Hacking 1980b).
Sorne epistemology---of a totally ahistorical sort-seerns tome fascinating
and certainly importan t, while sorne of it seems too timid and drab and
"scholastic." But rather than distribute worthless words of praise on others,
let me speak for myself, to illustrate the fact that even one person need not
do philosophy in only one way.
O."!y own early wor k on the founda tions of sta tistical inference (Hacking
1965) was a mi.-.:: oflogic and epistemology. l have only)ust now, as this es
say goes to press, finished an elementary textbook on this tapie. 1 have
be en teaching it for decades, and 1 have slaved to make it both livdy and
philosophically sound (Hacking 200lc}. J recently completed a paper on
"Aristotelian Categories and Cognitive Domains ;' and another on the role
of Aristotle' s cate gory of q nality in the twen ty- first century (Hacking
2000a, b). Both necessarily refer to ancient te:>."ls, and both refer lo, among
other things, the lates! cognitive science. These two papers variously mix
amateur te:>."tual analysis, logic, philosophicallinguistics, and armchair psychology. There is not a trace of historical ontology in either. There are
many ways to do philosophy. My "ish list in philosophy would barel;>
mention a desire for advance in historical ontology: that will happen in
ways that I cannot foresee. One thing that l really do wish is that philoso-

ing it generated nev. ones. At its more modest it is conceptual analysis) an-

phers of tomorrm,.r vwuld return to the lessons of t\110 t...,Ten tieth- century

I ,...,,ill be asked: but is not your historical ontology just history? i\:Iy ex-

arnple of Hume's problem of induction already suggesl5 a philosophical

dimension. One reply to the question has already been given: l am engaged
in a historicized version of British 1930s philosophical analysis, that is,
conceptual analysis conceived of as the analysis of words in their sites.

Compare the various historicizings of the thoroughly ahistorical Kant, beginning with Hegel's. Those are assuredly not history, and especiaUy not
the history of philosophy. In addition, my concern has long been "ith how
our philosophical problems becarne possible, because 1 hold that we need
to understand that in arder to grapple "ith the problerm. Dastou, who
se:rved as myparadigm for historical meta-epistemolog); and \"{ho nm... inT

troduces what she calls applied metaphysics, was trainecl as a historian and

her craft. She doe.s have a quality that is not so common among

historiam: a philosophical sensibility. l arn trained as an analytic philosopher, but may have more historical sensibility than ffiany of my cnlleagues.
:'-l ot al! historians and p hilosop hers can share their en terprises, but sorne

can. Yel even when they do, their overlapping in teresl5 differ.
Generally sp eakiug, Fouca ult's archaeologies and genealo gies were intended to be, among other things, histories of the present. Not Whig histories, \'rThich shml.' hm{ inevitably V'~te got to here. On the contrary, he em-


Historkal Ontology

figures who never injected a historical word into their primary philosophy.
1 mean 1. L. Austin (not bis work on speech acts, bnt bis delicate analyses of
explana tions for the nuances of meaning), and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Ph il oso phy a nd Scien ce

There are many ways of bringing new objects into beingthat have nothing
to do w th the sdences. Pop culture and self-help culture are both full of
object-making, and there 5 a lot to be learned there. Here 1 have not gone
beyond the sciences, although my focus, my center of gravty (to me two
meta phors from mature oid sciences) has be en away from optics or physics
or other standbys, and toward the human sciences. But the philosophy that
I invite you to think about and respond to is far beyond the timid discipline known as the philosophy of science. If "ontology" signals something
doser to an older and less professionalized philosophy, so be it, for that was
one of my intentions 'i.l!hen 1 chose my title.
In fact) "on tology..,. turns out to be perfect) for ,.ve are concerned 'i..,~ith
two types of being: on the one hand, rather Aristotelian universalstrauma or child development-and on the other hand, the particulars that
fall under them-this psychic pain or that developing child. The universal
is not timele" but historical, and it and its instances, the children or the
victims of tra urna, are formed and changed as the universal emerges. 1 have
called this process dynamic nominalism, beca use it so strongly connects
what comes in to existence v.i th the bistorical dynamics of naming and the
subsequent use of name. But it is not my plan to hang a philosophical activity on nomendature taken from the fifteenth century, and which reralls
the glory day> of late scholasticism.
1 am nevertheless old-fashioned, but chieflp,ith respect to fasbions that
emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. For 1 do profess a belief tha t 1 find impossible to defend as a doctrine, but wbich can still motivate practice. That is, 1 still would like to act on the obscure conj ecture that
when it comes to philosophy, many of our perplexities arise from the ways
in which a space of possible ideas has been formed. Or, as 1 pul it so long
ago, in 1973 (chapter 13), using one of\Vitrgenstein's metaphors and one
of Foucault's nonns-for-a-moment, many of our flybottles were formed by
prehistory, and only archaeology can display their shape.




Five Parables

This essay v.'as \Hitten for ay--ear-long s.eries of lectures, "Philosophy in Its.
Conte1.-t,"' held at Johns Hopkins Cniversity in Baltimore during 1982-3. The
. lectures, organiz.ed by Richard Rorty, Jerry Schneev.':ind, and Quentin Skinner, were supposed to have a sgh tly s.ubvers-ive tone-, and to make philosophers more a'i.,oare of the ferment that ,.,""as. then going in the writing of history itself, in order to heJp us rethink hu...,. to do the history of philosophy.
:!1-y -contribution v..ras first pre-sented at the- Lniver.sity of Bielefeld, Germany,
-,..,~here 1 ?\'as wor k:ing as part of the- "pro babili ty gro up" led by Lorenz Krger
(see Krger and Das.ton, 19.S 7). Hence the references, in the firs.t parable, to
Dresden-in the stili-extant Democratic Republic of Germany. enthusiasm for Erecht, in the se-cond parable, had been fostered by 5eeing a number
of his plays in Eas.t Ber lin.

The pen-friend approach to the history of philosophy can irritate me as

m u eh as anyone. A few he ro es are singled out as pen pals across the seas of
time, whose words are to be read like the wor k of brillian t but underprivileged children in a refugee camp, deeply instructive but in need of firm
correction. I loathe that, but m y first parable, "The Gre en Family," expresses just such an anti-historical message. Descartes (for e.xample) li''es,
or so l say. ;v!y second parable is an instan! antidote. It is called "Brecht's
Paradox" and is constructed around the fact that Brerht, on reading Descartes, could not hel p exclaiming that Descartes lived in a world complete/y
different from ours (or, at any rate, Brecht's).
My third parable, "Too lv!any \Vords," is self- flagellating. lt 5 abont a
fairly radical conception about how the history of knowledge determines
the nature of philosophical problems. It was once mine. I repeat it now to




'~t Ontology

repudiare the ideafutic and verbalistic vision of philosophy from which it

aro se.
The last !'NO parables, "Remaking the 'World" and "Ivlaking Cp People,"
are once again complementar;. and antithetical. In briet; despite al! that 1
have learned from T. S. Kuhn, 1 think that there is an important way in
which history does not matter to the philosophy of the natural sciences,
while it does matter to the philosophy of at least sorne of the human sciences. This will be the hardest of my ideas to explain, but at leas! for those
"'~Nho prefer theses over parables, there i.s. a thesis there. In sorne l{ays it is an
old chestnut, but it is ro aste~ I hope, over ne\.,~ coals.
Parables can be elusive. i\.11 five of mine involw diflerent relations between philosophy and i15 past. The first parable is a reminder tha t anachronistic readings of canonical old texts can be a fundamental value in its own
right. The second one recalls that those same texts can remnd u.s l}ow distanced we are from our past. The third parable, which 5 quite self-critical,
5 about an exaggerated use ofhistory for the analysis of philosophical difficul ties. The tourth and fifth para bies disruss, resp ectively, history's uses
in the philosophy of natural science and in the wcial and human sciences.
Number fonr draws more on T. S. Kuhn, and number five on ]l.lichel

The Green Family

A short time ago 1 visited the phoenix city of Dresden, which, in addition
to il5 collections of European art, 5 borne to a remarkable display of
Chinese porcelain. \Ve o-,Ne both to the man ,...,,hom everyone in Sa'i:ony
calls August der Stark, although technically he is Augustos 11 (1670--1733),
sometime king of Poland, and Friedrich Augnstus !, elector of Saxony. He
is less admired for bis ski!! as politician and warrior than tor bis lavish art
collectiom, bis prodigious strength, and (in sorne quarters) for having fathered the largest number of children on historical record. August bought
any good porcelain he could !ay his hands on. His objects are limited in
scope, comingmostlyf rom theperiodofK' angHsi, 1662-1722.ln 1717 he
built a small palace for bis china, and in the same year he traded Friedrich
w-tlhelm 1 of Prussia a crack regiment of dragoons for 151 vases, still
known as the Drago nenmsen. Although he did indeed wield bis sword, not
al! that effectually, he was no Prussian. August der Stark chiet1y made !ove,
not war. He put his research and development money not into cannon but
ehemlstry, funding the rediscovery of the ancient secret of p orce

Five Par.ables


lain manufacture, so that .\Ieissen in Saxony became the first European

porcelain factory. (This was of commercial as well as aesthetic interest, for
in those days porcelain was the main manufactured commodit~iimported
in to Europe.)

1 know little about porcelain. 1 report without any daim to discernment

that in Dresden m y eye was esp ecally ca ught by wor k in the style called
"The Green Family," New techniques of glazing were developed in one of
the great exporting regions. The results were stunningly beautiful. Ido not
single out August der Stark's pieces as the highpoint of Chinese art. Slightly
later work is often more esteemed in the West, and 1 know well that very
much earlier work has a grace and simplicity that moves the spirit more
deeply.l use the green family rather as a parable of changing tastes andenduring val u es.
August der Star k m ay have loved bis china to the poin t of building a palace for it, but it was dismissed by later cognoscenti as of no more val u e
than a collection of dolls. For a century it languished in a crowded cellar,
where on dull days yo u could ouly barely make out the looming shapes of
sorne of the larger pieces. One man in particular guarded these obscure
treasures, Dr. Gustav Klemm, and he traded duplicate pieces with other
dusty curators to expand what would become the noblest collection of
this kind of work in Europe. Only towards the end of the nineteenth century was it returned to light. Then it carne out to amaze and delight not
only scholars but transients such as me. During World War Il, the china
went into the cellars again, and survived the Dresden fire-bombing. Then
all the Dresden collections went to Moscow for care and custody. They
retumed in 1958 to be housed in the noble rebuilt rooms of the Zwinger
One could use this adventure to tell two opposite stories. One says: here
is a typical human tale of wealth, lust, changes in laste, destruction, surviva!. Only a sequence of accidenl5 created the Chinese "'-'Por! trade of objects suited to a certain European fashion for chinoiserie around 1700, and
then brought sorne characteristic exarnples under one lavish roof, saw
them lapse from public laste, "itnessed a reviva!, a firestorm, anda retum.
lt is a mere historical fact that Leibniz (for example) doted on Chinese
work, for such was the fashion of bis time. Likewse l, more ignorantly,
gape at it too, conditioned by present was not, however, for Wolft;
Kant, or Hegel lo admire. In short, there were periods of admration and
limes when these pieces were despised, unlit, unloved. 1t will be like tha t
IS'lin, not ouly in Europe, but also in the land of their manufacture. In



Historical Ontology

srune years they . ..,....u be condemned asan e...mmple of early subservience to

the bourgeoisie of Europe and its colonies (the green family was a big hit
with the plan ter families in Indonesia). In other years it will come out of
Chinese cellars and be invested wilh an entirely different aura. Evidently
there is no intrinsic value in this stuff, it goes up and clown in the scale of
human admiration as the 'i."L'ind blm{s.
Relativists seldom slale their position so cra;;sly, bnt that is roughly what
they think. Xo one prelends that the condusion, "there is no intrinsic
value in this stufi;'' follows from lhe events described in my example, but
1 l.,i.s.h to urge, against that conclusion, a -s.lightly more empirical claim
which is, 1 think, supported by lhe historical facts. 1 h oid that no matter
what dark ages we endure, so long as cellars save for us an adequale body
of the green tamily, there will be generations lhat rediscover it. It will time
and again show itse!f. 1 do nol need to be reminded that porcelain will
show itself only rmder certain conditions ofwealth, pride, and hnman eccenlricilies (such as the biz.arre practice of crossing disagreeable borders to
. . .-rander around a stTange ins.titutiOn that ,..,.re _calla museum).
I claim no _intrinsic value for the green family to be found in hea'i.Tn~ but
only an essenlially human value, one tiny instance of an inherently human
bundle of values, sorne of which manifest themselves more slrongly al one
time, sorne more strongly at another. Achievements created by humans
have a strange persislence that contrasts with fashion . .'>Iost of lhe .iunk
that we crea te has no such value. A sufficiently broad eq>erience of the
older priva te European collections- where objec!s are kept more for reasons of historical piety than of taste-assure s us that being museumized is
almo.s.t irrelevant to ,.,mrth. August'.s. coilection is special, as its. systematic
SUI'i.rival and re\rival bear \vitness.
Whal has ths to do w:ith philo.sophy? The resurgence of historicism in
philosophy brings its own relativism. Richard Rorty captured it in bis powerful book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature ( 1979).1 wa;; happily inoculated against that message. just befare Mirror appeared, 1 had been givng
a course introducing rmdergraduates to lhe philosophers who were conlemporaries of the green family and August der Stark. :viy hero had been
Leibniz, andas usual my audience gave me pained looks. But after the last
meeting sorne students gathered around and began with the conventional,
"Gee, ,.,.rhat a great course." The subsequent remarks. -..vere more instructive:
"But you could not help it ... what with all those greal books, 1 like
Descartes ..." They loved Descartes and his ;\Jeditations.




1 happen lo give terrible lectures on Descartes, for J mumble along saying that 1 do not understand him much. It does not matter. Descartes
speaks directly to these young people, who know as little about Descartes
and bis times as 1 know about the green family and its time. But jusi as the
green family showed itself to me, directly, so Descartes shows himself to
them. l\!y reading fui served the function of the Zw:inger gallery: it is the
porcelain or the reading itself, not the gallery or lecture room, lhat does
the showing. The val u e of Descartes lo these tudenls is complete!)' anachronistic, out of time. Half will have begun with the idea that Descartes and
Sartre 1\rere contemporaries, both being French. Descartes, even more than
Sartre, can speak directly to them. Historicism, even Rort?s, forgels that.
A novice needs too d, then space, then time, then books, an d lhen an incentive to read, and often that is hardly enough, for just as with the green
tamily, D escaries will have his ups and downs. In London !50 years ago,
Spinoza was th rage and Descartes ignored. Ke:ither goe.s clown well in
Dresden or Cantan today. Bofb will be much read there in the future, if
physical and human conditions permit, or so 1 say.
As for our more immediate surroundings, any of ten thousand lecture
courses would serve as the gallery for Descartes to show himse!f. lt may be
my bnmbling atternpt to locate Descartes in the problematic of his day; it
may be Rorty's rejection of epistemology; or it may be anyone of the standard penfriend-across-the-.s.eas-of-time courses. 1 give no argument for my
conviction, but invite only experience.1 mimc G. E. Moore holding up his
hand betore an audience of jaded skeptics. :viost of usare too jaded evento
remernber the initial way in which Descartes spoke to us. That is the point
of my parable. I gave, from ll)' own recen! past, a parallel to just that first
speaking. 1 invite readers to inventor recall their own personal paralleL Bul
if you resisl, let me point it out once more: Hegel dominated the formation
of Dewey, and perhaps that of Peirce, and also that of the upstarts ;\Ioore
and Russell who laid waste to him within a f""' years. Hegel has, however,
long la in fallow among those who read and work in English. Yet 1 need
only mentan Charles Taylor ( whose expositions have much lo do wilh the
new anglophone practice of reading Hegel} to remind you that Hegel is
back. The franwphone was, a little earlier, even more hindered when attempting to read Hegel, un ti! j ean H ypolyte provided the gallery within
which Hegel would once again show himself. But even Michel Foucault, although he may be seen in print as the denier of the substantiality of "the
text," was willing in conversation to admi t wi th glee, when asked for his re-


Five ?arables

Historie-al Ontofogy

action lo the Phenomenology of Spiri" that it 5 un beau livre. As indeed it is.

That is whal it is for a writer snch as Hegel to speak directly, once again,
first lo the French, and la ter to us, after decades of oblivion.

Brecht's Paradox
Having stated sorne conventional wisdom, 1 must al Jeast record the opposing wisdom. 1 do find it very hard to make sense of Descartes, even after
reading commentaries~ predecessors} and more arcane texts of the same
period. The more 1 make consisten t sen se of him, the more he seems to me
to inhabit an alien universe. That is odd, for he tormed French philosophical writing and continues to provide one of its dominan! models. 1 shall
not here argue my problems using pedantic scruples. lnstead 1 shall take a
few notes '>Tillen down by Bertolt Brecht early in 1932, when he, too, had
been reading Descartes with ccnstemation.
Brecht is useful because his reaction is so direct. ccThis man must live in
another time, another wor Id from mine!" (Brech t 196 7, Vlll, 691). He is
not troubled \dth niceties.. His complaint is a robust astonishment at De.scartes's central proposition. How could thinking possibly be my guarantee
of my existence? \Vha t I do is what assures me of existence: but not just any
doing. lt is doing with purpose, especially thme acts that are par! of the
work that 1 do. Brecht is. a ""Titer. His labor is ,...,.TI_ting. He is 'i.-..Tell a"~Nare of
the paper in fron t of him. Bu t it is not tha t awareness which (in the manner of J;{oore) makes him certain of its existence. He wants to write on
the paper, and do es so. He possesses the paper "i th his inscriptions, he
changes it. Of that he can have no doubt. He adds, a trille ironically, that to
know anthing about the existence of the paper, w:ithout manipulating it,
would be very difficul t.
Brecht notoriously \Hites from an ideology. His next comment 5
headed} "Presentation of capitalism as a form of existence, that necessitates
too much thinking and too many virtues." lt is in praxis and not in theory
that he and his being are constituted. Implicitly turningto Berkeley, he remar k> that one can perfectly well doubt whether a tree over there exists or
not. But it would be a bit troublesome if no trees or the Jike existed, for
then we would be dead for lack of o>.gen. That truth may be known by
theory, bu t it is the practica] interacton "ith trees tha t is at the eore of that
Sorne will fe el that it is Brech t who ,,es in another world, a world less


familiar than that of Descartes. You may dissent from Brecht's seemingly
smple-minded ideology and still feel his cry of aston5hment at that famous Cartesian utterance. I arn not saying that Pyrrhon5m is unthinkable.
People go through intellectnal operations that lead them lo skeptical utterances, and then go through other operatons that have the form of relieving them from skepticism. 1 have no quarrel "~th that. 1 arn not urging
!hose linguistic "paradigm case" arguments of a couple of generations ago,
in which it was claimed that one could not coherently use English lo express skeptical problems. Brech t directs me to a more central worry. How
could someone with the deepest seriousness make existence depend upon
thought? How could someone relieve real doubt by a chain of reflections
which culminates in "even when doubting, 1 think, and when thinking, I
a m?" The step lo re< cogitans seems transparent compared to that first
thought. Curiously, Hintikka (1962), made a quasi-Brechtian hermeneutic .
mm'e when he daimed that the cogito is to be heard as a performative utterance in the sense of J. L. Austin. 1 can se e tha t in a rather special circumstance of speech (and Austin always attended to the circumstances~). A
modern orator, who.s.e labor is talking, may talk to prove he exists. \Ve have
all heard people whom we sarcastically describe in just those tenus. Bul
that is not what Descartes was up to, nor are readers of Hintkka usuall
persuaded by the "performa tive" interpretation of the cog to.
1 arn not drawing attention to concepts in Descartes that have been
transmuled ("substance") orwhich have died ( "realitatis objectivae," a term
well translated by Anscombe and Geach (Dascartes 1964) as "representative reality"}. We can, "i th pain, reconstruct those concepts. Brecht is protesting against something a t the ''ery eore of Descartes. No being of my
time, asserts Brech t, can seriously in tend the basic Cartesian sentence.
1 agree. 1 have also said in my first parable that generation after generation !oves the Medtations and feels at home wi th the text. 1 think that is a
paradox about history and philosophy without resolution. "You can do the
history better"-"the studen ts are taken in by Cartesian pro se st1e, they
ouly think they understand it and empathize wi th it" -those are mere
comforting kinds of talk that fail to grasp the .seriousness of the Brechtian
reaction or fail lo grasp the seriousness of the students to whom Descartes
speaks directly. Na turally, yo u do not need to use Brech t to make this
point. 1 thought i t useful to remind ourselves that while we philosophers
beat around the bush, an alert and inqU5itive outsider can at once go to
the heart of what is unintelligible about Descartes.


Five Par.ables Ontology

Too Many Words

Brecht connects the rise of ca pi talism 'Lth vices: too many virtues 1
too much thinking. Those are not our vices. Our problem is too many
words: too much confidence in words as the be-al!, the substance of phlosophy. Perhaps Richard Rorty's Philmophy and the Mirror of Nature, with its
cen traJ doctrine of "'conversation;"" 1vill sorne day seem as linguistic a philo.s.ophy as the analysis emanating from Oxford a generation or tlj.VO ago. To
recall what tha t was like, it is best to think of ro u tines rather than the o ceasional inspiration of a master such as Austin. We read in a book on Kant's
ethics, for example, that "A discussion which remains strictly within the
bounds of ethics would have no pnrpose beyond that of analyzing and
darifying onr moral thinking and the terms we use to express tha t thinking." The author, A. R C. Duncan {1957, 12), then quotes Henry Sidgwick's definition from page 1 of tbe classic Methods of Ethics (1874): "the
study of what is right or what onght to be, so far as this depends upon the
voluotary acts of individnals." Duncau says that he and Sidgwick have tbe
same conception of ethics. Alas poor Sidgwick, poor Kant, who thought
they were studying what is right or what onght lo be! We might speale of
the lingnistic blindfold here, a blindtold that allows one to copy a sentence
from page 1 of Sidgwick without being able to read it. Gustav Bergmann
wrote of "the lingnistic turn" in philosophy, an evocative phrase that Rorty
( 1967) med as the title of an anthology of tbe period As Rort:y's remarkable collection shows, the linguistic tum was compelling, and in retrospect
seems to have been too compelling. There are 1 hoWe\'er, .s.ubtler linguistic
blindfolds than ones tbat make us read Kant as a philosopher oflangnage.
To avoid disconrtesy 1 shall tug at my own. It shows up in a book such as
The Emergence ofProbability and a solemn lecture to the British Academy
abou t Leibniz, Descartes, and tbe p hilosop hy of m atbema ties, reprinted as
chapter 13 below. 1 had be en reading Foncaul t, but, significan tly, 1 had
chiefly been reading Les Mats et les choses ( 1970), a work that does not so
mnch emphasize mats at tbe expense of chose~ as malee a strong statement
about how words impose an order on things.
It is ea;;y to state a series of premises leading up to my historic-linguistic
turn ..\lost of tbem will seem commonplace until tbey are totted np. They
once stood for my methodology.1 stated them as such in a sort of valedictory talk to tbe Cambridge Cniversity 1\ioral Sciences Club in the spring of
1974. lt was called "One Way to Do Philosophy."



l. One kind of philosophy is about prob!nfuc This may not be an eterna!

trnth. The idea tbat philosophy (perhaps all philosophy~) tries to solve

problems may have become fixed in English as late as 1910. In tbe "-nter of
tba t year, G. E. Jv[oore gave sorne public lectures in London under the ti tle
Sorne Main Problerns of Phi!osophy. These lectures at .lv1orley College, Loodon, "during the Winter of 1910," were published as ),.-Ioore (1953). During
the years 1909 and 191 O William 1ames almost finished bis las! book, So me
Probkms of Philosophy (1911 ), which indndes a fut of 21 problems. And
Bertrand Russell pub lished what has been, to !bis day, a nomtop bes!seller, The Probkms of Philosophy {1912), cheerfnlly passing from the modest "Some" of bis predecessors to tbe imperious definte artide: "The"
2. Phi1osophica1 probkrns are conceptual. They arise from facts about
concepts and from conceptual confusion.
3. A verbal account o.fconcepts. A concept is notan abstrae! nonlinguistic
entity grasped by our minds. lt is lo be uoderstood in terms of the words
tbat we me to express the concept, and tbe contexts in which we use !hose
4. lVords in their sites. A concept is no more than a 'i.mrd or \\Tords in the
sites in which it is used. Once we haw considered the sentences in which
tbe word is used, and the acts performed by u ttering the sentences, and the
cond.ition.s. of felicty or authority for uttering those .s.entences, and so on,
we have exhausted wha t there is to be said about tbe concept. A strict verson wonld say we have exhausted tbe concept when we have considered
(per impossibile) all the actual specific utterances of the corresponding
words. A less s.trict version would allov. us to contem plate cirrums.tances in
which the word could be nsed, but in fact 5 not. Rigor inclines me towards
the strict ver.s.ion 1 but the- loose ver-sion is more popular.
5. Concepts and wo rds are not idemicaL This is became, in addition
to synchronic ambignity, the same words may, throngh various kinds of
change, come to express different concepts. But concepts are not to be
mnltiplied beyond necessity. Evidence for difference in concept is provided
by difference in site: the word 5 used by diflerent classes of peopleJo do
different tbings. 1 still admire one theory ofhow todo this, which is not often thougbt of in this connection: that of Paul Ziff's Setrumtc /\na!ysis
(1960). In parity, we m ust admi t that at different times tbe same concept
may be expressed by different words wthin the same commuoity. A Ziffian
inclination malees me more cau tious abo u t this thau are most people; 1
take seriously Fowler's ;,fodern Eng!ish Usage (1926, 591) and its clam that


Historical Ontology

British English knows only ne ex:act synonyrn, "furze'-' and "gorse." Even
today)_v.Then I find that the 1-l.rord "determinism'-"begins in German around
1788, and that its usage in term.s. of efficient causes rather than predeter-

minating motives begim in all European language around 1860, I am inclined to say that a ne ....,.T concept comes in ......ith this. use of the "'~Nord
{Hacking l 98 3b).
6. Re'oluons. Ruptures, mutations) epistemological breaks, cutswha tever rnetap hor yo u wi>h-occur in bodies of knowledge. Typically, a
concept, category, or mode of dassification niay not .sun'ive a revolution
in tact. Even if lle preserve the sarne .-,.vord, it m ay express a ne\l concept su-

per.seding an old one. \Ve need not to the excesses of incommensurabili ty he re. We need not suppose tha t post-revol u tionary speakers have
trouble understanding pre-revolntionary ones who stick to the old ways.
But it do es follow frorn this, plus the preceding premise, that concepts m ay
have beginnings and endings.
7. Problematc concepts. At least one importan! class of conceptual confusions arises with concepts that carne into being "ith a relatively sharp
break. There 5 a tri,ial way tha t can ha pp en, si m ply became peop le have
not had time to work things out
8. Persisten! problems. There is also the less trivial clich that sorne philo
sophical problems persist throughout the life of a concept. Sorne problems
are as old as the hills, bu t others are specific and dated, and we m ay even
have the view tha t so me died so effectively so long ago tha t not all the artificial hermeneu tic resusci ta tion in the world will bring thern back to life
again. V>'e also know the flybotde phenomenon of the same bundle of arguments being proftered again and again, from generation to generation.
::.Xmv ""'e are near the end of our joumey and pass to sheer speculation that
the problem arises beca use of whatever it wa.s that made that concept possible. lt is as if a problematic concept hadan unhappy consciousness.
9. "This unlwppy, im>-ardly dim<pted consciousness, since its essentially
contradicted nature is. for i t a single consciousness~ m ust forever have present in the one consciousness the other also; and thus it is driven out of
each in turn in the very moment lvhen it irnagine.s it has -successfully attained toa peaceful unity with the other." (Hegel, !977, 126}.
Item (9) is nota prernise but a project whose int1uence has been ample.
;;.Jarx and Freud are the giants spawned by Hegel, but philosophers know
the model too. In analytic philosophy it is as strongly connected "ith
therapy as it is in Freud. The most sustained therapists were the lingui>tic

Fve Parables


analysts who though t that once linguistic confusions had be en removed,

philosophical problems would disappear. Then there were the nonlingui>
tic analysts, of whom john Wisdom is the most notable, who made explidt
comparisons with psychotherapy. Wittgenstein had sorne influence on the
formation of Wisdom's ideas, but I find less "therapy" rnentioned in 1Nittgenstein' s own work than rnany other readers do. The Hegelian project,
'i....Thatever its provenance) leads on to my final premise. It is the most improbable one.
1O. Co ncep ts ha ve memories, or at any rate, .....Te in our ver)' . . . .~ord pa ttems
unconsciously mimic the phylogeny of our concepts. Sorne of onr philo
sophical problems about concepts are the result of their history. Our per
plexities arise not from that deliberare part of our history which we re
member, but from that which we forget. A concept becomes possible ata
moment. It is. made possible by a different arrangement of earlier ideas
that have coUapsed or n-ploded. A philosophical problem is created by the
incoherencies beh..,Teen the earlier state and the la ter one. Concepts remember this, bu t we do not: we gnaw a t pro blems eternally (or for the lifetime
of the concept) beca use we do not understand that the so urce of the problem is the lack of coherence between the concept and that prior arrange
ment of ideas that made the concept possible.
The therapy model would teach that we should solve or resolve our
problems by undertaking their prehistory. I strongly dissociate myself from
that model. lt is extraneous to the unhappy consciousness story. About 25
years ago an edectc Norwegian psychiatrist remarked to me in conversation that Freud was wonderful for explaining mental phenomena, from
slips through dreams to neuroses. The explanations were often splendid,
the best in the mar ket, al though so far as curing people goes Freud is neither particularly good nor bad. The remar k about cure has its tedions partisans pro and con. The remark about explanation "'~NasJ for me exhilarat-

ing. Partly because of positivist training, 1 was not supposed to believe in

explanations that did not have corresponding predictions. Now I could at
once admit that Freud's and Freudian explanatiom of dreamwork and of
much odd behmior were simply wonderful. But don't count on cure.
This negative premise (don't n-pect therapy) condudes the basis for my
model of the e.o:plonation of (sorne) philosophical problems. One had to
understand the prehi>tory of problematc concepts and what made them
possible in order to grasp the nature of the philosophical problems. One


Ffve Parable5.

Historical Ontology

would explain the problems. This need have no effect on whether the
problems remained troubling lo ou. Those who look for solutions of
philosophical problems will get no help from their explanation.
On the other hand, an explanation of the concept "philosophical problem" (according to premise [ 1], a dated concept in the sense of premise
[5]j, would, I hope, make one more uncomtortable about the ven idea of
solving philosophical problems.
l can caricature these premises as a pinch of this anda pinch of that, but
until we gel up to the very end, they were the commonp!aces of a perfectly
conventiona! training in analytic phi/osoph}: Even al the end, where there
was more historicizing than traditional philosophical analysis wanted, the
extra ideas ,.vere scarcely novel.
Why do 1 no longer like these premises? At first, not tor their emphasis
on language or the past. Instead, it is because~ as many could have forewarned me, of the opening premise. One was in the business of "solving"
philosophical problems. Despite a gallant atlempt todo that in connection
with probable reasoning, and a briefer flirtation with that approach in the
philosophy of mathematics, 1 was not doing that. But had 1 not succeeded
in the task of explaining the existence and persistence of the problemsl
\Vell, no one el se likes the e>q> lanations as m u eh as 1 do: a good warning!
1 stilllike the explanations, but now realize 1 was doing something else,
at leas! in the n.o cases with which I began, pro babili ty and mathema tics. 1
was embar king on what in chapter l I cal! historical meta- epistemology. 1
was also beginning to think about what in chapters 12 and !3 I cal! sry.les
of reasoning.
Once you become suspicious of the first premise, that philosophy is
about problems, none of the res! s very stable. In one way, though, the premises are terrifyingly sta ble, for they are part of the ideafut gam bit tha t so
permeates Western philosophy. Philosophy is about problems, problems
arise from words, solutions m ust be abo u t words, and philosophizing ensues. Occasionally someone yelps. An example is C. S. Peirce, the only able
experimenter in our canon~ \.,Tho llhen he sm... 1j.,.Tha t verbalists had done to
his \mrd "'pragmatism," yelped "ic" and invented the 1mrd "'"pragmatici.s.m."
Pragmatsm s nominalist and idealist, both, bu t Peirce' s pragma ticism, as
he cantankerousl averred, is realist al! the way. Although it has views
about how words have meanings, t does not reduce philosophy to words.
Nor does Ludwik Fleck, so utterly sensitive to styles of reasoning, for the
experimenter cannot afford idealism nor its present form of verbalism. An


instructive task for a more critica! author than myself wonld be to check
out if every post Copernican revolu tion honored by Kuhn had not be en
triggered by work in the Iaboratory: deeds, not thoughts; manipnlaton,
not thinking.
1 have la id bare one sequence of premises leading u p lo one way of doing
philosophy historicall}: lnternally, "ithin this sequence of parables, it has
a t leas! one other role. lt suggests lo me that a well-artculated methodology may lead one lo interesting work to which the methodology s largely
Remaking the World

No one from his genera ton has had a more drama tic irnpact on the philosoph of science than T. S. Kuhn. Any discus.sion of the relaton between
history and philosophy of science "ill begin "ith The Structure ofScmtiftc
Re-vo!utions (1962}. This is odd, because he wrote entirely about natural
science, indeed about the physical sciences. There is a tirne-honored opin
ion tha t history matters lo the very content of the human sciences, while it
do es no! matter m u eh lo the natural sciences. 1f Kuhn had succeeded in
historicizing our unders.tanding of natural science, his achievement \muld
have been revolutonary. l want to show why he did not succeed, and to
give another tvst lo the oid idea about a difference between natural and
social science. This is in no sen se a crticism of Kuhn. 1 believe that the totality of the work of this historian places him among the majar philowphers of the twentieth century. Philosophers usually respond only to Structure. His work on experiments., measurement, and the .s.econd scientific
revolution (all pubfuhed in The Essential Tension, 1977) are of comparable
importance. His last historical book--{)n ;\.Ja.-.:: Planck and the first quantmn theory ( l 9 78}-describes the sor! of revol ution that Structure s all
about, and it is a notable achievement. Yet it is pos.sible lo learn from Kuhn
in the most thorough way possible, and still to hold that there is a sense in
which he did not succeed, and could not have succeeded, in historicizing
natural science.
My distinction comes out at the leve! of one of the older philosophical
disputes. It concerns nominalism. The most extreme version of nominalism says tha t we make u p the categories tha t we use to describe the world.
That is a m o st mysterious doctrine, which is perha ps why, like soli psism, t
is almos! never maintained. The problem is that we cannot understand


Historical Ontology

""'hy the 'i.\'Of ld is so tractab le to o ur

S)'Stems of naming. 1\.lu.s.t there not be

sorne natural kinds in the '>mrld for our invented categories to latch on to?
Doe.s. that not refute strict nominalism?
1 hold that Kuhn has importantly advanced the nominalist cause by giv~
ing .sorne account of hm.r at least an important group of "our" categories
come into being in the course of.scientific re\~olutions. There is a construction of ne,_..,.~ systems of classification going hand in hand . . . .ith certain interests in describing the 'i.mrld, interests dosely connected \'rith the .:.:anomalies" on ....,.Thich a community focuse.s. in times of "crisis." At the s..ame time,
this cannot lead us to a ver_v strict nominali.s.m, for the anomalies "really''
do have to seem to be resolved in order for a re'mlutionar y achie1ement to
be recognized. Removal uf anomaly is never enough, Kuhn has taught 1 because all sorts- of social conditions are needed for a revolution to "'take."'
But reali ty ha ;S to go ,.;;.o me part o f the way-m ore than a wilder) stricter
nominalism would allow.
[....Jy contrast 1vith the social.sdence s is as follmvs. In natural sciencel our
invention uf categorie.s doe1:i not "really"' change the '"''ay the 1tmrld lj.mrks.
Even though 'i.'{ create new phenomena 'i."''hich did not e:x:ist before our .scientific endea...~ors) we do so only "'With a license from the world (or .so we
think). Bul in social phenomena we may generate kinds of people and
kinds of action a.s. .....Te devise new dassification s and categorie.s. ...-ly claim isthal we "make up people" in a stronger sense than we "make up" the world.
The difference is connected ,.. .~ith the ancient question of nominalism. It is
also cmmected 'i-'r-rith historyl because the objects- of the social sciencespeople and groups of people-are conslituled by a historical process, while
the ob_jects of the natural sciences 1 particular e.."'\:perimental apparatusl are
created in timel but) in sorne sense) they are not constituted historically.
It be clear tha t 1 a m groping for a com plex distinction between social and natural science. Perhaps l should warn against the mosl snperficial
distinction of all. It i.s curious~ even comicaL that physicaJ scientists. have
paid little attention to Kuhn. Science jonrnalists may now fill their artides
vth the .,Nord "paradigm/) but it is not a word that play.s any role in retlection aboul serious research. lt is quite the opposite in the social and
psychological sciences. Kuhn's Structure had hardly appeared in print when
presidential to annual meeting.s. of the lunerican Psychological
Association and the American Sociological A.ssociation ao.uwed their oeed
for paradigms. lt has al ways seemed to me tha t Kuhn was a good de al
dearer about his use of his famous word tban most of his readers, indud~

Five f"Jar.ables


ing presidents of learned societies. \\~en I claim that there is a sense in

, . .~hich Kuhn has not .s.ucceeded in ru~toricizing physical sciencel it i.s not
b ecause his termino! ogy has had more of a fad in the social sciences. Quite
the contrary: it may be that the impact of Kuhn on social sciences is a sign
of their lack of selt~understanding.
let us first recall philosophica l reaction lo Kuhn's book. He was accused
of a scandalous undermining of rationality. "~ormal science" did not seern
to have any of the virtues. tha t a previous genera tion of po siti vists. a.scribed
to science. Even worse) revolutionar y change 'i-'r"'a-S not cumulative, nor did it
occur beca use there was good reas.on for making the change 1 sound evi~
dence tor the new post~revolulionary science. Part of the philosophica l
guild defended it> entrenched right>, and protested that hislory could
never teach us anything about scientific rationality. The historian might
exhibil sorne events in the history of science, but the philosopher would al"~Nay.s be required to say whether those events were rational or no t.
Thus the V{a'i.~e of philosophica l reaction ,.,Ta.s on the score of ratio~
nalily, and people still do debate Kuhn's contribution , if any, to the methodology of science. He himself was a bit bemused by this reception, as
is shown by his 1973 lectnre, "Objecthity, Value Judgment, and Theory
Choice" (Kuhn !977b}. He subscribed lo the traditional values after alltheories should be accurale, consisten!, broad in scope, simple, and fruitful
in nel{ research findings. He insisted that these desiderata ,..,Tcre not in gen~
eral decisive. l'v"loreoverl the relative , . .eights given to these consideration.s.
vary from research group to research group, from discipline lo discipline,
and from one era of science to another. Finally1 the sheer rough and tumble
of research i.s too messy for there to be any .s.y-stematic algorithm. Kuhn
wasl hm.reverl no irrationalist demeaning common~sense values) and
l think the rumor of a "rationality crisis" provoked by Kuhn was exag~
Another theme of Kuhn's was less discussed, at first, than rati onality: an
anti~realism, a strong temptation~ it appearsl towards idealisin. Not only
are revolutions "changes in ,.,Torld view"-not a very daring statement) but
Kuhn is "tempted" to say that after a revolution one "lives in a different
world." Sorne lwenty years after the book was pnblisbed {a period during
which Kuhn completed his monumenta l study of the omet of quantiza~
ti on), he returned to that !heme. People do se e the wor Id differently: what
hctter evidence than thal they draw it differently~ He illustrated this with
ihc- fin..t drawing.s ofVolta's electric batteries (Kuhn J 987). \Vhen \le ex.i:lm-


Historical Ontology

in e them dosel}\ we wan t to say that the cells cannot have been m ade like
that, for they simply would not work. The voltaic cell, 1 may add, is no minor invention, but one of the fundamental tools of al! science. lt carne into
being in 1800, coinciding with the reviva! of the wave theory oflight, of infra- red radia tion, and m u eh else tha t had no immedia te place in 1\-ewtonian physics. Volta's invention was fundamental because it prmided a
steady current of electricity, and hence deflected the magnetic compass.
Therefore it created a new epoch, that of electromagnetism.
Kuhn's "temptation to speak of living in a different world" suggests that
he is an idealist, one who holds, in sorne way, that the mind and its ideas
determine the structure of our world. 1 think he is no idealist, and urge
that we should think not of the post-Kantan realism/idealsm dichotomy,
but of the older, scholastc, realism/nominalism distinction. Kuhn is not
among !hose who challenge the absolute existence of scientific entities or
phenomena, nor among those who query the truth oonditions for theoretical propositions. Instead, he believes tha t the dassifica tions, ca tegories, and
possible descriptions that we deploy are very much of our own devising.
Bu t rather than lea>ing this as a mystery about how human categor ies
come into being, he makes the creation and adjustment of schemes of classification part of his definition of a revolution:
\\rttat characterizes revo1utions is~ thus, change in several of the taxonomic categories prerequisite to scientific description and generalization.
Tha t change, furthermore) is an adjustment not only of criteria relevant
to categorization, but also of the way in \vbich object.s. and situations are

distributed among pre- existing categories. (Kuhn 1987, 20}

1 read that as a species of nominalism, and name it revolutionary nominalism, beca use the transitions in systems of categories occur during those

revolu tionary breaks wi th the past whose structures Kuhn prop oses to describe. (l'>'l)' own subsequent gloss on Kuhn's identification of revolution
and taxonomic change is given in Hacking 1993a.)
T'his nominalism is al so, of course~ a historicized nominalismJ because i t
gives a hstorical account (or is it only a historical metaphor?) ofthe genesis and transformation of systems of naming. lt also has the great value
of being local rather than global, for although Kuhn includes big events
among bis revolutions (Lavoisier, Copernicus), he insiSts that mo.s.t Ie"r'olutions apply only "\vithin a smaU community of, say, one hundred main re.searchers.

fi ve Para bl es


Kuhn's revolutionary nominalis.m in'i.ites histories of category change,

but it m ay seem that the objects of the sciences, although described by

changing systems of categories, are not themselves historicall constituted.
Yet what are the objectsl Do they include voltaic cells, for examplel Do
they ind u de su eh phenomena as the det1ection of a magnetic needle by a
steady electric current, or Faraday's more ingenious devices, the electric

generator and the electric dynamo' These are not eterna! items in the inven tory of the universeJ bu t carne in to- existence a t ver y specific K or
am 1 oontent to say that the inventions are dated, while the phenomena
and laws of nature that they employ are eterna!. One of the chief activities
of the experimenter in the physical sciences s quite literally to crea te phenomena that did not exist before (Hacking 1983a, ch. 16). :'vloreover, most
of physical science (as opposed to astronomy) is about phenomena that
did not exist un ti! people brought them into being. What physicists have
from the l870s been calling "effects" (the photoelectric effect, the Zeeman
effect, the Compton eftct, the josephson effect) are mostly phenomena
which do not exist, at leas! in a pure state, an~''here in unpolluted nature,
yet they are arguably what physics is, or has come to be, about. There is a
case (of sorts) for saing that the very objects of physical science are not
merely recategorized and rearranged, as Kuhn says, but brought into being
by human ingenuity.
1f 1 go to this extreme, is not my proposed distinction between human
and natural science in ruins? Is it not the case that the objects of natural
science beoome "historically constituted"l1 do not think so. Indeed, 1 developed a retum to serious Consideration of experimental science predsely

to urge a good man realist, an ti- idealist, an ti- nominalist con el usions. 1
claim, in the "representing" half of Representing and Inten.oening (1983a),
that in principie no debates at the leve! of theorizing "ill settle any of !hose
realisrnianti-realism debates in the philosophy of natural science. 1 urge, in
the "intervening" half, that reoognition of the facts of experimental life and
of changing the world leads powerfully to scientific realsm. You will detect
one source of my admiration for Brecht's direct materialism that puts "manipulation" rather than "thinking" as the source of realism. :'vly "experimental realism" no more im~tes norninalis-m than does Brechfs material-

lim. The physical phenomena that are created by human beings are rather
resilient to theoretical change. Kuhn's own example of the voltaic cell
1erves me well .
Kuhn wri tes that Vo Ita saw his inven tion on analogy' with the leyden ,i ar.


Historical Ontology

Volta's description of it is strange, and lr'{e cannot credit his dra-,.vings, for
they build in the wrong analogies. But the thing worked. Current did flow.
Once thal had been done physics never looked back. Likewise, 1he photoelectric eftecl was perhaps first produced in 1829 by Becquerel. Various
pholoelectric manitestations were induced throughout the nineteenth century. One can construct a Kubnian argument that the effect v.Tas not properly "discovered" until the time of Lenard-1902-or even Einstein and
the theory of photons--1905. Certainly once we had the theory we were
able to use the phenomena we had begun to create. Automatic doors at su-

permarkets, and television, were not too far behind. But if (as sorne have
urged) the photon approach needs draslic revision or revolutionary rejection, the supermarket doors willstill go on working. Phenomena are resilienl to theory. Elementary physics may teach a completely different story
about how they work, but work they "ill. Even if, to re-quote Kuhn (1987),
""there is an adjustment not only of criteria relevant to categorization, but
al so of the 'i...Tay in v.Thich obj ects and situa tions are distributed among pree..xisting categories)" the phenomena l ...~hich -.-,~oe have created l ..ill s.till exist
and the inventions lj....ill ,,mrk. \Ve may lose interest in them. v1le may replace lhem by more useful or interesting phenomena. We might lose the
skills needed to prodttce a phenomenon (no one can work brass today the
vmy that a nineteenth-century laboratory assistant could work brass) and I
am sure most of the old skills tor polishing lenses are now n"tinct). 1 am
the last philosopher to forget lhe radical changes in n-perimental technology. 1 still hold that the abiecls of the physical sciences are largely created
by people, and that once created) there is no reason except human backsliding why they .should not oontinue to per.sisl
Thus 1 dam that Kuhn leads us into a "revolulionary nominafum"
which makes nominalism less mysterious by describing the historical processes V!hereby new ca tegories and distributions of o b_jects. come in to being. Bu t 1 assert lha t a se em ingly more radical step, literal belief in the
creation of phenomena, shows why the obiects of the sciences, although
brought in lo being al momenls of time, are not historically constituted.
They are phenomena thereafter, regardless of what happens. 1 cal! this "experimental'
Never shy to add a few more "isms" to our ismically troubled world. 1
would say that my position 5 strikingly similar to that evoked by Gaston
Bachelard's (1953) "applied rationalism and technical materiafum." No
other philosopher or historian so assiduou.>ly studied the realities of n-per-

Five Par.ables


irnental life) nor was. anyone less indined than he to suppose that the mind
is unimportant (his applied rationalism). Fifty years ago he was teaching
that epistemological breaks occur in science (tor example, "the photoelectric effect represents an absolute discontinuity in the history of the sciences"). At the same time he believed in scientific ae<umulaton and connaissance approche. \Vhat , . . . e accumula te are e..T.perimen tal techniques and
stj-'les of reasoning. Anglophone philosophy of science has too much debated the question of whether theoretical knowkdge ae<umulates. lvlaybe it
does not. So what? Phenomena and reasons accumulate.
Having thus made a slight obeisance towards Bachelard, 1 pass lo one of
his spiritual descendants, namely, Ivlichel Foucault. 1 shall try to be aware
of one of Addison's warnings in The Spectator. "A tew general rules, "-"tracted out of the French authors, 'i-..ith a certain cant of words) has sornetimes set up an illiterate and heavy writer for a most judicious and formidable cri tic" ( Spectato r 2 91, Saturday, 2 Feb., 17 ll).
Making Up People

At the end of a recent reviev.. of Rorty)s Consequences of Pragmatism

(1982), Bemard Williams first quotes Rorty quoting Foucaull, "the being
of language con tinue.s to shine ever brighter on the horizon." He then goes
on to say tha t unless we keep sense
that science finds way.s. out of the c.ell of "i-vords) and if \vTe do not recover
the sen .se tha t purs.uing s.cience is. one of o ur essential e...x:pcriences of being constrained by the tru th, we shall find thal the brightness of language
on the horizon turns out to be that of the fire in 'i-.,.Thich the supremely
bookish he ro of Canetti '> Auto Da F immolated himself in bis librap,.
(Williams 1990, 37}
Su eh games of meta-meta- quoting invite a li ttle burning, but 1 have two
reasons for quoting \Villiams. The minor onel something of an aside) i.s
that W-u!iams himself may be trapped within the cell of words. The way
out of Williams's cell is not to be comtrained by the truth, but lo crea te
phenomena. Only "ilhin a theory-dominated ''erbalistic philosophy of
science is "pursuing science one of our essential experiences of being cDnMrained by the truth." Let us take an example of an importan! discovery
frnm the l980s. The event in question bore out sorne gue.>Ses made by
Permi many yea" betore. He thought that fhere mu.1t be a particlc, a weak


H istorical Ontology


partide or boson \V,

Five Parables
t ...~hich lj."Ta.s.

in sorne sense the carrier'' of

weak neutral currents (just as the e!ectron carries ordinary charged currents). Around 1970, peop!e were trying to find W, bu t then the high energy physics eomm u ni ty switched lo study weak neutral currents themse!ws. They regarded W as a mere hypothetical enti ty, a figrnent of our
imagination. Only ear !y in the 1980& was the search resumed, at very m u eh
higher energy levels than Fermi had thought necessary. Finally, in lanuary
1983, CERK announced it had located \V in proton- an tproton decay at
540 GeV. There is a complex history of science story to tell about the shift
away from a search for W and then back. There certainly were constraints,
but not "constraints of truth." 1 do not suppose there is a true theory of
truth, but there is an in.s.tructive one, namely the redundancy theory, ,.,Thich
says that "p is true" says no more than p. If something verbal constrained
the earlier exper imenters, it was a p, not the truth of p. Wha t really constrained research lj.'llOrkers , . .,as a need for greater energy sources; one had to
wait for the ne>.:t generaton in order to create the sought for phenomena
involving proton-an tiproton de cay. There were constraints al! over the
place, but none of them were constrain ts of truth, unles.s by vicious semantic ascent \l.'e eA1Jres.s the constrain ts using the redund.ant word "true."
The redundancy theory of truth is instructive bu t defective. 1 refer not to
its formal defects, but to its philosophical ones. It makes it seem as if "is
true)) is merely redundant) but harmles.s.. I think that it does im.ite semantic

aseen!, and takes us up the ladder to that cell of words in which philosophers, not excluding Williams, confine themselves.lf there is an interesting
theory of truth lo discuss al the moment, it willlie in Foucault's own "suggestions to be further tested and evaluated":
"Truth" is. to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the
production) regulation) distribution) circulation and operation of statements.
"Truth"' is linked in a circular relation with S}'"Stems of pm{er which produce and sm.tain i t, and to effects of power which it induces and v.dlich

extend it. (Foucault 1980, 133)

\Ve should, if we have a philosophical interest in truth, care about how
statem en ts come into being as candidates for being true or false, and as
possible objects of knowledge. But e''en here "truth" is redundan!, for we
are con cerned simp1y 'i.\Tith ho'i.{ statements come into being.


So much by way of aside. What of Williams's critique of Foucault? .\'ly

second thoughts on The Order of Things notwithstanding, Williams's remarks seem curiousl misplaced. Foucanlt's books are mostl about practices and how thev affect and are affected b'' the talk in which we embed
them. The upshot is less a fascina !ion wth words than with people and institutions, with what we do for people and to people. He does have a noble
obsesson with what he takes lo be oppression: the as1um, the prison, the
hospital, public hygiene, and forensic medicine. His view of these practices
may be entirely wrong. Sorne say that he has already done untold harm to
wretched disturbed people who are released on the streets of the American
metropolis because Foucault has convinced doctors that the disturbed
ought not to be constrained. But one thing is dear. Foucault has no! been
locked in a cell of words. lvloreover, it is precisely bis intellectual work, bis
philosophical work, that directs our attention away from our talk and on
to our practkes.
1 am not denying that Foucault is verbal. Few people have read one of

bis first books, about the surrealist Raymond Roussel (Foucault, 1986).
Roussel seems lo be the ver y eptome of the man in the cell of words. One
of bis books is How J H Jve \Vri tten So me of My Bo oks (Rousse!, 19 77). He
says he would try to find a sentence such that, by changing one letter in one
of the words, yo u change the meaning of each of the words in the sentence,
as lj...Tell as. the grammar. Then you write dmY"TI the :first sentence at the front
of your noveL and carry on until you end your book lj.vith the second .sentence. In 1910 he wrote a book, Impressions of Africa (1969), and then
toured Egypt lo make sur e n othing in the book was true. He carne of good
stock. His mad rich mother chartered a ya eh t to make a voyage to India.

1Nhen she got near the coastline she screwed u p her telescope, said, "Now 1
have seen India" and sailed borne. Romsel killed himself. This can all be
read at one leve! as the hyperparisian linguistc obsession. But a caricature,
even if li''ed seriously, may also be read as directing us to the exact opposite.
Whatever be the point of the Roussel phase, Jet us consider the main sequence of Foucaul work, the madhouse, the dinic, the prison, sexuality,
and in general the intermeshing of knowledge and power. 1 have remar ked
that Kuhn says no thing about the social sciences or lmowledge of human
beings. Likevdse Fouca ult says nothing abo u t the p hysical sciences. His remarks about what we charmingly cal! the lite sciences are chiefly, although
not entirely, directed at how we in terfere wi th human lives. 1 have heard


Historical Ontology

Foucault criticized for being scared of physical science.let u.s iustead consider the hypothesis that there is something fundamentally corree! about
the division of labor, Kuhn to the physical sciences, and Foucault to hmnan
1 shall focus on only one thing, making a specific contras! with Kuhn's
revolutionary nominalism. The problern with scholastic nominalism, l
said, is that it leaves our interaction with, and description of, the world a
complete mystery. We can well understand why the word "pencil" nicely
sorts out sorne objects. We manufacture pencils; that is why they exist.
~ominalism about human artitacts is no prob1em. It is nomi.nalism about
grass, trees, and stars that is the problem. How can our words lit the earth
and heavens) if there are notJ prior to us, grass~ tree.s., and stars? A .strict and
universal nominalism is a preposterous mystery. \\~at, hm{ever, about categories applying to people?
People are alive or dead, tal! or short, strong or weak, creative or plod
ding, foofuh or intelligent. These categories arise from the nature of people
themselves, although we are by now well aware how "intelligence" can be
warped by quotien ts. Bu t consider th e categories so m u eh worked over by
Foucault, involving madness, criminality, and other kinds of deviancy.
Coruider even his assertion (which 1 do not quite believe) about what a
soldier was in medieval times, and what he became "ith the new institutions of discipline and uniform: soldiers themselves became different kinds
of people. We may begin to grasp al a different kind of nominalism, which
l call dynamic nominalism. Categories of people come into exstence at the
same time as kinds of people come into being lo fit !hose categories, and
there is a h,m-v..ray interaction behveen these
This is n ot ver y sensa tional, as most of the interesting things abo u t us
are what we choose to do, or try not to do, how we behave or misbehave.1
subscribe to G. E. !vi. i\nscombe\ view in Intentim1 ( 1957), that by and
large intentional action is action under a description. So there ha''e lo be
descriptions. lf we can show that descriptions change, so me dropping in,
sorne dropping out, then there simply is a change in what we can (as a
matter of logic) do or not do. One can reread many of Foucault's books
as in par! stories about the connection between certain kinds of description coming into being or going out of existence~ and certain kinds of
people coming into being or going out of exi.>tence. 1\lore importan!,
one can do this kind of work explicitly oneself. 1 study the dullest of subj ects, nineteenth -e en tury sta tistics. It turns out to be one aspect of \that

f1ve Parables


Foucault calls a "biopolitics of the population" that "gave rise lo comprehensive measures> statisticai assessments, and intenrentions aimed at the

entire social body or at groups taken as a whole" (Foucault 1978, 139).

'What do 1 find at the beginning of the great avalanche of numbers, around
1820? Kothing other than the statistics of deviancy, of madness, suicide,
prostitution, vagrancy, crime against the person, cr.ime against property,
drunkenness, les miserables. These vast arra)'S of data are called analyse mo
rale, We frnd constan t subdivisions and rearrangements of, for example,
the mad, as the counting progresses. We find dassifications of over 4,000
different criss-crossing motives for murder. Ido not believe that mad people of th= sorts, or these motives for murder, in general existed until
there carne into being the practice of counting them (Hacking l982a).
Constantly new ways of counting people were devised. New slots were
created into which people could fall and be counted. Even the decennial
censuses in the different states amazingly show that the categories into
which p eop le fall change every ten years. This is partly be ca use social
change generales new categories of people, but I think the countings were
not mere reportings. They were part of an elaborate, well-meaning, indeed
innocent creating of n"" kinds of ways for people to be, and people innocendy ({chose" to fail into these ne'v categories.
I have no idea v.Tha t su eh a dynamic nominaJism 'j..,rill amo un t to. Let usl

however, consider its implications for history and philosophy of the hu

man sciences. Like Kuhn's revolutionary nominaiism> Foucault'.s. dy'llamic
nominalism is a historicized nominalism. But there is something funda
mentally different. History plays an essential role in the constitution of the
objects, where the objects are people and the ways in which they behave.
Despite my radical doctrine about the experimental creation of phenomena, I hold the common-sen se view that the photoelectric effect is timeless
at least to this extent: if one does do certain things, certain phenomena will
appear. They ne''er did appear until the nineteenth century. '..Ve made
them. But wha t happened when in m id twen tieth- century we u sed the
photoelectric effect to open supermarket doors was constrained by "the
world." The categories created by what Foucault calls anatomopolitics and
biopolitics, and the "intermedia ry cluster of relations" between the two
: politics, are constituted in an essentially historical setting. Yet it i> these
very categories in terms of which the human sciences ven ture to describe
Ul, !vloreover, they bring in to being new categories which, in par!, bring
!nto being new kinds of people. We remake the world, but we make up


H is tori ca 1 On tol ogy

people. )ust betore the warning about heavy writing and of French cant,
with which 1 closed Parable 4, Addison wrote, "it is very certain that an author, who has not leamed the art of distinguishing words and things and of
ranging his thoughts and setting them in proper lights, whatever notions
he m ay have, willlose himself in confusion and o bscurity." 1 think that we

shalllose oursehes in confusion and obscurity for sorne time yetl in the socalled social and human sciences, because in those domains the distinction
between word and thing is constan tly bl urred. lt is precise!) experimental
methods tha t I take to be essental to the physical scieuces and which, 1
clam, make Kuhn' s historicized revolu tiouary nominalism fall short of a
strict nominalism. The experimental metho ds of the human sciences are
something else. The lack of a sharp distinction between word and thing is
at the root of Wittgenstein's famous concluding remar k in Philosoph:al
Investiga ti o,rs, tha t in psycho logy ( and the like) "there are experimental
methods. and conceptual confu::.--ion." Here Foucault)s '"'archaeology may yet
prove useful, not in order to "display the shape of the flybottle" but at least
to grasp the interrela tons of power and knowledge tha t Ji terally constitute
us as human beings. That would be the strongest impact of histcry upon
philosophy. But untl we can do that job better, it will have to remain one
more parable, delibera tely open, like all parables, to far too mauy interpretations.


Two Kinds of "New Historicism"

for Philosophers

This essay v.-as a contribution to a conference called "History and ... /' orga ~
nized by 1\Echael Roth :and held at the Claremont College~~ in s.outhern California in 1988. The idea "vas thatcontributors toa nurnberoffields.,such as

musjcolo gy or anthropology) should discus.s the relatiomhip of their 'tvor k

to history, and most particularly to the "net. . historicism"' tha t had be en
S'i..;eeping our ranks from Berkeley) California. The first section of the eh apter) "The f...'landate)"' describes 'Nhat 1\.Hchae-l Roth s.uggested that speakers
should do-based on quotations from his. originalletter of in. .-itation) dated
11 lv!arch, 1986.

Could philosophical analysis have anything to do ith the activity that

Michel Foucault called the history of the present? res, 1 say. K o, says almost
everyone el se. So 1 have sorne explaining to do.
Philosophical aualysis is an activity, a way of doing philosophy, defined
in part by ts practitoners. They used to think ofitas aualyzing wncepts,
and then ttuned lo words. 1 think of ). L. Austin, C. D. Broad, Paul Grice,
G. E. ]I.Joore, Bertrand Russell, Gilbert Ryle, Lud"~g Wittgenstein, but of

c.ourse there- are many very mueh younger) very mueh _American and very
much alive anal.sts today. The men whom 1 have mentioned knew, in
sorne cases, a great deal about the past and in particular about ancient philosophy: Sorne felt intellectual kinship with Aristotle. But a sense of the
past played little role in their most creatve work. Analytic philosophy is
widely regarded as the very antthesis of historical sensibility. lt needn't be,
or so 1 wntend.
1 have no desire to make peace among different tradi tons. Attempts to
reconcile continental and analytic philosophy are at best bland, lacking the


Historkal Ontology

Two Knds of New Historcism

savor or pungency of either. 1 should add that in connecting philosophical

analysis with certain techniques used by Foucault 1 am not making a point
about recen! French though t in general. 1 am discussing one kind of use of
the past, represented by sorne of Foucault's books. Finally, although 1 in no
way dissociate myself from analytic philosophy as at present practiced
in America, my.fut of heroes in the second paragraph shows my connection wi th those ro ots primarily concerned wi th the aualysis o f concepts,
There are other roots, those of the Vienna Circle, that, at leas! after iV!oritz
Schlick, seldom inflnence my kind of work.
cv!y title speaks of two uses of history. One !'ve just mentioned: philosop hical analysis and the history of the present. But 1 was imited to discuss
something more general: philosophy under the rubric "History and. , .."
The imitation alluded to the ways in which Richard Rorty has combined
history and philosophy. That, then, is the other use of history for philosophy to which my tille refers.
The Mandate

"'O ur various pap ers;' so -..{en t m y invita tion, "'-will not consist of case studies or histories of the disciplines." \Ve were asked to "concentrate on the
ways in which the kind of Jmm,ing in which each field is engaged is affected by consciousness of and connections with the past." In the next section I state, for tbe record, the obvious fact that most philosophy written in
English is not much affected by comciousness of or by connectiom "ith
the past.
"Ho1.. is. the ne'"l historicism~ or philo.s.ophy as conversation~ connected
with pllosophy as problern-solving?" "Problem solving" must refer to
analytic philosophy in the twentieth century, for the self-description of
philosophy as a problem solving is at best minar in other traditions. "Philosophy as conversation" adverts to a theme of Richard Rorty's book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). A.nd "new historicism" must denote a historicism tbat has recently appeared or reappeared in philosophy
1Hitten or spoken in English. Hence my mandate 'i...Tas to _focu.s. on recent
events connected "itb philosophy and history in an English language
.;..;Kel{ historici.s.m, or philo.sophy as conversatiod': philosophy as conversaton is not, for me, identical to the new historicism. 1 shall insist that it
denotes only one kind of new historicism. But what's historicisml SorneT


thing like this: the theory that social and cultural phenomena are historically determined, and that each period in history has its own values that
are not directly applicable to other epochs. In philosophy that implies that
philosophical issues find their place, importance, and definition in a specific cultural milieu.
That is certainly Rorty's opinon, and, aside from sorne qualifications
stated below, it is mine too. He n::ache.s a .s.ubversive conclusion about the
nature of philosophy by analyzing the philosophical tradition in which he
himself grew up. He holds that traditional topics of mind and matter, of
the foundations of knowledge, and refutation of skepticism, freedom of
the will, and the problem of universals-the kit and caboodle of metaphysics and epistemology-had a place in earlier pieces of European history bu t are now defunct. Philosophy shall absent itself from a post-p hilosophic age. I arn perhaps out of step when 1 see this less as a new
historicism than as an ex am pie of a historicism that is recurren t among
philosophers. l sball say something about that in "Undoing." lt is au oldwhioned historicism that pay& little attention to the complex interweavings of past and present. But perhaps that is what is intended: a t1yby-night encounter with the past, more story than history.
lt does matter that philosophy as conversation is not the only sort of
"new" historicism around.1n "Taking a Loo k" I describe another kind. The
individual concepts tradi tonally of interest to philosophers are not, for
this school of thought, timeless ob,iects. 1nstead, "normalcy;' "chance,"
,:cause,)) "person," "evidence;"' "guilt," or '(abuse)) are structures whose roles
'~ and power have been determined by specific histories. This is a local historicism, attending to particular and dispara te fiel& of reflecton and ae~ tion. lt discourages grand unified accounts, but it does demand taking a
look at lots of little facts. Rorty's use of history is in contras! global, drawing condusions about the whole of philosophy and indeed everything else,
, for chernistry and li terary criticism are alike ruled par! of conversa ton.
Anti h isto ry
j The imn~tation mentions that "in the \"-ake of structuralism's and function:aUsm's celebration of the synchronic, the significauce of historical knowing
U far from clear." This remark is germane to sorne disciplines, but there has
been no significan! interaction between structuralism and American phiilosophy. The exception proves the rule. Koam Chomsky's ideas about gen-


TwQ Kinds. of New Historcism

Hstorical Ontology

erative grammar, Cartesian linguistics, and innate mental structures did attract young philosophers of language. He has also been recognized as a
structuralist. 1 say he proves the rule that structuralism had no impact on
American p hilosop hy, became the selfsame philosophers who too k u p his
work thought of t as readily fitting into ordinary analytic philosophy.
They were astonished to hear it given the alen na me of strncturalism.
Structuralism has emphasized the synchronic. ;\.nalytic philosophy
wuld so readily engage Chomsky' s grammar not beca use it is synchronic,
but because it is achronic. Thns it is like many other philosophical reflections that have no temporal dimension. The few "professional" historians among philosophers have commonly declined to be historicist when
doing philosophy. Hume's History of England rnade him the fust man to
eam a good living frorn the sales of his books. For years Leibniz was paid lo
do historical hackwork. But I.eibniz's philosophy is nonbistorical. Hume's
is positively antihistoricist-as befits the original Whig historian. The old
historicism in philosophy was the work of amateurs like Hegel, and it is
amateurs (like Rorty or myself) Jt{ho practice neJO't~ historicisms today.
1 shall be talking about how sorne kinds of history matter to sorne ways
of doing philosophy. But 1 would be disloyal to many of my friend.s if 1 did
not report what they believe: "There's bi.story, and then there's philosophy.
There's the history of philosophy (and the philosophy of history) but philosophers today need be no more conscious of their history than any other
kind of thinker:"
Ibis atttude is not sorne freakish disposition of analytic anglophones.
Popular tradition says philosophy i.s about the eterna! veri ti es. A dictionary
says that philosophy is the rational investigation of being, knowledge, and
conduct. Philosophers have wan ted to know what kinds of things there are,
how we find out about them or what we can know, and what we ought to
do. To say it a third time in Greek, philosophers do metaphysics, episternology, and ethics. These are thought of as timeless inquiries. Tha t sor! of
thinking spills out into severa! distinguishable altitudes, each well represented by able young American philosophers. 1 shall sketch them in order
of decreasingly 'irirulent antihistoricism.
Present-Timeless. \Ve want to understand things such as duty, reason,
causation) personal identity, e..'l!::istence, tru th} and the- d.ifference bet\"''een
the universal and the particular. We try to understand excuses for not doing wha t one promised to do; we need lo understand pro mises and how or
why they bind. We need lo know the differences between e':planations in


history, in the determinis-tic -sciences in the .s.tatistical .s.dences, and in matters of personal behavior. We may salvage sorne good ideas from dead
thinkers (says Present-Time\ess), bu t consciousness of the past is irrelevant
except as a warning against pitfalls and bad mistakes. Hence we have no
bistoricist sensibilities. _1\5; teachers of philosophy, we would be happier if
the interesting bits of the hi.storyof our subject were tanght partly in the
Western Civiliza!ion and Culture Series, and the res! taught elsewhere as a
specialist subject, no more part of philosophy than the history of science s
par! of science, or the history of art part of art.
Pen Pals. A milder position notes the persistence of certain philosophical
interests. Older philosophers set the stage and made permanent contributions. It is a slightly surprising matter of fact that many of their wncerns
remain vital. We profit by reading and analzing their ideas, darifying their
condusions, refuting their errors. Old philosophers are to be .studied as
pen friends: one-way discussants across the seas of time. We don't care
about them because of their role in thcir da'. The problems peculiar to
fourth-century Athens or seventeenth-century Amsterdam don't matter to
us. We eare abo u t only the oid b ooks that speak to m. (A Pen Pal can also
be a [moderate] Present-Timeless. For a good example, take a sequence of
five excellen t books by j onathan Bennett wbich al terna te b etween the two:
Ratonality ( 1964), Loclx, Br:rkele;; Hume: Central Themes ( 1971 ), Linguistic Beha-viaur (1976), A. Study of Spinoza'; Ethics (1984), Eve>Jts and their
!'.'ames ( 1988).)
Doing-and-Sharing. A yet gentler suggestion: philowphy is nota kind of
knowing but an act>ity. Despite our practice of writing books, Socrates
should be our archetype. One kind of apprenticeship that distinguishes
philosophy is the reading of canonical philosophers and discussing their
work-with a teacher. Do not blush at philosophy's perennial themes. Cnlike the natural sciences, it is not in the progress business. And do not be
misled by the fact that philosophical minds have long been tuming inchoate ronceptual messes into natural s.ciencesj that is a hobby that comes
with the trade, and when it works a new kind of professional is created, not
a revarnped philosopher. K o rna tter how rnany topics t crea tes and then
evicts into the province of science, philosophy "ill wntinue to deal with
fundamental aspects of the human conditon and the human mind. Dead
philosophers speak to us not became, as Pen Pal thinks, they got a foot in
the door of sorne difficul t problem that helps ns pry it open further. They
speak lo us directly about matters of joint concem.


H is tori e a 1 Ont ol ogy

Getting-Insle. Our Pen Pals hear whatever they want lo hear. It is no

criticism that they take the words of the dead philosopher totally out of
con tn-r (if that' s wha t they wan t to do). Let one be Whig in his reading an
the other Tory. What the dead philosop her himself meant is of no moment
to either reader, for a Pen-Pal values only what helps him to do hi> uwn
philosophizing. But Doing-and-Sharing has a difhculty, 1f we are engaging
in a discourse with the dead, we had better understand them. Even if they
do speak lo something mysterious called the human condition (read
"Western tradi tion"?) they sp eak in the words of their day, in their settings.
We must become engaged in the interpreta tion of texts. We m ust work our
,..._,ay into a circle of meanings. \Ve must become hermeneuticaJ.
Thi> four-fold dassification is evenhanded. lt caricatures all parties.
Ca rica tnre, y es; but those parties are out there in abundance. 1 thought it
improper to proceed to history-and-philosophy ithout putting that on
Jvly sketch gldes over one question that does trouble me. lt was posed in
my invitation. l shall neglect it, although it was par! of my mandate. "In

what way does a precontemporary philosopher's ability to speak directly to

sorne of us alter our notion.s. about the importance) or irrelevance) of his-

torkal understanding to philosophical understanding?" 1 don't know the

answer. .\1ore candidly, the fact that dead philosophers can speak directly
doesn't a!termy notiom at all. But 1 would like to understand the phenomenon better. l find it astonish ing. 1 pu t my perplexi ty as vividly as 1 muld in
the first two para bies of chapter 2 above. l think it is paradoxica! that Descartes can speak directly lo sophomores whose conception of the world
seems to be distressingly achronic-yet the better you know the te>.-t the
more you realize that only the most arduous hermeneutical scholarship
can make much sense out of it al all.
A mild version of this paradox lies in the tact that al! four ways of not
doing history are OK. Al! are honorable ways in which lo be a philosopher.
Do not think, however, that the path from Presmt- Timekss to Getting-Inside takes us lo a more and more hstoricist practice of does
involve the use of more and more old sentences. Pen Pal takes the ones he
!ikes. Doing-and-Sharing should attend to al! the sentences in sorne majar
tn-rs of certain great authors. Getting-Insle must enter the entire di>course which a text exernplifies. Yet by the end of the process 1 would have
a certain sympathy with the crass in teriection of a particularly anti-historical Prese>Jt- Timeless. He says that there is nothing peculiarly philosophical
abou t the task of interpreting texts. 'We (contin u es P.- T.) are members of

Two Kinds of New Historic1sm


the republic ofletters. So we do care about a rereading of the Laches. \-'{e

care equally about the re-presentation by Octavio Paz and others of the
sumptuous poetry of Sister Juana lnes de la Cruz.

Philosop hers have never lacked zest for criticizing their predecessors. Aristotle was not always kind to Plato. Scholastics wrangled with unexcelled
'~gor. The new philosophy of the seven teenth century was frankly rude
about the -se1fsame schoolmen. But all that is criticism of someone else.

Kant began something new. He turned criticism into self-rellection. He

didn't just create the critica! philosophy. He made philosophy critica! of
philosophy itself.
There are tvw ways in ,..,Thich to criticize a proposal, doctrine) or dogma.

One is to argue tha t it is fa! se. Another is to argue that it is not even a candidate for truth or ta!sehood. Cal! the former deniol, the.latter undoing.
Most older philosophical criticism is in the denial mode. When Leibniz
took issue l?ith LDcke in the Frouveaux Essats~ he 'i.\Tas denying sorne of the
things that Locke had said. He took for granted that they were true-orfalse.1n tact, false. Kant's transcendental dialectic, in contras!, argues that a
whole series of an tinomies arise be ca use we think that there are true- orfalse ans'iNers to a gamut of questions. There are none. The theses) antitheses) and questions are undone.

Kant was not the first philosophical undoer. The gist of Bacon undoes
the methodology of scholastic thought. Bu t Kant is assuredly the fust celebrated) self-conscious) systematic undoer. Pure the faculty of the

philosophers, outsteps its bounds and produces doctrines that are neither
true nor false.
Kant occasionally adverts to this or that famous thinker ("the goo d
Ber keley"), but li ttle in his three Critiques is hi>torical. He is dos e k in to
Present- Timeless and Pen Pal. Bnt Kant, the last great philosopher of the
Enlightenment, Ji\ced when the romantic era in Germany had begun. The
concepton of langnage not as mental but as a public object with a history-an idea that

'e ass.ociate with Hamann, Herder) and Humboldt)


whom l discuss in chapter 8 below-was being established as Kant aged.

The philosophy of language became hi>toricallike much else. Life, culture,
and one's identity as a person and moral agent were seen as essentially em-

bedded and indeed as comtructed in a historical tradition.

Undoing thus became historicist, but not just with the likes of Hegel;


Historkal Ontology

one thinks, for example, of Comte's post-Kantian historicist posirivism.

>mte's kind of progress is the suppression of defecti,e earlier stages of
human consciousne ss-the abandoning of be!iets that in reality lack trnth
valu e. They are rep laced by a cast of propostions that really are up for
grabs as trne or false. lt is as if Comte thought that revolutionary history
co uld replace the transcendental analytc.
But it is not Kant, let alone C<>mte, that we think of when we mention
historicism, progress, tmdoing. We think of Hegel. N o one thinks of Hegel
and Cornte in the .same .sentence anymore, so it is v. ell to have another classificaton, this time three-fold, into which these people and others lit naturally enough.
The history of ph i/osoph :a/ doctrines: a sequence of prop ositions was advanced over the centuries, one or more of lj.thich might in essentials ha'i.'f'

been true, but most of which were false. And we are progressing, for we are
winnowing away false notions while adding trne ones. Comte is the postKantian version of this. Early doctrines are rejected as neither true nor
tahe. A nev. method is offered to pick out what is true within the true or
fa! se.
Undoing by antinomies: two theses opposed to each other both possess
seemingly comp elling arguments. Eaeh is based on presu pposi tons shown
to be untenable by the critica! philosophy. :'-iei ther s true or fa! se. And with
this discovery we are pro gressing, indeed making a decisive conceptual step
akin to that of Copernicus. But our progress is partly one of Ji mi tation,
through the Kan tian realization tha t many of our aspira tions to knowledge
were misconceived.
Historicist rmdcing: ideas are presented as thesis countered by antthesis
in a histotical setting. They are superseded by a replacement of both by
sy11 thesis. In conseq uence nei ther thesis nor an ti thesis can .strictly be regarded as true or false. Such a sequen ce s not the passive discovery of truth
and elimination of error. ::.lor is it Com~e's revolutionar y discarding of
what was uei ther true nor false. Nor is it Kant'& undoiug by Ji mi ting the
possibilities of pure reason. Tbe process of thought in the course ofhuman
history is itself proposed as the making of Truth and Possibility. It is more
than the manifestarion of Ivlan. It is !Viind lvlaking ltself.Hegel married
rampant historicism to Kant's pracrice of uudoing. And the ting that
bound the two together was progress. This progress wa.s not merely something that wa.s happening (how 1ucky we are lO be alive in these times, and
so forth). The process of history wa.s essentially Progress, i\-lind superseding its past to make of itself the future.

Two Kinds of New Historksm


There are three handy dimensions to this banal trio of tmdoing,

historicism, and progress. Sorne twenteth-ce ntury philosophies can be
graphed upon this framework. To take only sorne trite labeling for figures
not yet mentioned:
Undoing, progress based on a boid new method, but no historicism
(lo gical posi tivism).
C"ndoing, sorne historicism, and lots of pro gress ( Dev{ey}.
l.:ndoing, lots of histoticism, the whole idea of progress untenable
thanks to historcist ret1ection, but if we could restar! everything, after
reflecrive total undoing, that would be something (Heidegger!.
Undoing, no historicism, pe>Simism and probably no progress
(\Vi ttgenstein).
Ever;-"'thing interesting is omitted msuch a scheme, but it enables me to
leap back to my mandate. How, 1 was asked, do 1 "see philosophy being affected by its recen t attempts to come to terrus <>i th its past How is the new
historicism, or philosophy as conversation, connected with philosophy as
problem-solvingl" When we hear of philosophy's "recen! attempts to come
to terms with its past," and "philosophy as conversaton," we know that the
reference is to Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the MiiTOr of Nature. 1..Vhere
is Rorty on my set of coordinates? I put the queston this way to remind us
that bis workis not anomalous: it has a place in a well-orchestrated if simple-minded schematism.
Rorty is a historicist undoer, andina sense he believes that progress has
been made (thank goodness philosophy's over). That's not noveL lt is what
he undoes historically that makes him profoundly original. :--:lo matter how
loosely we comtrue membership in an analytic and primarily anglophone
tradition, Rorty was the first member to apply the technique of histotidst undoing lo that tradirion. He clearly feels an affinity for Dewey, but
De,,tey's prose -,...,.<18 never so trenchant as Rorty'.s., nor did he have the same
analytic tradirion both to deploy and lo undo. That is one reason to call
Rorty) not De'i.{ey, the source.
Rorty sees philooophy as constantly foundational, as setting itself up as
judge over the other fields ofhuman thought and activity. Analytic philosophy-withi n which Rorty not only indudes but emphasizes logical positivism-was a final stage in an attempt to provide foundations and to provide criteria of good and bad thought. lts apparatus, notably the analytic/
ynthetic distinction, falls in to disarray. Correspondence theories of truth
.collapse. The very concept of being true to a real world of facts becomes


Historical Ontology

idle, and variom sorts of realisms and antirealisms become Mickey ,.o use.
The paraphemalia of analytic philmophy carne to be seen as such, as
rigamarole. A thrust in that direction can be extracted from the best thinkers, from Seliars, Davidson, Goodman. lf there is a name for what's left, it
is pragmatism. "James and De,Ney,,_ vaites Rorty in the In trod uction to
Consequences of Pragmatism, ,...,Tere v. ai ting at the end of the dialectical
road which analytic philosophy traveled," and now wait for Foucault and
Deleuz.e {Rorty 1982, :x,.Tili).

1 would emphasize that Rorty's undoing is undoing by tracing the path

of programs and projects in philosophy. He is no! much concerned with

the concepts and how they are comtructed. lt is seldom an nndoing by asking into the origin and formation of concepts. There is bis importan! discussion of the "invention of the mind."' He has sorne things to say about
''knm".'ledge." But the book is interestingly non-Kantian, non-Hegelian,

and, 1 venture with trepidation, non- Heideggerian; certainly non-\Vittgensteinian. He does not say of the dead philosophers whom he condemns to
the past that their doctrines can nm{ be seen as neither true nor false. He is
saying that they are \'r"Tong, or have cometo be v.Trong because of other his-

torical developments.
Rather surprisingly, Rorty's way of undoing is more in the spirit of the
Vierma Cirde than of Kant or Hegel or Heidegger. lt is plain, bluff, middleAmerican. It differs from the Vienna Circle in that there is no progressive
theme of a new method in philosophy. The theme is retrenchment. let us
tolerantly pul the past aside, have no new philosoph)' as such, encourage
stability~ and engage in comrersation without threat, ll!ithout Ie\'Olution,

above all without programs. "Every generation finds its philosopher," 1

hear sorne cynic muttering, "and ntiddle America in the eighties found
its m . .11."

One reason for the enthusiastic reception of bis book wa.s that all the
British and American students who had felt angry, oppressed, and impotent in the tace of a hegemonic anal)tic philosophy were told, almos! from
the inside, that it had committed suicide. That is also one reason wh)' the
book '"''as greeted} in other quarters, 'i...Tith resentment. Rorty himself makes
humane pleas for pluralistic tolerance in these matters. Sharing Rorty's
pluralism, 1 find the ephernera of acceptance and resentment nnimportant-certainly to my present manda te. But 1 was asked how "philosophy
as. conversation connected 1vith philosophy as problem-solving. Officially,

not at all. Thi> is made especially plain in "Philosophy in America Today,"

Two Kinds of New Hstoridsm


the last essayin Consequences ofPragmatL<tn (1982, 2ll-30}. Rorty states as

a m atter of brnte fact that there is no shared recogni tion of problems, and
that a problem for a Cornell Ph.D. may not be seen as a problem or even as
philosophy at llCU\. And that is within mainstream establishment analytc philosophy. He a1;o talks of "prograrns which seem to have a shorter
and shorter half-life" (216).
1 do think that sp ecific programs of research and inquiry in philosophy
have short half-lives. 1 thnk that has been true throngh much of \Vestern
philosophy, unless you take "'rationalism or "nominalism" or another such
jargon ""ism" as a program. Problems-"the problems of pbilosophy''seem tome something else. Perhap.s 1.-ve suffer from equivocation. I am sure

that there are people now or recently at both Cornell and CCL"'- thinking
and talking and writing about the problem of free will. The problem is the
same in both places, al though in one place a person will be 1vrestling vdth a
complicated logic of tense and modalities in tended lo represen! freedomthat will be the CCL\. problem and program, say. At Cornell, perhaps, it
'""'ould be an examination of common law and its attributions of responsi-

bility. Of course the members o f this pair of prograrm and problems share
little-except that both address the problem of free will.
1 mnst tread cautiously here. 1 do not think that philosophy is only or
"''en mainly for solving problems. Problem-solving may have been an
ephemeral feature of philosophy. 1 do not deny that Plato had problems,
that Hume gave us what we now call the problem of induction, or that
Kant made ns focus on problems about knowledge, existence, duty, and
God. 1 proposed in chapter 2 (albeit "~th a slight air of self-mockery} that
onr fi'<ation on problems as the subject matter of philosophy was cemented only at the beginning of the twentieth een tnry, with titles b)' G. E.
.'vloore, William )an1es, and Bertrand Rnssell. The three "problems" books
11} those three anthors examine dinerent problems, bnt there is an enormous overlap. On what? Let William james the pragmatist speak, Some
Problems of Philosophy was written in 1909-10. The text was not quite finL<hed, and it is possible that the title is not William's but was imposed by
hi.< son Henr); who edited the material for publication. Al any rate, \\rj_
liam james was quite selfconscious about problerns. He thought that pragmatism was defecti,.-e just became it did not address the problerm of philnsophy; "it is mnch like an arch built only on one side" (James 1911, 27).
i\nd <lf course a historical ontology that contented itself with explaining
thc nature of problems wonld equally be an arch built only on one si de.


H isto rical O n tolo gy

\Vhat are these problems? "No exact definition of the term 'metaphysics'
is possible, and to name sorne of the problems it treats afio the best way of
getting at the meaning of the word" (29). James proceeds to list twenty-one
problems. For example, "V>ihat are 'thoughts; and what are 'things'? and
how are they connectedc" (29). "In knowledge, how does the object get
into the mind? Or the mind get at the obiect?" "We know by means of universal notions. Are these also real? Orare only particular things real?" (30).
He abo indudes among his problems the issue of objective validity (or
not) of moral and aesthetic judgments.
1 would not express James's twenty-on e problems with quite the words
that he thought to use for the students of 19!0. But they are almos! al! with
us, including the three !'ve quoted. I won't quarrel with a romantic who
says they are all in Plato. That's 2300 years ago. The half-life of problems is
short? I'm guessing v.Te're no'iNhere near the half-life of these issues yet.
Nor is Rorty himself nninterested in certain traditional "problems of
p hilosop hy." On se,eral recen t occasions he has taken Bernard Williams to
task for, in effect1 saying that there is a fundamental difference beh~.reen
ethical discussion and scientific research (Williams 1985, 139). \'11e cannot
dismiss this interest of Rort's as a passing whim. I have had the honor to
hear him lecture on the tapie in both Charlottesville, Virginia, and lerusalem; the argumeuts have been published (Rorty1988). There are hallowed,
traditional names for what is at issue between Rorty and Williams, tor examp le, ('the tact/value distinction ,.,
People have been a long time asking, in all sorts of idioms, whether there
is su eh a distinction. If there is, wha t is it? Do es it le in obiectivty? In
methodl In reference? Are there intrinsically differen t ways of settling disputes? Or is i t all a matter of degreel ls one relevan! difference that between verifiability and meaninglessness, as the Vienna Cirde urged? Is t
the case that the moral concepts that we have of people are in significan!
ways distnct from the nonethical concepts that we apply to things?
\Ve return, in short, to variations. on one of \Villiam James.'s problems.
What's notable is that when Rorty takes up a problem of philosophy, no
hint of a historical consideration is adduced. Problems appear to be addressed in the old an tihistorical anal}1ical way. Rorty m ay be more true to
lames than he noticed. Philosophy and the iHirror o.f Nan<re may also be
"much like an arch built up on only one side:' A return to problems may be
building up the other side--but not in a historicist way.

Two Kinds of New Hlstoricism


Taking a Loo k

Now l turn lo a combinati on of history and philosophy that is in sorne

ways the exact opposite of Rorty's. It do es not apply history to the whole
sweep of philosophy, but does concei\e of many philosophical problems as
being essentially comtituted in history. I sometimes think of the pro_iects as
Locke plus history.
locke'.s. Essay Concerning Human Understanding is as nonhistorical a
'iNOrk as 'lj.,.~e could imagine) yet its project is amenable to historicization. It
is about the origins of ideas and the origins of knowledge ..\'lany readers
find that it emphasizes foundations for humankno wledge. The bookaims ,
on that reading, at overcoming any skepticism residual after Descartes. It
also does its professed work as "underlabourer" to the Fellows of the Royal
Society of L:mdon. It is a perfect example of what Rorty takes to be the
core proj ect of modem phi! o sop hy (that is, Western phil osophy from Descartes to almos! now)' epistemolo gical toundations.
V>ihere others rightly spot foundations, I also see a quest for analysis and
genesis. locke though t that we understand concepts and knowledge better
when we understand what puts them in place, what brings them into being. l call this the Lockean imperative: to understand our thoughts and our
beliefs through an account of origins. The fancy name is to be set besde
another oue, "genetic fallacy," according to which it is foolish to expect that
the conten t of an idea, or the credibility of a propo.s.ition, can in any lj."ay be
illruninated by our ro u tes to it. I think tha t "genetic fallacy" is insubstantial
locke is the model empiricist: our ideas and our knowledge originate
in experience. But his methodology is rationalist. His book is one great
thought experiment. Asirle from anecdotes, he almos! never takes a look.
This is true of the entire traditiou of the idologues--Berkeley, Hume,
Condillac, .!v!aine de Biran, take your pick. A transition occurs only al the
end of the liue, narnely, Condorcet, and in the work of his great historicist admirer, Auguste Comte, the man v. ho invented the ver y 'i..,Tord ('p ositivism."'
Positivism began as a historicist doctrine. Itwa.s a theory abo_ut the successive transforma tion of knowledge. The Cours de ph ilosophie posil iw
does more than take a look at the evolution of kuowledge (Comto
1842). lt bares m by being all too comprehensive. In con tras t,


Hi sto rical O n tolo gy

ophers now commonly cal\ positivism, thal is, logical positivism, urged
that we attend not to "the context o discovery" but to the "context of jmtification" (Reichenbach 1947, 2). To think lhat the conte-<1: of discovery
mean! anything to what was discovered was to commi t the genetic fallaC}'
logical posilivism was better named logical em piricism. Positivism was
historicist, as Comte underslood it, but empiricism definilely is not.
logical positivists admired the natural sciences. Their an tihistorical notion of knowledge became standard among anglophone philosophers of
science. It was ba ttered by Kuhn's l11mom opening sen terree: "History, if
vie.....~ed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology) could produce a decisive transforma tion in the image of S-cience by 'iolhich "~Ne are

now possessed" {Kuhn 1962, 1). Kuhn proposed lo take a loo k.

Kuhn 's lheses, bis style, and the needs of readers at the momen t tumed
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions into a compulsive besl seller. lt also
gota lot of olher people to e""<amine how the most seemingly adaman!, well
tested, but abstruse items of human knowledge gel there. Cnmte, who had
bitterly campaigned for the creation of a chair of the history of science al
the Collge de France sorne 125 years earlier, might have felt justified. But
no! happy: for many of Kuhn's readers began to reach skeptical condusions about the ver y nature of .science. That seemed to scare empiridst philosophers. Yel Kuhn was following the empiricist adage---"take a look."
Kuhn is too well known to need discussion, but the present generation
of posi-Kuhnian students of science isn't, yet. It takes social construcrion as
its motto. In the matter of taking a look it has been courageous. We ha''e
Bruno lalour, trained as an ethnographer, who became a participan! observer in a biochemistry laboratory, breaking a lot of glass in the process,
and coauthoring Laboratory Life, the Social Construcrion of Scient[fic Facts
(latour and Wodgar 1979). \Ve have Andrew Pickering venturing into the
holiest of ho\ies, high energy physics, incidentally providing a fim-dass
(<_objective'' account of ,.. .~hat has happened in the subject over tvw decades,
but conduding with a phi\osophical thesis encoded in his title, Constructing Quarks (Pickering 1984).
lt is unimportant how one labels work like lhis. History? (Hislorians of
science don't like that.) Anthropology? (Nrn tribes to stlldy: denizens of
the laboratory.) Sociology? {These workers practice nothing remotely like
American sociology.) lvlicrosociolog', chronologically recounted? ("Ivlicrosociology" was one of latour's buzzwords.) )/othing fits we\1. No malter. In the present institutionalization of America, these people by and

Two Kinds of New Historicism


large gel co-opted into philosophy or paraphilosophy departrnents. Kuhn,

once adamant that he illaS a member of the American Historical A.ssocia-

tion and not of the American Philosophical Associalion, carne lo work al

;'1,1.1. T. in "linguistics and Philosophy" and served as presiden! of the Philosophy of Science Aswcialion.
lt is true lhat the people 1 have mentioned have tended to include wmething other !han philosophy in their training. They have nol been generated by the vasl machinery of the philosophy departmen ts tha t they laler
jo in and somelimes adorn. Per ha ps it is precisely beca use they know something about something, thal lhey are so given to what 1 nonchalan tly call
"taking a look:' :.revertheless their motivation is none other than the
lnckean imperative. And lhe general conclusions at which these workers
drive are original but mainstream philosophy. Here are lwo examples, one
about knowledge, one about kinds. Each is based on either latour or
The knawledge abo u t a particular tri peptide produced by the hyp othalamus of mammals or lhe establishe<i hypothesis of quarks is best described not in lerms of discovery, but in terms of social construction. This is
nol lo say that these authors think that the product of the construction is
no! "reall:/' a fact {now)---Dnly thal the unthought world doesn't come in
facts. The factization of lhe world is a human activity.
The kinds in terms of which the world is described (and the corresponding ideas., concepts, categories, dassifications, or '\o'rha t have yo u) are not
kinds with which the world is ready-equipped, and which we elicit by
probing. They too are needs no insight to loca te the philosnphical thrmt. These author5 are addressing the pro blem of uniwrsals.
They are propounding a somewhat novel historicist nominalism. lts roots
are in lhe lnckean imperative to investiga te the origin of ideas. The conclmions would, 1 hope, have cheered lncke, if nol the Fellows of the Royal
Society. But the procedure is rmlnckean, in that it lakes a look at how lhe
concepts did come into being in reallife.
Note tha t one of the things tha t 'Hiers su eh as Pickering and latour are
doing is conducting historical inquiries, e\'en if they are taking a look al
ra ther recen t even ts. In the same spiril, Simon Schaffer and Sleven Sha pin
( 1986) sludy the seventeenth-cenlury battle over the experimental melhod
of reasnning. In Lcviathan m1d the A ir Pump: H obbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life they tell how a new s11e of scientific reasoning was pul in
place. These histories, whether they be of the l970s or the !650s, are not


Historical Ontology

Two Kind5- of New Historicism

done out of curiosity about the past. They are in tended to show something


Compare the abstract tapie headings of metaphysics and ethics. \\fe have
reali ty, tru th, fact, ... on the one hand, and right, good, j nstice, ... on the
other.ln the natural sciences we have been taking a loo k at the material cir-

about our present realityJ our present reas.oning) our present modes of re-

search. They may. not nnfittingly, be called historie' of the present.

Such workers pul historical substance on the bare scaffolding of Kelson
GDodman's \t\>ys of \-1-'orldmaking ( 1978). Where Goodman wrote pithil
about versions of the 'Vwrld and right and '-"Tong categories, these men say
h hat the versions and categories are and hmv they come into being. Note
that the conclusions about knowledge and about kinds directly address
two of V>filliam James' s twen ty -one pro blems.
The condusiom of a latour, a Pickering, or a Schaffer and Shapin will
not seem striking to sorne established philosophical schooh that are skeptical about the natural sciences. "1ust wha t we expected all along, say the
know nothings, briefly forsaking logorr hoea: "the scien tists make it all u p."
Such a priori antiscientism appeals. only to the ignorant. The books Yve
mentioned are something else. They are ba.s.ed on a very serious -..mrking
knnwledge of the very sciences about ,...,,hich they are, in a certain sense,
skeptical. The nominalism of authors like this is combined w:ith a high
leve! of facticity (or is it just plain curiosity?).

cum.stances under ,.,.~hich truth) reality, and fact are constructed from case

to case {wi th no obligation to tell the same story in every case). This mean!
investigating not truth, reality, and fact, bu t truths, real things, and facts. In
ethics, especially in English, there has be en too m u eh fixa tion on the abstrae!, on the good, the right, and the j ust.
J. L. Anstin tried to get us to focus on what is small and alive rather than
grand and abstract-as in "A Plea for Excuses" ( 1970). c.:nfortunately, sub
sequent wri ters mostly picked up on bis study of speech acts rather than
his fine attention to the nuances of ordinary language. Even fewer philoso
phers paid heed when a novelist-philosopher like Iris Jl,lurdoch told moralists to examine "fhick" concepts ra ther than abstrae! notions. Indeed, l
may have been the only philosopher to write a long, admiring, and caring
review of her Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals ( 1992; Hacking 1992c).
The philosopher who has most consistently repeated the plea that moralists should study thick concepts is Bernard \\rilliams (1985 ). He is extremely knowledgeable about the history of moral ideas. He has brilliant!y
informed us, for example, about ancient concepts of honor and guilt {"Wil
liams 1993 ). But he clearly does not think there is much of a case for un

It ,..,,ras not my intention to advertise recent historicist vwrk in the philos-

ophy of science. Forme it leads on lo another is remarkable

that this ferment should chiefly be happening in connection with natural
science. \Ve can .see hov.' that carne to pass. There are three reasons. Fir.s.t,

derstanding _thick moral concepts as. historkal entities whose form and

after Kuhn, a snowball. Second, if yon're going to be iconoclastic and

constructionafut, the idols to bash are !hose of natural science. Third, the

force has been determined by fheir past. And by reading Homer in a

straightforward way he has done a brilliant hatchet _iob on fhose who have
argued that the Greek concepts of the archaic period-ideas such as cama-

Lockean imperative) unstated but present. Genetic accounts of ideas and

knowledge have always tended to focus on the concerns of Locke's old

friend, the Royal Society.
But what about arenas where we would be more likely to find concepts
molded by history? Arenas where what pass for facts bear on human na-

tion-do not mesh with ours. '"'So much for hi:s-toricism) be it old or nevv~"

ture and behavior? \Vhat about conduct) ethicsJ morality? \~,Ie are curiou.sly

lacking, particularly in Engfuh, any serions philosophical-hstorical consideration of moral kinds and moral knowledge.
Perhaps philosophy of natural science was lncky. Tired old cultural rela
tivism in morality has been 1tvith us (it feels) forever. No _ie_june relativi.s.m
had comparable currency among those 1Nell acquainted 1tvith a natural sci-

ence. Then Kuhn carne bounding in with what many of his readers too k to
be all the trappings of "relati,ism" in science, "mob psychology" and the
like. Two decades later we had work of the sor! !'ve _iust touched u pon.


(one can imagine him exclaiming).

"!vloral" inquiries not far removed from what 1 have in mind have,however, been undertaken in all sort.s of piecemeal and goal-directed ways. No
one commonly recognizes fhem as eifher philosophy or history. There is,
for example, the "Social Problems" school respomible for labeling -Theory.
lt.s adepts are interested in, among other things, how the invention of a
classification for people (and its application) does severa! fhings. It affect.s
how we think of, treat, and try to control people so aftects how
they see themselves. lt has strongly todo with evaluation, with the creating
of values, and in sorne cases (homosexuality, juvenile delinquency) with
_manufacturing a social problem about the kind of person, who must then
be subjected to reform, isolation, or discipline. An almost entirely indepen


H st ori e a 1 Ontol ogy

ed by
dent type of work is done by the Agenda -Setting school, pioneer
Gmfield's .study of how "drunk en driving " became firrnl
gpoltica! agenda, Note the title: The Culture of Public Pro bJems: Drinkin
Drving and the Social Order (Gmfie ld 1980}.
philossocial problem s are dosely linked with what are called problem s of
These sociologists provide quasi-h istorica l studies of kinds of behavFor a
ior-no t natural kinds but social kinds, and 1 would say moral kinds.
mature adul t to drive under lhe inftuen ce of drink is immor al. lf im
j udgme nt is an excme, then to begin to drink, knowin g
perhap sj
more and then drive, is immora l. Everyone kno"rv""S that, but not,
ist and
how it became immora l. That leads to
philosophical: how do the conditi om of format ion of this concep
arrive at
termin e its logical relation s and moral connota tions? Here we
philoso phical analysis, conduc ted in terms of the
That leads me to mr final section. I have been discussing uses of history
, oomidphiloso phical student s of science. Now l wish to be more general
ering~ for exampl e, not science but ethlcs, and at the
cific, conside ring not just philoso phy but what 1 cal! philoso phical
of the
and conside ring not just hislory bu t wha
present .

Philosophical Analysis and History of the Presen t





Philoso phical analysis is the analysis of concepts. Concep ts are words
their sites. Sites include .sentences, uttered or tran.scribed,
si te of neighb or hood, insti tution, a uthori ty, \anguage. !f oue too k serious
the project of philoso phical analysis, one would
But isn't
. . . Tords in their sites in order to compre hend '\hat the concep t 'i...,Tas.
'"'analysis"" a breakin g dnv.'Jl, a decomp osition into smaller partsi
Not en tire!y; for example, "analysis" in mathem atics
kind of
tial and integra l calculus, among other lhings. Atomis m is one
d RusBertran
analsis, to he sure, and in philoso phy
sell's Theory of Definite Descrip tons. (Eveu that did not
ocdefinite artide, "the;' but it did analyze seutences in which the artide
curs.) 1. L. Austin did not analyze sentences in
do with
elemen ts, but in the se use of providi ng an analysis of what we
a conthem and of what thdr uses are. Similarly; to invoke the hislory of

Two Kinds of New Historic ism


les that
cept is not to uncove r its elements, but to investigare the priucip
ca use it lo be usefu)---{)r problem
lf one embrac ed more specific coniectures about the ways in which
ined the
conditi on for emergence and changes of use of a word also determ
space in which it could be used, one would be well on
halfmethodology. ln the third of my "Five Parabies" in chapter 2, l have
seriously describ ed one of m y own a
method ology, one thing is clear. Such an attitude invites one to
It is promp ted by lhe lockea n imperative. Because of the post-K
even ts m en tioned above, it v.Tas natural to take
licepts and their sites. Hence 1 have tried to display the networ k of possibi
tions of
ties and constra ints that have been built into our present concep
chance , determ inism, inform a tion, and control (Hackin
But what about elhical concepts, follm>ing the transit on just suggest
The exam ple of this sort on which I ha
l. lt is al
abuse (e.g. Hackin g l988c, l99la), Child abuse is not just immora
""' a
presen tan absolut e wrong. 1 lold a young man 1 was going to intervi
Iawyer who defends child abusers. He replied,
that? lv!urderers have to be defend ed in court, but child abusers1" 1 believe
can show thal our categor y "child abuse" began around 1960, and has
bu t
molded inlo its presen t shape. Aud if someon e says,
One re'l'ihat has that got lo do w:ith philoso phy and in particu lar ethics?"
plc here is a living exampl e ofhow an "ahsolu
lute wrong, gets constru cted before our very eyes. 1'\'ha t if this s
nature of \{hat we expere nce as absolut e 'iralue? Discus.sions about
relativi ly come lo life when subslan ce such as lhis
here s a
Child abuse is used as an exampl e for metaeth ics. A second reply:
in its
thick moral concep t demand ing analysis and unders tanding both
own right and beca use its structu re is probab ly similar
of other
moral concep ts being constru cted this very day. {There are lots
Child abuse both describes a kind of human behavio r and evaluar
it, messily mixing fact and value. lt is easier to argue that it has
constru cted in a macrosociological set of exchan
quarks and Latour's thyrolr opin-re leasing factor have been constru
ive it has
!he micros ociolog y of the laboratory. But jusi beca use it is evaluat
One bequarks.
an effect upou lhe inveslig ator quite different from thal
an excomes involved in the subject itself. l began looking at it merely as


Two Kinds of New Historicis.m

His.torical Ontolo gy

No longer. Child
ample of the ways in which we make up kinds of people.
\, and when
abuse invo \ves pressing moral (not to mention social, p olitica moral
one gets dm\n tocases, personal) issues in itself. It is an
can be u sed to
lt is also extrinsimlly meta -moral. Hy this l mean that it
by taking a look
reflect on evaluation itself. The reflection can be done only
imperative. But
into the origin of our idea. That is fulfilling the locke an
formation of the
the look must be into the social rather !han the personal
present pressing
concept. lt involves history. The application is to our
present concepproblems. The history is hi>tory of the present, how our
constrain our
tions ,...,Tere made, ho'i...Tthe oonditions for their formation
Form e that
present wa:.s of thinking. The whole is the analysis
means philosophical analysis.
sort of enl know of only one sustained philosophical model for this
q uiry, namely sorne of the work of lv1ichel Foucault.
ormation in the nature of
(1977) is numerous things: an account of a transf
very ooncepts
the prison and in the treatmen t of criminals; a study of our
rnia DeCalifo
of criminality recidivism, punishment '"'correction" (as
nology it i.s an
partment of Correction.s)l and prison reform. In my termi
As proof that
e>..trinsically metamoral book about the intrinsically
inevitable enthe author fonnd the topic intrinsically moral one sees his
reform of the
gagemen t as a leading figure o f a collective dedica ted to the
and Civilizass
French penal system. Sorne people blame his book
helpless peation ( 1965) for the discharge onto the streel5 of thousands of
his tapies
pie who wou\d otherwise be in the care
are als.o ex-trinsically meta-moral. As Foucault said in
1 was lalking
"Vv'hen 1 think back now, l ask myself what else it was that
but power?"
about, in Madness and Civilization or The Birth
m tail to see
(Foucault 1980, 115j. People who accuse Foucault of nihilis
moral at the
that one can be extrinsically meta-moral and intrinsically
same time, or at lea.s.t in the same person.
analytic phiFoucault has become a cult figure, but there are plent}' of
J have never had
losophers who have great trouble with what he is doing.
been serously inthis troublel and so .seem to be _anomalous. 1\.Jy 'i.mrk has
years. Books l
fluenced by Foucault (or by successive Foncaulls) for many
me. Yet l was
have written and books l am writing reek
ry emphasis on
trained as a purebred analytical philosopher "ith prima
whose mind was
philosop hical logic. 1 still regard myself as such, as one


can! that despite

formed by Frege, :\loare, and Russel\. lt is perhaps signifi
effect on the way l
my respect for many logical positivists, they had liltle
from Rorty.
lhink. This is perhaps the fundamental way in which l differ
ion. At anyra te 1
He was fighting people to whom l never paid much attent
m y ability to use
fe el no inconsistency b etween my analytic instincts and
e or of child
sorne aspects of Foucault. 1 regard my investigations of
manifestly, the
abuse as pursuing the lo ckean imperative. lvly work is a\so,
conducl5 the
history of the present in the sense intended by Foucault. One
we think
analysis of the words in their si tes in order to understand
and 'iNhy we .seem obliged to think in certain 1v""ays.
rool5 lie in
Philosophers are more than meta physicians. Those whose
ooncepts !ess
the tradition of phi\o.>ophical analysis are concerned "~th
of philosophical
grand than )ames~ metaphysical twent}'-one. Plenty
n beha, ior,
problems surrou nd concepts such as "normal" (said
e the Fouca uldian
characteris.tics, or customs) -or '"'chanCe."' Or~ to pursu
e that .specific dechain: -lvad,"" "criminal)" "diseased/' "perverse.,_ l belie"il
impor tan! to unis
tails of the origin and transformation of these concepts
derstanding them and for understanding what makes them
s: "How is
Thus 1 oondu de by returning lo one of the mand
the lle\-1.' historicism, or philosophy as conver.sationl connected
is not the new
ophy as problem-solving?" V>/hat l have been describing
and FouKuhn
historicism, bu t in p hilosop hy it is rather new. l m en
is historicist. lt is
cault as menlors "~th decisive impacts on the subject. lt
work. Or lo use
not philosophy as oonversation. It is philosophy as hard
is this activity
understatemen t, it s less talking than taking a loo k. How
oonnected with problern solving?
u understand
There is a wonderful idea, rightly called Hegelian, that if :.o
find this concepthe source of a pro b!e m, :.ou thereby make it go away. \'l'e
a whiff of it in
tion in Freud and Wittgenstein alike. There is more than
1 think that is
Madness and Civilization and other early work of Fouca
of chance or
just a mistake. I do not see, for example, my inves-tigations
righl5 of state,
abuse as solving the problem of free w:ill or of the respective
parents, and children. I certainly do not have the ludicrous
But l can show
conception that the problems go awayw hen 1 am through.
only that they
why thes.e matters are problematic, ,.,lhereas before
pt more prob were problematic. Sometimes one can hope to make a oonce
l." And of course
lematic than before, for examp le, "information and contro
l problems
to use history in this way for the understanding of philos


H st Ori ea 1 Ont ol ogy

is not to resign one's right to use it in other ~ovays. 1 may have been slightly
ironic in naming the Pen Pal approach, bu t l con tinue lo take p leasure in
m y "What Is wgici" ( l980c), a long paper tha t takes the eady lo gicians,
such as the younger Bertrand Rmsell and Ludwig Wittgenstein of the
Tractatus, as my imtructors in mallero of irnportance lo the philosophy of
logic And af caurse one does not give up one';; birthright to engagein Present- Timeless philosophy, as in a paper written jusi befare the present one,
that examines a new fallacy in probable reasoning and its application to
cosmology (1987).
To return to morals, .,Nhen the concept-the \mrds in their sites--at
which one takes a look is a moral one or one that bears on acti.On, the in'estigation w:ill be what l have, with heavy hand, been calling extrinsically
meta-moral. One may also have a.spiration;; toward influencing the ethical
decisions in which that concept is clothed. That is a step not toward problem solving but toward intrinsically moral action. That is a matter of
deeds, not analysis. This distinction between deeds and analysis I owe to
lvloritz Schlick.




The Archaeology of
Michel Foucault

This ess.ay was a .re'riew of, ..,,,hkh is. primarily a collection

of intenie-?\'S ...,,th 1\'lkhe-1 Foucault (1980). It appeared in 1981 in The Net-v
l"Ork Re-vie..~' al Books. Tt...u books tha t 1 publ[shed in 197 .5, The Emergence of
Probability and ~'fhy Doe5 Language ~.fatter to Phtlomphy?, were deeply influented by reading lviichel Foucault, but this was ahnost the first occasion on
....,.hkh 1 felt able to 'i.rrite about him. Page- refere-nces in the te-xt are to POlverl

Pmvet!Knawledge is a collection. of nlne intervie,.\rs, an essay, and a pair of

lectures in which .'v!ichel Foucaul t tried lo work out new ways to talk about
power. 1t was one more s tage in a remarkable adven ture of ideas that began
in the late fifties. Key word5 in Fouca ult's wor k would be, for example: la
bar, Langnage, Life, lvladness, !VIastnrbation, l\"ledicine, ]l..ilitary, Nietzsche,
Prison, P~ychiatry, Quixote, Sade, and Sex. Be neither attracted nor repelled by this adolescent list of tapies. Foucault had an original analytical
mind wi th a fascina tion for facts. He wa.s adept at reorganizing past even ts
in order to rethink the presen t. He engagingly turned familiar truisms into
doubt or chaos. These though ts abou t power and knowledge were plainly
part of a fermentation worth learning about.
What are the relationships between power and knowledge? There are
two bad short answers: ( l) knowledge provides an instrument that those in
power can wield for their own ends; (2) a new body of knowledge brings
in to being a ne''i.'{ dass of people or .imti tutions. that can exercise a ne1... kind
of power. These two assertions parallel Th'O opposed theses about ideology:
( 1) a ruling dass genera te> an ideology tha t sui ts its own interests; and ( 2)
a ne'lj.,.~ ideology, wi th ne\ll values, crea tes a niche for a new ruling dass. VirT




Hi st ori e a 1 Onto logy

tually nobody likes either side of these simple dichotomies. Foucault is one
of many -,.vho \{ant a new conception of hm..Tpm,rer and knm..Tledge interact. Bu t he is not looking Jor a relation bet'Neen tv.m givens, pm.,.rer and
knowledge. As always, he is trying to rethink the entire subject matter, and
his knowledge and power are to be something else. K obody knows this
knowledge; no one "~elds this power. Yes, there are people who know this
and lhat. Yes, there are individuals and organizato ns that rule other people. Yes, there are suppressions and repressons that come from authority.
Yes, lhe forros of knowledge and of power since the nineteenth century
have served the bourgeoisi e above all others, and served a comparabl e dass
in the Sm~et l:nion. But !hose ruling classes don't know how they do it,
nor could they do it without the other terms in the power relaton-t he
functonaries, the governed, the repressed, the exiled--ea ch "~llingly or
unwillingl"y doing its bit. One ough t to begin an analysis of power from the
grormd u p, at fhe leve! of tny local even ts where battles are umvi ttingly enacted by players who don't know what they are doing.
Now lhis sort of project is not novel. Foucault's genius is to go clown to
the li ttle dramas, dress them in facts hardly anyone e!se had noticed, and
turn these stage settings into clues to a hitherto unthought .series of confrontations out of which, he contends, the orderly structure of society is
composed. For all the abstrae! schemes tor which Foucaull has beco me famous, he is also the most concrete of writers. He is a facl-lover. One of the
interviev.s ends on a typical note. He was asked when botde- feeding of infants was invented or at least introduced into France. He did not know and
was delighted when his interlocuto rs could tell him, and at the same time
cursed himself for being so d umb nol lo ha:ve asked the q ueston himself.
Foucault is, then, no spinner of verbal funtasies. 1 enjoy his long books
rather fhan these short interviews just because the books are denser wilh
facts. The editor of Power!Knowledge"-as right, however, tD saylhat the interviews can help us to understand the books. The interview is a French art
form used to present work in progress which is destned, at first, for limited circulaton , and which is couched in terms suitable for discussion
among one specific audience. Hence there is a drectness here that is often
missing from lhe long and elaborately conslructe d books. But Foucault's
notons of power and knowledge are so divorced from common speech
that 1 need to recall how he arrived at them. Hs sequence ofbooks is, despite its ups and downs, an intellectnal progress, and 1 shall try to describe

it by ,.vay of explaining the interviev.,;s.

The An:haeolog y of Michel Foucault


1Hadness and Civilization ( Fouca ult 1961 ) was a somewhat roman tic
work. It seems to have started with the he si tant belief, never sta ted, !ha t
there is a pure lhing, madness, perhaps a goo d in itself, which is not something that we can capture in concepts. lt is certainly not what the sciences
of lhe insane call madness. We classify and treat and put away fhe mad by
system.s of our mm creation. Our institution s create the phenomen a in
terms of which we se e insanity. Thi.s first maj or book by Foucaul t hints at
an almost Kantan story in which our experience of the mad is a mere phenomenon conditone d by our thought and our history, but lhere is also a
thing-in-it self which can be called madness and which is uncorrupti ble.
1\.ioreoverl reason is also only a phenomen on , . .~hose very e..'\:istence requires
its opposi te lo define itself against. In English the book is ironically su btitled, A History of,\Jadne,:< in the Age of &asan.
By fhe time fhat lhe book had be en wri tten it was dear tha t this romantic concepton of a pure and prior madness was a mistake. There could be
no such thiug as this preconcep tual way of being. The book had become a
book aboul something ehe. What? That was not so clear, at first "'\Vhen 1
fhink back now", Foucault said in a 1977 interview, "! ask myself what else
il was that 1 was talking about, in ,\Jaaness aaa Civilization or The Birth of
the Clin:, but power>" {p. 115}.
The plot of fhe madness book, which is repeated in severa! of its successors, is plain enough. There are tv.o notable events. First comes "the great
exdusion" in m id sevenleen th cen turc a frantic locking up of devian ts
and a building of lunatic asylrmtS . .'vluch later, at lhe time of lhe French
Revoluton, there was a spurious liberaton, when a new body of psychiatric knowledge invented new ways to deal "ifh the insane. Al leasl in the old
asyl ums, Foncault suggests, the mad were left to themselves in al! the hor.
ror tha t imp lied. Yet the horror was not worse than the solemn destructio n
of the mad bycommit tees of experts ~th their constantly changing manuals of no strums.
Foucaulfs stories are d.ramatic He presents a reordering of events that
we had nol perceived befare. The effect is heightened by briUianl befare
and-after snapshols taken on either side of lhe great ,~de during which
traditon is transforme d into another. We are given one snippet of descripton of a brain around 1780 and another lwenty-fi,e years la ter. The
very "same" organ on lhe marble slab plays a role in fhe laler physiology
.. thal correspond s tD nofhing in 1780.
Scholars remind us lha t the facts are vasdy more complex than what


H stori (.a 1 Ont ol ogy

Foucault describes. His predilectio n for French examples projected on to

European history Jeads to mistakes. lv1idelfort (1980) makes this point in
generaL But this is notan "anti-Fren ch" point. The Revue d'histoire des sciences et leurs applicatiotl5 devoted an en tire issue to vigorous. -challenges to
Foucault's emphasis on the role of Cuvier in inaugurati ng the stud of
"!ife" (voL 23, 1970). Nevertheless, l think one can find balance between
detailed criticism and overall admration . Chapter 9 below is a very small
example of how to make petty criticisms while respecting the larger picture.

There are two extremes of French historiography. Tbe Annales school

'""Tent in for long-term continuities or .s.lO'i.-I,T transition s-"the great silent
motionless bases that traditional history has covered w:itb a thick la,-er
of events" (to quote from the first page of Foucault's 1969 Archaeowgy
of F0wtYicdge). Foucault takes the opposite tack, inherited from Gaston
Bachelard, Georges Canguilhe m, and Louis lllthusser. He posits sharp dis
continuities in the history of knm'ldedge. In one intervie\f he grants that
this obsession with breaks creates an accoun t of knowledge tha t fits sorne
facts, but is nota general model (p. 112). "lt is always at once a point of departure and a ver relative thing" (p. 211). "i\ow not only do we find that
the facts are sometimes not quite rigbt, that they are overgeneralized, and
that they are squee-zed into a model of brusque transformationsj we also
find that many of Foucault's dramas have already been told in calmer
terms, by other people.
:;.Io matter. His histories .stick in the mind. \\'e can add our m'l'll corrective foo tno tes at leisure. These histories matter because they are in part political statements. They are also what l cal! philosophy: a way of analyzing
and coming to understand the conditions of possibil:ity tor ideas-no!
only ideas of dis.ease or insanity or imprisonment) but al.s.o the traditionaJ
concept of epistemology, namely knowledge, and of ethics, namely power.
An exclu.sion is an exercise of pov.Ter. It is a putting a1va:r Despite all thc
firetmrks-. A-iadness and Ctviltzatian follows the romantic convention thi:lt
sees the exerdse of power as repreS-sion, which is wicked. The dramatic and
fundan1ental feature of Foucault's recen! work is the rejection of this idea.
But do not tum at once to his writings on power, for it is in his reflection.~
on knowledge that this conversion occurs.
The psychiatrists.) hygienists, foren.s.ic s.cientists, theorists of the prison,
of education, or of population that emerge in the nineteenth century for111
a nev.' band of experts. They had lots of hypotheses and prejudices and ti<l)'

The Archaeolog y of Michel Foucault


theories that were comtantly being revised, but which were embedded in
an undedying conception of disease or crime or 'o~.hatnot. Foucault used
the French word connaissance to stand for such items of surface knowledge,
tl!hile- savoir meant more than science; it l ..yas a frame, postulated by Foucault, v.:ithin \.,yhich smface hypotheses got their .s.ense. Savoir is not knov. Iedge in the sense of a bunch of solid propositio ns. This "depth" knowledge
is more like a postulated set of rules that determine what kinds of senterrees are going to count as true or false in sorne domain. The kinds of
things to be said aboutthe brain in 1780 are not the kinds of things to be
said a quarter-centurr la ter. That is not beca use \W have different beliefs
about brains, but because "brain" denotes a nev. kind of obiect in the later
dis.course) and occurs in different sorts of sentences.
The knowledge of Power!Knawledge :is the savoir I'm calling depth
knowledge. lvlaybe no one is consciom of this knowledge. We should expect that Foucault's power will turn out to be sorne sort of depth power
that no one .....ittingly exercise.s.. Foucaulfs \mrries about knot.,.Tledge and
power will not, then, be the :important but trte questions about how geneticis.ts or nuclear physicists are to use their nel.,v-vwn surface knm..Tledge
for the good or ill of our species.
A new knowledge is involved :in the liberation of the insane as they are
brought under the care of the medica! man. :'>!ew things are to be said and
thought about the mad. Foucault's book on medicine has a connected
story. La clinUue denotes both an institu tion, the teaching hospital, and the
'linicallec ture, a way of talking. The Birth of the Clinic {1963) is another
book about exclusion and about new candidates for truth-or-fa lsehood. lt
U also about the creation of a self-constitutng dass of e::qoerts located
"''hin a new knowledge. What makes this developme nt possible? A familhistory of science would tell us a tale of heroes. We would lea m of their
1blems, their goals, their luck} their experiments, their mistakes, their
and in\'isible colleges, and their funding. Foucault does not aim at
a history of who said what and why, but a story about the web of spe~entences that were uttered, and a theory, called archaeology, of what
it possible for !hose sentences to be uttered {largely regardless of who
them). This impossible task will produce a bzarre account of what
might call pure knowledge. The first and probably last masterpiece in
gcnre s The Order ofT1ngs (1966).
The Order of'Things tells of four epochs. The periodizat ion is already taThere is the age of reason, from Descartes to the Revol ution. There


Hstoric:a! Ontology

The Archaeot ogy of Miche-1 Foucault

is a historicist nineteen th centur)'t hat leads on to the present. There is the

predecessor era that \..,Te call the Renaissance. Finally there is. a future, start-

ing nmv.
Life, labor, and language are concepts formed, so goes the argumen t, in
the nineteen th century as the material of biology, economics, and linguistics. These sciences have objects that don't correspo nd with or map onto
their predecessors of natural history, the theory of wealth, or general grammar. Those fields of inquiry have, in turn, no parallel in the Renaissance,
say--s Foucault. Such nonmappings result not so much from ne ..... discoveries
as from the coming into being of new objects of thought for which new
truths and falsehoods are to be uttered. The Order of Things is about how
one depth knowledge can mutate into another, and ith what consequences.
The book is not only a ne'i-V sort of historical performance. It is also a
trae! against the human sciences. The American reader should not identify
these tth the social sciences, for the French dassification .,Nill indude
sorne admixtur e of psychoanalysis and ethnogra phy, certain kinds of literary analysis, and various ret1ections of a iVIarxist origin. Foucault's book is
about ]\Jan, a figure of less interest for our anglopho ne culture. "lv1an" is
two-faced, knower and object of knowledge. He was tormally announc ed
v. hen Kant one year (about 1775) puta new question into his annual Logic
lectures: "What ls 1-.-lan?" (Kant 19 74, 29).
After ".\lan" carne the study of roan, or anthropo logy. Kant himself published an Anthropo logyfrom aPragma ticPointo fViewin 1798 (Kant 1978).
Foucaul dissertati on, 1961, was precisely an Imrodw:tion a J'"Anthropo/.ogie'' de Kant in sorne 4{5 pages. He then published the first French
translatio n of the book (Kant 1964). He argued that philosophical anthropology generales an illicit way to talk that pretends to look like biology or
linguistics. This is not the familiar criticism that says the method of the wcial sciences is inept. The method is all too well modeled on legtimate science. Foucault is denying that the human sciences have a genuine object to
talk about. Luckily, he informs us, Man is on the way out. Discourse is
coming in pure discourse without the knm,.'ing subject v.:ho utters thc
Some of this antagonism to the subject is merely typical of P<1risian discussions of the 1970>. Phenome nology was detested and despiscd
by figures such as Lvi-Strauss. Foucault's m. .Tn literary criticism -some or
\o\,;hich can be read in a collection of his e:ssay-rs translated as Languag_''


Cmmter-Memory, Practice (1977)-a rgues that the concepts of "author"

and "oeuvre" must be exchanged for less personal ways of grouping senterrees. He al so urges that literature i.s extinct. So m uch was the high tashion of the day. But in addition, Foucault had, if nota theory, at leas! a body
of speculations that gave sense to it. He held that the class of sentences that
can be uttered in a specified time and place is not determin ed by the conscious wishes of the speakers. The possibility of being true-or-false does
not reside in a per.s.on's de.s.ire to corrnnunicate. Hence the author himse]f is
irrelevant to the analysis of such "conditio ns of possibility."
Discourse is~ then) to be analyzed not in terms of vi.rho says "'rhat but in
terms of the condition s under which those sentences "~ have a definite
truth value, and hence are capable ofbeing uttered. Such condition s wil!lie
in the "depth" knowledg e of the time. This vision leads us far from material condition s of the producti on of sentences. lnevitably, The Order of
Things looks like an idealist book, reminisce nt once again of Kant. Perhaps
in self-moc kery Foucault briet1y accepted the label of "the historcal a priori" bestowed upon bis work by Georges Canquilh em (1967). Where Kant
had found the condition s of possible experience in the structure of the human mind, Foucault does it with historical, and hence transient, conditions for possible discourse.
This obsession wi th words was lo o fragile to stand. Fouca ult had to return lo the material condition s under which the words were spoken. :'>< ot
wanting to go back to individua l speakers or authors, he al least had to
consider the interests which spoken and written words would serve. The illegitimate sciences of :>'lan were not _iust a lot of talk. They included legal
' medicine , which in the nineteen th century was busy reclassifying deviants
C(inventing even the concepts of norm and of patholog y) and then allotting
to treatmen t. This legal reformis m de,ised new architectures of prisschools, and hospitals, which are described in Discipline and Punish:
Birth af the Prison ( 1975}. There are overt forms of power such as the
)\ldicial machine ry with its new crowd of experts to testify on the mental
of the prisoner. Everywhere discipline is to the fore. lt is revealed in
factory as well as in buildings avowedly erected for disciplning. Even
working man' s cottage maJl ha''e its rooms divided and allotted to enthe strictest morality.
Knowledge became power, all right. A new conceptio n of human beings
t disciplinal]' objects means one is lo do somethin g new "~th people. :'-<ot
enyone "knew" much that we would now cal! sound belief. Ifyou read


Historic al Ontolo gy

throug h the volumes of the AnnaJes d'hygine publique a de mde>

!gale, which commence in 1829, you will give credence to very little except
the statistics, but you will be able to dine out for a year on horror
especially if you photoc opr wme of the engravings.
Foucau lt lifted from these Annales an event of 1835 now publish ed
as I,
Picrre Rhire, having s!aughtcred my mother, my sistr:r arul my brothr:r.
(1973). For almos! the first time, a borde of experts stood about in
theoriz ing about the suppos edly crazed killer. The categories into
they slot him will determ ine what is to be done with him. That is one
way in which know\edge is power. lt is less the facts about Pierre than
possibili ty of thinkin g of him in these ways that fixes bis fate.
In his interviews, Foucault subscribed to the commo n wisdom that
failed Parisian revol ts of Iv!ay 196 8 j olted him out of a one-sid ed tascnation lj..,Tith discourse and also created a ne,.,{ audience that could
knowledge and power. There are also good interna! reasom for at the
least expanding the project underta ken in The Order af Things. lf you
that a disrour se consists in the totality of what is said in wme domain
then yo u go beyond reading the intellectual highs of the heroes of
and you sample what is being said everyw here--i ncludin g not only
the annals of public hygiene but also the broads heets of the day. You inevitab
have to consider who is doing what to whom.
At that point Foucau lt made his fundam ental break "ith traditio n.
with the who and the whom. He was primed by the denial of the knowin
subject that I have just described. The old model of repression oays there
a who: sorne identifiable party is organizing the lives of other people;
as a
result, we are not allowed to do certain things. Volume 1 of The History
Sexuality (1976) is a polemic against that model.
This book is, as Foucault remark ed in one interview, not about sex
about power (p. 187). "Sexualit?' denote s (in one diction ary definiti
recogn ition of, or preoccupation "ith, sex. The book is partly about
preoccu pation. The French title ofvo\u rne 1 isLa Volont de sawir, the
to knowledge, depth knowledge. The will in questio n is nobody in particu
lar'> will; indeed the ttle is a\so an allusion to Schopenhauer. There is
a will
to create the possibility of sa)~ng truths and falsehoods about sex.
the other figures of Foucaul t's histories, this will to snCJal knowledge
out lo have been around for a long time.
Like the prison, sexuality has its own immed iate interest, but Foucau
abiding concerns also cal! his attentio n to a certain positive knowle

The- Archae ology of Mic!lel foucau lt


of popula tions and what he calls biopolitics. Great webs of bureau

evolve endless ways to count and c\assifr people. Birth, death, sicknes
s, suicide, fertility: these inaugu rate the modern era, the era of statistical
There is an avalanche of printed numbe rs early in the ninetee nth century
(Hacking l982a). It occurs not beca use people can count better but
because new kind~ of facts about popula tions are taken to be the things
find out.
Se:mality for Foucault is not only a preocc upation with sex. It intersec
with a larger cirde of ideas, of consciousness of the body, of bodies
.lt has
to do "~th "poli ti cal tedmol ogies of life." Two axes of sexuality are
"disciplines ofthe body, ofharn essing, intensification and distribu
tion of
force, the ad,instment and econom y of energies. On the other hand
[sexualityJ was app lied to the regulati on of popula tions ." Both "an entire

pm...,er concerned \{ith the body;' and "comprehensive measure

s~ statistica1 asse.ssments. and intenentions"' aimed at the entire social bodv:
. HSex

was a means of access both to the life of the body and the life
of the
'\Ve once had a sovereign 'i...,~ho e...x:ercised pm..,~er upon .su bj ects. A.round
the beginn ing of the ninetee nth century there arises what Foucau
lt described in an intenielj.,.~ as ([a nev~. type of pm\rer~ \.,~hich can no longer
formulated in terll15 of sovereignty." lt is one of the great inventi
ons of
bourgeois soety. In one dimem ion this power is to be called "discip
linary," but discipline is only one aspect of it. New kinds of truth and
falsehood are another. "Truth," Foucau lt tells us, "is to be unders tood as
a system of ordered proced u res for the produc ti on, regula tion, distribu tion
operati on of statements. 'Truth' is linked in a circular relation with systems
ofpow er which produc e and sustain it" (p. 133). This truth is at one
removed from what we normal ly unders tand by truth.l t is an abstrae
! underlying elemen t that takes its place "~th the depth knowledge and
We are specifical\y enjoine d not to think of all this in terms of ideolog
y and
Marxia n sup erstructure, i.e., self-conceptions u sed after the fact to
legit~ mate an economic arrangernent. The truth, kno 1
illledge, and pm..,yer arel on
lthe contrary, the conditi ons of possibility for the bourgeois mode.
Most readers have already had a hard time making sense of Foucau
.' anonymous knm...dedge, discourse "5-,rfth alife of its. m. .n. Unm..,.11ed p'i:'{er
more mysterious. "_._-\!1 the same," ene intei'iliel'{er in ter_jects l..,'ith a
of exasperation, "'do es someone initiate the whole business or nott)
159). Priwns were under dicussion. Foucault's answer goes like this.

82 Onto!ogy

The A re: ha eo logy of Mi c:hej Fo u ca uj t


The ne'i...,T technology of power does not originate \'rith any identifiable per-

events. Here is one more step in the destruction of Kant: the noumenal self

son or group. We do indeed gel indi,idual tactics invented for particular

is nothing.

needs. Prison architecture is modified to make it harder for prisoners to

hang themselves-but ah..,Tay--s ....,ith a certain model of how a prison is to be

I have ju.s.t quoted Foucault saying, "Let us not, therefore~ ask 1\~hy certain people want to domina te ..."Out of contexl you mighl wonder if he is
telling us never to ask why Roosevell, Stalin, or de Gaulle wanted to dominate. Are \"Te no t to as k v{hy these very persons had vices and virtues, and
how they left their marks up on hundreds of millions of subiects? Fouca ult
implies no >uch thing. Compare his earlier work. Al the height of his enthusiasm for abrupt changes in knowledge, he ne''er denied the imparlance of the Annales methodology with its search for underlyiug stability.
"When he lashed out at the concept of author as critica! too!, he never lost
his affection for his favorite authors and their best books. In short, his own
investigations do not predude others.ln conte1.."t hs quotation says) for my

built. The lactics lake shape in piecemeal fashion without anyone's wittingly knm,ing what they add up to. lf we turn lo the practice of collecting informa tion about popula tions) each new dassification, and ea eh new

,.,.l. thin that clas.sification) is de'i.ised by a person

or a committee

with a straigh lforuard, limited goal in m ind. Then the popula tion itself is
increasin gly das.sified, rearranged, and adminis.tered by princi p les) eaeh
one of which is innocently put forward by this or that technocrat. \\"e ob-

tain "a complex play of supports in mutual engagement, different mechanisms of power.n

immediate don't ask vrhy certain people want to domina te.
Let us not, therefore, as.k why certain people want to domina te, ...vhat they
se ek) "\l.'ha t is their overall strategy. Let us. as k) instead, bmv things ,..,.Tor k at
the level of on- going .s.ubj ugation, at the le"i.rel of contin uous and
uninterrupted proresses which subject our bodies) govern our gestures,
dicta te our beha-,.-r:iours etc In other words) rather than ask ourselves how
the .sovereign appear& to us in bis lofty isola tion) .....Te should try to discover
ho'i.l it is that sub,iects are gradually, progres.s.ively, really and materiaUy
rons.tituted through a multiplkity of organisms) forces, energies, materials) desires~ thoughts etc. \\'e should try to grasp s.ubjcrtion in its material
instance as a consti tution of su bj ects. This \mu1 d be an exact te of

There are two distnct poiuts here. One is that he is embarking on new
inquiries about the constitution of the su bject. The other is tha t the old inquiries, about the power of a particular despot, say, are distorted by the
blind concepton of the power always stemmiug from abm'e. \Ve may iudeed, in a particular slory, have a complete causal chain from a directive
signed "Stalin" clown to a particular victim iu a Gulag. But that there
should have been a Gulag-type institution is not, according to Foucault,
personal or historical caprice. lt looks as if this type of evil is iuextricably
connected with Eastern European .socia1ist states, and i ts. explana tion will
require an archaeology of commnnism. 1 have no idea how Fouca ult would

Hobbes' pro_ject in Leviathan ... :::p. 97)

have ,.vritten one) but there are hints in these intervie\.,TS. 1\loreover) to give
an archaeologkal account is in no way to excuse orto fail to make distinc-

The exact opposite: Foucault is uot concerned "ith how the subjects shall
know how the sub_iecls themse!ves are constituted. jnsl as there was no

tions. Don'l, he urged, fall prey to the rheloric that says we al! have onr
m~o,n Gulags here at our own door, in our cities. That is false, but it is not
power exercised from the top tha t has m ade it tal se.

pure madness, no thing- in- itselt~ .s.o there is no pure su bject~ no '( 1"" or '(men
prior to the form.s. of des.cription and action appropriate to a person. Liter-

Foucault propounds an e..,'{treme nominalism: nothing) not even the

ways l can describe myself, is either this or that bul history made it so. \Ve

ary historians have long noted that a person did not conceive of himself as
a poet-as that kind of person-before the Romantc era. One jnsl wrote
poems. Sorne liberatonists urge that the category of homosexual (and

m ay have be en led along this ro u te by reflections on knowledge and language, but we should drop the metap hors that they suggest. lnstead turn to
power, "war and battle. The history which bears and determines us has the

henre heterosexual) did not exist until the doctors of de\iancy invented it.
There v.rere acts, but not a homose)..--ual kind of person. It is a Foucauldian

form of a l{ar rather than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning" {p. 114 j. Every new way in which to think of a person-

thesis that every way iu which l can think of myself as a person and an
agent is something that has been constituted within a web of historica!

and hence a way in which people can think of themselves, find their roles,

form a constitution determining who or '""That is sovereign. He v.rants to

and choos.e their actions-"is the pursuit of ' by other means." But

84 Ontolo gy

The Ar-c:haeology of Michel Fouc.auJt

he in tends a reversal of Clause'i...itz' s ma.xim, as he paradoxicaUy




(pp. 90f).
The Order of Things ends by prophe sying a new era in which self-con
scious discourse is not about 1\-!an or the thinkin g subject but about
course alone. A good deal of fhis proiect remaim in what Foncau lt calls

nealogy (p. 83): "a form ofhisto rywhic h can account for the constit
of kno.,Nledges, discourses, domain s of objects~ and so on} vdthou
t having
to make referen(e to a subject \.,Thich is either transcendental in relation
the field of events or runs in its empty sameness throug hout the
cours.e of

history." But The Order of Things spoke as if there would be no ret1ectiv

talk except talk abont talk. Perhaps we should not see fhis book as bringin
in a nev. era of .su-eh pure talk, but rather as the final instalment
in a century or so of philosophical wrting obsessed with language. Foucault"s

ooncrrn 'i.'rith relations of po'iNer, rather than relations of meanin

g, should
lead us a\.,oay from the escapis.t metaphors about conversation
that t1mv

from a fi.xation on langll<lge.

lt is not that language shall be deemed unimpo rtant. He continu
ed ith

the project of understanding how certain classes of sentences come

up for
grab.s as. true or false~ at definite location.s _in history. -Such investig
,Nere, ho,.re\er, to be embedd ed in an a-cwunt of the possibilities
of action

and the springs of power. The murmu ring al the confe&sional 5 an "irrigation" (his word) of power. The word has not only its familiar agricnl
sense bnt also refers to medica! hygiene. Perhaps both senses are intende
here. Confession.s keep the pm..Ter rdation hygienic, and also run

of water from one area to anothe r so the whole can t1ourish. Withou
t the
performance of the individual acts of irrigation, the power v.muld
rot or

dry up.
Even such events of pure philosophical inquiry as fhe introdu ction
the Cartesian ego into discourse may be seen in this light. The ego
together a lot of fuirly unrelated activities: hoping and hurting and proving

Descartes had it-fha t is fhe subject of al! these predicates? Suppos

e we
guess that fhe confeS<ional for nmitia te monks is the place where
were first made to talk not only about what the}' have done, but aho
what they have felt and though t and seen and above al! dreame d. The



theorems. and seeing trees. \\~y should therc be one thing- a .substan


of Descartes for the direction of the mind, .seemingly so purely -con-cer


with tbe search for, and foundations of knowledge, may fhen appear
to be
one more item in a sequence of monas tic regulae, rules in lvhich a
very spe-

(ific type of talking integra tes a S)'.Stem of bodily discipli nc.


Let power and kn owledge be sometlring like what Foucaul t

glimpsed. \Vhat then shall we do? We seem led to an immen sely pessimi
body of doctrin e. The politcs of the left is usual! y founde d upon aRoma
ntic concep tion of getting back to the origin, as. in Rousseau, or
on to the

end, as with .'vlarx. Foucau lt makes plain that he has been discussing
detesting) not only the discipline of bourgeois society. There will be
an archaeolo gy of Gulags too. In any particu1ar context '"''e can go


withou t the Roman tic illusions of the left, for there remains praxis, Marxis
and somew hat Spinozan . We can distingnish the Gulag institu tion,
like the prison is to be studied and unders tood by a Foucault-like
from the Gulag question, that is, what i> to be done about these monste

at this very moment? The Gulag, as \lell as being a historical ob_ject,

aJs-0, at the time of these intervie"'lS, "a positive present."
Prisons continu e to be a positive present. One may well understand
pris.on reforrn is almo.s.t coeval ,..,.ith the penitentiary, as if it "'lere
an auxiliary to the institution, and stiJJ try to make prisons les.s .intoler
able right

now. But alfhough prison reform might be a popula r front on which

of us can agree, Foucault dearly found more radi-cal transformation
s attractive. But if the Romantic revolutionary illusion of liberation
is in prin-

cipie abando ned, how is it to be replaced? "lt"s nota matter of emanci

ing truth from every system of power ... but of detachi ng the power
truth from the forms of hegemony, social, econornic, and cultural.
which it operates at fhe present time." Liberat ion is the wrong concep
t for
Foucault, but "det:achment" migbt be possible. :'-Jow what is to "detach
trufh from present hegem ony'
There is a publish ed joint interview "ith Foncau lt and Noam Choms
(ChomsJ,.-y and Foucau lt !974}. The linguist comes across as a marvell
s.ane reform ist liberal: let's get justice working righ t. Fouca ult sounds
like an anarchist: destroy the judicial system. Is that a way to "det:ach
power of trufh from forms of hegemony? lvlaybe. Po.,er;Knowledge
wi th a !972 in terview with French i\laoists. At the start of a revolu tion
don't crea te people"s courts, he nrges. Don"t reinstitute precisely the
institution.s. of hegem ony u.sed to separa te and control the masses
. ln 1980,

when this collecton of interviews was pnblished, the courtro om ironical

rcopen ed in China for the Gang of Four, tele\isi on rigbts for $4(),000
Foucault was no anarchist, partly because anar-chy is impos.~1ble.
To have a
regjme for saying true and false things about ourselve.s- is to enter
a regime

nf power, and it is unclear that any detaching from that power can sncceed
We might have been conten t "ith the though t of replacing our "forms


His.torical Onto1ogy

a true
of hegemony" by others so long as we had the Romantic illusion of
human kind, a true me, or e\'en a true madness. But \..
t the
means by detaching tru th from forms of hegemony, he do es not wan
comfor t of the romant ic illusiom. Jv!inute
forro are not to make sense against a backdr op of progres
hopes of the traditional left. That way leads to desolation. Foucault,
say, has been comple ting a dialogue witb Kant.
deliberately inverte d or destroyed. "What ls manl" asked Kant. Nothin
says Foucault. "For what tben may we hope?" asked Kant. Does Foucau
give the same nothingin reply?
To tbink so is to nrisunderstand Foucanlt's hypothetical reply to
questio n about :v!an. Foucault said that the
that you and 1 are as notbing . Like>>ise tbe concept Hope is all wrong.
conhopes attribut ed to ]1.-!arx or Rousseau are perhap s part of that very
cept:'vlan, and they are a sorry basis for optimis m. Optimi
nihilism, and the like are al! concepts that make sense only witbin the
incoof a transcendental or endurin g subject. Foucault is not in the least
he is
herent about all this. If we are not satisfied, it shonld not
is tha t
pessirnistic. It is because he has given no surrogate for wha tever it
springs eterna! in the human breast.


Michel Foucault's Imm atur e Science

of the
A prepared for a .symposiurn of the 1Nestern Division meeting
American Philoso phkal i\.sso.ciation, 1979. The other
Richard Rorty and Hans Sluga~ aH three papers 'Nere printed
Ro.rty.,.,s contribu tion is also to be- formd in F.o-ucault, a Critical
chapby David Cozrens Hoy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), which also indude.~
ter 4 above.

!v!ost philosophers who write about systematic knowledge have come
restrict themselves to what fbey cal! "matur e science," althoug
play a certain uneasin ess. Th us Hilary Putnam says, "'physics surely
as a 'm ature science' if any science does"
imcounts as mature? 1 suspect fba t the distinction between mature and
mature is, although not ill-founded, at least m-unde rstood. Putnam
it because he wants the more established sciences to be about
to refer. He sensibly thinks that most early speculation got fbings >~'rong.
acSirnilarly, in The Structure of Scienti ft Rcvolutions, T. S. Kuhn's many"f
eted word "paradi gm" almost implied "maturity," because an ndivid
stangronp achievemen t (one sense of fbe terrn "paradi gm ") had to set tbe
dards to which a "norma l science" would conform
could not tell whefber sociology, economics, or psychology had paradig
Likewise, Putnam counts sorne and perhaps al! of these among the immasciences. )[ei ther Putnam nor Kuhn has m u eh to tell us about immaobPutnam has, and Kuhn had, an enorm om muge of interests, yet the
on which fbey focused tended to be nonobservable and fbeore ticalAlong!ele<:trons, or black bodies and quantu rn discontinuity, for example.


Histor ical Ontol ogy

si de their analyses of .systematic kno'i.dedge . ..,Te have a quite

different enterprise: epislemology. lt is a theory of our knowledge about
familiar facts
and events; it includes the fhemy of sense perception, of
groun ds tor beef,
and the analysis of "! know that p." An efhno graph er studyi
ng British analytic philos opher s fifty years ago would have to conclude
that its practi tio
ners were mostly acquainted wifh tables and chairs, althou
gh long befare
that fhere was one of G. E. lvloore's hands . In fhe late
l970s (when the
present paper wanH itten) , the action had moved lo fhe
Cnite d States, and
fhe most salient object seeme d lo be Jones's Ford.
In this chapte r 1 shall consider wheth er there may be anyth
ing of a theoretical sort to be said about fhe vast doma in of specul
ative and comm on
knowledge that falls between electrons and genes, on
the one hand, and
furnit ure and Fords on the ofher. ur docto rs treat us,
our bankers use
mortgages to house the middle classes, our magistrate;;
judge us, and our
bureaucrats arrange us according to such sy.s.tems of knm,.T
ledge; e"\o-ren on
the side of pure speculation far more of these everyday
systems of knowledge resemble sociobiology fhan quant um mechanics.
lv!ichel Fouca ul The Ordcr of Tlngs (1970) is aTI about
sorne imma ture sciences--chiefly those whose foci are "life, labor,
and language." He
writes of the biology, economics, and philosoph")' of one
era, and of fhe
natura l history, analysis of wealth, or general gramm ar that
preceded fhern.
He has a


critique of our contem porar y huma n sciences. The

book is

impor tan! at al! sorts of levels. There is a radically chaUe

nging reorganiza. tion of the way we think about fhese disciplines. There
is a dazzling but instructive pletho ra of newly chose n facts fhat give conte
nt to fhis reorga ni
zation. (He also cheats, or al least cuts come rs on sorne
of fhe facts.) The
book is philosophical because life, labor, language, and
"JI,lan" are amon g
the tapies of philosophy. lt is also philosophical becau
se it exempliiies a
theory ofkno wledg e, in both fheoretical and practica! terms
. His archaeology, as he calls it, is a way of investigating fhe groun dwork
of bodie;; of
knowledge. The book is also a polem ic about the kinds
of inquir y that are
appropria te for our time.
The Order ofThings is incredibly rich bofh in historical detail
and speculative suggestion. There is nofhin g like it in English. But
fhat is no reason
not to bring it dovvn to (our) earth. 1 shall imagine that I
am ans'i-..Tering an

ex.amination question: ((Compare and contrast Fouca

ult's archaeology to

curren t luneri can theory of knowledge:' This forces me

to proceed in a
mann er fhat is bofh pedes trian and abstrae!. 1 shall set out
certai n hypot h-

Mkhe l foucau lt's lmmat ure Sdenc:e


eses with which Fouca ult starts his enierprise. These range
in status from
p roposals which he wo uld be willing to modif} to assum
ptions that he
would never give up. They are startin g point< for inquir
y. The first hypot hesis is simply this: systems of fhoug ht in fhe imma ture
sciences exhibit
quite definite laws and regularities. Where Kuhn (1962,
16) had been inclined to throw up his hands and call Bacon's natura l histor
ies a disorderly
"," Fouca ult finds an organ izatio n, althou gh one
different in kind
from anyth ing fha t Kuhn was looking for. Gener al gramm
ar of the seventeenth century, or nineteenth-century labor theory ofvalu
e pro'i.ride examples, but so do altoge ther inchoate doma ins such as
what we now cal!
iatroc hemis try (which has be en succeeded by real knowl
edge) or phren ology (which hasn't ).
Such examples are mislea ding beca use fhey make us fhink
of sorne specific theory and fhen m o del fhat on m ature science with
postulates that lead, almos ! deductively, to a rich displa
y of !estable hypothe ses. On the contrary, it is Fouca ults secon d
conjecture that lW are
conce rned not with a corpu s of but wifh systems
of possibility. Certain q uestions arise in general gramm ar, and are met by
a batch of competing answers. These q uestions and answers appea r
lo have been quite
inconcei\'able in Renaissance !houg ht, nor do they occur
in subse quent
philol ogy.It is Foucault's hypothesis that what it is possib
le to say in a body
of discourse sueh as general gramm ar is vastly more rule-g
overn ed than we
have comm only imagined.
By "what it is possible to say" I do no! mean actual
doctrines, snch
as propo si tions abo u t the copul a or abo u t labor. lt is
part of this secon d
hypofhesis that what count s as reason, argmn ent, or eviden
ce may it<elfbe
part of a system of fhought, so that mode s of "rationality
'' are topical and
dated. That offend.s our sensibili ties, which have be en firmly
fixed by ArisE totle, Descartes, and Kant, who took as their
mode ls fhe matur e or matur ing sciences offhe ir day. lt is wise to ease fhe pain of
fhe idea fhat "what
count s as a reason" may be temporal and not timele
ss} by attributing it to
""immaturity." Curre nt philos ophy makes the hypot hetico
-dedu ctive style
cf reasoning the essence ofscie nce, adulterated at mo.s.t by
sorne adrnixture
induc tion. Not all the historiciziug of Kuhn and Lakato
s has dislodged
opinio n one whit. Despi te occasi onal progr amma tic
remarks that one

from time lo time, fhe early chapters of my own Emergence

of Proba(l975a ) were the first detailed study in English of a chang
ing style of
illliO ning. Those chapters ]earne d m u eh from Th e Order
of Things.


His.torical Ontology

Allow me to re-emphasize that the systems of thought to which Foucault addresses himself are not oonstituted by a unilied set of beliefs advanced by a person or a school. Indeed, he has a teasing device that 1 call
Foucault's fork, which surpr:ises us by stating that competing bodies of belief have the same underlying rules of formation. Once there """ a memorable contrast between the taxonomic System of Linnaem and the Method
of Adanson. We now have litde difficulty in supposing that these antagonistic enterprises are part of the same web of possible alternatives, bu t
sorne of us are more starded to read that positivism and phenomenology
are equally oonstituted by a common underlj-ing organization (Foucault
1973, 199; for an example drawn from economics, see 1970, 190}. Evidently, neither hypotheses nor deductions are critica! to the systems of
thought that Foucault propases to analyze.
The examples of Linnaean ta-xonomy or Comtean are misleading in another way: they focus on proper names and famous philosophies. Foucault's third hypothesis :is that systerm of thought are both anonmous and autonomous. They are not to be studied by reading the final
reports of the heroes of science, but rather by sun~eying a vast terrain of
disoourse that includes tentative starts, wordy prologomena, brief flysheets,
and occasional ,iournalism. We should think about institutional ordinances
and the plans of zoological gardens, astrolabes, or penitentaries; we mus!
read referees' reports and examine the botanical display cases of the dilettanti. Jl,lany of these exarnples of things lo read and examine are quite literally anonymous. Foucault believes that even the great positive achievements w:ithin a system of thought characteristically merely fill or elaborate
certain preestablished uniformities. A typical phrase "ill convey how he
uses h:istorical personalities, "The figure whom we call Hume:' The familiar proper narne serves as. a ready reference to a text, but \le are not trying
to analyze his oeUl'l'e. Foucaul t suspects all concepts that fo cus on the consciousness and :intent of an individual. lduch literary cr:iticism, especially
in France, shared this !heme in the 1970s. Foucault himself has done bis
best to oh\oiate e'iren the concept of .;:.;literature">l and ''author.-.:~
A fourth hypothesis is that the regulari ties that determine a system of
thought are nota consciom par! of that thought and perhaps cannot even
be articulated in that thought. Foucault has variously med words such as
episterne) savoir and archive in this connection. 1 once translated savoir as
"depth knowledge" and comwissance as "surface knowledge," "ith an obious allusion to Chomsky (Hacking 1972). In the Archaeology, Foucault uses

Mic:hel foucault' s lmm.ature S-cienc:e


connaissan ce lo refer to particular bits of belief;,i ttingly accepted. Sm.oir

denotes his conjectured unconscious underlying structure that sets out the
possibilities through which connaissance may run its course. The allusion
to Chomsky :is to be taken lightly, for grammar obviously is rule-govemed
and a hypothesis of depth grammar is immediately plausible. The immature sciences are not manifestly regular, and the supposition of "rules" i.s
mere con_iecture. Yet, afte-r many years of eager re.s.earch, \"le are not more in
possession of a universally applicab le "depth grammar" than of clearly
stated episteme. lvi- Stra uss' s structure of kinship relations is p er haps the
ouly propasa) of th:is sort that has come near to deJi,,ering the goods. Further detailed comparisons of Foucault and structuralists are empty; they
would lump us with "!hose mimes and tumblers who debate whether l am


A more insightful com parison is m a de by Georges Canguilhem, the distinguished historian of science. in an essay that is better than anyth:ing ehe
wri !ten about The Order of Th ings, he concludes wi th well-documented allusions to Kant (Canguilhem 1967). Foucault has half-jokingly accepted
that he has a notion of a "historical a priori." While Kant had taught that
there is a fixed body of synthetic a priori knowledge that determines the
bounds of possibili ty of coherent though t, Fo ucaul t has instead a "historical a priori." The .savoir of a time a place; a sub_ject matter, and a oommunity of speakers detennine< what may be said, there and then.
What is the "surface" of which the archive :is the "depth"? Foucault's fifth
hypothesis is that the surface is all that is actually said, and ("ith qualifications) nothing else. lt is not what is meant, intended, or even thought, but
what is said. Systems of thought have a surface that is discourse. He gro pes
about for a definition of nonc that is not quite sentence nor statement
nor speech act nor in.s.cription nor proposition. It is notan atomistic idea,

for enunciations are not isolated sen terrees that add up lo a whole, butentities whose role is understo od hollitically by a set of interrela tiom with
other bits of discourse. The same "sentence" about the borre structure of
human hands and birds' talons is not the same enunciation in a Renaissance text as. it is. in a po.s.t-Darlj.,.inian comparative anatomy. :::.ror is th~
nonc restricted lo sentences: it ill :include tables, m aps, and diagrams. lt
ncludes even more than inscriptions, not just beca use Foucault is often
more concemed with specific types ra ther than concrete tokens, bu t al so
because it takes in sorne tablea u,~, disp lays, carvngs, and decora ted "indom. But~ having made such quali:fications, the \'mrd ''sentence..,. remains




the bes! one to denote the elements of discourse that Foucault called
&wncis. It reminds us that Foucault's. discourse is. constituted by fairly tangible or audible or legible human productiom, and not by what these artifacts mean.
!.Iuch French writing of the 1970s shared and indeed antedated W. V.
Quine's hostility to meanings. The objects of a reading are texts: both
"reading" and "text" are code words that show one is ideologically pure,
and ,...,rites only of relations betv..Teen ins.criptions and never of a meaning
beneath the words. With such an audience, and with no French word that
means "meaning" all)..,..;ay, Foucault has no need to argue that s.entences are
the object of study. His notion of discourse and Qnine's "fabric of sentencesn are cognate ideas. But the resemblance soon falters. One reason is
that Quine is ahistorical. His image of revising a conceptual sch eme is
)!eurath's: it is like re building a ship at sea, plank by plank. Foucault's intricate histories provide one more leswn that change is no! like that. lt is not
jusi that Kuhnian revolutions intervene, but also lhat in the most normal
of sciences the free-wheeling formula !ion of models and conjectures has
none of the character of a tidy ship's carpenter.
A more fundamental difference is that Quine's fabric of sentences is difieren! in kind from Foucaulfs disoourse. Quine's is a bod' of beliefs, a
"!ore," partl' theoretical, partl' practica!, but such as could be entertained
as a pretty oon.s.istent ,...,,hole by a single informant. Foucault's are
what is said by a lot of people talking, writing, and arguing; it includes the
pro and the con anda great many inwmpatible connaissances.
Moreover, Quine's "conceptual scheme" is thoroughl' impregnated b}'
the hypothetico-deductive model. There is a "core" anda "periphery." The
logical consequences of the "core" pervade the peripheral "fabric" which is
more localized in its ramifications. A "recalcitrant experience-:- is one that is
reported by a sentence inconsistent 'i...ith the total "'corpus." Recakitrance
demands revi.s.ion. Revision, lj.'t'i' are told) must conforn1 to logic, but revisions are chosen not by the demand of logic but a desire for simplicity.
Kow if we examine the immature sciences we shall find nothing like this at
all. One is led lo an image quite different from )!eurath's: it is as if these
bodies of discourse existed in a conceptual space of possibilities, and as if
the discourse were a play upon these possibilities.
Since the vmrd "hermeneutics" is shovng sign.s., in sorne -quarters~ of
having an attraction for analytical philosophy, !el me say that despite the
concern with "reading" and "texts,"' Foucaulfs. archaeology is the very op-



:.. 1mmarure



posite of hermeneutics. To recall an etymology, Hermes, the winged me.ssenger of the gods) vms thereby the dei ty of speech) v.-Ti ting) and traffic.
Hermeneutics is the art of interpreting "'rvhat Hermes brought. Hermeneutics tries to find whal meaning lives beneath lhe sentences that have been
written, if not by God, at least by the past. \Ve are to relive that past lo see
what can have been meanl. Archaeology is quite lhe opposite; it wants not
to interpret the tn1:s but to display the relationships between sentences
that e.-:plain why just these were uttered and olhers were not. "\Vhat counts
in the things said by m en is not so m ueh what they m ay have though t or
the e>.-tenl to which lhese things represen! lheir thoughts, as that which systematizes them from the outset" (Foucaull 1973, xix), Doubtless the able
hermeneuticist wilt thanks to his sensibility and learning~ teach us much~
but bis mode and motintion are entirely different from those of either
Quine or Foucault.
To return to /unerican points of reference Foucault's. sL\":th hypothesis is.
l.ike Kuhn)s: an e1..--pectation of discontinuity. Ih France this i.;; a commonp lace, thanks partly lo the ;\.Jarxist background bu t allo du e lo the historiography of science. The work which Alexandre Koyr did in the 1930s
in Kuh..n s acknm..~ledged predece.s.sor: it aimed at .s.ho'i.'l.'ing contra Pierre
Duhem, that Galileo effected a radical break with the past. In the lwenties,
Gaston Bachelard had already begun to elaborate a theory of "epistemological blocks" and ensuing "ruptures." (Bachelard 1928, through nine
other books concluding with Bachelard 1953.) Bachelard has, in recent
years, been far more ,...idely read in France than Koyr ..,,thile, in a more
scholarly way, Georges Canguilhem has systematically elaboraled lhe details of scienti:fic re1~olutions over the Vfhole panoply of science. So Kuhn
was. a sen.s.ation for usl but rather oJd hat in france.
'When we turn from a belief in revolu tions lo an a ttempt to analyze their
structure, there is li ttle agreemen t belween Kuhn and Fouca ult, but possibly this is beca use Kuhn is less concerned with immature science. Kuhn'.s.
revolutions start 1vith (that are by no means easy to document) and
proceed through clmax lo an achievement. They are followed by normal
science in which certain exampfars are wdified in te.'ctbooks and used as
the norms of successful research. Moreover, by shm,ing how to solve particular problems, they serve as the bridge between abstrae! theory and
practical technique. This is an eminently accurate description of s.ome sciencel but the l{hole ernphasis on achievement as. setting the rules of the
garue is the opposite of Foucault's quest for unarticulated structures that

94 Ontolo gy

of history using
regulate immature science. Kuhn made m expect a kind
science. Few historimuch of the metho dolog y of current American social

the .sociologists of
ans of science do vvhat he seeme d to sugges.t, and even

ly opera te from
knowledge profe~s kinship at a distance rather than actual

this point of vie'N.

s of one hunKuhn's account of '\achlevements" and of group

trium phs that

dred individuals seems well fitted to many of the lesser
fro m even ts sueh
occur .....ithin the special sciences, but seems a far cry
even if that event
as. (<_the" scientific revolution of the Se\'enteenth
, dynamics~ iatrois- in part cDmposed of Kulmian revolu tions in optics
focus. Although
chemistry, and so forth. Fouca ult has no such modesty of
mics, linguistic
he 'i...Trites of discontinuities in p.5ychology, psychiatry,
the hm nodes
theory, and biology, the ruptures conveniently coincide "'rith
1789. :vlore
of histon emphasized for French schoolboys,
recent -,...,.~ork on the prison, Se..'{, and a French equivalent
in medical,iu(Foucault 1975; the case serves to illustrate a transtormation
ult'.s "revolu~
risprudence) does give us other dates, other theme
aneous events
tions" (he doe.s. not use the tmrd) are, on the sudace, spont
s, that we come
that are so widespread, and so lacking in iodividual model
unexp lanatory
to fear that his ioq uiries will degenera te into vague
waffle about the spirit of the times.
m fiJe our atThis fear leads lo my next contras! with Kuhn. who made
tention on revolution. Who but the most pedestrian schola
l is neither
himself "ith "normal science"? Such disdain for the norma
for a while
Kuhn \ view nor h:is practice, but it is what philosopher
trast, a study of
to have learned from him. The Order o.f Things is, in con
al"' immature .s.ciences. Tha t a
Se\'eral overlapping and successive -norm
powerful of
break iotervenes, suddenly, is illustrated by one of the most
q uotations
Foucaul stylistic devices, the before and -after picture whose
fact that
or descri ptiom permanen tly fix in the miod
sorne upheaval in thought has occurred. Crisis is not offere
in Kuhn\ mvn ex~
nation of change (no los.s.: real crises are harder to :find
e are comp kx
amples than he implies). Foucault's explanatons
by ths.
and programmatic, but tor two reaso ml am not troubled
s .....':ith more fa~
Fir:st, the events of The Order of 11ng
although each
miliar revolutions that historians will uever fully explai
something like
generatiou wiU lay on further discoveries that all add up to
the scientific
understanding. There can never be a finished story of why

Micllel fouc:ault'.s lmm.ature S.denc:e


revolution occurred. \\1len we tu.rn to more specific and
ce mentioned
isolated mutations) like that in French medical jurispruden
d, and each is
above, then Foucault's implied explanatiom are
events iotem al
liuked to strongly e>.<ernal tactors of the time as well as to
to the knowledge itself.
ult, unlike
Secondly, tor all his talk of "irruptions" and so forth, Fouca
due to any con~
Bachelard, is preoccupied l.,.ith normal.s.cience. This is not
in tellectuals
serva tism: his heroes are the conventional heroes of French
u of normal dis(Nietzsche, Bataille, Artaud} who break up the organizatio
course~ if onlythrough a seeming madness (Quixote, Sade). But he is fasci~
us, and he finJo
nated by the fact that normal discourse does get a grip on
this group :i5 a
that, in al! but the most exceptionally troubled of times,
a conception is
more potent tooJ of repression than fOrce of anns. Such
already implicit in his first well-known book, Madne
knowledge and
and i> al the forefront of his curren! preoccupations with
a! work. It is di.
power_ The Order of Things :i5 a much leos overtly poltic
that followed a
rected at the torms that underlie the content of sciences
es are such tours
discontinuity in knmdedge. His "before and aft:er" picwr
about Kuhnian
de force that it is too easy tor m to read his
are instead about
revolution. If we are- to u.s.e Kuhn'.s. categories_. these books.
normal sdence.
ture sciences
lt is now time to list these sb: hypotheses. (!)In the irruna
ctive model is
there are definite regularities for which the hypothetico-dedu
ility, of what
irrelevant. (2) These regularities determine systems of possib
count as grounds
is conceived of as true~or~false, and they determine 'lj.'lyhat
nt (3} The- imma~
for as.s.ent or dissent, t-..'hat arguments. and data are releva
ern ents and
tu re sdences are not pre ~ eml nently modeled on
ial they ha ve left
are to be 5\udied through the anony mom mas.s of mater
(4) Tbe regularibehind, rather than through a few spectacular successes.
lated within
ties that determioe such a system of possibilities are not
edge." (5) Tbe
a system of thought but constitute a sort of "depth knowl
r meaniugs
surface of a system of thought is what is actual
There are
nor intentions are to play any central role in the analys
followed by smoo th p erio Jo of
Sharp dio con !lluities n S)'Stems of thought,
beginnings, and
stability. The "revolution.s" are of intercst because they are
nonna l science,
we can see right at the 5\art the regularties that set out the
try to understand
But it is the "'normality"' that is- of interest if \-..Te are to
lww s;.stems of possibility can get a grip


Historkal Ontology

Michel Foucault's lmmature Sdence


Ko'iN lj..rhat are the oonsequences o f entertaining sueh hy--po theses? There
are of wurse the detailed analyses of knowledge such as one finds in The
Ordcr of Things. The prec.eding paragraphs are my account of what Foucault is doing and not an example of what he does. On the basis of Structure, sorne readers forget that Kuhn is abo a distinguished historian whose

cu.s.. The historian l{ho seeks origins has found in Paracelsus anticipations
of all sorts. of more recent chemistry and medicine. The herbalist can still

theories are the consequence of real encounters . ;,.~,ith old science. It v.muld

when she makes comets, similitudes, haloes and other unnatural product.s
of the heavens" (Paracelsus 1922, 460). We can come to understand this
wor\d of similitudes better, but there is, in a fairly straigh tfon,ard way, no
common meas.ure beh,.reen these lj.Witings and ours. One cannot but feel
the incommensurability.
Foucault's hypotheses help one understaud these extreme phenomena
exhibited by the texts of laplace and Paracelsus. lt is uot theores that are
incommensura ble, bu t bodies of discourse, systems of possbility. One recen! but by now discredited philosophical idea was that theoretical terms
get their meanin g from conceptual relations expressed in the laws of the
theory: if ne~ovT theory, then nev. lm..,.Ts, so ne,.,.r concepts and new meaningsJ
hence, no translation. Since there are hardly any laws of the hypothetiwdeductive son in Paracelsus, it is hardly surprisiug that such a model do es
not speak lo the real inwrnmensurability one finds in irnmature science.
The inwmmensurability betweeu Paracelsus and modern medicine has
another roo t. Paracelsus's system of possibility is quite different from ours.
What he had up for grabs as true-or-false does not enter into our grid of

be a far worse mistake to infer Foucault's st:yle from his /irchaeolog-~a

book about his pre,~ous work. like my exposition here, it quite fails lo
wnvey the intensity and originality of Foucault's majar works.
Aside from bis own applications in detail, Foucault's hypotheses seem to
me to bear on a good many questions. that have exercised .i'unerican philosophy. 1 have space only for two, "incommensurability" and "natural kinds;'
the former a rather exhausted philosophical notion, the latter a perennial one.
Kuhn makes much le.s.s use of the 'r"mrd ((incommensurable" than is

commonl thought, and indeed the first edition of Stmcture does not display the views on meaning commonly attributed to him. (Probabl we owe
the dmt-up mcer incommensurability to the w-inventor of this use of the
word, Paul Feyerabend.) Kuhn says subsequendy that he wanted to use
"incommensurable" vth a minimum of metaphor, meaning .(o;having no
comn1on mea.s.ure." Discus.sion of the idea has become so divorced from familiar e"'Periences that l shall begin by recalling two cornmon-sense bits
of data.
First, the 1\ewtonian cdestial mechanics, when written up b Laplace
around 1800, is perfectly intelligible to the modern student of applied
mathematics. {This is true even when, in Book V, it treats of caloric in fascinating detail. There is no .such thing as caloric: The intelligibility is not to
be attributed, as sorne would have it, to an agreemen t on the reference o f
key terms.) When 1 worked al Stanford, the most frequent borrowers from
the Stanford Library were marked by the librarian's wde as in the "Aero
and Astro" department. Of course the linear acalerator people don't borrow Lap\ace became his theory is not even roughly true of small fas! objects. But it is a plain fact that no one feels an incommensurability here,
and not all the philosophical sophistry in the world wi\1 make a working
ph;rsicist feel it.
Secondly, turn to the many volumes of Paracelsm. Toda,Os physician, if
-s.he has imagination, can perhaps empathize vth those bizarre writings

which were, in their day, so much more int1uential than those of Coperni

comb this work for plant !ore that we ha''" torgotten. But the tone of
Paracelsu.s is better suggested by interminable passages that go like this:
({Nature lj.mrks through other things, as pictures, stones, herbs, vmrds, or

possibilities, and vice~ Yersa. This i.s not due to different articulated theories.

or systems of conscious belief, but beca use the underlying depth knowledge is incommensurable. This idea lessens the metaphor in the very word:
"..,.Te cannot lay sorne number of Paracelsus'.s. possibilities along.s.ide our.s. and
have tvm set:.s. that match at the cnd. This j,s. not to say lNe cannot under>tand him. One has lo read a lot. The opening chapters of The Order of
Things set out, forme, a structure which helped me understand much Renais-sance 'i.{riting. One even go some "'ta)' tm..Tards- ta1k:ing Paracelsan in
Engli.s.h, once one has articulated concepts that Paracelsus 'i-las. perhaps unable to. Translation is largely irrelevant. "Charity" and maximizing truth
are 'i.. .'orse than useless (I don't belie';re a v.,rord in all Se\'enteen volumes of
Paracelsus). "Benefit of the doubt" about what Paracelsus was "referring
tdl seldom helps. \\fhat counts is making a ne'i.. .' c.anvass of possibilities, or
rather, restoring one tha t is nml entirely defunct.
Now 1 shall condude with a few words on a more hely topic than
incornmensurability: this is the much discussed notion of natural kinds.


Historic::al Onto ogy

rnatu re sciences usually

We rnay supp ose that the natur al kinds in the
Putn arn rejects such optimatc h kinds of things foun d in natur e, but even
objects of imma ture scimism in imma ture science. \Vha t indee d are the
prop osed "do not exist"l
ence, when we later find that the objects once
e is straw realism, whic h
Two philosop hical tendencies have appeared. Ther
tial prope rties or else reholds that natur al kind term s eithe r pick out essen
there is a straw idealismfer to nothi ng (almo st "mea n nothi ng"). Then
terms are featnres of our
cum- nomi nalis m holdi ng that al! natur al kind
freely on the surface of the
"conc eptna l scheme," hum an artifacts that t1oat
ted bet"r'lreen these stra"t"l
world. ::-Jot enou gh good sense has yet been inser
s in directions that we
exctremes, and 1 find Fou ca ult's archaeo]o g)' point
woul d do well to e>.:plore.
nomi nalis m, , . .,rhiJ.e Kant
1n scholastic times~ realism" contr asted 'i...>lth
eithe r sense ,.,.Te must be, to
made it contr ast i-\ith Berkeley's idealism. In
of course a rich pleth ora of
abuse Kant's words, emprica! realists. Ther e is
any thoug ht. 1\oreover, we
things aroun d us, really existing anter ior to
are, it seems, made to sort
cann ot help but sort many things as lj.{e do: -..fe
and mutu al unde rstan ding
things much as we do. Xot only trans lation
this fact. But some thing
but al so our sheer existence se em to dep end u pon
urse. One of Foucault's
else happ ens when we engage in ret1ective disco
themselves in discourse:'
projects is to Wlderstand hm.v .;:.;objects const itute
sts that any chose n body of
All our experience with imma ture science sugge
"ob.iects" enter ing into only
thoug ht ill define for us only sorne sorts of
of "kinds." .1\bout these
sorne sorts of "laws," falling unde r only sorne kinds
is not \lhat matters. Since
we cann ot fail to be ""nominalists,,.. but the "ismn
'r".ray, attem pting to unde rmost, if not ati, knowledge is ''imm ature " in this
urse must be a central
stand hm,r objects const itute themselves in disco
of what l woul d now cal!
topic, not exactly of the theor y of knowledge, but
historical on tology.

ER l
- - - - - - - - - - - - - , . _ C HAPT

1 6

Making Up People

.e gathe ring, "R_e.,;:om.tructing

This paper ,..,as 'Nritten for a 'iNonderfuily divers
1983. HO'i-\' do new vays to
lndh.1.dualism," hdd at Stanf ord in the fall of
n action? Hm..,.- do dashuma
dassify open up, or dos-e down , posstb
"~'e change in -...rlrtue
s.ifications of pe-opie affect the peopi e dassif
e have a son of
of being das.sified, and how do the wa~'S in which
themselye-s? _.-\n incom pletefeedback effe-ct on our systems of das.sifications
Loop ing Efl:~ts of Hwna n
look at the feedback issue is to be found in "The

Kinds" : 19951.

Foucault's "bio-politlcs":
1 used one set of e_-xamples to iilustrate 1-lchel
peop k are under.stood,
the intluence of statis tks upon the wars.
of that pheno meno n
go,..e-med, see themseives_ The ample
other set bears. on
,..,Tere des.cribed in T!Je 1ming of Chan.c
e .study has been
Foucault's "anatomo-politics." 1 referred to a
much int1uenced by Fouca ult himseH; name-ly
its 0\"r"'TI right, "'i."r'ith its own
ity his.tory is nmv an auton omou s discipline in
. So 1 moved to anoth er
_iournals., conferences, and a whole- librar y of books
rese.arch produ ced Reof m y e...x.amples: multi p le pers.onality. Subse quent
Sciences of Aiemor:.--' ( 1995) _
hTiting the So u 1: .J."\-fultiple: Permnality and the:
on the Reality ofTm nsien t
That book has. a s.equd, lLiad Tmvders: Reflec
story that tells its.elf.
Alefl talll1nes~e$ ( 1998), which con tain.s .an

th een turyl According to

Were there any perve rts befar e the late ninet een
rsion .....Tas. not a disease that
Amo ld Davids.on, ''The ans\ver is :-.;o, ... Perve
iatrist ,..,.ith e.s.pecially acute
lurke d abou t in nature) waiting for a psych
,vhere. It ,..,,as a dis.eas.e
po\?ers of obser vatio n to discover it hidin g e\'ery
of disease" (Dav idson 2001,
creat ed by a new (func tiona l) unde rstan ding
odd people at al! times.
24). Davidson is not denying that there have been


Making Up People

His.torica Ontology

He is asserting that perversion, as a disease, and the pervert, as a diseased

person, were created in the late nineteenth century. Davidson's daim, one

of man)' now in circulation, illmtrates what 1 cal! making up people.

J have three anm: l want a better understandin g of claims as curious as
David.>on's; 1 would like to know if there could be a general theory of making up people, or whether each example is so peculiar that it demands its
O'i...-n nongeneralizable story; and 1 v. ant to knm. . how this idea of ""making
up people" aftects our very idea of what it is to be an individual. 1 mould
warn that my concern is philosophical and abstract; l look more at what
people might be than at what we are. l imagine a philosophical notion 1
cal! dynamic nominalism, and reflect too little on the ordinary dynamic.s
of human interactlon.
First we need more examples. J study the dnllest of subjects, the official
statistics of the nineteenth century. They range, o f course, over agricul tu re,
education, trade, births. and militar)' might, but there is one especially
striking feature of the avalanche of numbers that begins around 1820. It s

obsessed .....ith anal)-'SC morale~ namely, the statistics of deviance. It is the

numerical of suicide, prostitution, drunkennessJ vagrancy, madness, crime, les Counting generated its Ol"m subdivi-sions. and rearrangements. \Ve fmd classifications of over 4)000 different crisscrossing


dinical phenomenon \ms invented around 1875: only one or two possibie

cases per genera!ion had been recorded before that time, but a whole flock
of them carne after. I also found that the clinical history ofsplit personality
parodies itself-the one dear case of classic symptoms ,...,,as long recorded
as hm, quite distinct, human being.s.) ea eh of 1..hich 'i.'r"'J..S. mul tiple. There

was "the lady of lvlac:-.rish," so called after a report in The Phiwsophy of

S!eep, "Tillen by the Edinburgh physician Robert 1\-lacNish in 1832, and
there was one lvlary R. The two would be reponed in successive paragraphs
as two differen t, although in fact l>Jary Reynolds was the ver y sp litpersonali ty lady rep orted by lvlac:-1 ish (Hacking 19 86).
Mary Reynolds died long before 1875, bu! she was not taken up as a case
of multiple personality until then. Not she but one Flida X gol the split
per.s.onaEty lndustry under way. As the great French psy-chiatrist Pierre

1anet remarked at Harvard in 1906, Flida 's history "was the grea t argument of which the psychologists made use at the time of the heroic struggles against the of Cousin's school. But for Flida, it
is not certain that there would be a professorship of psychology at the
Collge de France" (Janet 1907, 78_). Janet held precisely that chair. The
"heroic struggles"' .....Tere important for our passing conceptions of the self)

sorts or suicides of these kinds existed until the practice of counting them
carne into being (Hacking l982a).
Kew slots were created in which to fit and enumerare people. Even na-

and for individuality, beca use the split Flida was held to refute the dogmatic transcendental unity of apperception that made the self prior to all
After Flida carne a rush of multiples. The syndrome bloomed in France
and la ter flourished in America, which is still its home. Do I mean that
there were no multiples befare Flida? Yes. bcept for a very tew earlier ex-

tional and provincial cens.uses amazingly shm'rT that the C:ltegories into
which p eople fall change ever r ten years. Social change creates ne ....,T ca te go-

amples, lj.lhich after 1875 lfwre reinterpreted as classk multiples) there was
no such syndrome for a disturbed person to display o.r to adopt.

res of people, but the counting is no mere report of developments. lt elaborately, often pbilanthropically, creates new ways for people to be.

Ido not deny that there are other behaviors in other cultures that resemble multiple personality. Possession is our most familiar example--a common form o f Renai.ssance behavior that died long ago, though it wa.s curi-

motives for murder and reque.m that the police dassify each individual
suicide in ty...,enty-one different ..,.,;ays. 1 do not believe that motives of these

People spontaneous ly cometo fit their categories. \Vhen factory inspec-

tors in England and Wales went to the milis, they found various kinds of
people there, ]oosely sorted according to tasks and wages. But when they
had finished their reports, millhands had precise ways in which to work,
and the owner hada clear set of concepts about how to empl")' workers according to the ways in which he was obliged to classify them.
I am more farniliar .....ith the creation of k.inds among the masses than

"~th interventiom that act upon indi,~duals, though

1 did look into onc

rare kind of insanity. l claim that multiple personality as an idea and as a

ously hardy in jsolated German villages even late in the nineteenth century.
Pos.s.ession was not split personality, but ifyou balk at my imp1ication that
a few people (in committee "ith their medica! or moral ad\isers) almos!

choose to become splits, recall that tormented soub in the past have often
been s.aid to have in sorne way chosen to be possessed, to have been seeking
attention, exorci.s.m) and tranquility.

1 should gi''e one all-too-tidy example of how a new person can be made
up. Once again 1 quote from Janet, whom 1 find the most open and honor- Ontology


able of the psychiatrists. He is speaking to Lucie, who had the once-fashionable but nm..r-forgotten habit of automatic writing. Lucie replies to
Janet in writing vthout her normal self.s. a'i...Tareness.:

Janet. Do you understand mel

L.ucie (tYrites). No.
J. But to reply you mus! understand me~
L. Oh yes, absol u tel.
f. Then what are you doing(
L. Don't know.


It is certain that someone is unden>tanding me.

L. Yes.

f. 'Who is tha tl
L. Somebod b esides l u ce.
f. Aha' Another person. Would you like to give her a name?
L. K o.

J. Yes. It would befar easier that way.

L. Oh well. lf yo u wan t: Adrienne.
f. Then, Adrienne} do you understand me?
L. Yes. (lanet 1886, 581)

If you think this is what people used to do in the bad old days, comider
poor Charles {or Eric, or lvlark-a multiple), who was featured on a wbole
page of Time magazine on October 25, 1982 {p. 7). He was picked up
wandering aimlessly and was placed in the care of Dr.lvlalcolm Graham of
Daytona Beach, .....,rho in turn consulted .....ith Dr. \Villiam Rothstein) a nota-

ble student of multiple personality al the Vniversity Hospital in Columbia,

South Carolina. Here i> what is s.aid lo have happened:
After listening to a tape recording made in June of the character :.-tark,
Graham became convinced he . . .,.as dealing ,..,Tith a multiple personality.
Graham began consulting with Roths.tein) who recommended h:r1mosis.

Under tbe spell, Eric began calhng his characters. Idos! of the personali
ties. have been purged, although there are three or four being treatedl officials say. lt V""aS the real personality that signed a cons.en t forro that allm..,Ted Graham to comment on the case. ( The Stat.-e, Coluin bia, S. C.) 4

October 1982, p. 3A.)

Hypnosis elicited Charles, Eric, ;vrark, and sorne 24 other personalites.
When I read of such present-da manipnlatons of character, I pirre a little

Making Up reopJe

l 03

for .Ivlollie Fancher, who gloried in the personalities of Sunbearn, !do\,

Rosebud, Pearl, and Ruby. She became somewhat split after being dragged
a m.ile by a horse car. She ,.,,ras. not regarded as espedally deranged) nor in

m u eh need of "cure." She was m u eh loved by her friends, who rnemorialized her in 1894 in a book with the ttle Mollie Fancher, The Brooklyn
Enigma: An l!.uthentic Statement of Facts in the Life of A.follie J. Fai1cher, 111e
Psycho!ogical Mrvel of the Nineteenth Cmtury (Dailey 1894). The idea of
making up people has, 1 said, beco me quite "idespread. Tllc Making of the
Modern Homosexual (Plummer 1981) is a good example; "ivlaking" in this
ttle is dos e to m y "making u p." The con tribu tors by and large accept that
the homose>.:ual and the heterosexual as kinds of persons (as ways to be
persom, oras conditions of personhood) carne into being only toward the
end of the nineteenth century. There has been plenty of .s.ame-sex activity

in all ages, but no!, it is argued, s.ame-sex people and people.l
do not wish to enter the complexites of that idea, but "ill quote a typical
passage from this anthology to show what is intended: "One difficulty in
transcending the theme of gender inversion as the basis of the specialized
homosexual identity was the rather late historical development of more
precise conceptiom of components of &exual identity" ('vlarshall 1981,
150). Andina footnote to this passage: "It is not suggested that these components are 'real' entities) .....yhich m..Taited scientific 'discovery.) Hm..Tever
once the distinctions v.rere made} new rea1ities effectively carne into being"
(249, n. 6).

Note how the language here resembles my opening quotation: "not

a disease . . . in na tu re, 'i.vaiting for . . . ob.sen."ation to discover i e) ver.s.u.s.
o:.::not ... 'real' entities, which awaited scientific 'discovery: lvoreover, thi.s
author too suggests that "once the distinctions were made, ne\v realities
effectively carne in to being."
This theme, the emergence of the homosexual as a kind of person, is often traced to a paper by lvlary :v!aclntosh, "The Homosexual Role," which
she published in 1968 in Social Problems (:vlaclntosh 1968). That joumal
was much de,coted to "labeling theory," which assens that social reality is
conditoned, stabilized, or even created by the labels we apply to people,
actiom, and communities. Already in 1963, '~-\. Kote on the Uses of Official
Statistics)' in the same j ournal antic pa ted m y own inferences about coun ting and kinds of people (Kitu5e and Ce"Tel 1963). But there is a curren ti y
more fashionable so urce of the idea of making up people, namdy, lv!iche\
Foucault, to whom both Arnold Davidson and l are indebted. A quotation


Making Up People Ontology

from Foucault provides the epigraph -followi ng one from Nietzsch e-for
Thc Making of t!Je Modern Homo5cxual; and although its authors cite sorne
4.S.O sources, they refer to Foucault more than anyone else. Since 1 shall be
so concerned with names, let me state at once that for all bis famous fascination ' discourse, naming is only one element in ,..,,hat Foucault calls
the "con.s.titution of subjects" (in conte..>.t a pun~ but in one sen.s.e the making up of the subject): "\Ve should try to discover how it is that subjects are
grad ually, progressively, really, and m aterial!y constituted through a m ultiplicity of organisms, forces, energies, materials, desires, thoughts etc."
(Foucault 1980, 97).
For those of us influenced by Foucault, the choice of topic and time may
be biased. ]1.-ly exa m pies dwell in the nineteen th cen tury and are obsessed
with deviation and wntrol. Thm among the questions on a complete
agenda, we should include these two: is making up people intimately
linked to wntroE ls making up peop\e itself of recent origin? The answer
to both q uestions migh t conceivably be yes. \Ve m ay be observing a par ticular mediw-forensic-political language of individual and social control.
Likewise, the sheer pro!Heration of labels that began in the nineteenth century may have engendered vastJ:. more kinds of people than the world had
ever knm1m before.
Partly in order to distance myself for a moment from issues of repression, and pardy for intrinsic interest. I \muld like to abstract from m)' e...xamples.l f there were sorne truth in the descriptions l and others have furnished, then making up people would bear on one of the great tradtional
questions of philosophy, namely, the debate between nominalists and realists. john Boswell (1982-3) has airead:. pointed out how this intersects
vth questions about homosexuality.
A tradtional nominalist say.s. that stars (or algae, or justice) have nothing in common .....ith others. of their kind except our name.s. for them
(_"stars," "a!gae," "justic.e"). The tradition al realist in contras! finds it amazing that the world could so kindly sor! itself into our categories. He protests that there are defin te sorts of obj ects in it, at leas! stars and algae,
which we have painstakingly come to recognize and classify wrrectly. The
robust realist does not have to argue very hard that people also come
sorted. Sorne are thick, sorne thin~ .sorne dead sorne alive. 1t may be a fact
about human beings that we notice who is fat and who is dead, but the fact
itself that .sorne of our fellows are fat and others are dead has nothing to do
with our scheme.s. of classification.


The reali.s.t con tinues: con.s.umption ,...,,as not onJy a sickness but al so a
moral failing, c.aused by defect.s of character. That is an importan ! nine
teenth-century social fact about TB. W..-e dis.covered in due course, hm...,.~ever,
that the is transmitt ed by bacilli that divide very s\owly and that we
can is a fact about us that we were first moralistic and la ter made this
discovery, but it is a brute fuct about tuberculosis that it is a specific disease
transmitt ed by microbes. The nominali st is left rather weakly admitting
that even though a particular kind of person~ the consumptive, may have
been an artifact of the nineteen th century, the itself is an entitv in
its 0\-'I"TI right, independently of hov. . .,te das.sify.
lt would be foolhardy to have an opinion about one of the more stable
human dichotomies, male and female. But \~ery roughly, the robust rea1ist
will agree that there may be certain physiological borderline cases once
called "hermaphrodites." The existence of vague boundaries is normal:
most of u.s. are neither tall nor short, fat nor thin. Sexual physiology is un~
usually abrupt in its divisions. The realist will take the occasional wmpulsive fascination vvith tran.s.vestitism, or horror about hermaphrodites as
human (nominalist) resistance to nature's putative aberration.s. (Greenblatt
!986). Likewise, the realist will asoert that even though our attitudes to
gender are almost entirely nonobiective and culturally ordained, gender it
self i.s. a real distinction.
1 do not knm{ if there 1vere thoroughgoing, consistent, hard~line nominalists who held that every classification i.s of our own making. 1 might
pic:k that great British Hobbes out of conte"-1:. Near the beginning of his Elements af Philasophy (ll.4) he said, "How can any man imag
ine that the names of things were imposed by their natures?"
Equal!y, one could pick "'\elson Goodma n as the heir of Hobbes. Trendy
nominalists might refer to hi.s H'a;'' of\Yorldmaking {1978), whose very tille is a paean to what he calls bis irreali>m, but the hard line was drawrr
muc.h ear!ier in bis Fact, Fiction, and Forecast 0954)-a line so hard that
few philosophers who write about the "new riddle of induction" presented
in that book appear even to see (what 1 think is) the point. Goodma n was
saying that the only reason to project the hypothesis that all emeralds are
green rather than grue-th e latter hypothesis using a rnadeup word that
implies that those emeralds which are in the future exarnined for the first
time, will prove to be blue rather than green-is the that word "green" is
entrenched. That is., it is a word and a dassification that l'le ha ve been u.s.~
ing. W!rere the inducti,,e skeptic Hume allowed that there is a real quality,


Making Up People

H i s tori c. a 1 Ont ol ogy

greenness, which


project out of habit, for Goodm an there is only our

habit of using the word "green:' Douglas Stalker's (1994) anthology of papers about Goodmau's riddle confirms, l think, that most philosophers
-,..,.~ho write about the topic do not take it very seriously. l do: see my piece
in that anthology (1994), and my discussion of Kripke and Goodm au
(1993b). Following Goodm au, one usnally thinks of his riddle arising after
Hume has been disposed of. l argue that in a certain sense the difficulty is
"pre-Humian" (Hacking l993c}.
The nomina lism that one can extrae! from Hobbes, Goodm au, and 1heir
vibran! scholastic predecessors such as Ockharn and Duns Sootus still pales
before a perhaps nonexistent kind of nominalist, who thinks that (a} all
categories, classes and taxonomie..s are created and :fixed by human beings
rather than found in nature, and that (b} classifications ma)' grm,.ror be revised, but once in place they are basically fL""<ed aud do not interact with
what is classified. l believe that this sor! of static nomina lism is doubly
'i...,yrong: I think that many categories come from nature~ not from the human mind, and l think onr categories are not static. A different kind
of uomina lism-1 cal! it dyuamic nomina lism--at tracts my realist sel!;
spurred on by theories about the making of lhe homosexual and the heterose};.--ual a.s kinds of persons or by my observations about official statis
tics. The claim of dynamic nomina lism is not that there was a kind of per
s.on ,...,,ho carne increasingly to be recognized by bureaucrats or by students
of human nature, but rather that a kind of person carne into being at the
same time as the kind itself was being invented. In sorne cases, that is, our
classifications and o ur da.sses conspire to emerge hand in hand ea eh egging the other on.
Take four categories: horse, planet, glove, and multiple personality. 1t
would be preposterous to .mggest that the only thing horses ha,'e in com
monis that we cal! them horses. We may draw the boundar ies to admit or
to e.xdnde Shetland ponies, but the similarities and differences are real
enough. The planets fumish one of T. S. Kuhn's exarnples of conceptual
change (Kuhn 1962, 115 ). Arguably, the heavens looked different after we
grouped Earth with the other planets and excluded l>loon and Sun, but 1
am sure that acute thinkers had discovered a real difference. 1 hold (mosl
of the time) that strict nominalism is unintelligible for horses and the
planets. How could horses and planets be so obedient to our minds?
Gloves are s.omething else: t{e manufacture them. I knm.. not .....Thich camL'
first, the lhought or the mitten, but they have evolved hand in hand. Thll


the concept "glove" fits glm'es so well i5 no surprise; we made them that
lj.'rTay. JI..{y daim about making up people is that in a few interesting respects
mulliple personalities (and much else) are more like gloves than like
horses. The calegory and the people in il emerged hand in hand.
How might a dynamic nomina lism affecl the concept of the individual
person? One answer has to do wilh possibility. Who we are is not only
wha t we did, do, and will do, bu t al so wha t we mighl have done and m ay
do. _>,.-[aking up people changes the space of possibililies for personhood.
Even the dead are more than their deeds, for we make sense of a finished
life only within il5 sp he re of former po&sibilities. But our possibili ti es, allhough inexhamtible, are also bounde d.lf the nominalist thesis about sexuality were correct, it simply wasn't possible lo be a heterosexual kind of
person befo re the nineteen th century1 for that kind of person '"''as not there
lo choose. What could thal mean( '..Vhat could it mean in general lo say
that possible 'i.".rays to be a person can from time to time come into being or
disappear? Such q ueries force us to be careful abo ut the idea of po>Sibility
\Ve have a naive picture of lhe gradations of possibility. Sorne lhings, for
example, are easy to do, sorne hard, and sorne plain impossible. What is
impossible for one person is possible for another. At the limit we have the
statement: "iVilh men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God, all
things are possible" (.\[ark ID:27). {Christ had been saying that it is easier
for a carne! to pass through lhe eye of a needle than for a rich man toen ter
the kingdom of heaven.) Degrees of possibili t)' are degrees in the abilit)' of
sorne agent todo or make something. The more ability, the more possibility, and omnipo tence makes anything possible. Al that point, logidan s
have stumbled) vwrrying about . ..,That vvere once called '~the eternal truths"
and are nm... called "logical necess.ities." Even God cannot make a five-sided
square) or so mathema ticians say) e.,'{cept for a fe'"'' sueh eminen t dissen ters
~s Descartes. Often lhis limita !ion on omnipo tence is explaine
d linguistically, being said to reflect our unwillingness to call anything a five-sided
There is something more inleresting that God can't do. Suppose that Arnoid Davidson) in my opening quotatio n about perversion) is literally corree!. Then il was not possible for God to make George Washington a pervert. God could have delayed Washington's birth by over a century, bul
would that have been the sorne man? God oould have moved the medica!
dhcours e back 100-odd years. But God could not have simply made him a


Historical Ontology

pervert, the way He could have made him freckled or had him captured
and h ung for treachery. This m ay se em all the more surprsing since \Vashington was but eight )'ears older than the lvlarquis de Sade---and KrafftEbing has sadomasochism among the four chief categories of perversion.
But t follows from Davidson's doctrine that de Sade was not aft1icted by
the disease of pen'ersion) nor even the disease of sadomasochism either.
Such strange daims are more trivial than they seemi they result from a

contras! between people and things. Except when we interfere, what things
are doing, and indeed what camels are doiug, does not depend on how
we describe them. But sorne of the things that we ourselves do are ntimately connected to our descri ptions. :vlany philosop hers follow Elizabeth
Anscombe and s.ay that intentional human actions must be ~actions under
a description"' (i\.nscombe 1957). Tbis is not mere lingualism) for descriptions are embedded in our pracces and lives. But if a description is not
there, then ntentonal actions under that description cannot be there eith er: that, apparen tl y, i;; a fa el of logic.
Elaborating on this difference between people and things: what camels,
mountains 1 and microbes are doing do es not depend on our vwrds. \\1-lat

happem to tuberculosis bacilli dependo on whether or not we poison them

with BCG vaccine, but it do es not depend upon how we describe thern. Of
co urse we p oison them ,..,..i th a certain vaccine in part beca use -.. . .Te describe

Making Up People


multiple personality. 1 take it from lean-Paul Sartre, partly tor the welldeserved fame of his description, partly for its excellence as description, pardy because Sartre is our premium philosopher who "nites about

choice, and partly because recalling Sartre "ill recall an example that returns me to my origin. Let m first look al Sartre's magnificent humdrum
example. vlany among us might have eh osen to be a waiter or waitress. and

se''eral have be en one for a time. A few m en migh t have chosen to be

something more specific, a Parisian garfon de caf, about whom Sartre
"'Tites in his iuunortal discussion ofbad faith: "His movement is quick and
forward) a little too precise) a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons

wi th a step a li ttle too quick. He bends torward a li ttle too eagerly, his eyes
express an interest too solicito m for the order of the customern (Sartre

1956, 59). Psychiatrists and mediall people in general try lo be extremely

specific in describing, but no description of the several dassical kinds of

split personality is as precise (oras recognizable) as thk Imagine for amoment that we are reading not the words of a philosopher who writes hi.>
books in mfs but !hose of a doctor who writes them in a clinic. Has the
gar~ot1 de cafii a chance of e.s.caping treatment by experts? \Vas Sartre knowing or merely anticipating when he concluded this very paragraph with the
words: "-' There are indeed many precautions to imprison a man in 'i...,That he
i;;, as if we lived in perpetua! tear that he might escape from it, that he
migh t break away and suddenly elude his con di tion." That is a good re-

them in certain ,vays) but it is the 'i'accine that kills., not our ,,.. ,rords. Human
action is more closel~t' linked to human description than bacterial action is.

minder of Sartre)s teaching: possibility, project) and prison are one of a

A century ago I would have said that consum ption is caused by bad air and
sen t the pa tient to the Alps. Today, 1 m ay say tha t TB is ca u sed b)' micro bes

Sartre's antihero chose to be a waiter. Evidently that was not a possible

and prescribe a tv.'o-year course of injections. But . . . .That is happening to the

micro bes and the patient is entirely independent of my corrector incorrect

choice jn other places 1 other times. There are servile people in most societies, and sen'ants in many) but a l"tTaiter is something .s.pecific, and a garf-On

description, even though it is not independent of the medica !ion prescribe d. The micro bes' possibilities are delimited by nature, no t by words.
What is curiou;; about human action i;; that b)' and large what I am delibera te!)' doing depends on the possibilities of description. To repeat, this i;; a

de caf more specific. Sartre remarks that the waiter is doing something
different when he pretends to play al bcing a sailor or a diploma! than
when he p la}~ at being a wai ter in arder to be a waiter. l think that in most
parts. of) let us say, ~-\~berta {orina 1\kDonald'5 any'i-'"'here), a 1rvTaiter playing
at being a gar:on de caf would miss the mark as surely as if he were p laying
al being a diplomar while passing m'er the french fries. AB with almost every way in which it is pos.sible to be a pers on) it is possible to be a garfOtl de
caf only ata -certain time, in a certain place, in a certain social setting. The
feudal serf putting too d on m y lady' s table mn no more choose to be a
garron de caf !han he can eh o ose to be lord o f the manar. But the impossibility is evidently differen t in kind.

tautological inference from .....yhat is nov. a philosopher's comm.onplace,

that all intentional acts are acts under a description. Hence if ne'i...ymodes
of description come into being) nev. ' poss.ibilities for action come into being in cons.equence.

Let us now add an example to our repertoire; let it have nothing to do

with deviancy, let it be rich in connotations of human practices.) and let it

help furni;;h the end of a spectrum of making up people opposite from the


H i s torl c. a 1 Ont ol ogy

1t is not a technical im po&>ibili ty. Serfs m ay once have dreamed of travel

to the moon; certainly fheir lettered betters wrote or read adventur es of
moon travel. But moon travel was impossib le for them, lj....~hereas it is not
quite impossible for today's young . ..,Taiter. One young l?'aiter \.,'":ill, in a fev~o'
years, be serving steaks in a sa tellite. Sartre is a t pains to say that even te ehnical \irnitations do not mean that you have fewer possibilites. For every
person, in ever y era, the world is a p lenitude of po&>ibilities. "Of course,"
Sartre writes, "a contero porary of Duns Scotus is ignoran t of the use of fhe
automo hile or the aerop lane .... For fhe one who has no relation of any
kind to these objects and the technique s that refer to them, there is a kind
of absolute, unthinka ble, and undeciph erable nothingn ess. Such a nothing
can in no way limit the For-itself that is choosing itself, it cannot be apprehended as a lack, no matter how we consider it" (Sartre 195 6, 522). Passing
to a different ex am pie, he contin u es, "The feudal world offered to the vassal lord of Ramond V! infinite possibilities of choice; we do not possess

uuthiuka hle, and undeciph erable nothingn ess" is a great

phrase. That is exactly what heing a mnltple personality, or being a gar:on
de cafr!, was to Raymond 's vassal. 1\lany of you could, in truth, be neither a
Parisian waiter nora split personality, but bofh are thinkable, deciphera ble
somethingnesses. lt would be possib\e for God to have made you one or
the ofher or both, leaving the rest of fhe world more or less intact. That
means_,_ to me) that the outer reaches of your space as. an individual are essentially different from what they wou\d have been had these possibilities

not come into b eing.

Thus the idea of making up people is enriched; it applies not to the unfortunate elect but to all of m. \t is not just the making up of people of a
kind that did no! exist before: not only are the split person and the waiter
made up, but each of us is made u p. V-.'e are not only what we are but what
we might have been, and the possibilities for what we might have been are

transform ed.
Hence anyone who thinks about the individual, the person, must reflect
on this strange idea of making up people. Do m stories tell a uniform tale?
Manifestly no t. The mul tiple personali ty, the homosex ual or heterosexual
per.s.on} and the .....Taiter form one spectrum among many that may color

our perception here.

Suppose there is sorne truth in the \abeling theory of the modem homosexuaL lt cannot be the whole truth, and this for severa! reasons, induding

M.aking Up People


one that is future-di rected and one that is past-directed. The future-di rected fact is tha t after the in.s.ti tutionaJization of the homosexual per.s.on in
law and official morality, the people in'olved had a lite of their own, individually and collectively. As gay liberation has amply proved, that life was
no simple product of the labeling.
The past- directed fact is that the labeling did not occur in a social va euum, in which those identified as homosex ual people passively accepted
the format. There -,..,.-as a comple..,--t sociallife that is only nnv. revealing itself
in the annals of academic social history. lt is quite clear tha t the in terna!
life of innumerable clubs and associations interacted \'t'th the medico-forensic-journalis.tic labeling. \Vhatever the medico-forensic e..'\':perts tried to
do v.ith their categories) the homose.."'{ual person becarne autonomou.s of
the labeling.
The gar:on de caf is at the opposite extreme. There is of course a social
history of waiters in Paris. Sorne of this will be as anecdotal as the fact that
croissan 1> originate d in the cafs of Vienna after the Turkish siege was
lifted in 1683: the pastries in the shape of a crescent were a mockery of Islam. Other parts of the story will be structura lly connecte d with numerom
French institutions. But the das.s. of v.miter.s. is autonomous of anyact of lab eling. At most, the name gar:on de caf can contin u e to emure both the
inferior position of the waiter and the fact that he is rnale. Sartre's precise
descripti on does not lit the filie de salle; that is a different role.
l do not believe there is a general story to be told about making up people. Each category has its own history. If we wish to present a partial
framewo rk in which to describe such events, we might think of two vector.s.. One is the vector of labeling from abo';re) from a (Dmmun ity of experts who create a "reality" that s.ome people make their own. Different
from this is the vector of the autonom ous behavior of the pers.on so labeled, which pre~ses from belm1; creating a reality etery e;:pert mus! face.
The second vector is negligible for the split but powerful tor the homosex ual person. People 'i.\Tho \Hite about the hi.s.tory of hmnosexuality beem to
disagree abo u t the re la tive imp ortance o f the two vectors. :vly scheme at
best highlights what the dispute is provides no answers.
The .scheme is also too narrm{. I began by mentioning my own studies
in official statistics and asserted that these also, in a less melodramatic v.Tay,
con tribute to making up people. There is a story to tell here, even about
Pa:risian v..aiters, 'i."''ho su.rface in the official statistics. of Paris surprisingly
late, in 1881. However, I shall conclude with yet another way of making up


Histor1cal Ontology

people and human acts} one of notorious interest to the e.,-..;::istentialist culture of a couple of generations past. 1 mean suicide, the option that Sartre
always left open to the For-itself. Suicide sounds like a timeless i5
no t. Indeed it might be better described as a French obsession.
There have been cultures, including sorne in recent European history,
that kne .....~ no suicide. It is .said that there were no suicides. in Venice -,.rhen it
was the noblest city of Europe. But can 1 .s.eriously propose that suicide is a
concept that has been made up? Oddly, that i5 exactly what is said by the
deeply int1uential Esquirol in his 1823 medical-encyclopedia article on suicide (Esquirol1823, 53, 213). He mistakenly as.s.erts that the verr 'j.mrd 'i,~Tas
devised by his predecessor Sa mcages. What is true is lhis: suicide was m ade
the property of medies only at the beginning of the nineteenth century,
and a majar fight it was (Hacking 1982b). lt was generally allowed that
there vms the noble suicide, the suicide of honor or of state) but all the rest
had to be regarded as part of the new medicine of imanity. By mid-century
it \muld be contended that there .....Tas no case of suicide that was not preceded by symptoms of in>anity (Bourdin 1845, 19}.
Thi:s literature wncerns the doctors and their patients.. It e..x:actly parallels a statistical story. Foucault suggests 'iNe think in terms of "tv.m poles of
development linked togetber by a whole cluster of intermediar}' relations"
(Foucault 1978, 139). One pole centers on the individual as a speaking,
working, procreating en tity he calis the "anatomo-poli ti es of the human
body." The se con d po le, "focused on the species bod," serves as the "basis
of the biological processes: propagation, brths, and mortality, the leve] of
health, !ife e::c1'ectancy and longevity." He calls this polarity "biopolitics of
the population." Suicide aptly illustrates patleffi5 of wnnection between
both polesc The medica! men wmmenl on the bodies and their past, which
led to self-destru ction; the statistcians count and classit}' the bo di es. Every tact about the suicide becomes fascinating. The statisticians compase
fonm to be completed by doctors and police, recording everything from
the time of death to the objects found in the pockets of the corpse. The
various ways of killing oneself are abruptl characterized and become symbols of national character. The French favor carbon monoxide and drowning; the English hang or shoot themselves.
B-y the end of the nineteenth century there t ..Tas so much info:rmation
aboul French suicides that Durkheim wuld use suicide to measure social
pathology. Earlier) a rapid increase in the rate of suicide in all European
countries had caused great concern. Sorne authors have suggested that lhe

M.aking Up People



gro.,..,.Lh may have been Jargeiy apparent~ a consequence of improved systems ofreporting (Douglas 1967, chap. 3). It was thought that there were
more .suiddes beca use more care was taken to report th_em. But such a remar k i.s um.,..ittingly arnbiguous: reporting brought about more suicides. 1
do not refer lo suicide epidemics lhat follow a semational case, like that of
Heinrich von Kleist, who shot his lover and then himself on the \Vannsee
in 1811-an event vigorou.s.Jy reponed in every European capital. 1 mean
inslead that the systems of reporting positively created an entire ethos of
suicide, right dnv.Tn to the suicide note, an art form that previously was virlually unknown apart from the rare noble suicide of state. Suicide has of
course attracted attention in all times and has imited snch distinguished
essayists as Cicero and Hume. But the di.s.tinctively European and i\.merican pattern of suicide is a historical artifact. Even the unmaking of people
has be en m a de up.

Naturally, my kinds of making up people are far from ex:haustive. lndividuals serve as role models and sometimes thereby create nev. roles.
\Ve have only lo think of james Clifford's study of the two most famous
Anglo-Poles, )oseph Conrad and Bronislaw Jl,lalinowski (Clifford 1986).
.1>-!alinowski's work largely created the participant-obsen'er rultural-relativist ethnographer, even if _lv[alinowski himself did not truly conform to
thal role in the field. He did something more important-he made up a
kind of scholar. The advertising industry relies on our susceptibilities to
role models and is largely engaged in trying to make up prople. But here
nominalism) e\~en of a dy11arnic kind, i.s. not the key. Often TNe have no
name for the ver y role a modeJ en tices us to adopt.
Dynamic nominalism remains an intriguing doctrine, arguing that numerous kinds of human being.s. and human acts come in to being hand in
hand with our invention of the ways lo name is forme lhe only intelligible species of nominalism) the only one that can even gesture at an
accounl of how common names and the named could so tidily fil together.
lt is of more human interest than the arid and scholastic forms of norninalism, beca use it contends that our spheres of possibility, and hence our
selves, are to sorne extent made up by our naming and lj.fhat that entails.
But let us not be overly oplimistic about the future of dynamic nominalism. l1 has the merit of bypa.ssing abstrae! hand-waving and imi ting us to
do serious philooophy, namely, to take a look: lo exanne the intricate origin of our ideas of multiple perwnality or of suicide. lt is, we might say,
putting sorne flesh on that wizened figure, )ohn I.ocke, who wrote about


Histo rie-al Onto logy

the origin of ideas while introspecting at

his desk. But just became dynam


ic nom inali sm invit es us to exam ine the

intri cacie s of reall ife, it has

little chance of being a general philosophical

theory. _,>Jthough we may find

it usefu l to arran ge intlu ence s acco rdin

g to Fouc ault' s pole s and my vectors, such meta phor s are mere sugg estio
ns of .....That to look for ne.."{t. 1 see
no reas on to suppose that ,...,,e shall ever
tell tvm iden tical stori es of two dif-

Self- Irn pro ve me nt

ferent instances of making up people.

This piece '''as 'written overnight in Berke

-ley during the summ er of 1984,
\"{hen Alan Graubard', then edi ting Universi
t_v Publishing, told me that s.omeone had let them dm.o,~ and they had tu .fiH
a fe\.,.. pages immediately. In 1982
Herbert Dreyfus and Paul Rab-inow creat
ed a (Paris-style) intervie\.,.- with
{...Hche1 Foucault, "On the Gene.alogy of
Ethics," 'tdllch they pnt ed in the
second edition of their book .a bout Fouc:.ault.
_1\] i page references he re are to
Dreyfus and Rab.!nm{, ~\iich.d Foumult: B
ey.ond Structumli5m and Herm eneutics {Chic.ago: University of Chicago
Press, 2nd ed., 1983).

In an exhilarating inten iew, l>Iichel Fouc

ault described sorne of his work

progress. He agreed to the inte niew title "On

the Genealogy of Ethics."
De\'ll ideas 'i-'lere capt ured in
an only sligh dy un usua l
sense of the word "ethics." Perhaps Fouc
ault had written enough abou t
what we say and doto othe r people. He had
now become preoccupied with
Inde ed, man y of his


'We say and do to ourselve.s.. Offi dal

or prev alen t or pd'i.;-ate mora l

codes would be part of that story, but there


anot her side to the mora l pres.nJptiOns,

whk h mos t of the time 1s not
isola ted as SU(h but is, I think , ver y impo
rtan t the kind of relat ionsh ip
you ough t to have ,..,_,Jth yours.elt~ rapport
a so~ ""hich I caU ethics, and
..,.,.~hicb deter mine s hm.,.T the indiv
idua l Js suppo.sed to con.stitute hims elf as
a mora l subject ofhis. own action. (pp. 2378).

Where previous nominalists thought of the

self as making up its own
orie.s., Fouc ault did not imag ine that
there is any self, any ego, any

writing todo that. Each hum an subj ect- you
, me- is an artifact. Beca use
of Foucault's almost doctrinaire loathing of
most furms of repression, and


Hi.storical Ont olog y

his radical shake-up of standard acro

unts of it, many readers would still
think ofh im as believing that the hum
an subject is created by forces ofre pression. That is too limited an outl
ook. 1n this interview, he says "we wn
-stitute ourselves as subjects acting
on oth ers "-a s agents, that is, not
as victim>.
One domain of his proiected gen
ealogy of ethics was certainly the
"'po'i...Ter"' ,..,Te exercise. J\.nother ,...,.as
an account "of ourselves in relation
trut h through which we constitute
ourselves as subjects of knowledge
Again, it is u'e who are doi ng it, not
having it done lo us. The knowledge
power story has been elaborately il\us
trated in Foucault's books, but thos
are outer-directed narratives---'iNh
at vve say about other.s., say to othe
have said to ourselves by others,
do to others, or ha'i.>e don e to ours
They leave out the inner monologue,
what 1 say to myself. They leave out
self-discipline, what 1 dot o myself.
Thus thcy ornit the permanent hea
rtland of subjectivity. lt is seldom forc
e that keeps m on the straight and
narrow; it is con.s.cience. It is le.s.s
knov.Tledge produced in the human
sciences that we use as our guide in life,
tha n self-knowledge. To say this is not
to return to subjecthitf. There
is nothing private about this use
of acquired words and practica! techniqu
es. The cunning of wnscience and
self-kuowledge is to make it feel prv
\Ve have long been barraged byate.
manuals giving techniques for selfimprovement. A genealogy of ethics
would be a study of what these tech
nique.s. really are and hov. "'r"i~e use them
upo n our.s.elves. 1n the mos t superficial respect such work would be radi
cally different from Foucanlt's early
work, for it would not involve abru
pt transformatiom. He tho ugh t that
many types of kuowledge common
ly undergo sharp breaks, a.> do the
forms of power. Jv!uch of his early
writing is abo ut diswntinuities, whi
for Foucanlt usually coincided with
the arrival of Descartes and the bou
rgeois economy or with the French Rev
olution and Kant.
But moral codes change very slowly.
lt is not just that we swear on, and
often swear by) books .....Titten mill
ennia ago. By '"ca des;) Foucault mea
quite specific general instructiom. The
Ten Commandments form a model
wde . They are brief and quite easy to
obey.1n America today sorne version
of most of them is still inculcated into
infants, and the rules are honored
about as "Nell as they were in the tim
e of Isaiah) say. Christ'.s injunctions.
something else. To live by them is to
aspire to sanctity. They do not form
code bu t describe one ,..;ay of ""~No
rking upon o ursel ves.) of setting im possihle ideals, or creating guilt. It is worth
recalling that most techniques of the





self -me dita tion , confession, exer

cise) diet~ e.,"'{emplary ro1e mo dcl s-ar
e as
old as the old codes, but how they
are employed may differ from generation to generation.
Fo uca ult had be en '>Titing a good
de al about early Christian patristic
practices, and those of the Greeks. He
daimed that dassical Greek teJc"ts are
first of all con cerned with health, and
then with food. Ata famous ban que
describe<! bc Pla to- an occasion
of m u eh eating and drin king --ab
stinence was commended as the hea
lthiest regime in both food and sex.
There is a specilic problem in such
texts having to do with boys. lt is not
the case, daim ed Foucault, that Gre
eks were untr oub led bc lo\'e for boy
On the contrary, that they write abo
ut it so muc h betrays malaise. The difficulty was that the boy was suppos
ed to be passive, pleasureless, and this
was inconsistent with the fact that
the same boy was supposed to grow
to be an active citizen. Greek sex,
hO'i."J.'ever> had to do vth the active
sures of adults, pleasures that suppos
edly interfered "ith health. The earl
Christian e\'olution, which often
adapted pagan practices and concep
tions, made pleasure passive. Foucau
lt had a complex story to tell here
of dreams> retreats) confessions, pen
ance, and disciplines to control
mind and its physical outlets in the
Foucault was gifted at imposing new
organization on old material. "Ethica1.s.ubstancen 'i:'l.'aS his name for the
sheer .s.tuff that you ,..,,orry about if
are a moral agent. 1t 5 the par! of ours
e\yes and of our behavior that is releYant for ethical .iudgement. The defi
n tion of this can differ su bstan tiall
For usl said Foucau1t) it is feeling.s.
. For Kant it -,.,.-as intentions. Fou
own example in the inten,iew is the
contras! between an Athenian philosopher and Saint Augustine. The
Athenian in lm'e "ith a boy worries
whether he should touch him or not.
Not touching is valued; the emphasi
is on the act linking pleasure and desi
re. Augustine, recalling a relationship
with a young friend 'i:l.'hen he l"..'as
eighteen) is \"mrried about the natu
re of
the desire itself. "So yo u see tha t the
ethical substance has changed."
A second element in ethics is the
~(mode of .s.ubjection:"" ,.vha
tever it i.s
that you use to internalize these conc
erns.) and what yo u take as being
reJe,,ant Truth abo ut the m-H oly \Vri
t, the mic e of a drug, the san dio n of
reason) politica1 conviction) person
al obsession) anything from the outs
that ,...,,e take as authority.
A thit d element of ethics is how we
get it to work. "\Vhat are we to do,
either to modera te our acts, ort o
decipher lVhat we are) ort o eradicat
e our
de,.;;.iresl ort o u.s.e our sexual desire
in order to obtain certain aims like


SeJfl mprov emen t

Histo rical Onto1 ogy

ing children, and so onl" Foucault calls that "asceticism

in a very broad
sense." He also calls it ''the self-f ormin g activity:"

order to be faithful to

your wife you can do different things to the self" (p.

239). This is asceticismJ beca use it is cutting off .sorne possi ble ways
to be or to behave in

order to sen'e sorne llnme diate end. Behind such

an end -,..,re may present
to ourselves the fourth eleme nt of ethic.s., a teleolo
-gy, 'the kind of being
to l"!hich -,..,~e aspire when ,...Te behaYe in a moral
'"''ay. For instance, v..Thether
-,.,re shall becom e pure, or immo rtal, or free, or
masters of ourselves, and
so on:'
V..-'hat we more comm only call ethics has, in its.
nobler forms~ tende d to
address the questions, what shall we do? What is of value
l Foucault was in

the terrible predicament of being rich in values and

able in action, yet at
the same time asking what makes the ethical question
possible at all. It is

comm on for intellectuals, be they self-.s.tyled pragm

atists or C-ritical Theo -

rists or academic social democrats, to harass Foucault

about this supposed
predicament, and imagine debates like this:
"And what, then, shall we do?"
"\\'ell, if yo u want to do some thing , v. 'h)' don't
you start trying

to make

San Quentin !ess horrendous?"

"No, that doesn't ans-,.ver the question. If you're

in the tradition of unmask ing the origins of moral codes and our ethica
l practices, then ,..,.rhere
do yo u stand? Hm'l can you have any values at
all? Hm..,r can you have any
ground.s for action, even for joinin g a lea-gue for
priso n refor mt'
Even his generous. interviewers, Drey1us and Rabin
ov. , have a .sense that
Foucault "nv.Tes usa criterion of what makes one
kind of danger more dan-

gerous than another" ( 1983, 264).

1 am a !ittle remiuded of the tale of David Hume
's de.ath. It is said that
the rabble of Edinb mgh congregated aroun d bis
house demanding to
kuow when the atheist would recant. 1 sw;pect it won't
be long before the
solemn clamor of the intel\ectuals about Foucault sound
s as quaint as the
baying of the Edinbutgh mob. That expectation does
not, however, help

remove the present tensio n. For that purpo se,

it may be more usefu l to

think of Kant than of Hume.

Foucault was a remarkably able Kantian. It is seldom
remembered that
bis longest and perhaps most rrnportant book, The
Or<kr of Things, arose
from an attempt to vHite an intro ducti on to a
book Foucault had trans-

lated into French, Kant's A11tltropoiogie. Kant had been

the first to ask, as il


professorial question, "'What ls :vlan"? Foucault's book

is a prehistory of
that question, ending with a probably misguided predi
ction that the question in its present forms will soon be erased. His actua
l and projected work
on ethics could also use sorne Kantian spectacles, for
a mom ent. 1 don't
kuow what weight to pul on the interview title "Gene
alogy of Ethics."
There are overtones of 1\"ietzsche's Toward a Genealogy
of Moral~ of course.
Should we take the morahlethics contras! seriously?
Nietzsche used the
German word MoraL Kant's title.s use the word Sitte,
which we translate as
'cethics:' The contras.t doe.s. fit Foucault's concerns.
He \'las. l'lriting about
Sitten, notA-foral. The German 'i.mrd Sitte refer-s to
custo ms and practices}
not exclusively moral. They were precisely what preoa
:upie d Foucau!L
But Jet us go further. What did Kant do? One thing was
to make something quite new out of ethics. In ancient Greece, the
topic of ethics had
been the good Iife. Values were out there in the world
, and the good life
could be p erceived and, with diligence, Jived. After that,
after divine ethics,
after Humean natmalized ethics, and after much else,
Kant made ethics utterly interna), the private dnty of reaso n.ln that respe
ct Foucault explicirl y

reverse.s. Kant. "Couidn't ever;'Dne's jife becom e

a '"''ork of art?" Thi.s. '"''as
not sorne vapid pJea for aestheticism, but a sugge
stion fo-r separating our
ethic.s., our lives, from our scienceJ our knml.'ledge.
At pres.ent~ rhetoric

abo u t the good life is al m ost always based on sorne claim

to know the truth
about desire, about vitamins, about humanity, or about
societ:y. But there
are no such truths to knm..T.

That takes meto the Kantian side of Foucault's ethics

. Among the radical noveities of Kant '""'as the notio n that we constr
uct our ethical positi on.
Kant said "'re do this by recourse to reason, but the
innov ation is not reason
but construction. Kant taught that the ouly way the
moral law can be
moral as if we make it. Foucault's historicism combined
with that notio n
of constructing morali ty leads one away from the
letter and the law of
Kant, but curiously preserves Kant's spirit. Kant found
ed bis metaphysics
of ethics on the idea of freedom. That was another radica
l departure: what
on earth do ethics and freedom have to do with each
other? Foucault was
always skeptical of liberation movements, whether politi
cal or se>..-ual, except as means, for they always assumed a knowledge
of how the liberation
would create the true and objectively desirable natur
al state of people.
Kant made freedom something that is necessarily outsid
e the province of
knowledge. Only in the inherently unkuowable could
there be a Kantian


Histo Onto logy

Foundatians for a ~\.fetaphysics of Ethics. "Unknm,.'

3ble" is mean t literallyi it
pertains not jusi to the knowledge of the phys
icist or the gnosis of the hermit, the mysticism of the visionar)' or the high
of fhe jogger. lt means fhat
there is nothing to be said abou t freedom, excrp
t that within its space we
con.s.truct our ethics and our lives. Those
who criticize Foucault for not
giving usa place to stand migh t start their critiq
ue with Kant.




How, Why, Wh en, and Wh ere

Di d Language Go Public?

This ess.ay 'j.\'as writt en for the first year of

.issue of the ambi t!ous ne'i..,.v quartedy, Common Kmnd.edge, founded by Jeffre
y Ped. The aim 'ivas to join in
common discussion many d[fferent aspects. and
s.tyles of \Hitin g and researc h in the huma nities that had too often
been put asunder. It [s deeply in
debt to Isaiah Berlin's Fico and Herder. I like to
think that our correspondence may have- reav.-rakened Berlin's fuscin
ation with Ham ann, and contributed to his digging up and pu blis.lllng his
old man u ser ipt, The Afagm o:{ the
North: J. G. Ham ann and the Origi.ns ofAlodern
Irmtionalism (1993).

Sorne time ago 1 published a smalJ prim er abou

t philm ophy and language
(Hacking l975b). 1t blithely skipped along in
three parts: a heyday of ideas,
a heyday of meanings, anda heyday of sente
nces. To get a sense of hnv. , an
analytic philosopher could see things, call
that lock e, Frege, and Now.
There is a howling gap in there. The hole in
time is disgraceful, given that
m y story was told against Slich el Fouc<t ult's
larger archaeological camas,
but 1 don' t mind tha t. What's missing is any
account of the passage from
language as pri,ate lo langnage as public. That
transition cannot be structured in terms of heydays or for tha t matter of
Fo uca ult' s epL<temes.
What do 1 mean by priva te and public? Hobbes
spoke for fhe era of ideas
when he wrote that language is mental disco
urse. At the beginning of Elements ofPhilosophJ; which he published in
1656, he said that language has
tvro disti nct val u es. Fir.s.t, ll.'ords, being signs of
ideas sen'e as mem ory aids
that help us to recall previous thoughts. Secondly,
but only secondly, words
are wonderfully adapted to commnnication
, so that they enable me to
trans fer ideas in my mind to yours. Language
is essentiaUy private and only
accidentally public. Desc.-trtes and Hume, lock
e and Leibniz, even Kant,
"vcre rnuc h of the same mind .


l '"
"" Ontology

Public l.anguage

Long after ideas had yielded to meanings, sorne philosophers, such as

Bertrand Russell ( 1956, 195}, also thought that meanings are as priva te as
Hobbesan ideas. "'When one perwn uses a word, he does not mean by it
the same thing as another person means by it" ( 1956, 195}./md in our latter-day world of sentences., many theorists, especially the cog::nitive scientists, continue in that vein. lvandn 1\.linsky (1987, 27G) writes (in italics)
tha t "'a 1vord can only serve to indicate tha t so meone else may ha ve a valuable

idea-that is, so me useful strucrnre ta be built iuside the mind."

Hobbes, then, lives, but since his day there has arisen an entirely different conception of language, as essentially public. iillal)1ic philosophers are

the leas! likely of our cuntemporaries to break with old ways. ,.Jost of their
discussions and problems are recreations of Enlightenment models.
was one conclusion of my primee structurally identical problems are re-

phrased,. over three centuries., in the :succes.s.ive idioms of ideas, meanings,

and sentences.ln at least one respect that won't do at all. Even the analyticall minded now believe, or write as if they believed, that language is essentially pu blic. They take for gran ted that, aside from codes and other derivative kinds of record keeping, a strictly private language is impos..sible.
That is bar di y their discuvery: thinkers in other tradi tioru are astonished at
the notion of an essentially private language. Bertrand Russell and cognitive science noh..i th.s.tanding, language ,..,ren t pub lic. Hmv~~ v..,hy, when, and
where did that happen?
A full response to the question of m title would be a prolix analysis of
many times and places. A brisk answer whose merit is brevity results frorn
adding a "l.,Tho?"' to my roster of queries. \Vho 'iNas the first uneq uivocal
public linguist? ). G. Hamann (1730---88}. I learned that by reading lsaiah
Berlin. As he wrote in a letter dated 14 N ovember 198 5, "Poor Hamann~
he really was original-tangled, dar k, absurd, but first-hand, he got on to
something; but 1 do not believe that anyone in the English-speaking world,
except eccen trie truffle-h unters like me, will ever read him."

which the argument or arguments are presen ted are original and profound. :'-<evertheless, the conception of language as essentiaUc public long
precedes those thoughts, and runs along quite dilierent lines.
1 shall soon turn to Hegel as a public linguist of long ago, bnt we need
not move beyond phlosophers tiwored in the anal:1ic tradition to show
that the idea precedes our century. Two of the three nineteenth-century
philmophers most respected by anal}1ic philosophers were public linguists. 1 mean C S. Peirce and Gottlob Frege, as opposed to ]. S. lvlill (an
invetera te prvate linguist}. In an essay published in 1868, Peirce astoundingly found it hard to amwer the question, "Wha t distinguishes a man
from a word?" He held tha t "the word or sign which man uses is the man
itself." The fact "that every thought is an externa/ sign, proves that man is
an e.<ternal sign. That is to say, that the man and the e>.1ernal sign are id entic al ... m y language is the su m total of myself; for the man is the thongh t"
(Peirce 1984, 240). Peirce is uncommonly hard lo understand, but whatever he meant, he '''{as. in a publicizing mood, mak:ing consciousness, the
self, language, inference, and words not only externa! but also communaL
A couple of pages earlier, he had been insisting on Ci\UlUNITI', printed
in capital letters.
Frege was equally a public linguist. His core fbeory about language consists of sense, reference) and associated idea. The third item is mentioned
by Frege deliberately to exel u de it from his theory of meaning. To hold that
language is essentially public you don't have to deny that words conjure up
various thoughts in various minds. You say only, with Frege, that these
thoughts are "a.s.sodated ideas" that are not the sense of what is said. Asso-

ciated ideas may be private, but in Frege's theory the sense of a V{Ord "'i.s.
not a part or a mode of the individual mind." Frege found this obvious
even from the tact that "mankind has a common store of thoughts which is
transmitted frorn one generation to another" (Frege 1952, 59}.

N ot Wittgenstein

What's wrong with the more straightfon,ard answer that language went
public in the l930s as Wittgenstein's philosophy evolved? Because the
event ha pp ened long before. Wittgenstein' s readers did wan t a short nan1e
for a long stretch of Phi!osophicaJ Investigations, and they called it the prvate language argument (Wittgenstein 1953, sec. 243--315). The passages in


Frege and Peirce did not invent publicity. One might guess that Hegel did,
in 1807, perhaps, with The Phenomenology of Spirit. Time and time again
the man will say something like, "Language is self-consciousness existing
for others" (Hegel 1977, 395, 308). He spoke of language asan "outer realit:y
that is immediately self-conscious existence." There are problems about
HegeL He was a bit of a backslider, apparently espousing a more private


Public Langu age

His.torical Ontol ogy

view oflanguage la ter in life. For <example, in 1830 he

said that language, in
one of its aspects) "is a produ ct of intelligence
for manifesting its. ideas in
an "'~emal medium" (Hegel 1971, 214). Tho>e are not
the words of a convinced public linguist. But \et us ask wbetber this date
of 1807, wbicb is not
quite arbitrary, makes sense. h this a reasonable time
to think of language
going publicl
Yes. Sbould one not expect a cbange in conceptions
of language, given
the many cbanges in the place of Europe in tbe world
, wbicb inevitably aftected the way ts citizens thought about language'
Tbey bad acce;;s to a
large numb er of new te>."ls in languages tbat they had
never known or bad

forgotten: Sanskri4 Persian) Celtic) Norse. There

were many nev.:ly met
nonliterate peopl es in Polynesia, the Amaz on regio
n, aboriginal Australia,

the American Midwest. Travel and conquest gave Europ

e aucient texts of
the Indian suhco ntine nt and nev. speec h in the
South Pacific. It is inviti ng

to imagine that these t:wo kinds of imperial discovery

directl"y suggested the
idea of language as public. A.lmost tbe onl)' item tbat
yo u canno t wrest
from another people by barter or victory is language.
Language cannot be
prvate property, or one could take it. So it is not prvat
e. That would seem
like abad pnn, were it not that bourgeois individuali
sm is (or is often argued to be) an admixture of the self-as-owner-of-its-th
oughts and the selfas- Q'i.'\oller- of- its- goo ds.
Yet that won't quite do. European contact with foreig
ners bad a\ways

been going on. The found ing of colonie.s. V\'as as

much an enterprise of ear-

lier years as it was of Hegel's time. jesuit missionaries

had learned the .'11gonquin languages fiom :\lewfoundland to lvlanitoba,
aud tbeir adventures

'""'ere eagerly follov. ed in France) \'rThere examples

of"Huron.,., activities, languages) and even games .,Nere band ied about.
Leibniz ,..,.--a,s. fascinated by
Chine se language and \'\oTiting. Ne'i... linguistic discov
eries and encounters

are not sufticient for revolutionary thougbts about langu

age. Tbey did surpriiiiugly little for locke . He knew of voyages as well
as an)'one, but he

made only wan observations about differences.

amon g languages. lt is

true tbat Hans Aarsleff, a great admirer of wcke , daim

s to find in Locke

and his French tdiologue successors the sourc

e of "linguistic relativisnl'

(Aarsleff 1982 ,22,2 7, 30f, 181, 185i, J89f, 301, 306f,

345-7, 376). Despite
the depth of bis scbolarsbip, 1 bave argued elsewhere
that Aarsleff's iuterpretation goes awt)' (Hacking 1988a).
If we wisb to find in Enlightenment pbilosophy tbe
beginning of a bistorical, culture-laden vision oflan guage and its

study, a true tinguistic rela-


ti'i.ism) to repeat Aar.sle:ff).s. phrase) then we must

turn to Leibniz. His most
exten ded discu ssjon oflan guage i& in Book 3 of
his 1Vouve.aux Essais~ lj.,.~hich
,..,.-ere an analysis. of and attack on much of Locke'
.s. Essay. The 1.\'"e-lv Essays

were not published until l765, balf a century after Leibn

iz bad quite finisbed them. So tbe people wbo read tbem were fiom
a new generation. A
long review was publisbed in the Gottingischc Anzeigen
(JO january 1765).
One of the early advocates of the publicity of langu
age was Herder, wbo
-,.vas then in Riga. Hamann~ hm. .ever} was in
Knigsberg, and he wrote
Herder a detailed but unenthusiastic acmu nt of the
book on 21 january
(Bri~f.vechse/; hencefortb B 2:296-303)
. Befare tbinking about tbese two
jndividuais, hm{e'iter) let us e..'\:amine more dosel
y the period of language
study leading up to HegeL
There are three -..,.idely read accDunts of a radica
l transition in the oon-

ception of language aroun d tbat time: by ,l,.'licbel Fouca

ult, :>\oam Cbomsky, and lsaiab Berln. All tbree a!tribute something, in
different degrees, to
nev. ]y circulated ande nt te1..'ts and encounters with
nonliterate peop1e.s..
Eaeh has cast bis own stam p on reports of tite transi tion.
1 shall al so cal! in

an eA'"Pert 'i.\'itness, Hans Aarslefi~ for yet another

version of events. None of
these four men was addressing my ques tion- of wben
language went pub-

lic. Yet the going public of language may be the core

event that links their
otherwise cont1ictiug analyses.
M ich e 1 Fou cault the Cartesian or "dassical" era, so goes The

Order of Things, students of language were preoccupied by General Gram
mar. Words are signs
of ideas. General Grau unar aimed at understanding
bow thoughts can be
represented by articula ted strings of words. Actual Jangu
ages were studied
but ith no sense of tbeir particularity. Tbe questions
asked were truly
general: bow do signs work? That exactly parallels
the pbilosopbical debate: how do our ideas correspond to the world? Towa
rd the end of tbe
eigbteentb century, as colonial advance provided ancie
nt te>c1:s and new
languages, tbe study of ab.stract gram mar was replac
ed by a fascination
\'{ith the 'ilarieties of syntax >t<rithin linguistic famil
ies. Languages becam e
historical entities) fit for emp ical investigatio
n. Foucault farnously
daim ed tbat tbe emergence of life, labor, and language
as objects of study

was part of a v.:ide.s.pread transforma tion from repre

sentation to history.
Fouca ulfs account ~ in its large features) correct,
at least for the case of




Pu blic Language


grammar-although in chapter 9 below 1 obsene that in many points of

detail it is not quite right. His is notan un usual ver.s.ion, for it parallel.s. the
official hi;;tory of the emergence of philology in Germany. The philological
.s.eminar in GOttingen '~Nas founded in 1761. \\1\en Prussia restored itself in
1810, after humiliating defeat, Alexander von Humboldt recreated the educational system "ith philology at its core. His brother, Willielm, played a
remarkable part in bringing home from the South Pacific new languages to
stud and new thoughts about how to do it. Philology became the premier

important to say that Humboldt's Linguistic Diversity lf.ras the Jast work in
fhe great tradition of Cartesian linguistics. Humboldt'> study of Polynesian
languages, combined with much theoretical reflection, published posthumously in 1836~ 1ms fully aware of the o:.::creative aspect" .so emphasized by
Chomskc the idea that language must "make infinite employment of finite
means-" (Humboldt 1988, 91}. lt also had attractions for an innatist; "Language could not be invented or come upon if its archetype were not already present in the human soul."

academic subject in Germany. 1\ietzsche may be its most remembered professor, but Foucault's less.on is. about Franz Bopp.

Chomsky observes that Bloomfield ( 1933, 18), the villain of Chomsky's

essay, "refers to Humboldt'> treatise 'as the first great book on generallinguistics.,'-' ""Con.sidered against the background that \le are .s.urveyjng here,''
Chomsly continues (1966, 86, n. 36), "it seems to mark the terminal piece
of Cartesian linguistics rather than the beginning of a ne'iN era of Iingui.s.tic
thought." lt may seem a fine point, to discus..':i ,..,~hether a posthumously
published book was fhe las! work of the old regime or the first of fhe new.
Chomsl.-y himself knew well that Humboldt held that historicallanguages
sen~e to define a peopie, a vision of the ,...,,or ld, and senre to consti tute
an indi,idual within a community. ln that respect, Chomsky admitted,
Humboldt "departs radically from the framework of Cartesian linguistics"
(Chomsl;t 1966, 21).

Bopp\ first maior publication was in 1816. General Grammar was dead
and philology had replaced it, but Bopp does not help us much with public
and priva te language. He had little to say about meaning, for he wrote of
syntax and the historical development of the verb form in comparative
grammars of Sanskri t, Persian, Greek, La tin, Lithuanian, O id Ch urch Slavonic, Gothlc, and German (I recite from one of his titles). He also ~ovrote

on aspects- of 1\ialay and Polynesian. Bopp's primarily syntacti-c concerns

are perfectly consistent ' a private vie\1,' of meaning. So none of this explains ,..,Thy language 'i. .Tent public, which , ..Ta.s, of cour.s.e, neYer Foucault's
intention. He aimed only at establishing a point at which certain kinds of
knowledge became historical. He fixed on Cuvier, palaeontologist, Ricardo,
economist, and Bopp, philologist. Bopp "'r"laii t\..Tenty year.s. )'Ounger than the
other two men, and 1 want to begin Foucault's philological story long be-

tore Bopp.
Noam Chomsky
Carw,~an Linguistics is Chomsl;/ s brillian t, brief exposi tion of his ratio-

nalist forbears. He published it soon after he had decisively established

transfonnational grammar as the 'i.{aYe of the future. He wa.s., he implied~
re.s.toring to prominence the attitude to knm{ledge that underlay projects.
of General Grammar. A single text serves as toca] point for both Chomsky
and Foucault, namely Port Royal's Grarnmaire- gnrale et raisonne of
1660. Where Foucault had seen a theory about how to represen! continuous reality in disjointed 'rmrds, Chomsky foW1d .s.ystematic attention to the
creative aspect of language use----ow ability to say endlessly many thing.s..
The transition from the good, Cniversal Grammar, to fhe bad, descriptive
philolog)\ was hardly the main point of the book, but Chomsky did find it

In Chomsky's version, Humboldt retained old truths but promulgated

nev{ error.s.. In Bloomfield's versionl Humboldt advanced a ne\v vision
while cleaving to old mistakes. Humboldt impresses the Iess dogmatic
reader by emphasizing the duality in language as arising partly from the
ver y na ture of human beings (Chomsky), but a!so as being formed as part
of fhe historical individuality of a community or nation. Humboldt can
l"rTell serve to represent the batt1efront between cDgnitive science and cultural anthropology in our day.
Bopp's ideas reached maturity just when Humboldt's life work carne to
an end. Hegel's Phenomenology reminds us that the idea of language as
public had been around for .sorne time, and so rnust precede whatever
daim could be made for Bopp or Humboldt lndeed, if Humboldt were
understood only as an innatist and the last practitioner of General Grammar, we would expect lo file him among the private linguists. Hans Aarsleff
does exactly that. He argues that Hurnboldfs philosophy is in part driven
by "fhe radical impossibility that others can have direct acce>S to what goes
on in our minds ... it involves what had long been recognized as the privacy of language" (i\arsleff 1988, xxii). Those are not my perceptions.


His.torical Ontology

Humbold t m ust be understoo d as part of a different lineage, in the sequence of lsaiah Berlin's tavored trio of Hamann, Herder, and Humbold t.
lf we push back lo Hamann we cometo a very public concepton of language-.....ithin ,..,rhlch) l venture) the subsequent transform ations in the
stud:. of language take place.

lsai ah Berlin
Philology is one of the strands in Gerrnan romanticsm to whlch an immense litera tu re has be en devoted. lt is the very li terature tha t Fouca ult ostentatiously ignored by directing m te the dmty Bopp. 1 choose to menton
only one elegant and rather loving version of a more standard account. lsaiah Berln much admred Herder, who taught that there can be no thought
without language) that a language characterizes a culture) and that lan~
guage is the me di u m in whch a human being becomes a person. Berln
distinguishes three doctrines distinctive of Herdees thought. Pluralism, as
Berln calls it. is "the belief not merely in the multiplicity, but in the
incommensurabili ty~ of the values of difieren t cultures and societies)) (Ber ~
lin 1977, 153). Populism has to do with the necessity of being part of a
gro u p or culture in arder to be an individual person. Expressio nism is the
holistic doctrine tha t human actvi ty expresse.s the entre personality of the
individual or gro llp, and is in telligible only to the degree tha t it do es so.
Guding all three s the way in whlch, ac.:ording lo Herder, a language
defines or even comti tu tes a culture, and there by it.> peop le. 1 have mentioned travel to past times and foreign dimes as bringing a ne\{ av..,.arenes.s
of languages as repositories of a group or civilizaton. We must not forget
the inverse, that in !hose days, following the lead of Leibniz, German
thinkers were trying to forge their own identi ty by creating and wri tng in
their mm tongue. This was a poltica! act. Herder's king, Frederick the
Great, read only book.> in French and spoke German "Jike a coachman."
The Academy in Berln was filled with Frencbm en of brilliance (1\.Jaupertuis was it.> presiden!), Frenchm en of promise, and plain Frenchm eneven Frederick's head tax collector.s (Hamann 's bosses) were expected to
write memoran da in French. Frederick's contemp t for religion was that of
the phi!osophe>. His "French" sexual preferences were verdica! gossip. The
new idea tha t language defines a culture was par! of an attempt to define a
German culture, somethin g anti~Frederician) un~French) in both manners.
and speech.


Public Lang1..1age


let us cal! this family of ideas-lsa iah Ber!in's trio of pluralism, populism. and expressionism, plus the emphasis on the language of a people defining that people as a politcal entity-th e "culture-concept." In vatiant
forms, i t is characterist1c of roman ticism, and, notoriously, it can be ex~
ploited by master racism. Ivlany agree that Herder was one of the earlier exponents of a genero05 culture concept. Berlin has a less widely shared affection for Herder's friend Hamann, by fourteen years the senior of the
.,,.~o men:
Herder had derived from Hamann his notion tha t ,..,Tords and ideas are
one. :\len do not think, as it were, in thoughts and ideas and then look for
words in which to "dothe" them, as one look.s tor a glove to fit a fu Uy
fonned hand. Hamann taught that to think was to use symbols, and that
to deny this was not so much falseas rminteUigible. (Berlin 197) 165f.}
\Ve are on the verge of the essential publicity of language when we add

Hamann' s insistence that the symbols are part of a hlstcrical and public
language. On the one hand, language characterizes a culture and helps
define a people as a collectivtc the culture concept. On the other, all
thoughts are in symbols located ;,ithin a rulture, so there is no autcnomous "priva te ob.fece) for tmrds to denote.

Hans Aa rsleff
Things are ne,er so simple. Hans Aarsleff has been a vociferous opponen t
of Berlin's version of events. {See Aarsleff 1981 and Berlin's astonished
reioinder 198 L) He rightly insists that Berlin's favored German writers
learned much from French ones. But he goes further. He gives us the impression that) aside from V..'fong tumings) the German writers '"''ere unoriginal. There is a certain piquancy lo this. Aarsleff himself appears to be a
prvate linguist. Hence, he do es not want lo aclmowledge !he ver y concepts
that the likes of Herder brought into being.
Just as one of Berlin's more obscure heroe.s. is Hamann, so Condillac
(17!5-80 ) is one of Aarsleff's. The French philooopher nicely serves to
clatify a difference between pnblic and prvate language. Aarsleff thinks
that you can find in Condillac, for example, the radical thought.> supposedly invented by the Germans. That is because Aarsleff won 't acknowledge
the existence of the really radical thoughts. Condillac was an idologue, a
I..ockean, and a prvate linguist if ever there was one. We ha,.e ideas. \\rds


Histo rical Onto logy

f'Jublic: langu age

signify- ideas} whkh are priva te objects. He did

go so far as to say that ''it
appears that every language expresses the chara
cter of the prop le that
speak it" (Condi\lac 1971, 285}. Is that not Herd
er's cultn re-co ncep tl No.
Condi1bc ,...,, noticing a merely empirical fact, on
a par -,.,oith the influence
on a people of clima te and prosperity. lt m'ver
occu rred to him that a language and a people are co-comtitutive.
Condillac agreed to the ancient truism that
none of the characteristic
features of the ment al !ife of huma ns is possi
ble witho ut \anguage. We
need language in order to .sharpen and dassif) ideas
, and to make them determina te and distinct. Those private linguists
of today, the cognitive scientists, woul d agree. The word is the sign of the
idea. A priva te object, an
idea, migh t not have been form ed had huma ns
\acked the powe r of speech,
but it s prvate all the sarne. Words signif) ideas
, their prvate referents.
Condillac did not imagine the lesson that {acco
rding to Berlin) Herder
lean1ed from Hamann, namely that lmrds and ideas
are one.
Ha>ing s.eparated Herd er from the priva te \ingu
ist Condillac, can we say
that Herder inaug urate d the publicty of langu
age? He is comm only regarded a.> a prog enito r of the great Germ an philo
logical trad tion. lv!ay he
not aho have loo sed the bond s of the locke
an idea-ology and ts prvate
references of word.s? Yes, but he was not the first
nor did he do it thoroughly. Aarsleff ( quoti ng in part from anoth er
scholar) "Tite s of "Her der's
principie that each huma n being 'in the true meta
physical sense' speaks his
own language" (Aarsleff 1982, 344). Herder ma)'
not have learned quite a.s
much from Ham ann as Berln woul d have wshe
d. Ham ann had qualms
on this very point. His O'i..,1l published animadver
sions on Herder~s famous
prize essay on the origins of language can certa
inly be read as ,..,.-urries
about) amon g many other things, publicity.
Han1ann, at any rate, . ..,'aS
sure that in the true metaphysical sense no perso
n speaks his or her O"'~Nll
Role Models

Arou nd !800, give or take a few years, .something

funda ment al happ ened
to the wa)' in which we think abou t language. Chom
sk'y think s t was abad
thing. Berlin thinks it '~Nas a good thing. Foucault
thought it '"'as a remarkab\e thing. Aarsleff, the protessional, think s that
it did not happ en. The history of think ing abou t language was an enthu
siasm of Berln, Chomsky,
and Foucault, but it lj.",ra.s. incidental to their grand
er themes and greater en-


terprises. Al! three are pas.sionate abou t a big trans

ition , but are totally al
odds abou t its nature. Worse, when we call in an
expert, he po!emically denies that there was a significan t change at all. Wha
t is going on?
Aarsleff is partly defending his territ ory against
the incur sions of amateurs such as Chom sky and Berlin. The title of
his 1970 attack, "The History of lingui>tics and Profe.ssor Chornsk;-;" does
not belie its tone (Aarslett 1982). Chornsk-y, we are in effect told, rnade
a big mistake. There is no
su eh thing as Cartesian linguistics: there is only
a great locke an tradi tion
adop ted in France. And much later Aarsleff (1981
) samg ed Berln for failing to unde rstan d that the Gerrnans had merely
aped the French. Aarsleff's
fierce rebuttals conn ect him with two of our autho
rs. As for other pairings,
l think that Chomsly and Fouc ault never discu
ssed their opposed views
abou t 1anguage, but there s one remarkable
confr ontat on between the
two men. The tapie was not language, but justic
e and huma n nature.
Each hamm ed up the role of hims elf-F ouca
ult as manic post-i\Jaoist,
Chom sky as wrathful rationalist republican; Chom
sk-y as philosophe, Foucault as terro rist (Chomsky and Fouc<tult 1974
). Although the deba te had
nothing to do 1'1fith any1hing so rewndite as the
history of 1anguagc study,
it displays the politics that unde n,Tit es our autho
rs' analyses of Janguage.
For we are not talking here only abou t language,
but abou t high politics,
abou t the perso n and the state, abou t individual
rights, abou t the self, and
much else.
Chomsky's role as spokesman for egali tarian
ra tionaiism is. too ""Tell
knm{n to need elaboration here. The creative a.spec
t of language use, together "ith the innat e species-specific powers of
the huma n mind have, for
him, a deep poltica! significance. To think that
some thing so constitutive
of huma nity as language is merely embe dded
in cultures s to encourage
illiberalism and perha ps to invite despotism. Beca
use Foucault, at the time
of Les m ots et les choses and his later deba te with
Chomsky, had despaired
oflib eralis rn, only he, arnong our four autho rs,
is indifferent to the conn otations of theories of language for liberal values.
Aarsleff and Ber lin, both migrs, se e deep conn
ectio ns bel'Neen the theories and the values. E<tch, in hs \ciew of langu
age, s, like Chornsky, expressing his own profo undly held !iberalism. For
the Dani sh-bo rn expert,
the virtues are those of English tolerance, and lock
e is the man. For the assimilated Germ an Jew, the 'irtue s are !hose of refor
m durin g the early days
of Germ an liberal culture. The golden age of
Germany, lost so long ago,
was none other than the perio d when Harn ann,
Herder, and Hum bold t


Public Language

Historkal Ontology

could t1ourish. Berlin's Herder is the man -,.1,oho "prote.sts, not v.Tithout a certain malicious satisfaction (as Hamann also did, 'Lth equally ironical pleasure), that the great liberal Kant in his Anthropologie em phasized raee and
color too muchJ) (Berlin 1977~ 163). lt is not literally correct to say that
Hamann too was commenti ng on the Anthropo! ogie-it was published
so me time after Hamann' s death-bu t wha t Berlin meant is right. More
specifically, Berlin read Herder'.s comments on Je,..,.-s in an optimistic vmy
(pp. l:J.9f.), and never gave up his confidence in Herder's good -sense to the
end of bis life (cf. Berlin 1991). Singing the praises of Herder, Berlin is
honoring a larger set of values. Aarsleff, finding in Locke the fount of Jinguistic wisdom, knows that Locke hdped frame the legal basis within
which tokration can prosper, compared to which Berlin's nostalgia for
Herder seems idle sentiment. So the curious theme unde-rlying these diverse .s.tories i.s- less language than a celebration of, perceived
from different quarters. Each of our protagonists~ save Foucault, no liberal,
implies, "1 am more liberal than you, and my gnys are more liberal than
your guys."

A standard acrount of the study of language tells of the Romantic atti-

tude starting \..,.ith an aln1ost invisible Hamann profonndly int1uencing the

highly visible Herder. This attitude ', in turn, cast into institutional
form through the work of the Humboldt s. Aarsleff h81i rightl' insisted that
this version of history is manifestl' impoverish ed, if onl' because of the
immense amount that both Herder and Humboldt too k from their French
predecessor.s. and contemporaries. Hamann is not too promi.s.1ng a figure
for those of us Nho favor unequivocal statements over Yisions, douds of
erudition, and abrupt aphorisms. lf you becon1e captured by his more
t1amboyant prose, }'Our own becomes tinctured with it. Yet he had man' of
the t81ites of the rationalist that favor elegance of style and darity of exposition. After he had read Kant's !irst Critue, he wrote Herder: "Hume i>
alwa's my man" {B, 6: 187). He translated Hume's Dialogues Conuming
Natural RR!igion. Hio great admirer, Soren Kerkegaa rd,-unders tated the
number of Hamann's preserved vfords~ but the spirit of this note in one of
his journals is e_xactly right: "lust as Socrates left no books, Hamann left
only as muchas. the modern period's rage for '-"Titing made relatively neccssary, and furthermore only occasional pieces" (Kierkegaard 1989~ 435).
Thc only systematic vie..... of Hamann's work, by a flrst-class mind, was


written by Hegel in 1828 (Hegel 1956). lt accompan ied the publicatio n

during that decade of Hamann's works, many of l'PThich had not been
printed earlier. By Hegel's lights, Hamann was too dark, too obscure, despite t1ashes of brilliance. One can also sense that Hegel felt somewhat
threatened by Hamann's words. Those less scared have been, in their
m1m ,...,,ay-rs} more receptive: not just Berlin but Kierkegaard or Ger.s.hom
Scholem, cornmendi ng Hamann and his tradi tion to Walter Beniamin
(Benjamn 1966, 2, 526).
Hamann \'las a born-again Christian . ..,Those practices make little .s.ense in
our age~ 1r1rhich is so simplistic ""ith regard to religion. Here was a yormg
man who-afte r low lite in London, where he had been sent on a confidential commercia l 11li5sion by his prospective father-in-law, a powerful Baltic
merchaot, and where he had taken up with a lute player, found himselfbe trayed, mrvived a breakdown by stndying the Bible, and had experienced
an intense conversion to a per.sonal and fundamentalist Lutheran ismproceeded to write his fiance and her father in quite vivid detail about al\
that had happened: end of engagemen t. Shocked by his emotional and religious >tate and his indifference lo the values of reasonable analysis, his best
friend Berens (brother of the former fiance) arranged with Kant to try to
restore him to sound principies. The result l ...Tas a disastrous ,..,.-eekend a trois
that left Hamann unmoved. He was involved with God throughou t his lite.
But he would on occasion deny the immortali ty ofthe soul. He lived in domestic harmony with hi.s- common-Ia. . . .T"~Nife ""Thom he declined to marry
and who bore him four children. Ever Lutheran, he spent his last couple of
years in the intellectual company of Catholics, aod was buried in the Roman eh urchyard of .\! nster. He was explicit about physical se-'<, which he
identified with mystical union. Vastly franker in print than his peers, he
lj.muld yet . .,.in no admirer.s- from most sexual revolutionarie-.s- of recent
times and much contempt from many feminists. It is easy to read him as
e-,.en more anti-Semitic than most of his contemporaries: that is, profoundly absorbed in Hebrew history as revealed in the Bible, well aware of
cabalistic and talmudic wrting, but contemptu ous of most European I"'-''S
in his m'r'll time.


What can we Jeam from Hamann, the self-styled "Jv!agus of the North,"
about conception s of language? lt is useful to begin by pla;ing him off
against Kant, The two m en fo rm a paradoxical con trast of pub lic an d pri-


PubiPc Language

Historical Onto!ogy

vate. Kant was a very public personality, but founded bis philosophy on
privacy. Hamann \ms a very private man v.~hose -,.vorld 'i.oie\.,T was founded
u pon communi ty. Kant was the elder by SL'< years and outlived Hamann by
fifteen. The\' knew each other well, although toward the end Kant distanced himself. Hamann edited a good number of Kant's occasional pieces
andread the first Critique in proof, probably befare Kant himself. His short
essa)' about the great book was scathing, yet Hamann retained much respect and affection for Kant, whom he long called the "Prussian Hume."
"i\ly poor head is a broken pot compared to Kant's-earthenware against
iron" (B, 5:108). :.lo one will disagree.
Kant was Enligh tenment, Hamann its opposi te, but it is not the tag that
counts. However much we tend to think of Kant as dr), withered, obsessiw, Kant was a truly public man. He attracted large audiences and, in the
Anthropologie and els.e,-~,here, \..Trote meticulously about hm1. to arrange the
best dinner parties, where all the news of the world would be exchanged
before mming to the later stages of fri,olity. But Kant's philosophy is
founded u pon priva()', quite as m ueh as that of Descartes or lDcke or
Leibniz. A per.s.on is an ego wi th a buzzing seq uence of .s.ense im pressions
and thoughts. Hence arises the challenge of discovering a basis for objectivity. Throughout Kant's final work, we find the same solution for the natural and the moral sciences: one's ,iudgment mmt be the judgment of e''ef)'
ra tional man, when placed in the s.ame circums.tances. In our knm..vledge of
the world, we obtain objectivi ty beca use of certain precondi tions for experience in space, tinte, and causality sub.stance, and the like; in the moral
reahn, we attain obj ecti'i ty by willing (as noumenal private agen ts) lo will
onlywhat we would wish any other like being to will. The voice of reason is
the voice of standardization and of public norms. These are required by a
self whose essence is private, an e.s.sence ~..Those objectivity is as.s.ured only
by "the transcendental unir, of apperception" acrording to which every
thought is accompanied by the thought, "1 think this:'
Kant's attempts to solve the prob\em of public objectivity gave him a
metaphysics, an epistemology, an ethics, anda theory of the state. Hamann
did not have Kant's problems. He thonght that there is no such thing as a
person except ..,..,rhat is constituted in a social setting, characterized by a
unique h~<toricallanguage. Language is essentially public and shared; it is
prior to the individuation of one's se\ f. For Kant, the "1 think" had to accompany every thought in order for there to exi.s.t an objective and continuous 'T': for Hamann, there is- an 'T' only in lingui.s.tic communities,


where, as a child becomes tormed publicly within a language, the ob,iective

and con tinuous "I," su eh as it is, comes into being.
One 's self is constitu ted ;,i!hin a society and a language. Hamann did
nol infer that there is an unchanging and irre,ocable linguistic frame;,mrk.
On the con trary, it is Kant who req uires the standardized language, for
<>ithout that, the world dissolves into solipsism.
His whole philosophy was founded npon lhe classical notion of the prvate ego, so he had lo comtruct a theory of shared judgmen lo in order to
assure any objectivity for the person at all. Haruann, taking for granted a
self that is comtituted in the public world of language and social intercour.s.e, was empov.:ered to become a thoroughly private figure. For Kant
the obiectivity of the self was always in principie threatened and so required a metaphysical toundation. For Hamann, there was no threat and
no foundation. He was a person from the very fact that he spoke. He did
not need to be obeisanl to public guarantees of obiectivity became there
was no need of guaran lee. He could afford to make fun of !he pu blic. In
1759 he stated on the tille page of his Socratc Memombilia tha t they are
"Compiled for the Boredom of the Public by a Lover of Boredom, with a
Double Dedication to 1\"obody and to Two." The two are Hamann's litelong
friends Berens and Kant, who had tried to restore him lo Enlightenment
conventions. The work is dedicated as well to the public, that is, to nobody
( H-rke; henceforth IV 2:59, cf. O'Flaherty 1967).

Fl as hforwa rd
There is much in common between today's analytic philosophy and the
projects of enlightened Europe from the time of Hobbes to that of Kant.
l've taken as premise that there is one radical difference. Aside from those
influenced by cognitive science, .,, think that there could be a printe language. There may be as many version.s of this idea as there are v..idely read
philosophers. That ''ogue owes nothing to Hamann, Herder, or Humboldt,
nor e\'en {despite "the priva te language argumenfl) to a present enthusiasm for \Vittgenstein. It is a common enough comp la in t "abo ut many contemporary American philosophero that they appear never to have read
Wittgenstein" ( Dummett 1991 , xi).
Language, 1 claim, went public al the time of Haruann, but the present
analytical enthusiaom for the publicity of language may have quite different moto. As Victoria .'v!cGeer has pointed out lo me, there may be various


HLstori cal Onto~ogy

was lo go public, one of which stems from Kant. The theory

of shared
j udgme nts was b oth essen ti al to and novel in Kan t's philoso
phy of ob jectivity. That leads to the concep tion that what i5 asserted must
be public in
order to be object ive--a n idea quite alen lo Hama un. This,
perhap s, is the
kind of public ity that has been made a comm onplac e of the
analytic philosophers. lt follows that answe rs to the question, "what are
the roots of a
modem analytic enthus iasm for the public ity of language?"
may be entirely differen t, and vastly more Kantia n, than m y ans'i...Ter to
m y title question.
If one '""'ere to pursue this t hough t, one migh t better unders tand
lNhy the
moder n analytic ''Kantians.~' are so at odd.s- about -,.that ''the
priva te language argum ent" is. \Vittgenstein's argum ent may lie -.. . ithin
a vision of
\angua ge and the soul that shares much with Hama nn. lt
s preocc upied
not with reason , not 'i...ith object i,;t)', but, in the end, vth
\Vhat it is to be a
person . That is not to den)' that Wittge nstein has matter ed
to the analysts.
One paradoxical effect of his work has been to depoliticize the
idea oflan
guage as essentiall' public Language becom es regard ed asan
abstrae ! phe
nomen on. One need not beco me involved in practica! conseq
uences of the
idea: hence {perhaps) it> backg round appeal to analytic philoso
phy. \Vriting about language as sorne sort of abstra ct entity has made
it po&-s.ible to
leave aside questio ns about .,..,,,.hat it is to be a person in
a comn1unity.
Hence questio ns about the soul, and person al identity, have
contn ued lo
be discussed in very much the manne r of the Enligh tenmen
t. Anal)1ic phi
losoph y found thereb' a protec tve screen ing from other >trand
s of con
tempo rary philos ophica l though t. lt s as if Wittge nstein vaccin
ated analytic philos ophy against more radical transfo rmatio m: by
gviug us the
cow-p ox of public langua ge, he left the rest of our const tuton
Pure Reaso n and lts C rl tique
Hama nn '-Hote se\'eral pieces on Kant's first Cririque. One
is a "}-letacriticue of the Purism of Reaso n; of 1784. This title s typical
ly packed
with allusions. The metacritique is not just "about a critiq_
ue"-in it
Hama nn used the word '~metaschematism" both ....."'ith referen
ce to Kan
schem atism, and with reference to Paul's Epistle ( l Cor. 4:6),
a pun that
takes severa! pages to elucidate (Cnge r 1911, 501-50 5). Thewo
rd "puri>m"
in the title is of Haman n's invent ion (Purb--mwn). lt has conno
tations of
the purity of reason. But) as he wrote to his friend and Kanfs
critic Jacobi)

Public Langu age


"With me it is not so much the questio n, What is reason? but

rather, What
is language"? (B 3'294, Smth 1960, 249).
It is significan! that Hama nn begim this piece with a paragr
aph about
Berkeley and Hume . ,-ot any Berkeley, not any Hume . He writes
of Berkeley on abstrac t ideas, and of Hume saying that Berkeley's proof
that there
are no ab.stract ideas is one of the greatest and most valuable
discoveries of
the day. Assuredly, Berkele)' and Hume were prvate linguis
ts, but they
abando ned on e co re tenet of LockeJ the prh;-ate reference of
genera l 1m rds
to abstra ct ideas in the rnind. There are no abstrac t ideas to
refer to. Hov.
then do genera l 1vords succeed in referri ng to more than one
entity? \Ve11)
'""'e so use them. ''The third} chiet~ andas it "~Nere empirical purism concerns
language, the only, the first and the last orgauo n and criterio
n of reason ,
with no other credentials but traditi on and usage (IV 3:284,
Smith 260).
That doctrin e Hama nn attribu tes, uot to Berkeley or Hume
, but to the
po et Edv.Tard Young: "langu age, the organo n and criteri on
of reason) as
Young says. Here is to be found pure reason and its critique"
(B, 5:360). Or,
more bluntly with reference to pure reason: '~All chatte r about
reason is
pure ""ind: language is its organo n and criterio n, as Young
Saj"'S. Tradit ion
is its second elemen t" (B, 5:108).
Hama nn can evidentJy be made to come out sound ing like \\Tittg
what with language having no credentials but traditi on and
usage, and
v.ith "the whole of philos ophy is gramm ar." That way lies
anachr onism
and would betray a compl ete incom prehen sion of what Wittge
nstein did
teach. One nevertheJess recognizes a kindre d spirit in the matter
of 'i:'l.riting. We would not be astonis hed to find in notes for the
Tractatus Hamann)s gentle saying, "the more one considers Janguage the
deeper and
more inward is one's dumbn ess and loss of all desire to speak"
( H' 3:28.':t,
Srnith 216).
Kant pro'i.ided a critiqu e of pure reas.on in arder to vindic ate
reason by
preser ving it agaillst its excesse.s.. Hama nn is dismis.s.ive of reas.on
, not necessari1y beca use he wants us. to be unreas onable , but becaus
e all the certainty that is attribu ted lo reason is to be fo trnd onl y in the
language u sed
to reason . This applies even lo mathe matics , which Kant took
so seriom ly
and to which Hama nn was indifferen t. Kant had a brillia nt explan
a tion for
the mathe matica l rigor he so much admire d. Arithn1etic and
geome try are
not merely the glories of reason but, as the synthe tic a priori
laws of the
pure concep ts of space and time, are precon ditions for possib
le knowledge
of the world. Haman u? "lf mathe matics is noble, then it should
give way to

138 Ontology

Public Language

the instinct of insects" (\-\; 3:28 5). So m u eh for the synthetic a priori. He
was hardly one to be moved by mathema tica\ argumen t, but he hada con
sidered view of apodictic certainty and a priori knowledge, and of the experience of discovering geometrical proofs that has so impres.sed mathematical minds from Plato to the present. Han1ann's 'iew anticipates the
opinion made popular by the Vienna Cirde, largely ac<uired from \\'ittgenstein's Tractatus: "The who\e certainty of mathema tics depends upon
the nature of its language" (B, 5:360).
Li ng ui stic \de a\ ism

Hamann called himself a philologue and also a verbalist. His phi\ology

was not that which was emerging at the famous philologica\ seminar at
Gttingen (Hoffman 1972). His was an older seme of the word, that of
]ohn the Evangelist. He was a lover of lagos. Referring once again to the
organon and criterion of reason he wrote~ '-'"\Vithout \mrds) no reason) no
vmrld. Here i.s the source of all creation and order!n {B, 5:95}. This is a
characteristic sen ten ce that lo ok> two was. 1 shall try lo indica te the directions.

One is what 1 would call backwards, although another sensibility would

take Hamann' s words differently. "Speech is tramlation---<>ut of angel
speech, that is thoughts. into words-t hings into names-f orms into signs"
(H-; 2:199). "This kiud of translatio n is ... analogous more than anything
else to the reverse side of a tapestry ('and shows the stuffbut not the workman's skill')? (\\-; 3:287). ln the celebrated debates on the orign of language, and in particular in criticism of Herder~s tamous essay on the tapie,
he held that there is no such thing as a question ahout how language carne
into being. .,-luch la ter, Humbol dtwould rather somberly state that the archetype oflangua ge had lo be alreadyp resent in the human soul. That's di
luted Hamannism, not innate General Grammar. Hamann more dramatically thought, like the Evangelist, oflangua ge and the world as coming into
being together. The bacb.,Tard-pointing Renaissance version of this is the
idea that God created man and language ~ovhen the , .,mrld . . . .~as created~ or
short\y thereafter, w:ith the words being true sgns both of the things and of
Adan ideas of the things, "\l!hich are, in turn, true ideas of God's creation

of the things.
The forward-looking version of Hamann (sar ], with distorting hindsg h t) was al together differen t. It was <ni te properl' called "verba\ism" hy


Harnann hinlselt There is nothing, neither substance nor form, "~thout

language. That is a kind of linguistic ideafum that has heen common
enough in our century. 1 introduce d this phrase "linguistic idealism" as a
name for the extraordi nary idea that nothing exists unless it has been spoken about (Hackiug !975b, 182). To paraphra se Berkeley, "to be is to be
mentioned." As 1 said at the time, the phrase "linguistic idealism" is a bit
of a solecism, since '"'idealism" is the doctrine that nothing exists except
ideas---ideas in the sense of Locke, that is, ideas in the sense of the
ido/ogue>. A correct and parallel formation, and better na me than "!inguistic idealism," would be "lingualism." The phrase "linguistic idealism"
was soon used to good effect, but with a slightly different meaning, by Eliz
abeth Anscom be (197 6), and has sinee be en picked u p by a number of
>H!ers, including Hilary Pu tnam. Perhaps Hamann was the first lingualist,
or linguistic idealist.
According to Hamann, the fable of the first naming is nsunder stood.
There \{ere not things _, to l'rThich name,s; . .,rere then attached by God or m .a n.
lndividua ted things are there only when there are words to describe them.
_:. . .loremrer1 these lmrds are not the pri'i.oate artifact of sorne Enlighten ment

Adam, discoursing within his soul. They are the words of what is to be the
first human community. "ln the language of every people we find the history of the same)'' not _iust because there are traces in the language of the
history but because there is no people aside from historical language (B,

In short, langnage for Hamann is profound ly nonrepresemative. lt is the

exact opposite to what was claimed by the linguistic theories of the Enlightenmen t. Language is crea tive; to i t we mve the existence.s. and structures that popula te our wor Id versions. Thank> to language alone do we
have the forrns and logic tha t we cal\ reasoning. Moreover, by an apparen t
circularit y tha t Harnann found totally un problema tic, this language, which
is creative) has its existence and regularity only lAi thin tradi tion and use.
The human being who would be an original is not the one who has a grea t
priva te thought within hin1 that he then makes public. The original is the
one who can change the very language tha t we share, in which we think,
and which is our commun al Yersion of the world, both inner and outer.

Night Though ts on f'JI1ilology


Night Thoughts
on Philology

The title of this short piece atiudes to Ed'i.,oard Yormg's long

poem, Night
Thot~ghts (1743-1743), and als.o to the circwnstance that, like chapter 7, it
was written overnight to fill a space in History of the Present, a
quarterly nev.--sletter for fans. of 1-iichd Foucault. Here 1 complai
ned that
Foucault, ,..,Tho ,.,,a.s so keen on dating ru ptmes in thought , 'i.las not
so rdiable
'iNhen it comes to eas.ily checkable dates. Yet at in this (ase,
grander thesis about the natme of the change from
grammar to
philolog y still seems to me sound. The original version of thes.e

condud ed v.-.i_th .several pages on Hamann, the substance of which

v.--as. later
incorporated into chapte-r B-, and 'Nhich ha-...--e been deleted here. when
published, the paper had the dedication, "For ,.r, l. B. Bopp of Columbia,
S. C." The page references in the te-::ct are to The arder of Things

Thc Ord~r afThings is, among many other things, a story of abrupt tramitions in what is said. One of these breaks, for whose description Foucau
lt is
rightly admired, is a matter oflanguage. General Gramm ar became philology. langua ge ceased to be the double meam of representation: double
because 'i.mrds and sentences. -,.vere thought of as representing ideas and
mental diswur se, and a t the same ti m e a.> able to represen! things and
With the advent of philology, language was no longer studied primar
ily as
a s;'Stem of repres.entation. Individuallanguage.s were treated as hi.storic.
entities, and the focus of attention ,..,--as grammar and vmrd formati

Comparative, rather than general, gramm ar became the arder of the

This happened "early in the nineteenth centur y-at the time of [Friedr
ich 1
Schlegel's essa on the language and the philosophy ofthe lndians (!SOR),


[Jacob] Grimm's Deutscl1e Grarnmatik (1818} and [Franzj Bopp's book

the wnjunc tion of Sanskrit (1816)" (p. 282).
As is well known, Fouca ult described this m utation as one mem ber
a trio, in which lite, labor, and language carne into being as objects
thought. Yet it is language that stands out in Fouc.ault's account. There
several plain reasons for this. One is that at the time the book was being
written, ianguage "'~Nas the pre~eminent profes.s.ed interest of Foucault
indeed of tout Paris . .A.nother is that it is l'.'ithin a certain recent concep
oflangu age that Foucault frameo the res! of The Order o_f Things. A third
that the events. concerning language ,.,rere and are still far less familiar
those connected with life and labor. We all knew that life and labor
been transformed conceptually, for we knew about Damin and l\-!arx,
even if Cuvier and Ricardo were not quite household names, they
hardly unknown to the general reader. But who was Grimm (1785--1863)
except a maker of dictionaries anda brother who collected tairy tales?
on earth was Bopp? The answer to the latter question, to be gleaned
from thorou gh reference books, is that Bopp (1781-1867) wrote, {or
example, A Comparative Gramm ar of Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Iatin, Litlwanian, O Id Ch 11rch Slavonic, Go thic and Germa n, la ter turn ing his a
tten tion
to A.lbanian, Ce! tic ''owel systems, i\.Jalay, and Polynesian. That is not
stuff of which fashionable texts are made, or which resonates in the minds
of the young.
It was all the more a.>tonishing, then, that Foucault could rnake
a tour de
force out of his discussion of Grimm and Bopp, and tell us, for e.'G!mpl
that the transition effected in their work made literature possible. lt
they who marked the threshold between "our prehistory and what
is still
contemporary" (p. 304)--<me of Foucault's reformulations of what
more comrnonly calls ''dassicism and modem ity" and v. ,hat is more
though t of as a transition between the Enlightenment and the Roman
lt was of wurse part of Fouca ult's strategy to expel those dichd
from intellectual history, to make us think not about the celebrated
Romantics, but the utterly unroma ntic-so unding Grimm and Bopp. Yet
he found it necessary to add that Wilhelm von Humbo ldt was "not merely
Bopp's contemporary; he knew his work well, in detail" (p. 290). The point
was that Humbo ldt might be taken (although by only the most casual
readers) to stand for the ''ery opposite of what we think of as philology,
because he exhibited "the tendency to attribute to language profound powers
of expression." Foucault might, at this }uncture, have been a trifle more


N ight Thought.s on Philoiogy

Historkal Ontology


plicit. lt is stretching our modern use of the term to call Bopp the con-

Foucau\t's distinctio n are sound; it is a point about syllables and roots and

Humboldt"s support enabled Bopp lo get the chair of Sanskrit in Berlin in

1821. Humbold t ma); for sorne, be the paradigm of the Romanti c e:x-pressionis~ but hi:S- final~ his most energetc, and in the opinion of many, his
greatest 'i.'Wrk, is. built around a .s.tudy of certain Pol~lnesian language.s.) using, among other tools, sorne principles of Bopp'.s (Humbol dt 1988). The
latter repaid the complim ent, turning his attention to i\lalayan/Polynesian

the dating.

temporar y of Humbold t, 14 years his senior~ ......~hich is rele;lant because

langnages after Humbold t' s de ath.

1n \..,That follmvs 1 want to emphasi-ze the connectio n beD....,een grammar

and romantici-sm) and to turn attention to, for a chief example, aman who

died befare Bopp was born. This is to cal\ in question Foucault'.s implication of a sharp break between the old general grarnmar and the new philology, one that too k place w:ithin the stated timespan of books by Friedrich
Schlegel (1808) and jacob Grinnn (1818). Al the time that he wrote The
Order of Things, Foucault was rather keen on precisely dated discontinuit:ies in thought and speech: a decade, in this case 1808-18, was just what
he liked to find. Now this procedur e has beeu amply criticized b historians of ideas, who tend to notice long spans of time and fairl uniform evo\ution. That is nota camp to which l wish to belong, orto which 1 can be
accused of b elongiug, for nothing could be m u eh more coupure- oriented
that m y own Ernergence of Pro babi!i ty (Hacking 19 75a), "i th its daim tbat
our ideas of probability brusquel y entered human \ife and practice about
1630. Here 1 shall urge onl that now Foucaul picture of the philological
revolution is firmly in place in the miuds of his readers, it can be enriched
by eoni uring up a longer period of time. lv1ore im portantly, what ha ppens
within that longer period is profound ly importan ! to the very break in
thought about which Foucault wrote, and helps to tmdersta nd not on\y the
pro>.imate causes of the break, but also ts longstand ing effects that still act
strongly, silently but blindiugly, when we tr' to think about language.
:.\'Iy case in no way rest.s. upon idios)ncr asies of dating to be found in

The Order of I1ng5. But 1 should remark them, in arder to e\'ade sorne
straightforuard rebuttal that would merely re-cite severa! pages of that
book. Thus, for a moment Foucault nods in the direction of those who
would argue that Bopp and Schlegel are leso inaugura tors than participa nts
in an ontlo'i.-....-ffig process of change . He w-rite.s. of "\~.rhat di:S-tinguis.hes the
analyses of Scblegel and Bopp from those that may perhaps have seemed to
anticipate them in the eighteenth century" (285, n34). The grounds of

the formatio n of sense. 1 want

merely~ fOr a moment, to can attention to

Schlegel's "date" for an essay on the language and philosophy of the Indians (from the subconti nent, not America, by the way) wa.s given as 1808.
)low the contrasting reference for eighteenth-century1\rriters, from note 34

just cited, is 1798: a work published in London in that year by john Hume
Tooke, with the title On the Study ofLanguage. When the cla:im to "eighteenth-centuryl'll'iter.s."tums out to be 1798, one may admire the audacit;-~

of the daim to a break between 1798 and 1808 (Schlegel).

Cnfortun atelyther e is no such book of 1798. There is a tamous book on
the study of language by John Horne Tooke (1736--1812); the second edition, in two volumes, had its firstvolu mepublis hed in 1798, under the tille
EIIEA ffiEPOE NTA or, the Diversians of Pur!ey: the second volume
was published in 1805. The first volume is a minor revision of the first edition, of 1786; the second published in 1805 is new. Horne Tooke had not
been idle in !he years between the two volumes. He had to stand tria! in
1796 for High Trea.son; the second ;'Oiume is dedicated to the named
twelve members of the ,iury that acquitted him and thereby made that volume possible. When one reflects that Schlegel's 1808 book on ludia wa.s,
on all accounts, largely compose d in Pars m 1802, the sharp datings do
not look so good. Nor do they when we find that Grimm's Deutsche Grammatik, given as 18!8, appeared in 1819, and that virtually everything Fouc.ault ascribes to Grimm is from the second and entirely rewTitten edition
of !he work, whose first volume appeared in 1822, and whose four volumes
took 15 years to complete. All of which is nit-picki ng at its worst, were
it not for my incidental purpose of remindin g ourselves that Foucault's
picture of clean sharp dates and decades is rather tidier than the record
The precediug paragrap h does not pul in question Foucault's majar !heses, but makes one look more closdy at his. dates. 1\'ot only Horne
Tooke no wri ter who began in 1798: sorne work in his vol u me of 1786 had
been published tvm decades earlier under the tille of '~.\, Letter to [I.Ir.
Dnnning," and he assures us that "all that l hm'e farther to commun icate
on the sub,iect of Language, has been arnongst the papers in my closet,"
when the man was thirty years of age-176 6 {Tooke 1798, 74). Borne

Tooke lj.'r"aS eminend y a lj.'r"Titer of the eighteenth century~ confinnin g Foucaulfs mention of eighteent h-centur y ;,.1:riters far better that the mis.Jeading

144 Ontology

footnote 34. Yet putting Horne Tooke's writngs back to 1766 or so makes
less compelling the talk of a mutation ocwrring precise! during the second decade of the nineteenth century: And Foucault does make somethng
of ,iust that periodization, stating that the break creating "the new philolog" (285) o ccurred substan tially later than that for biolog and poltica!

If one finds the periodizatiou to be less sharply defmed, une crea tes a
space for other texts which shift the way in which one should think of "the
new philolog." First a word on how Horne Tooke does contras "ith Bopp
or Grimm. The man is not uninteresting, quite aside from the vagarie.s. of

bis public life. He aimed at rewriting Locke in terms of etymolog. He accepted that we m ay begin by thinking tha t words are sgns for things or
signs for ideas. Bu t it has be en supposed that ea eh word must haYe a grammar corresponding to the nature of the mental operation or event (idea),
or to the thing to ,..,Thich it corresponds, or -,..,,rhich it represents. The error
.....Tas to fail to notice that most vwrds are abbre,.riations for other tmrd.s;
most words are "the signs of other words" (Tooke 1798, 26). "The tirst aim
of language ' to commw-cate our thoughts.: the .second to do it .....ith

dispatcli' (ibid.). And each language eflects its "abbreviations" differently.

When the penny finally drops, the interlocutor says, "! thought we were
talking uf Universal Grarnmar" (46); to which it is replied that we are; certain features are necessar for alllanguages, but a stud of how words get
their signification cannot be conducted .;;.:unles..s you confine it to sorne par-

ticular language ,,ih which 1 arn acquainted" (415-47). Our work is l_:niversal, only in the sense that the principies with which we work on English,
Gothic, or Greek "ill app !y universally." The princip les concem the historical study of_ hn....y -,.vords carne, in the long pas.t of ours and other lan-

guages, lo stand for the longer sequences of words of which they are abbreviatons. Kote that in this methodolog there is an implicit standard of
lnguistic appraisal, for the bes! language is une that communicates its abbreviatiom of other words with greatest "dispatch." 'c>Nords ha''" been
called winged: and they well deserve that name when their abbreviations
are com pared with the progress which speech would make withou t these
inventiom; but compared with the rapidicy of thought, they have not the
smallest daim to that title" (28). The rnetaphor of language and Hermes, the winged me&senger, is an oid one. Horne To oke' s ti tle EITEA
TITEPOEN TA is even more the Greek of Augustine England than of Athens. lt mean.s. '\..,yinged words.n The frontis.piec.e of volume 1 is an androgynou~ Hermes tying the .....yings on his heels.

Night Thoughts on Philorogy


There is a certain arnbivalence in Hume Tooke, between the priva te and

public nature of language. Language is to communicate thought, which
runs far faster than speech. The study of thought, of what Hobbes called
mental dis.course, would then seem a fit and proper one, as for all other
'Writers on language during the Enlightenment. Do we not demand a theory of the rnind and its relation to language? N o, we are told (51 ): "The
business of the mind, as fur as it concems Language, appears to me to be
very simple. It extends no further than to receive lmpressions, that is, to

have Serua tions of Feelings. 'Wha t are called its operations are merely the
operations of Language. From the consideration of ideas the mind, or
things, we at most get sorne clues to the nouu, nothing else. lt appears,

then, that language has been extenwlized. By this 1 mean the following. In
the aassical theory of representation, language is first of allsomethin g interna!, \\yhich can then be used to cDmmunica te vd th other.s, to transfer
thoughts in my mind to yours. Horne Tooke still believes this is the pri-

mary purpose of language, but there is nothing peculiarly mental or private about language. Language appears to be pnblic and historical, and the
origin of ideas, a la Locke, lli nothing more than the origin of word.s in the
evo lu tion of particular languages.
These many paragraphs of mine rnay make a little more plain the half
paragraph of Foucault to which they refer, and which cites Home Tooke,
\Vhy is it that the author of "\'l~nged Words" may only "have seemed to
anticipa te" Bopp and Schlegel? Do es he not anticipare, in that he is turning
the theory of ideas into etymology? Does he no! anticipare by beginning to
shred the whole doctrine of inner representation, replacing it with the
study of public language? The point, for Foucault, is now not the mere
historicizing of language, but the study of historicallanguages as complex
grammatical structures. Etymolo gy or ,..,.~ha t we might call compara tive
word-study; does not mark the decisive transition. lnstead, it is comparative grammar. That is not par! of a theory of signs at al!, whereas Horne
Tooke is propounding 'o\'hat is, in effect, a nei:l.' variant on an old theory of
signs. Compara tive grammar is conce-rned vth the way in which internal

strnctures of the word and of the en tire sentence are guided and moditied
by rules for language change--regardless of that for which the word or the
sen te-n ce is a sign.

It is one among many consequences of this ne\o\ perspective that no lan-

guages are better or worse than others. Hence the genuine lack of condescension in examining the languages of isolated, "primi tive," or (\mdvi-

lized" peoplcs. Their languages are objects exactly in the \vay in "..,.~hich thc

146 Ontolo gy

\anguages of mainst rearn Europe or of the high ancien t civiliz

ations of the
Orient are obj ects. 1\ioreover, a certain relativity abo ut the ver
y aims of a
conversation are implied. Horne Tooke could compa re differe
nt languages
in terms of the "dispatch" with which they wuld comm unicat
e. But that
assumes. that speakers of all languages. -,.vant to communicat
e the same
things. What is dispatch for one comm unity may be tardiness
for another.
Snch contra sts betwe en !he new philology and !he old confum
the exactness of Foucault'.s observations, a.side from the trifling matter
of dating.
l drew attenti on to the dating only to make room for the possib
lity that
the new philology has a longer and denser history !han that
implie d by
Foucault's propos ed decade, 1808-1 818.
A new philo!ogy implies an old one. What was thatl Kot necess
arily one
thing. Phiwlogy, the !ove of words, was a neolo gism or reviva!
in tended to
contrast 'i.'P'th pJlosophy, the lo ve of \.,isdom. There must
be as. many v. ay"""S
to !ove words asto !ove wisdom. The word "philology" quickl
y acqnired a
numbe r of fairly spedal ized senses. One of these, well suited
to my purposes, may be illustra ted by work of 1. !vi. Chladenius (1710-1749). Hith-

erto obscure, he has attracted sorne attention by those lookin

g for precursors or originator.s. of the hem1eneutic tradition. It is not,
I think~ an

attenti on that he desenes, but here 1 attend only to the role that

he ascribes
to the philologian, !he man he cal\s Philologus.
Chladenius's phllologian is one of four partne rs who share
!he task of
makin g intelligible a difficult tn1:. A "te:;,.-," it is to be nnders
tood, is the
physical object or its transc ription left behind by an ancien t
author ; fhis is
the traditi onal usage of "textu al critids m" as oppos ed to that
recently fashionable parlance in whicb almos! anythi ng comes out as a
text. The first
partne r in making sense of a text is, indeed, called the critic. The
task of the
critic is to restare, as best he can, the text of the author)
for 'iNe typically
have oul an object with gaps, wrrup tions, the erasures of time.
After the critic has done hi;; job, we have the bes! available sequen
ce of
complete sentences. The next task i;; to wnstr ue the gramm
ar of the bes!
tn1:. T1ris is the task of the philo\ogian. The implie d picture
5 familiar l
anyone 'i..,Tho has found it necessary to read sorne material in
a language
whose words are dimly familiar (:l'orwegian, say); having looked
up the
1rmrds in a dictionary) one may .....Tell be unable to unders.tand
any of the interesting sentences for lack of follm,ing the gramm ar. Philow
gus i;; called
for. /ter the philologian has done his job, two kinds of obscur
ity remain.
There is the relatively uninteresting one, that sorne ,..,.Tords ma)'
be ambigu-

Night Thoughts. on Philolo gy


ous. Then there i;; the relatively interes ting one, that someh ow
the te;c1: that
we are nml able toread) in the most elemental sen.s.e, ,..,te still do
not understand. Chladenius' approa ch to this last proble m has sugges
ted to sorne
that he is addressing the proble m of moder n herme neutic s.
1 follow Robert Leventhal ( 1986) in fhe above exposition,
and aho in
his argument that Chladenius was nota precun;.or of herme
neutics. For
Chladenius had the standa rd Enligh tenme nt view that words
are the expression of inner discou.rse) andas he sa'i:'{ the problem, the CDncep
ts, in the
mind of the writer, may be inadequately expressed in the words
that he has
u sed. So fhe task of fhe fourth and partne r of interpr etation
is to construct concepts that adequately ret1ect the mind of the >Hiler.
The writer,
far from bcing the historical person age of fhe hermeneuticists,
is a timeless
mind, or ego) of the Enlightenment, one whose concepts may
be inadequately eA""Pres.s.ed by his .t.,ords_ The 'i:\'ords are detective signs
of ideas: in
short, 1,-ve are in Foucault's '(Classical" epoch_, not the moder
n one 'i.{here
language is public and words gel their sense in the public dornai
Chladenius is not definil\'e of "the old philology" (as if there
were one
such thing): he is rnerely illustrative. The !ove of words has
become specific. The philologiau is an applied gramm arian. That is impor tan(.
fm the
lover of vwrds might have remained merely a lover of the
ancient aufhors or of scripture. Instead, he became the gramm arian of typical
ly dead
tongues, and made possible the characterization of Bopp and
Grirnm as
philologians. But this was only the slightest and most terrnin
ological of
steps towards the new philology. For Chladenius, the _iob of philolo
gy is to
parse the te>.1: recons tructed by the textual critic. The parsin g
is not in itself
an object of study. For Bopp and Grimm , the structu res as objects
of study
are exactly those that possibleJ and \' history
is the topic
of philology.
l have been saying that the ""ending of Foucault's span of dates
makes a
space for more events in the creatio n of the new philolo gy than
he allows
for. l ha>ce now ""':plained at sorne length his brietly noted contra
s! worth
calling a dh~de between an old and a new philology. lt is now
my turn to
introduce some ne....,T clas.s. of events and distinctions, consistent
'i.'..rith my (I
hope) sympathetic expansion of Foucault, but also supple menta
ry to it.
KaturaJly, there are many e'i.~ents frorn v.Thich to choose. 1 .....iU
fi."X on sorne
that connect . ..., th.e previous chapter, and ,.vhich center on cranky
eccentric ,..,,hom I jntroduced there, J. G. Hamann. I do so 'i.'\'ith
a vie1V- to
restoring a connection betl{een the .s.o-called Romantic movem
ent in liter-

l4S Ontology

ature, and the new philology. Foucault wanted to sever that connection
and pul all the action in philology, so that we would see the grammarians
Bopp and Grimm as the pro geni tors o f wha t we now call "litera ture" itself.
:\ty choice of entry is old-fashioned. Standard accounts of the emergence of the Romantic theory of language and literature accent, among
others, the 3 H's of the previous chapter, Hamann (173(}--1788\ Herder
(1744-1803), and Humboldt (1767-1835}. Even Foucault, we noticed,
thought it prudent to mention that Humboldt was well acquainted with
Bopp's work. One of his motives was to connect that Romantic student of
far-flung languages, namely Humboldt, to the supposedlc dry and pedantic scholar of comparative grammar, namely Bopp. lt was as if he expected
the general reader to take it for granted tha t Hu mb oldt was a key player in
the emergence of romanticism, while Bopp was the ver y oppo site of all
that .....Te understand by ""Romantic'': a student of &}''Ilta..'{.
What 1 take to be the standard view shows Hamann int1uencing Herder,
who led on to Humboldt. This version ofhistory is impoverished (as Ham
Aarsleff has insisted), if only beca use of the immeme amount of material
that Herder and Humboldt took from their French predecessors and contemporaries. But l want again to draw attention to the fust of the three.
1 certainly do not claim Hamann as a precursor of Bopp, or as someone
who anticipated the new philology or hermeneutics. Volker Hoffman
(1972) describes him as "between" what he calls encyclopedic micrology
and hermenentics. (He examines Hamman's intellectual relationship to
Chladenius on pp. 154--160.) Hermeneutics, as l~vantha! ( 1986) shows,
has other roots. Here we should think of Hamann rather as a philosopher
of language who is. one of the progenitors of the Romantic movement.
For all the importance of theories imported from France for German ret1ection.s on language, Hamann's own lines of filiation are Britis.h, not
French. Recall from chapter 8 that he actively hated French. beca use, as
Frederick the Great's civil servan!, he toiled in a bureaucracy that had to
draw up its reports using that alen tongue. Hamann's anglophilia is no
snrprise. He had spent a remarkable year of his youth in London; he translated Hume's work on natural religion. His highest praise for Kant was
to call him "the Prussian Hume." i\nd he had another model, not Scots
this time but English. Not philosophy hut poetry. 1 mean Edward Young
Young was a London dramatist whose fame was made by Night Thoug!m
011 Life, Death and Immartality ,, Ni>1e Nighi:S----'1 poem in nine parts and

NFght Thoughts on PhFiology


sorne 6,900 lines of blank verse that were published between 1742 and
1745. The fines! edition, of only the first four nights, appeared in 1797,
with 537 small but superb illmtrations by William Blake (Young 1975).
Kow, 1 suppose, the poem is never read though often quoted. ("Procrastination is the thief of time," and so on) But beware, author and reader, of
'i.{hat Young says in another poem, Lave of Farne:

Sorne for renm..ll, on scraps. of learning dote,

And think tbey grmv immortal as they quote.

Night Thoughtswas inspired by the death ofYonng's stepdaughter in 1736,

her hmband in 1740, and the poet's wife in 1741. 1t began with The Complaint and ended ;;ith The Cansalation. Ivlournful stuff, but it captured the
imagination of many, including Hamann, ,.,.Tho at the age of 22 '"''as there in
London to revel in it half a dozen -years a:fter its publication. Hamann ,...,.as
not the only German lo be moved. The poem carne to have a far larger
readership in Germany !han in England ( Bamstorff 18 95, Kind 1906). But
Hamann himself was able to say that he knew not how much he had
learned from Young, perhaps everything.
One of the thing.s he learned from Young was the possihility and value
of originality. l'Ounifs Con_iectures on Original Cornposition (1759} carne
out \,rhen Hamann was still an impressionab1e 29 years of age. The Con_iectures were "nitten in the form of an epist1e to Samuel Richardson, the epistolary novelist so admired by the British middle dasses of his day and the
French philosophes alike. The age of the two gentlemen should be remembered; v.Te now think of the lust for originality and genius as most marked
in youth, yet Young was 76 when he published his communication to his
friend, aged 70. Yet it is this feuilleton that serves as a marker, if not the
originator} of the Romantic idea of the genius 1...Tho crea tes V'hat i.s. wholly
new from ;;ithin his own inimitable resonrces. Julia Kristeva ( 1999} has argued in her recen! hook on Hannah Arendt that the idea of geni us is truly
a notion of the Renalssancel but here 1et us .s.tick to the time- honored
clich that it is a creature of the Romantic era.
Hamann certainly acted as if he felt free to be original, e''en to the point
of reformin g the langnage into which he was born, and which, he theorizedl constituted him as a person. Sorne of his prose in tended for publication is as rupturing as anything by Artaud or Joye e in Finnega ns H'ake. 1t
was originallanguage that he . ...,.Tanted. In recasting one's m"11language, one
recast one's self. He had only contempt for rational and systematic linguis-

His.torical Ontology


tic retorm, a characteristic demand of the German Enlightenmenl. For exam ple, reformers were trying to get rid o f the silen l h of old German orthography. But that letler was rich in meaning, argued quid., Hamann. It
indica led a sil en1 brealh, a ghostly sigh, almost a Geist. To rationalize spelling in this l.,Tay was to strip the German language of its spirit, of its mind,
of ils son!.
Hamann called himself a p hilologue, and al so a '\cerb alist." I ended the
last chapter by wmparing him to the lingnislic idealists, m lingnalists, of
our day. Yel that i5 in one way misleading. His philology was nol that of either Chladenim or Bopp, but an older !ove of words, of wgos. "Withoul
words~ no reason, no 'Pmrld. Here is the source of all creation and order!n
In Hamann's vision, the fable of Adam and the naming of things is false.
God did nol creale things, and then assign them names, whch He imparted to Adam. Hamann'.s verbalism is not the incohercnt and rather triviallinguistic idealism of our times, even if it is its precursor. For it is a theory of creation, of hov. ' \lhat i.s material comes from the vwrd. Incoherent}
perhaps~ but not triviaL l\1oreover, it is a theory of continuous creation, for
as 'i...Te change our language, so .,Ne change ourselves, so "..Te make up ourselves, ea eh from his own genius.

How much of al! this does Hamann really owe lo Yonng? Precions little,
of whal 1 in turn learn from Hamann. The Night Though ts are in good
measure a dialogue with Reason. A dying man is con5idering the grounds
for immortality-: something prior to reason prmrides him t ..' consolation.
That prior is, among other things, ''speech." \Vhatever inspiration Hamann

tonnd in his freqnenl readings of the long poem, together with Young's
Original Composition, it was. mUy a resource for rethinking the nature of

langnage. Hamann happened lo have loved Yonng's phrases-lhere are

many more that are mirnicked in his writings than he acknowledges----but
the noton of language as prior to thinghood and to reason is Hamann's

Hamann's sentences, along ,.,,.ith those of many subsequent .,.....Titers,

helped pnl in place those very featnres of modernily that Foucault attributes too specifically lo the philological revoluton. Hamann participaled in
a revoluton broader in scope: the terminalion of a theory of langnage a.s
something inner and representational. Language becomes outer and cre-

ative. It is not merely hislorical and evohing, a.s the philologists and wmparative grammariam were to leach. It is mutable. Jt is bolh whal makes m
possible as selves, and whal we can transform in order to change nol only

Nght Thoughts on Philology


ourselves but our world. Nietzsche, the most famous. person ever to hold a

char of philology, was necessarily the heir of Bopp and Grimm. Bul he was
also the heir of Harnann. Without Hamann and the Romanlic tradilion,
philology would have been a merely technical enterprise. The new philology did not by ilself create a new space in which litera tu re conld exist. That
space "'ras the crea tion of more forces than Foucaul t wan ted to acknmv1edge, and one that is essential i.s Hamann's exce.ssive verbalism, lagos as

In Foucanll's reading, lhe emergence of life, labor, and language as ob_iects of stndy has to do with the matrix in which .\!an comes in lo being.
Yes} there is Kant'.s question posed aro und 177 5} "l..Vha t is man ?" But even
before the question was utlered, Hamann was providing the rndiments of
Hnmboldt's partial response to Kant: "!v!an is 1-.Jan only through language"
{Humboldt 1903, 4, 15}. Thal could well be the epigraph lo Foucault's
chapter, "lvlan and His Donbles." There had to be philologists for the epigraph lo be composed, but there also had to be that other tradilion of
philo-logy, of logos-lming, of "verbalism," of which Hamann is so satisfactory a representative.

A Radical M istranslation?


Was There Ever a
Radical Mistranslati on?


exdudes the decoding ofancient tex-ts. Condition (3) rules out mere differences of nuance} moderate misunderstandings, and misdas.s.i:fic.ation.s that
occur to al! of m all the time. Since m y story is abo ut naming, l shall cal!
this kind of radical mistranslation malostension. That occurs ..,,then {6) an
e;qoreosion of the first language is taken by speaker& of the second language
to narne a natural kind. (7) It does nothing of the sort, but (8} the second
language incorpora tes thls expression as the name of the natural kind in
question. (7) is intended as a strong condition. 1\.ialostensions are not ju.s.t
misdassifications or the of the name of an individual as. the name
of a class.

1 cannot prove that radical mistrans.Jations never occur. But 1 shall shol..,T
\\T. V. Quine'.s doctrines of the indetenninacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference ha ve be en immensely infl u en tial The doctrines are
about logical p-ossibilities.,_ and not about 'Nhat happens in fact, but the)' have
be en bolstered by tales of fairly permanent mistransJa tions. This note argues
that these am using fables are false. Sorne readers ,..,:111 protest that this sho'NS

nothing about Quine'.s logical point. I am not so sure. If s.omething is

daLmed as a logical possibility about translation, 'Nhich is never knm.,:n to be
appmximated for more than a t"B.o moments in reallife, ma;c ......--e not begin to
suspe-ct tha t the .conception of transla tion that g being taken for gran ted
m ay be erroneous?

On their voyage of discovery to Australia, a group of Captain Cook's sailors captured a oung kangaroo and brought the strange creature back orr
board their ship. one kne\"l what it l ..~as, so sorne men -,. .rere sent ashore
to ask the nathes. When the sailors returned they told their mates, "It's a
kangaroo." Jvlany years la ter it was discovered that when the aborigines said
"kangaroo" they were not in fact naming the animal, but replying lo their
questioners, ('\\~at did you say?"
That would be a radical mistramlation if the story were true. A radical
mistramlation is defined as follows. {1) Speakers of two very different languages are trying to communicate. (2) A speaker of one language say.-. -s.
Speakers ofthe other language take him to be sayingp. (3) This translation
is oompletely lrHong. Yet (4) neither party realizes it, although they continue to converse. :J.:loreover (5) the mistranslation persists. until it i.s. too
late to eo rrect.

Condition ( 1) restricts us to prople who are talking to each other and

l S2

that sorne famom alleged malostensions are frauds, founded upon rumor
and refuted by tacts. This may matter, beca use of W. V Quine's thesis of
the indeterminacy of translation. His. doctrine is a priori, but it gains credence partly from anecdotes. We tend to fe el tha t indeterminacy is radical
mistranslation carried to the limitl where no possible information can settle which of two incompatible translations is correct.l reject this plausibility argument by rebutting the anecdotes with which it begins. The remarkable thing about human interaction is that mistranslations are so readilv
deared up.
lvly opening story about "kangaroo" has been repeated many times. Like
many other people, l was gullible, and worse, 1 repeated it. l took the version in my first paragraph from a Sunday newspaper and quoted itas an
example (Hacking 1975b, 150). That sturdy Australian matter-of-fact philosopher, jack Smart, taught me that the story is just taJse, the sort of thing
that is now called an urban myth, except that it is an aboriginal myth.
Cookls team recorded many words of a language they encountered .in the
Endeavour River area of Australia. They were contident of the spelling and
meaning of only 60 of these words. "Kangaroo" was among them. La ter
travellers did not in fact encounter the v. 'ord. Hence the ston~ ll:ith which 1
began-people made up an explanation of Cook's word. But the story is
based only on the fact tha t few su bsequent travellers spoke "i th the Aus ~
tralian community that Cook had met. This was apparently pointed out in
a letter to an Amtralian newspaper in 1898, but did not become common
knowledge until the work of the anthropologist john Havilland in 1972
(Dixon 1980, &-9). He wrote up a vocabulary for a dialect called Guugu
Yamidhirr, spoken by people in ,iust the area that Cook landed. Their word
for kangaroos i.;; "g<~nurru/' ,,rhere I use rcn,.., for a phoneme . ...,Thich is a bit


Historic::al Ontology

like "ng." Kan gamo, in short, was no malostension, although perhaps our
spelling is the result of poor phonetics.
There is a printed conversation in ,...,Thich Quine and Putnam mention
two other alleged malostemions:
Quine: David le"~' poin ted out a ni ce exa m ple to me ' ... ] There was,
in the nineteenth century, a French naturalist named Pierre
Sonnerat, t..Tho ' doing field vmrk in ~~Iadagascar. A lemur 1j."lent up
a tree~ and Sonnerat asked a native "Qu' est -que c'est?" The native
said "in dri/' ,..,,rhich in :\1alagasy means "There he goes :' -Sonnerat

thought that the native understood his question and had given the
anst. .Ter, and the animal is knm.,m as the indri to this day.
Putnam: That's like the word "vasistas."'
Quine: Right. The French word for transom is "Was ist das." (Quine
el al. 1974, SOOi
Fu tnam and Quine do not actually assert that vasistas is a malostension,
but others have told me that it is. Yet t is hard to imagine the circnmstances. \\'ere sorne Gcrman tourists pointing at a French transom, asking
"Was ist das?" Did sorne French people overhear that and think, "Hah, that
little window must be called a vasista5"' One can hardly credit that. In fact,
the French tmrd \..Tas first vnitten, in French, \'1-ith German spelling. It is
thus used by the French mining engineer [. F. C. ;v!orand in a 1776 book
chietly describing foreign equipment for mines. He speaks of a l'l'ass ist da5
and means a li ttle grille, built into a door and which can be opened lo se e
what is outside or pass small objects or message.s. in or out.
Thus the "What is that?" does not have the force of a question, namely,
what is this funny little vndow or opening. Rather vasistas is a ""mrd intended to conve a function. The va5istas is the grille through which yo u
look to find out "Vv'hat is that?" that is, what is that thing outside, who is

kno cking, \"{ho is there?

In I 784 one finds l\'asistdas as the uame of a proposed small window in
an enclosed platform attached to a lviontgolfier balloon. The passenger'
could be complete! protected, but could open the H'asistas from time to
time to see the view (von Proschwitz 1964, 329). The spelling of the word
so on be carne comp letely gallicized. The .asistas had be en a grille to separate the house from outsiders, but by !793 popular justice gave it the reverse role. The lunette in the guillotine "Nas jocularly called the vasistas, a,~
in Passer la tete au vasistas..r X o malostension here.
fndri is a little trkkier. r suspect that \'le have exacdy the same situation

A Radical Mi:.trans,.ation?


as \lith ''kangaroo," namely a lj.lord u.sed in a dialect encountered by Sonnerat, but not noticed by la ter travelers. Beware of thinking that such writer.s. 'i.'rere careles.s. Cook v.Tas reporting back to Sir Joseph Bank.s, one of the
most critica] Newtonian inductivists of all time. Cook did not rely on casual reports of his sailors (a;; is suggested by the story with which 1 began).
His team sifted alltheir data and settled on only 60 words, including "kangamo," of which they were sure. Likewise, Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814)
il.'as no tripper watchlng lemurs scoot up trees {as Quine's version tends to
imply). He was one of the most detailed of reporters and it is on work like
his that euvier was glad to re!y.
The lj.mrd "indri" refers not to 1emurs .in general but to an un usual species, the largest lemur in lv!adagascar, about 25 inches long. It has the characteristic poin ted muzzle and tree-dimbing habit of le m urs, but is other. . .ise guite distinctive. l;nlike the familiar ring-tailed lemurs often seen in
zoos, it has only a rudimentary tail. It is black with white splotches on the
head, throat, arms and buttocks. lt is gregarious, lives mostly at tree-top
le,-el, and eats fruit. It climbs in an upright position. The species, once
plentiful in the forests of .:\'1adagascar, is now almost extinct, and sun'ives
only in remote fore.s.ts of the northeast.
\\1len it comes. to ({indri," lt\~e cannot fault our philosophers fOr carelessnes..s. The OED said in its first printing and continues to .say that the word
is '~-\u erroneous applicaton of the Jvialagasc exdamation indry! 'lo! behold[~ or indri iz,vi 'there he is,' mistaken by the French naturalist Sonnerat
for the name of the animal, when fust seen by him e 1780: the only ,.alagasy name is babakoto." Webster's Third Intcmational repeats the story, asserting that the word comes from the French, in turn from "Malagasy
indry; look!: probably from an erroneous belief by the French naturallit Pierre Sonnerat, who obsen'ed the anima] in its native habitat about 1780,
that the na ti ves were uttering its name 'i.'J.'hen in tact they were only calling
attenton to its presence." Le Petit Robert confirms that the French word
indri derives from the "exclama don malegache 'le voila' prise tort pour le
nom du singe." Who would question these august authorities' Only sorneune who takes a look at their authority. Tne OED directs us lo a remark
made by a missionary from Madagascar writing, in 1893, in a magazine
that he edited. Rev. f. Sibree says of the short-tailed lemur that

their native name is Babakto, literally "Father-child" (or boy), not Indri,
as said by Sonncrat, who discovered the species. Indri (or indry_} is a li.:Ial.1gasy 'i.,;ord lllL."Llrting "lo!" or "hchold!" and was probably mis.taken by


H1storical Ontology

A Radical Mlstr.ansl.ation?


him for a name and other Europeans for a name~ ,..,Then the natives. exdaimed: "Indry izy~" {"There he i:;l"). (Sibree 1893, 83)

ardson 188~) translates "endrina" as "a kind of lemur." Sibree's own copy
of Freeman's dictionary is now in the library of Yale University. The book
was printed "ith alterriating blank pages so that the user could enlarge the

\Vas this- then the perfect malostension? Fir-st let us get our authorities
straight. This quotation from Sibree is an unacknm.,Tledged word-for-'iNOrd

list of entries. Sibree made fe"\\' additions, none having anything to do with
natural history. It is Sibree, I venture, o~,ho got it 1\"Yong, not Sonnerat.

tramlation of the observation made by Fran<;ois Follen {1868, 20), another

mis-sionary and natnralist. Whether we owe the slory to Rev. Sibree or Fa
ther Follen, Quine has certainly captured its spirit. We imagine that Pierre
Sonnerat visitslvladagascar in 1780 and asks what a certain lemur is called.
He gets indr or somesuch in reply, and the animal scoots up a tree. We gel
the picture of Sonnerat never getting much closer to an indri-they are
forever getting a. . . .-ay.

But in fact, as Sonnerat tells us, indri are very easil lamed, aud in the
southern part of the island are nsed in hunting, much as we use dogs. Far
from just overhearing a cry of indri he asks what it means, and is told that
it means little man of the woods. (Sonnerat 1782, ll 141-3; 1806a, IV 89,
92). So Sonnerat not muy heard the word, but discussed it. He later printed
his engraving of a nice fat indri eating a ... banana? (Sonnerat 1782 II,
plate 88; 1806b, plate 86). :'vlight that be a fanciful reconstruction of a
glimpsed animal that he never gol dos e to? :-1 o, he took one ahoard ship
and later presented it to bis king. For a while it played in the royal garden
and was later stuffed and put in the Pars natural history museum.
None of this proves conclusively that Sonnerat gol the name right. You
wiU not find the word iudri in dictionaries translating from Malagasy into
European tongues. But taking a hint from the kangaroo sto ry, ""Te m ay as k
if Sonnerat gol fhe phonemes slighdy wrong. Sure enough.
The first printed bilingual dictionar' for .:.-!alagas was compiled by
agents of the London ]1.-lissionar Society, which had been rather tempo
rarily wekomed when the Bri tish, acting out of M auri tius, supported a
Malagasy leader's drive to control the whole island. (When this king died
in 1823, bis "idow reversed the policy of Europeanization and Christian
evangelism. The island preserved its restored autonomy against French and
British assaults until 189~, although it was forced to concede more and
more in the preceding few years.) The English-:'vlalagas part of the dictio
nary (Freeman 1835) contain.s no entryfor lemur, but in the reverse- direction (Johns 1835) we find the word endrina translated as "monkey." (At
fhat time fhere were no true monkeys on the island except a few escaped
from passing shi ps.) The ne:>."l prin ted English-Malagasy dictionary ( Rich-

This evidence s not absolutely conclusive. )ohm ( 1835) could have

given endrina as a back-formation from the French usage of indri, rather

than as something h eard in fhe field by un con taminated locals. Bu t why

would he add a syllahle to a French no un? ln all pro babili ty we can accept
Sonnerat at bis word. ]ust as with "kangaroo," it is eminently possihle that
Sonnerat encountered people who called large short-tailed lemurs indri or
mdrina_. even ifmuch later Europeans elsewhere on the island did no t. To
confirm this, Jet m look at the larger pictnre.
First of all, :VIadagascar is big. Texas prides itself on being larger than
any ca untry in Europe except Russia; Madagascar 5 in the sarne league. 1t
is al so long: a thousand miles in Jength, 200 miles longer than California.
in 1780 the island was divided among many small "kingdoms." There
\las only one core language-of 1\ialay- Poly11esian origin~but there ~..~ere
many dialects, of which .'vlerina was perhaps fhe most common. ]\,{erina
did not become the "preferred" dialect until after 1820, after which fhe
London Missionary Society-sponsor of the dictionaries 1 have citedhelped create the Latin alphabet form of Merina. Anofher dialectwas used
as the basis for the Arabic alphabetization of the language, which was established in 1620 (and quite possibly tn'ts from that period would tell
us more about the name given to lemurs). Sibree~ 1vriting in 1893, after

lvlerina had been made fhe standard dialect for the island, and writing
from the capital in the middle of lvladagascar, which was anway fhe
Merina heartland, may well have found that bibakoto was the only name
for the short-tailed lernur. Sonnerat was primarily quartered in the soufh,
500 miles away, long before Merina, "ifh English and missionary help, had
taken over the island. We see no reason to take Sibree's pmsibly corree! lin
guistic _iudgment of 1893 as applicable to somewhere else in 1780.
Quine's charming extrapolation from the dctionary account of indri
makes one think it was one of the ever encounters beh..Teen a French-

man, or even a Europ ean, an d an isolated i>lander. But thanks to its geographical positon, Madagascar was ine\itably in the path of world travel.
The lndonesian stock fhat carne to constitute the en tire permanent population arrived about 700. The island played a significan! role in Afro-Arab


Historical Ontology

shipping mutes. The Portuguese navigator Diogo Diaz gol there in 1500.
The most southern coastal city, now named T lanaro (or Faradofay), was
setded in 1528. In 1642, as Fort-Daup hin, it became one of the essential
outposts of the French East India Company. It was a natnral choice for a
port for Europeans traveling to India or the spice islands, conveniently located betwem the Cape and Ceylon. Etienne de Flacourt (1607-166 0) used
it as his base when 'Hiting his big Histoire de l grande Isle de A<!adagascar
( 1658, 1661). ]\'!ueh of the b ook was an accormt of French activities out of
Fort-Daup hin (1642-165 5), with the las! 42 pages tc"f'laining why the East
India Company lost money in its operations there. But it also served as
the basis for a minimal French-:\Ialagasy dictionary, which unfortunat ely
seems to provide no infonnato n about lemurs (Ferrand 1905). So l\.Jadagascar -,.va._~ not e.,-..;::actly unkno'i..m territory \lhen Sonnerat arrived in 1780.
Sonnerat, a notable naturalist, would already have known a good deal
about the iauna and llora of the island-an d it> lang;age. He wrote up
Madagascar on bis way borne from China, the Philippines, and Ceylon,
which has its own kinds of le mur. He had a grea t interest in language, including in the account of his voyage a long chapter on spoken and written
Tamil (also published separately in 1806). )/ot exactly the manto ask casually "What's that?" in French and lo expect the Ivlalagasy response, "loo k al
him gol", to mean the name of the animal. The French had been settled at
the southem end of ]l,.jadagascar for a century and a half, and the region
was infested wi th indri, sorne of which be en lamed long before the arrival
of Europeans. I imagine the curiou.s. Sonnerat getting off the boat and say-

ing1 "Take meto your lemur."

Certainly there are errors of understand ing that do persist, but they
contras! with what 1 call radical mistransla tion. Here are two examples.
Among the Malagasy words tha t now apply lo lemurs we find gidro and
rafaka (or fa ko). A gidro is a smallish grey le mur. The word is derived from
the Swahili ngedere> which means monkey. There are no lemurs. in most of
Africa~ nor were there any monkeys native to So it sorne
so rt of mistake when traders speaking Swahili called a le mur by the na me
of "gedere, but it was an error of da.ssification, not of translation . As for
fako, it too, ought strictly to apply only to monkeys. Wby? Bec.anse Richardson ( 1885) tells us that an English sea ca ptain had a p el monkey that escaped, and the sailors ran after it, calling it by name. ") ack! j ack!" they
cried, and the name stuck.


Language, Truth, and Reason

This ess.ay \.,.-as ""Titten fr a (ollection of papers. about rationali t ~, and rdativism edited by 1\.Jartin Holli~ and Ste'i.:-en lukes. Both 'Nere advocates. of a
sensible and .sens.itive and disliked the increas.ingly relatiYist tendencies of the time ( 198 O). Edinburgh had recenti y become the most threa tening 'NeH-argued Enghsh-lan guage base for relatism in epistemol-

ogy. The Edinburgh School, led by Barry Barne5 and David Bloor, had a
"strong programme in the sociology of knowledge" that -cheerfully .aV'i-\'ed
that it \''as relativist. Lukes and Holhs arranged their contributor s from left
to right, the most relativist at the beginning of the book, .:md the most rationalist at the- end A ne;.,, paper by Bloor and Barnes carne first. 1 'Nas rerh.aps
disingenuou s to be -surprised V{hen 1 found that my own paper lNas placed as.
the second mos.t re1a tivist contributio n.
This. is the first piece in -.-,.,.Thkh I too k up the idea of a ';style of reasoning"
that 1 first encoun tered in 1978, in Pisa, listening to a paper by the senior
historian of s.cience, Alistair Crombie. He himself did not bring out hs gigan tic three-volum e s.tudy of "styles" Wltil 1994, but I was a bl.e to read a
good dea1 of it many years before. Chapter 12 i.s a more systemati e developmen t of these ideas.

l wish to pose a relatvist question from within the heartland of rationality.

1t is not abo u t the confronta tion bet-.;...reen science and alien cultures, for it
comes out of our 0\o\,'n scientific tradition. It does not rehear.s.e the Kuhnian
stories of revolution, replacement} and incommen surability, but speaks
chiet1 y of evolution and accum u la tion. I ts. sources are not hermeneu tics.
but the canonical writngs of positivism. Far from invoking "the dogma
of the dualism of scheme and reality" from which, according to Donald
Davidson, '\{e get conceptua l relativity,"' it may \ven leam a trick frorn
pJvjdson h imsc]f (1 lavitisnn 1974).


language, Trutn, and Reason

H is tori e a 1 Ont ol ogy

reasoning appropriate to P- Hence we cannot criticize that .s.tyle of reason-

ing as a way of getting to por te not-p, became p simply is that proposition

whose tru th valu e is determined in this way.
The distinction between (a) and (b) furnishes a distinction between
subjectivity and relativity. Let (a) be subjectivism: by thinking, we might
malee something true or malee t fahe. Let ( b) be the kind of rela tivi ty that f
addre~s in this paper: by thinking, new canclidates for truth and falsehoo d
may be brought into being. l\Iany of the recent but already classical philo.s.ophical discu.ssions of sueh topics as incommensura bili ty} indeterminacy
of translation, and conceptual schemes seem to me to discuss truth . . ....-hen.

they ought to be considering truth-or-falsehood. Hence bystanders, hoping to learn from philosophers, have tended to discuss subjectivity rather
than relativity. For my part, 1 have no doubt that our discoveries are '~ob
jectivc," simply he-cause the s.tyles of reasoning th.<~t '"''e employ detenni11c

1\rhat counts as ob_iectivity. i\iy worry is that the very candidates for truth

1 start from the fact that there have been different styles of scientific reasoning. The wisest of the Greeks admired Eudidean thought. The best
minds of the seven teenth cen tury held that the experimental method pul
knm..~ledge on a ne. ..,v footing. At least part of every modern social s.cience
deploys sorne statstics. Such examples bring to mind diflerent styles of
reasoning 'i...ith differen t domains. Ea eh has surfaced and a ttained maturi ty
in its m.."TI time~ in its mv"TI way.
An inane subJectivism may say that \.rhether pis a rea.s.on for q_ depends
on whether people have got around lo reasoning that way or not.l have the
subtler worry that . .,.~hether or nota proposition is as it were up for grabs,
as a amclidate for being true-or-false, depends on whether we have ways to
reason abo u t L The style of tbinking tha t befi ts the sen tence helps ti-.:: its
sense and determines the 'P"la)' in \vhich it has a positive direction pointing
to truth or to falsehood. If 'i.{e {Dntinue in this vein, v. e may cometo fear
tba t the ra tionali ty o f a style of reasoning is all too buil t- in. The propositions on 'i.{hich the rea.s.oning bears mean what they do just beca use that
vmy of reasoning can assign them a truth value. Is reason~ in short, all too

self-authen ticating?
;v!y worry is about truth-or-fahehood. Consider Harnlet\ ma:<im, that
nothing's either good or bad but thinking malees it so. lf we transfer this to
truth and falsehood, it s arnbiguous between (a) nothing which is true is
true, and nothing which is false is tlse, but thinking malees it so, and {b)
nothing's either true-or-talse but thinking makes it so. It is (b} that preocrupies me. lvly relativist worry is~ to repeat} that the sense of a proposition
p, the way in which it points te truth or falsehood, hinges on the style of


or falsehood have no existence independent of the styles of reasoning that

settle what it is !o be true or false in their domain.

Styfes of Reasoning
lt is not the case that nothing~ either true or false but thinking makes it so.
Plenty of things that we say need no reasons. That is the core of the discredited philosophical doctrine of observation sentences, the boring u !terarrees that crop up in almos! any language, and which malee radical translation re la tively easy. Transla tion is. hard w hen one gets to ,,lhole nevl ranges
of possibility that make no sense for the favored styles of reasoning of another culture. 1t is there that ethnographers begin to have problems. Every
people has generated its own peculiar styles. We are no different from others} except that we can see more clearly) from orn ov.Tn t,:rritten record, the
historical emergence of ney,.T .s.tyles of reasoning.
1 take the word "styk" from A C. Crombie's tille, Sty!es of Sentifc
Thinking in the European TraJitior1 ( 1994). He concluded an anticipatory

paper with the words:


The active promotion and divers.ification of the scientific methods of late

medieval and earl y modem Europe reflected the general gro"1h of a re.s.earch mentality in European .s.ociety, a mentality conditioned and increasingly committed by its drcurnstances to e..\.-pect and to look actively
for problems to formuJate and solve, rather than for an accepted consensus. . ...,.. thout argument. Ihe varieties of scien tific method so brough t in to
play may be distinguished as,
(a) the simple postulation established in the mathematicaJ sciences,
(b) the experimental exploration and measurement of more complex
observa-ble relations,
[e) the hypothetical construction of analogical models,
(d) the ordering of variety by comparison and ta:xonomy,

(e) the statstical anal)'<.S of regularities of popula tions and the cakulus
of pro babilities, and
(f) the historical derivation of genetk development.
The fir.s.t three of these methods concern essentiallr the science of individual regularities, and the .s.econd three the s.cience of the regulari ti es of
population::;. ordcrcd [n :sp.ilcc and time. (Crombie 1981, 284.)



H istoric::al Ontology

language~ Truth~

CDincidentally, at the same conference to which Cromhie read these words,

Winifred Wisan ( 1981) presented a paper on "the emergence of a new scientiiic .style." Both Crombie's and Wisan's papers were abolit Galileo, who
has long been a favorite candidate for advancing a nev.T style of thought.
Sometimes 'i.mrds more dramatic than "stylc" are used, as. ,-~,hen Althusser
{1972, 185) wrote of Thales opening lipa new continent, that of mathematics, Galileo opening up the continent of dynamics 1 and lvlarx that of

history. But often the word "style" is chosen. It is to be found in Collingwood. Stephen Weinberg, the theoretical physicist, recalled Hlisserlspeaking of a Galilean style for "making abstrae! models of the universe ro
which at least the physicists give a higher degree of reality than they accord
the ordinary world of sensation" (\Veinberg 1976, 28). Weinberg found it
remarkable that this style should vmrk, "for the doe.s- not seern

to have been prepared with human beings in mind." The linguist Noarn
Chomsk"}' picked lip this remark, urging that "we have no present alternative to pursuing the 'Galilean .style' in the natural -sciences at leasf'
{Chomsky 1980, 9).
l-ike T; S. Kuhn's "paradigm'~ the 'iNord ",Gtyle" .s-erves my four contempo-

rary alithors to point to something general in the history of knowledge.

There are new modes of reasoning that have specific beginning.s and trajectories of development. Even these tOur thinkers would sure-ly not agree

in caning up histories into style>. The historian will find many styles
v:here Chomsky sees only one. Doubtles.s. the very vmrd '\tyle" is suspect.

It is cribbed from art critics and historians, who have not evolved a uniform connotation for the v1mrd. Kor '-'l0l1ld all their remarks about style ti-

dily transfer to modes of reasoning. That is a problem that Wisan's paper

begins to address. The success of the word '\tyle," as an analytic term fur

the history of science, may depend on the reception of Crombie's immensely learned historical analysis. Use of a borrm..Ted .mrd needs detailed

examples to flesh it out. Despite these reservatiom, 1 shall take the fact that
these recent writers employ the word in similar ways as an e.."'\:cuse for not
a ttem pti ng m y O'i.'m exegesis here.

Arch-Rati o na Ji sm
The existence of s.tyles of reasoning does not immediately suggest relativism. Before elaborating the relativist worry sketched at the beginning of
this chapter, 1 shall first state a rationalist position intormed by a proper



and Re.ason


respect both for history and for the idiosyn-crasies of ourselve.s and others.
1 shall cal! it arch-rationalism. (1, too, arn an arch-rationalist most of the

The arch-ratonalst believes what right-thinking people have known all

along. There are good and bad reasons. lt has taken millennia to evolve systems of reasoning. By and large our \Vestern tradition has contributed
more to this progress than any other. \Ve have often been narrm. .T, blinkered, and insen.sitive to foreign insights. \Ve have repressed our mvn de\iant and original thinkers, condemning many to irretrievable oblivion.
Sorne of our m~,o11 once-favored .s-tyles of reasoning have turned out to be

dead ends and others are probably on the way. However, new styles of rea
soning wiil continue to evo1ve. So . ..,.Te shall not only find out more about
nature) but -,Ne shall also 1earn ne'i.'rT \'rTa}'S to reason about it. _2...Iaybe Paul
Feyerabend's ( 1975) advocacy of anarchy, or al least dadaism, is right. Th

compel people to reason in approved ways s to lirnit liS and our potentiali
ties for novelty. Arch-rationalism is cominced that there are good and bad
reason.s, but .since it does not commit us to any specific regimentation

like that of formal Jogic or that of Karl Popper, it is tairly receptive to

Feyeraband\ imitation anarchy.

lvly arch-rationalist thinks that there is a fairly sharp distinction between

reasom and the propositions they support. Reasons merely help liS find
out what is the case. The arch-rationalist \'L'ants to know hml the \"'orld is.
There are good and bad reasons for propositions about nature. They are
not relative to all)1hing. They do not depend on context. The arch-rationalist is notan imperialist about reason. ]1,-Jaybe there could be people who
never reason nor de!iberate at al!. They teii jokes, make and break promises, feign ins.ults. and so forth) but they never reason. Justas. statistical rea-

sons had no force for the Greeks, so one imagines a people for whom non e
of our reasons for beliefhave force. On the other hand, the arch-ratonalist
is an optimist about hwnan nature. 1Ne who value truth and reas.on do
imagine that a truthless and unreasoning people would, ifleft alone, evolve
truth and reason for themselves. They would in their own way acquire a
laste for speclilation about the diagonal of a square, for rnotion on the
indined plane, for the tracks of the planets, for the inner constitution
of matter, the evolution of the species, the Oedipus complex, and amino
The arch-ratonalist not only grants that our kinds of truth and reason
may not play as great a role in the lite of other peoples as in our own en!-

H istoric:al Ontology


Language, Truth, and Rea~on

ture; he may also be a romantk, hankering after a simpler, less reason-im-

pregnated life. He will gran! thal our ''alues are not inevitable, nor perhaps
the nob!est to which our species can aspire. But he cannot escape his own
past. His admission of the historicity of our ovm styles of reasoning in no .
way makes it le.s objective. Styles of reasoning have histories, and sorne
emerged sooner lhan others. Humankind has gol better al reasoning. 'What
ground for relalivism could there be in al! that?
lnstead of challenging the a.surnptions of the arch-rationalist, 1 shall
extracta hint of incoherence from his heartland, which is, in the end, positivism.

Po si tivism 5 commonl y taken lo be a hard-headed an tagonism to al! forms

of relativism. 1 shall crea te a question for the arch-ralionalist from three
aspects of posi tivism itseli. 1 draw them from Auguste Comle, lvloritz
Schlick, and Ivlichael Dummett, that is, the original posi tivist of lhe l84s,
the leader of the Vienna Cirde in 1930, and the most gited presen t <O.'q'Onent of one among that family of doctrines.
Comte. He


a historicist. His epistemology is a massive and almos.t

unreadable accoun t of human knowledge, a narra tive o f the human mind

in 'i...Thich each intellectual innovation finds its O'i...Tn niche. One of his. ideas
is that a branch ofknowledge acquires a "positivit~/' hy the developmenl of
a lle\V positive .s.tyle of reasoning as.sociated ' it. He is none too dear
,.,.rhat he means by "positive"; he sometimes. says he chose the vmrd chiet1y
because it had overtones of moral uplift in al! European languages. A po>itive proposition is one that is b sorne means befitting the branch of
knowledge to which it belongs. \'l'e may pun on his word: a positive propo.s.ition i.s. one that has a directionl a truth value. It is no dis.tortion to say that
for Comte a class of positive propo.s.ition.s is a dass of propositions that are
up for grabs as true-or-false.
There are many aspects of C:C.mte's thought from which one hastily
withdraws-1 refer bolh to qnestions of ideology and to issue.s of interest
to analytic philosophers. of science (his analy'"Sis of causation, for example).
1 draw attention only lo the idea of a hislorical evolution of different styles
of reasoning, each bringing in its train its own body of positive knm{ledge.
Each finds it> place in greal tabular displays of the sciences thal serve a.<
~ull-outs from his gigantic epistemological text, the Cours de phi!osop/Jic


po,~-tive. Comte did not think that the evolution of styles and of posilive
kuowledges had come to an end. His life goal was the crealion of a new
positive science, sociology. This 'i..I.'Ould require a nev. , style of reas.oning. He
ill foresaw whal this St}le would be, but his meta -conception of wha t he
1\oas doing l{as .s.ound.

Schlick. One of lhe more memorable stalements of logical positivism

is lvloritz Schlick\, "the meaniug of a sentence is its method of verification" (!936, 361}. Those words could nol stand unmodified, because lhe
Vienna Circle had succumbed to Gottlob Frege's dictnm that meanings are
definite, objective, aud fixed. Schlick's ma.xim would imply that a change or
advance in a method of verification would change the meanings of a &enlence. Ra ther than give u p the idea of meanings handed clown from generalion lo generation, tranquil and unmodified, logical positivists revised
Schlick's maxim again and again, although "ith no salisfactory outcome.
(See Hacking l975b, ch. 9, for an account of repeated failures.) Bul for
Comte, or any other of those fortunate wri ters of 1840 not yet intected b
Fregeau theories of meaning, Schlick's statement would be just fine. lt is
precisely, for Comte, the melhods of verification -the ways in which the
posilive trulh values are to be established-that determine the canten! of a
body ofknowledge.
Dummett. [n logic, a proposition that has a definite trulh value, lrue or
fabe, is called bivalent. Dummett's work has made philosophers think
dosely about bivalence (Dummett 1976}. lt was firsl impired by a philowphical reconstructiou of sorne of the thoughts behind intuitionist mathemalics. In what is callea a noncomtructive proof, one cannol exhib t the
m athema tical obi ects tha t are proved lo exist. (So one migh t have a step in
which one as.serts tha t there is a prime numb er v.ith a certain propertyl bu t
be unable to say 'i.{hich prime number it is.) Noncon.s.tructive proofs may
also assume of a proposition lhat it is either true or false, wilhout being
able to show which truth value l has. Sorne philosophical mathematicians,
induding Dummett, have doubted whether such nonconstructive proofs
are admissible.

Dummett is attracted lo the follmdng basis of his do u bt. \Vhether or

not a proposition is bivalent must depend upon its meaning. He ,.,Tonders
hovno~,e can confer meaning.s. on statements in noncon.s.tructive mathematics-meanings in virtue of which the statements are bivalent, although
there is no known way to settle lhe truth values. lt is we who, lhrough our
linguistic practicesl are the sole source of the meanings of what , .re say,

Langua ge, Truth, and Reason

H istorica l Ontolo gy


is bivalent,
Hm.. then can we confer a meanin g on a statement, .such that it
od of
when nothing we know how to do bears
the .s.tatement? }-"laybe statements of noncon structiv e mathem

or exbivalence only as .....Te perfect means of determining their truth values

hibiting the mathematical objects of which
Although this subtle cuestion aro se in sharp form in the intuitionist cridi>tique of classical mathematics, Dumm ett extends it to other forms of
settledcourse.l\.-iany statements about the past cannot nm,.r be
ticable means. Are they bivalentl lvlight bivalence recede into the past
historical data become irrevocably erased?
his 'i.vorries are condus h. e, nor does he eA-pect parallel ans'i...Ters tr
kind of discourse. One might, on ret1ection, come out tor bivalence in
case of history} but re_ject it for noncon structiv e mathematics.

Positiw and bivalence. 1 have spoken of being true-or-false, and have

as 1
used Comte's \mrd ''positive.~ Is this the s.ame idea as bivalence? Kot
shall use the -...mrds. Being posi tive is a less strong charact
lence. Outside mathematicsl I suspect that -...vhether a statement is bivalen
or noi is an abstraction imposed by logician
deductive argurnent form.s.. It is a noble abstraction, but it is a conseq
o f art, not nature. In the speculative .s.ciences that concern me in this
the interesting sentences. are the ones that
false-one.s. for lj..,yhich 'i,.l.'e be] ieve \.,Ye have methods that vl!itl determ
untruth values. The applicatiom of these method s may require as yet
imagined technological innovation. lvoreover as we find
the 1mrld, -r.le find out that many of our questions_no longer make
Bivalence is not the right concept for sdence
ples to point to the distinction required.
At the time of Pierre-Sirnon de La place it was very sensible to think that
there are partide s of caloric, the substance of hea t, that have repulsv
forces that decay rapidly with distance. Relying on this hypothesis, Laplace
solved many of the outstanding problems about sound. Propos itiom about
the rate of extinction of the repulsive force of caloric .;,.~,ere up for grabs
true or false, and one knew how to obtain information b earing on
question. La place hadan excellent estima te of
repulsive force, yet it turns out that the whole idea is >Hongheaded.
vmuld say that Laplace s sentences once "'~Nere "po-sitive.'' They 'i/.'ere
bivalen t. Conversely, James Clerk !>Iaxwell once said
tions about the relati,,e velocity of light were intrimically incapable


termina tion, yet a few years after he said that A. A. Jl,lichelson had invente
the technology to give precise answers to :\:laxwell's question.s. 1 would
that the sentences of iuterest to Maxwell had positiv:
them, but were bivalent orli y after a ttansformation in techno logy-a
transformation whose suc.cess depends on delicate experimental details
about how the wor Id works.
In -short, Comte's "po.s.itive-J) is dra\.,Ting attention to a les.s demanding
so are
concept than Dummett' s "bivalent"". Yet the hm are oonnected, and
the thoughts of both writers. Dumm ett says: not bivalent un\ess we ha''e
proof of the truth value, or a known sure-fire method for generating
proof Comte s.ay'"S: not positive, not in the running
until there is sorne style of reasoning that will bear on the qllestion.
Comte, Schlick, and Dumm ett are no more relativist than Crombie or
Chomsky. Yet a positivist train of thought, combined with an empha.sis
styles of reasoning has the germ of relativism. If po-sitivity is consequ
upon a style of reasoning, then a range of possibil
style. They would not be possibilities, candidates for truth or falseho
unless that style were in existence. The e..'\:istence of the style
historical events. Hence, al though whichever propos
pend on the data, the fact tha t they are candidates for being true is a cansequence of a historical event. Conversely, the rationality of a st1e of reasonnot
ing as a way of bearing on the trnth of a cla.>s of propositions does
seem open for independent criticism~ beca use the very sense of what
be established by tha t style dep en& u pon the

ls that a nasty circle?

1 shall proceed as follows. First, 1 observe tbat by reasoning 1 don't mean
logic. l mean the very opposite) for logic is the preservation of truth)
a style of reasoning is what brings in the possibility of truth or falseho
Then I separate my idea of a style
ability of Kuhn and Feyerabend, and from the indeterminacy of transla
urged by Quine. Then 1 examine Davidson's fundamental objection to
supposition that there are alternative ways ofthink
hjectivity, as l understand it, but not relativ:ity. The key distinction throng
out the following discussion is the difference between truth-and-falsehood
beas opposed to truth. A second importan! idea is the Jooseness of ftt
tween those propositiom that have a sense for almost all human beings
regardless of reasoning, and those that get a sense onl' ''~thin a style


Historical Ontology

1nductio n, D ed uct ion

1\~either deductive logic nor induction occur on Crombie's list. HO'i.{
strange, for are they not said to be the basis of science? It is in.s.tructive that
no list like Crombie's would indude thern. The absence reminds us that
sty!es of reasoning create the possibility for truth and ta!sehood. Deduction and induction merely preserve it.
\Ve no'i... understand deduction as that mode of inference that preserves
truth. It cannot pass from true premises toa false condusion. The nature
of induction is more controver.s.ial. The 'i:mrd has been used in many 1-vays.
There is an importan! tradition represented alike by the philosopher C. S.
Peirce and the statistician ferzy Keyman: induction is that mode of argument that presen'es truth most of the time. (Hacking 1980a shm-.,/s hm.,T
Xeyman's theory of testing hypothesis connects vvith Peirce'.s theory of
probable inference.)
Deduction and induction ....,Tere important human di.scoveries. But they
play little role in the scientific method, no more than the once revered syllogism. They are devices for _iumping from truth to truth or from truth lo
probable truth. :'-lot only ;,ill they give us no original contingent truth
from which to jump, but also they take for granted the class of sentences
that assert possibilities of truth m falsehood. That i5 why they do not occur
in Crombie's list. In deduction and induction alike, truth plays the purely
formal role of a counter on an abacus. It matters not v,.rhat truth is, .....Then
we emplo' the mechanics of the model theory of modern logicians. Their
machine V'ork.s. ,..,,en so long as. v. e suppose that the class of sentence.s that
have trut.~ values is- a1ready given. (r, in the case of intuitionist logic~ one
supposes that the class of sentences that may, through proot: acquire truth
values is already given.) Induction equally assume.s. that the class of possible truths is predetermine d. Styles of reasoning of the sort described by
Crombie do something different. When they come into being they generate nc1rv classes of possibilities.

1nw m mensura bi 1ity a nd the 1n determ in acy of T ra n si ation

Philosophers have recently given us two doctrines that pul! in opposite dircctions. Both s.eem to use the idea of a conceptua1 scherne, a notion that
gocs back at Jeast to Kant but "'tho:se modern norninalist version is dueto
VV. V. Quine. He says that a conceptual.s cheme i.s. a set of sentences held to

Language, Truth,

and Reason


be true. He uses the metaphor of core and periphery. Sentences at the core
have a kind of permanence and are seldom relinquished , while !hose on
the periphery are more empirical and more readily given up in the light of
"recalcitrant e.,"'\.-perience."
l>ly talk of St}-ie.s of reasoning does not mesh well with Quine's idea of a
conceptual scheme (Quine 1960, ch. 2}. In his opinion, two schemes differ
....,Then sorne sub.s.tantial number of core .sentences of one scheme are not
held to be true in another .scheme._A sty1e of reasoning, in wntrast, is concerned with truth-or-fals ehood. Two parties, agreeing to the same st}Ies of
rea.soning, may well totally disagree on the upshot, one party holding for
true what the other party rejects. SIJles of reasoning may determine possible truth values, but, unlike Quine's schemes, are not characterized by assignmen ts of truth values. lt is to be e..wected, then, that Quine 's app li caton of the idea of a conceptual scheme w:ill not coincide "ith my idea of
styles of rea.soning.
Quine's most memorable thesis is the indetermina cy of translation. Let
L and M be languages spoken by two truly disparate commanities . Quine
holds that there are indefinitely many possible but incompatible translations betv.een L and M. ,-o matter how much speakers of L and NI migbt
converse, there is in principie no way of .s.ettling on a definitely right translation. This i.s. not a matter of settling on nuance.s.; Quine means that you
could take a sen tence s of L. an d transla te it by one system of translation
into p of M, and translate t by another systern into q of A.f, and p and q
would, in M, be held to be incompatible .
As we shall see in the ne.:c"t section, Donald Davidson has noticed that
the notion of conceptual scheme does not ride well with the indeterminac y
of translation. For hm..Tare \o\.'e to say that speaker.s of L have a scheme different from we who speak AR We must first pick out the true sentences
from the core of the scheme of L, and show that many of these translate
into sentences of M that we who speak M hold to be fulse. But what i5 to
assure that ths is the righ t transla ton? "When transla tng, there i5 a strong
instinct to render central doctrines of L. as main truths of M. Once yo ufocus on truth rather than truth-or-fals ehood, you begin a chain of cnnsiderations that call in question the very idea of a conceptual s.cheme.
The thesis of indetermina cy of translation pulli in one direction and the
idea of incommensu rability pulls. in another. \ltle owe incommensu rability
to Kuhn and F eyerabend. Fo r one slightly un usual version of this famous
notion, sec Fcyc-rahcnd (J978, 65-70). The idea is. that di'i.parate systcm,G of


Historka l

Languag e, 1rutn, a na ft:eason


thought are not mutually expressible. Kuhn has tended to make the idea fit
common place .s.ituations, 'i...Thile Feyerabend emphasizes the extreme. Thus

Feyerabend's favorite example of incommensurabilily is tbe break between

the cosmologies. of archaic and dassical Greece. Kuhn, in contrastl comes

back lo tbe idea of "no commo n measure" in tbe original meaning of the
word, and applies it to more everyday "advances" in knowledge. When
there has. been a scientific revolution, the ne\..Tsdence may addre.s.s


problems and employ new concepts. There is no way of settling whether

the new science do es its jo b better than the o\d one, became they do different jobs. Kuhn finds this sort of incommensurability in al\ sorts of revolutiom that strike tbe outsider as minar, while Feyerabend focuses on big
shifts in human thought. Both writers had at one time suggesled that
incommeruurability should be understood in terms of schernes and translation. lncornmemurability mean! that there would simply be no way of
translating from one scheme to anotber. Th us this idea pulls in a direction
exactly opposite to Quinel s. Indeterrninacy sa)'.S. there are too many translations. between schemes., while incommensurability says there are none

at all.
V>iould either tbe Kuhnian or the Feyerabendian idea of incommensurability apply if st1es of reasoning were to supersede each otberl The Kuhn-

tan '"'no commo n measure" does not apply in any straightfonvard way, ben
cause \lhen 1~oTe reason differently~ there is. no expectation of commo
measure of the sort that .s.uccessive Kuhnian paradigms nvite. Hence it

to the more extreme, Feyerabendian, use of tbe term tbat we must look.

That is surely the popular conception of incommensurability: the inability

of one body of thought to understand anotber.
l do admit that there is a real phenomenon of disparate ways of thinking. Sorne styles of rea.soning have been so firmly displaced that we cannot
even recogni u their objects. The renaissance medica\, alchemical, and astrological doctrines of resemblance and similitude are we\l-nigh incomprehensible. One does not find our mo dern notiom of evidence deployed
in those arcane pursuits. There is ver y little truth in all that hermetic "'rHitt
ing, and to understand it one cannot search out the eore of truth tha

meshes with our beliefs. Yet that stuff m ay not be best described as incom-

mensurable l .." our modem chemistry, medicine and astronomy. 1t
not that the proposition.s. match ill vdth our modern, s.o much as

that the way propositiom are proposed and defended is entrely aliento us.

1/ 1

Yo u can perfectly welllearn hermetic lore, and when yo u do so, yo u end u p

talking the language of Paracelsus, possibly in tramlation. What you learn
is not systems of translation, but chains of reasoning which would have little sense if one were not re-creating the thought of one of those magi.
What we have to Jearn is not what they took for true, but what tbey took
for true-or-false. (For example, that mercury salve might be good tor syphilis because mercury is signed by the planet lv[ercur)\ which signs tbe marketplace where syphilis is contracted.)
L'nderstanding tbe sufficientl strange is a matter of recognizing new
possibilities for truth-or-falsehood, and of learning how to conduct other
styles of reasoning that bear on those new possibilites. The achievement of
understanding is not exactly a difficulty of translaton, altbough foreign
styles will make translation difficult. lt is certainly nota matter of designis
ing translations '"''hich presen. e as much truth as possiblel because 'iNhat
true-or-false in one way of talking may not make much sense in another

until one has learned how to reason in a n"" way. One kind of understand-

ing is learning hm. .~ to reason. \\1-len tle encounter old or alien texts we

have lo translate them, but it is wrong to tocus on that a.spect of translation

tbal merely produces sen terrees of English tor sentences of the other Janguage. With such a limited forus, one thinks of charitably trying to get the
o!d text to sayas much truth as possible. But, even after Paracelsus is translated in to modern German, one still has to lea m how he rea.soned in arder
to understand him. Since tbe idea of incommemurability has been so
dosely tied to translation rather than reasoning, 1 do not use it here.
The indeterminacy of translation is an equal!y wrong idea. 1t is ernpirically emptyl because we know that unequivocal trans.lation evolves
ben,.reen any ttm commun ities in contact. _As observed in the previou

chapter, anecdotal counlerexamples to this asserton do not stand up to

scrutiny. Indetermin.acy is the ,.,.Tong theoretical notion, beca use it starts
from an idea of truth-preserving matching of sentences. In fact, the possibilities available in one language are not there in the other. To get them
into the second language one has to leam a way of reasoning and, when

that has been done, tbere is no problem of translation at al], Jet alone indeterminacy.

There is perfect commensurability, and no indeterminacy of translationl

in tbose boring domains of "observations" that we share with all people a.s
people. Where we as people have branched off from others as a people, we


l.angu.age, Truth, .and Re.ason

H ist orl c. a 1 Ontol ogy

find nelj."y interests, anda looseness of fit bet\..Teen their and our commonplaces. Translation of truths is irrelevant. Communication of \lays to think
is -,rha t matters.

Quine, he a.s.surnes that a conceptual scheme


defined in terms of what

counts. as true, rather than of ,.,.That rounts as true-or-false.

Truth Versus Truth-Or-Falsehood

Con ceptua 1 Se he mes

In his tamous paper "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme," Donald
Davidson ( 1974) argues more against incommensurability than indetenni-

nacy, but he is chidly against the idea of a conceptual scheme that gives
sense to either. He provides "an underlying methodology of interpreta
tion" .such that "we could not be in a position" to judge "that others had
concepts or beliefs different from our own." He makes plain that he do es
not reach this result by postulating "a neutral ground, or a common coor

Davidson conduded bis argument against relativity with the words, "Of
course the truth of sentences remains relative to a language but that is as
obiective as can be." Ear lier, be rightly stated what 5 wrong wi th the idea of

making a sentence true:

he is opposed. He rejects a "dogma of d ualism between scheme and reality''

from which we derive the bogey of "conceptual re\atvity, and of truth rela-

!.\Othing makes. sentences and theories true: not ex-periencel not .surface
irri tatons :he there alluded to Quine], notthe world ... That experience
takes a certain course, that our .skin is. warmed or punctured ... these
facts~ if we like to talk tha t l,..,ay, make sen tences and theories. true. But
this point is better made Ydthout mention of facts. The se-ntence "my .skin
is 1{ann" is true if and only if my skin is. ......Tarm. Hence there is no reference to a fact 1 a 'ivorld, an experience, or a piece of evidence. (Davidson

tive to a scheme."

1974, 16)

dinate system" behveen schemes. It is the notion of a scheme itself to which

Davidson distinguishes two daims. Total transla tabili ty between

schemes may be impossible, or there may be only partial untranslatability.

Davidson'.s. example, "my skin is 'i."mrm/' sen'es me \lell. I urge a dis.tinction

Even if \ ..Te do not follow the intricacies of his argument, nor even accept its-

between statemen ts that m ay be m ade in any langnage, and which require

premises, we can, like Davidson, dismiss the idea of total untranslatability.

no .style of reasoningJ and statements. \'{hose .sense depends upon a style of

reasoning. Davidson tlrites as if all sentences 'i.\Tere of the fonner dass. 1
agree that "my skin 5 warm" is of that dass. 'When 1 once looked for the

As a matter of brute tdct, all human languages are fairly easily partially

translatable. The fact is dosely connected with what 1 said earlier, that
there is a common human core of verbal performances ronnected with

best example of a sense-datum &enlence to be actually published in the an-

what people tend lo notice around them. BLit 1 said that there is a looseness
of fi t between tha t broad base of shared h umani ty and the interesting
things that people like to talk abont. That looseness leaves sorne space for

nals of real science, I hit upon precisely this sen ten ce, or rather, ''my .s.kin is
warmed." lt begim Sir \-\.Ctlliam Herschel's investigatiom of 1800, which are

incommensurability. lt is not only the tapies of discussion that ma)' vary

from group to group, but what count.< as a point of saying something. Yet
David.s.on counter-s there too, and mounts a magnificent attack against

even the noton of partial untransla tabili ty between groups of p eople.

Since in fact even parta! untranslatability is chiefly a matter of coming to
share the interest of another, and since lots of tra,elers are pretty sympa
thetic people, interests do get shared, so we shou\d welcome an argurnent
against par tial un translatability too. Yet sinee Davidson~s argument m ay
seem founded u pon a lack of concern for alternative interests, ,.,,re may fear
his premise$ v{hile 'i,.l.'e accept his conclusions. ;'I.:Iy diagnosis is. that, like

said to commence the theory of radian t heat. He noticed tha t by using filters of sorne colors bis skin was warmed, while in using other colors he had
m uch light bu t little he at (Hacking 1983a, 171).
Herschel went on to pose a theory of invisible rays of heat 1 a theory that
we nm-.T call correct 1 although his own experimen ts m a de him give i t up. In

the course of this reasoning he abandoned the following sentence: "The

heat which has the refrangibility of the red rays is ouasioned by the light
of those rays." \Ve can certainly write out a t:ruth condition of the form

"s is true if and only if p" for this sentence. But there arises a problem
for the sufficiently foreign translator. It is not that words like "ray" and
"refrangible" are mildly theoretical and the translator may have no such


H1stori-cal Ontology

notions in bis vocabulary. 1f an other culture has ac.q uired the styles of
reasoning enumerated by Crombie, it can perfectly ,..,tell }earn Herschel's
physics from fhe ground up--that is just what 1 do in making sense of
Herschel's tn1:. The problem is fhat the sufficiently foreign person will not
have Hersche!'s kind of sentence as fhe sort of thing tbat can be trne-orfalse, be ca use the .....Tays of reasoning tha t bear on it are unkn m{n. To e.,'{aggerate the case, -say the translator is ~o\.rchin1ede.s.. 1 do not choo.s.e hin1 at
random, for he .....Trote a great tract on burning mirror.s and 1vm a greater
scientist than Herschel. Yet 1 s.ay he would not be able to eftect a translation
until he had caught up un sorne scientitic method.
1 should repeat my opposition to usual version.s. of incommen.s.urability.
It is not that Herschel's science had sorne Ke'iNtonian principies about
ray--s and refrangibility that determined the meaning of sentences in ,...Thich
those "'m.rds- occur, and ;so those sentences could not have the same meaning in another theory. On the cDntrary1 Herschel's sentence.s 1Nere fairly in1mune to change in theory. They \\Tere u p for grabs as true or false in 18 00;
Herschd thougbt fhat a crucial scntence is true and later held it to be
false; many years later the v.mrld agreed on the truth of the .s.entence.
Herschel, fhen, first grabbed the right end of fhe stick and then grabbed
the '""'rong one. !vly daim about a translator less well placed than ilichimedes is fhat until he learns how to reason more like Herschel. fhere are no
ends of a stick to grab.
Schemes Wthout Dogma
"Truth of .s.entences;' 'iNtite.s. Davidsonl "remains relative to a language~ but
that is as objecth~e as can be.~' 1 daim that for part of our languagel and
perhaps as part of any language, being true-or-fal-se is a property of -sentences only becau.s.e v. 'e reason about those .s.entences in certain "~Na)'S. Subjectivists put their 'iNOtries in the form of saying that 'i...'ith different cu.s.tom.s. we could "righdy" take sorne propositions for true -,...,hile at present
we take them for false. Davidson has dealt sharply wifh all such tormnlations. But be has left a space for a relativist fear. The relativist ought to say
that there might be whole ofher categories of truth-or-tats ehood fhan
Perhap.s. I am proposing a version of the conceptual scheme idea.
Quine's conceptualsc hemes are sets. of sentences held for true.l\.ne would
he sets of sen ten ce> tha t are candidates for tru th o r falsehood. Do es su eh a

Langllage-, Truth, and Reason


notion fall into the "dogma of scheme and reaiity" that Davidson resents? I
do not think so. The idea of a style of reasoning is as interna! lo what we
think and s.ay as. the Da'ir:idsonian form, ""s :is true if and only if p,"" is interna! to a language. A style is not a scheme that con fronts reality. 1 did speak
earlier of styles of reasoning being applied to data and to fhe formation of
data. But data are uttered and are subject tu Davidsonian treatment. There
is much lo be said about the neglected field of study of e>.Terimental science. but it has nofhing mucb todo wifh scheme/reality. lvly own work on
fhe subject (Hacking l983a) tries to show how experiment has alife of its
mY"TI 1 unrela ted to theories or schemes.

An arch o-Ratio na li sm

This eh apter tnakes tv. 'o a.s-sertions and drm:I.'S .sorne inferences from them.
Each assertion and e\~ery inference is in need of clarification. To list them is
to show hmYV m u eh more m ust be done.
(1) There are different styles of reasoning. i\lany of fhese are discernible
in our ov. n history. They emerge at definite points and have distinct trajectories o f maturation. Sorne die out, others are still going strong.
( 2} Propositions o f the sort that necessarily require reasoning to be .s.ub.stantiated have a po.s.itivityl a being true-or-false, only in consequence of
the .s.tyles of reasoning in 'vhich they occur.
(3) Hence many categorjes of possibility, of what may be true or faJse,
are contingent upon historical events. namely fhe development of certain
styles of rea.s.oning.
(4) It may fhen be inferred fhat there are other categories of possibility
fhan have emerged in our tradi tion.
(5) \Ve cannot reason asto v{hether alternati\~e .S.}''"Stems of reasoning are
better or worse than oursl becaus.e the propositions to v.Thich we reason get
their sense only from tbe method of reasoning employed. The propositions
ha'i.~e no exi.s.tence independent of the 'i."{ays of reasoning tmvard.s them.
Ibis chain of ret1ections does not lead to subjectivity. lt do es not imply
that sorne propo.s.ition} with a content independent of reasoning, could be
held lo he true, or to be tatse, according to fhe mode of reasoning we
adopt. Yet this defeat of subiectivity seems hollow, beca use fhe propositions that are objectively tound to be true are determined as true by styles
of reasoning for which in principie there can be no external jmtification. A
justification would be an jndependent way of showing that the .style gcts at


H istor 1e: a f Ont ol ogy

language, Truth . .and Reason

the truth, but there is no characteriLation of the truth over and above what
is reached by the styles of reason itself
Can there not be a meta-reason justifying a style of reason? Can one no t.

for example, appeal to success? lt need not be success in generating technoiogy, although that does matter. l\'or is it to be sua:ess in getting at the
truth, for that \\rould be circular. There can, hov~o'e\'er, be noncircular successes in truth-related matters. For example, follo"ing lmre Lakatos ( 1978,
chs. 1, 2}, one might revamp Popper's method of conjectnre and refutation, urging tha t a methodology of research programs constan ti y opens u p
new things to think about. l have q uoted Chomsky giving a similar metareason. On his analysis of the Galilean style, it has not only worked remarkably v~oell, but alsoJ in the natural-sciences at least, l ..Te have no altemative but to go on using that style,


of course, in the future it may

not work. Although Chomsky does not make the distinction, his meta-reason is less that Galileo's style continues to find out the truth about the unverse than that it poses new kinds of probing and answering. 1t has produced an open-ended dialogue. That might termnate in the face of a
nature that ceased to participate in -,.vays that the Galilean can make sense
of. \Ve know it might cease to ca ter to our interests, but at present {says

Chomsky) we have no aitemati,ce.

Chomsk;r is saying that if we want to engage in certain pursuits (cal!
them the natural science.s. or even the pursuit of truth in our tradition), ""'e reason with our reason.s.. Other .s.tyles of reasoning may occur; sorne

are curren!. Other p eop le m ay have other interests. \'l'e ough t at leas! to be
cautiou.s., in the social sciences} in looking for other .s.ty:ies of reasoning.

Su eh considera tions m ay lead the arch-rationalist to be a stick-in-tbemud, but since re1ativity does not irnply subjectivity, he can carry on doing

what we do with few qualms.

Sorne arch-rationalists may even find themsekes agreeing that an
anarcho-rationalism 1 have learned from Feyerabend is appealing. Our
overall interests in tru th and reason m ay well be served by letting other
styles of reason evolve in their


ways, unfettered

by a more imperial

kind of rationalism. But that does not mean lo say that !, asan anarcho-rationalist, will take up something so recently killed off in our own tradition
as homoeopathic medicine and its appeal to similitudes. That is for others
(though if they look heaithier than me, I might join up). Anarcho-rationalism is tolerance for other people combined with the discipline of one's


O'i."m s.tandards of truth and reason. The anarcho-rationalist is at home

with tbe sen timent e:\-pressed by Sartre (1980, i\larch 1O, 93) in his las! intervie'lj.l:
C'est ya m a tradition, }e n'en ai pas d'autre.
1a tradition orientale, ni la tradition ,iuive.
Elles me manquent par mon his.toridt-.

"S.tyle" for Historians and Philosophers

Speng!er ( 1918, 1922) too spoke of the "Westem style." His use of the word
Sti! is so generous that his translator says, "The word Stil will therefore not
necessarily be always rendered 'style'" (1926, 108). Be prepared, however,
for translations. For example, die Expansionskmft der abendliindischetl Stil ( 19 22, 55) becomes, in translation, "tbe expansion power of
the \Vestern Soul" ( 1926, 46). Crombie's ambitious analysis should remind
us more, however, of the cabinet than of Spengler's bandstand, for it draws
upon a lavish array of citations spanning three millennia, plus dense refer




"Style" for Historians

and Philosophers

ence.s. to secondary studies-the lifetime collection of an erudite.

Thi.s e-ssay is a substantia~ development of the ideas of Chapter ll. l t 'i..oas

first presented in Corfu in :\-!ay 1991, at a conference on "Recen t Irends Ln

the Historiography of Scienre-: which benefited from the wonderfulleadership and hosptali ty of Kmtas Gano~u and }\ristide Baltas.

Relations between the history and the philosophy of the sciences are often
debated and sometimes contested. :vl:y interest here is collaboration. 1 shal!
describe a ne'N analytical too\ that can be used by historians and by philosophers for different purposes. It is a specialized, indeed technical, version
of an idea often used or abused elsewhere: "style." The historian of science
A C. Crombie had been writing about "st:yles of scientific thinking in the
European tradition" since the mid-1970s, and his work finaUy carne to fruition in three volumes {1994). I heard him lecture on the topic in 1978, and
in chapter 11 adapted the idea to metaphysics and epistemology, changing
the name .s.lightly to (.;_styles of reasoning.,.,. The h\'O uses, by hi.s.torian.s. and
philosophers, are complementa!"}' but to sorne extent asymmetric. The historian may condude that the philosopher's use of the too! is bunk, irrele
vant to understanding the past. But the philosopher needs the history, for
if the too\ does not provide a coherent and enlightening ordering of the record, then it has no more place in sound philosophy than would an:y other
Crombie's idea is.le.s.s. about the content of the sciences than about their
methods. The focus is on hov. ' we find out, not on what . -...Te find out. It is.

out of step with present fashion, which teaches us so much about the intri
cate details of incidenl5 and relatiomhips. lt derives from a conception
of the entire \Vestern scientific tradition; we cannot help but recall that






One root source is, of course, the His.tory of ..._o\rt. i'unold Davidson
(200lc) traces the passage from art histof}' to epistemology. Phrases like
"style of thinking" or "reasoning" occur natmally enough without specialist connotations. This is lo be "'pected with a word like "style" that airead
has so many connotations. In chapter 11 I mentioned the cosmologist Stephen \Veinberg and the theoretical grammarian )i"oam Chomsky. Both authors a!tribute their idea of a Galilean style of reasoning to Husserl. l. B.
Cohen gave a more detailed acmtmt of the same kind of reasoning; he
called it "the ::<ewtonian style," a way of combining "tvw levels of ontology," the mathematical and the measurable.

A case could perhaps be made out [he added] that this style is Galilean or
Keplerian, rather than an invention of 1\~ev..rton's. In fact, Edmund Husserl
has \'P'litten at large concerning the "Galilean" stylt\ essentially the mode

of modern mathematkal phys.ics; from thi.s- point of view, the Ne'i.. ."tonian
style can be seen as a highly advanced and very mucb re-fined develop-

men t of the Galilean. (C.Jhen 198 2, 49).

Cohen and Weinberg were rderring to 9 of Husserl (1970, part 2).ln this
very long section Husserl certainly did write, as Cohen puts it, "at large"'"
about Galileo as the discoverer of a new kind of science, but Ido not think
that he used the words "Galilean style." In fact, 1 do not think he used the
lo\.'ord ".s.tyle,.,. in the wa)' any of those three writers do, oras 1 do. For example, the word is used six times on one page {Husserl 1970, 31 ), n . .Tice ,-~,ith

emphasis in the original German, but in each case to rder to a feature of

the "empirically in tuited wor Id."
Literat"}' critics have long distinguished a "generalizing" anda "personalizing" use of the 'i:mrd "style.n There is. a Balzacian style and there is Balzac's
sty!e. Equally, in '"'imming, there is the Australian crawl and freestyle, as
opposed to the style of Patt Gonzalez, that can be imitated but is inimita-


Historie-al Ontology

''Style" for Histori.ans .and Philosophers

bly hers. It is entirely natural to talk of the style of an individual scientist,

research group, programme or tradition. Ko.s.tas Gm;rroglu, although taking

the word "style" from myself and by derivation from Crombie, has quite legitima tdy pu t the word to its personalizing usage, fo r he con trasts the
"'.s.tyle of reasoning''' of t\m lm. . temperature laboratories, and indeed of

two men, Dewar and Kaemerlingh Onnes (Gavroglu 199). Crombie and I
instead intend something more attuned to Cohen, Chomsl.., and Weinberg than to Gavroglu. And even if we pu t aside all obvio usly personalizing
uses of "styles" of thinking, there are plenty of generalizing uses in the history or philosophy of science that differ from Crombie's. For example,
Freeman Dyson's third Gifford lecture "is concemed ,...,.ith the history of
science. 1t describes hvo c.ontrasting .styles in science, one . ..,Telcoming diversity and the other deploring it, one trying to diversify and the other tr;ing

to unif)?' (Dyson 1988, 13).

Por historians and philosophers, the most famous instance of another

idea of sl)'le is in Ludwik Fleck's fundamental book of 1935, snbtitled Introduction to the Thcmy of the Thought Sty!.e ""d the Thought Col!ective
(Fleck 1979). By a thought style Fleck meant something less sweeping than

more restricted to a displine or field of inquiry. 1\Tevertheless,

a thought style is impersonal, the possession of an enduring social unit,
the "thought collective." lt is "the entirety of intellectual preparedness or
readiness for one particular '"''ay of seeing and acting and no other" (Fleck
1979, 64). Fleck intended to limn what it was pmsible to think; a Denkstil

makes possible certain ideas and renders others unthinkable. Crombie and
1 fix on an extreme end of the spectrum of such permissible uses, and ac-


science has been the history of argument"-and not just thinking. We

agree that there are many doings in both inferring and arguing. Crombie's
book describes a lot of them, and his ''ery title happily en& not "i th science but with "Sciences and J\.rts." He has a lot to say about architecture,

dock making, and the doctrine that "knm,ing is making." :'-!evertheless,

there may still be a touch too much thinking for my pleasure. He titled a
198 8 pro spectus for his book, "Designed in the mind" (Crombie 19 88).
Does one not hear the resonance of Crombie's some\.,~hat Koyran originsZ
Even my 'i.mrd ""reasoning" has too much to do 'with mind and mouth and

keyboard; it do es not, l regret, sufficiently invoke the manipulative han d

and the attenti,e eye. Crombie's last word in the title of his book is "Arts;"
mine \muld be 'Artisan .})
But there's more to my preference for reawning over thinking than that.
It recalls. me to my roots-I am talking about .....~hat Aristotle called rationat even if m y analysis is better suited to the te m per of our times than his.
"Reasoning" recalls the Critique ofPure Reason. l\1y study is a continuation

of Kant's pro,iect of e>.:plaining how objectvity is possible. He proposed

preconditions for the string of .s.ensations to become objective experience.
He also wrote much about science, but only after his day was it grasped

how communal an acl\i ty is the growth of knowledge. Kant did not think
of scientfic reason as a historical and collectve product. We do. ;v!y styles
of reasoning, eminently public, are part of what we need to understand
what we mean by objectivity. This is not became styles are obiective (that
is, that we have fonnd the best impartial ways to get at the truth), but because they have settled what it is to be ob_iective (truths of certain .s.orts are
'i-".rhat we obtain by conducting certain sorts of investigations, ans . .,.rering to

cordingly enumera te very few styles of thinking or reasoning. This is partly

because our unit of analysis. i.s very large in scope. There are many other
nnits of analysis comparable to Fleck's, and which also deal "ith what it 5

certain standards).
Crombie does not e>:pressly define "style of scientific thinking in the Eu-

possible to say. They are thoroughly impersonal, bnt more restricted in

ropean tradition." He e..\.-plains it ostensively by pointing to si.-..;: styles that he

scope, in time and in .s.pace. For many they may be, for that very
reason, more in.s.tructive than sornething along the lines of Spengler orCo-

scientific movement si.x styles of scientific thinkingJ or methods of scien-

hen or Wein berg and Chom.>k]'. We thin k for examp le of .\'lichel Foucaul t' s
epi.s.teme and discursive formation, or Nicholas fardine's not unrelated
"q uestions" (lardine 1991 ).
1 prefer to .s.peak of styles of (scientific) "reasoning" rather than Crombie's "thinking." This is partly beca use thinking is too much in the head for
my liking. Reasoning is done in public as well as in prvate: by thinking,
yes, but al so by talking and arguin g an d .s.howing. This difference benveen
Crombie and myself is mUy one of,'i-. He \.o,.rit{\~ that "the history of

then describes in painstaking detail. "\Ve may in the classical

tific inquiry and demonstration. Three styles or methods were developed
in the investigation of individual regularities and three in the investigation

of the regnlarities of populations ordered in space and time" (Crombie

1988, 10). These sx are (1 combine and select wording from severa! of his
e.,\.-posi tions):

(a} The simple method of postula!ion exemplified by the Greek mathema ti ca 1 sci en ces.


"Style" for Hi.storians and Philosophers

His.toricat Ontology

(b} The deployment of e;c-periment both lo control postulation and to

explore by ob.s.ervation and measurement.

(el Hypothetical construction of analogical modek

(d) Ordering of yariety by comparison and taxonomy.
(e) Statistical analysis of regularities of populations, and tbe calculm of
(O The historical deriva tion of genetic development.
l am glad that he indudes mathematics among the sciences, which is where
tbey belong, whatever sorne of my recent philosophical predecessors may
ha,e tbought. 1 do not mean tha t m athema ties is empirical--only that it is
a science. Note that styles do not determine a content) a specific sdence.
1Ne do tend to restrict "mathematics" to what we establi.>h by m athema tical
reasoning) but aside from that, there is only a very modest correlation be-

tween items (al through (f) and a possible list of fields of knowledge. A
great many inq uiries. use several .s.tyles. For examp le, the :fifth, statistical
s.tyle i-s now used) in various guises, in every kind of investigation, indud-

ing sorne branches of pu re m athematics. The palean to logist uses experimental methods to carbon date and order tbe old borres. The "modern
synthesis" of evolutionary tbeory is among other things a synthesis of tuonomic and historico-genetic tbought.
1 start witb a canonicallist of styles descriptively determined by a histo
rian ,.,.rho} .....Thatever his

axes~ i.s.

not grinding any o f mine. As a philo sopher I

need to di.>cover, from his examples, at leas! a necessary condition for there
being such a "style." We are not bonnd lo accept Crombie's preferred descriptions, nor to condude with exactly his arrangement of styles. 1 shall
list three related reasons why we m ay diverge and then give two ex am pies.
( 1) Crombie offers an account of the "classical scientific movernent" and
tailors his characterizations lo tbe long period of time in which that move
ment was formed and firmed u p. He tends to leave a given style at the date
l ..yhen

it is securely installed. His discus.sions of m a thematics end vdth Kep-

ler's revivals of Greek mathematics. His e,:posi tion of tbe first three styles
mies up al the end of tbe seventeentb century. Only the final style is developed for the nineteenth century, with Darwin being the majar figure. But 1
as philosopher am decidedly Whiggish. The history that l want s the history of the present. That is Jl,lichel Foucault's phrase, implying that we rec
ogrize and distinguish hi.>torical objects in arder lo illnmine our own predicaments. Hence 1 might modify Crombie's list not lo revise his history
hut to view it from here.


(2) Crombie's (a) to (f) is itself a hi.>torical progression, each sty'le beginning later than i ts predecessor in the list, and his presentation of eaeh su ecessive style condudes doser to the present than his descriptions of preceding styles. What strikes me, however, is the ahistorical point that all six
styles are alive and quite well right now. 1 am writing about what styles of
scientific reasoning do for ns. What is importan! now may be different
from ,..,rha t was importan t in the early days..

(3) Crombie did not in tend to write down an exhaustive fut of m u tnall y
exclusive styles. He transcribed what he found central and endnring in the
forma tive period of the \Vestern vision. Quite aside from any styles that we
migh t properl y want to cal! scien tific, and which evolved largely o utside
the \Ves!, there might also be yet earlier styles of "science" found, say, in re
cords of Babylonian compntations, and not to be identified wth a mere
anticipation of (a). And certainly new styles may have e\olved after the
"cla.ssical" B'ents Crombie recounts, just as new styles of reasoning may
emerge in the future. There could also be mergings of two or more styles. 1
don't mean the truism that \{e commonly use more than one st:y~le in any

modern inquiry, but that tbere may haw evolved a style that is essentially
composed of two dassical sty'les, not a mixture bnt a compound, in the
chemist's sense of the word-a new in tellectnal su bstance.
Xow l turn lo two examples. As a philosopher of mathematics, 1 see
proof where Crombie sees postulation. His first style emphasizes the Greek
search for first principies. lt is there that he brings in Greek medicine,
;,itb its battle between empirics and dogmatists. We meet Aristotle during
Crombie'.s. discussion of (a)---even when the Stagyrite is canonizing '"''hat
laler becomes the ta.xonomic style (d). That is corree! history, putting (a)
and its contemp orary correla tives first, in their place. Yet there is no do u bt
tha t -...,That individuales ancient mathematics for us is that we re eognize

proof and to a limited extent calculation. \\'ilbur Knorr speculatively ordered segments of actual and lost lexts by tbe development of proof procedures (Knorr 1975). Mathematcs has the astonishing power to estabfuh
truth.> about the world independently of experience. That is the phenomenon that S-O astonnded Socrates in the 1\-ieno, and has .s.o vexed every .s.erious epistemologist of mathematical science ever sinc.e. 1 -,.vill want my ac-

count of the mathematical style to help understand tbat phenomenon.

Hence my emphases will differ from Crombie's.
For another ex am ple, the historical distinction between styles {b} and
(e) is profoundly importan t. It has to do with the familiar tensiom bet\l.'een today)s experimenter and theoretidan. The former i-s. heir to the

184 Ontolog y

medica! empirics, who insisted that we should never go beyond observit lj.y--a_s
ables in our description.s. of the course of disea.s.e and its cure, t...~hile
the dogmatists who introdu ced what we would now call theoretical entities
that play so ma_ior a part in h:>pothetical modeling (e). Crombie speaks
"controlling postulation" in bis summa ry description of
lation is at the leve! of observables and measurable q_uan tities. lt is by
is not
large the science of phenom ena given or measured in nature that

pemuch tamper ed with. Something else began just about the end of the
riod for which Crombie deS<:ribes (b) and (e). 1 call it the laboratory
characterized by the building of appara tus in arder
to which hypothetical modeling may be true or ta.lse, but using anothe
!ayer o f m o del ing, name\y models of how the a pparatus and instrum
themselves work. The relationship between the laboratory style,
wi th
and styles (b) and {e) is comp!ex. Peter Galison ( 19 98) describes it
the metaph or of a trading zone bet>Neen the
and the mercha nts of theoretical approximations. He took the
es in
linguists studying the development of "Creole" or "pidgin" languag
which a new language develops, for purpos es of
course, at the interface between two established languages. The trading
zone idea will be useful in the study of styles of reas.oning ,...,,hen we
to describe any inquiry that employs several .s.tyles. It is often

that a single investigator is at borne in more than one style of reas.oni
lnstead , there i.s collabo ration in which a person

m o st
use of a handy ro bust core o f techniques from style Y. This is a t its
obvious in "cookbooks" of statistical reasoning prepare d for this or
branch of science, psychology, dadisti c t.axonomy, high
so forth. With no unders tanding of principies, and perhaps using only
mindless statistical package tor the compnter, an investigator is able

gful \lay
use statistics vthou t understanding its language in any meanin
'"''ha tsoever.

To return to the labora tory style, 1 do not mean tha t it has su pp Jan

y, there
Crombie'-s (b) 1 experirnentation, and (e) modeli ng. On the contrar

are whole fields of specialization in which either (b) or (e} is in full playon
its own. On the one hand, despite al! the talk about intervening variable
and the like, many of the social S<:iences operate only at the empiricallevel
of (b). On the other hand, cosmology and cognitive science --none
than the chief modern instan ces of the Galilean style so admire
berg and Choms ky-rem ain at the leve! of (e), hypothetical modeli

"S-tye'' for H istorian s and [)hilosophers

1 SS

Those sciences ans ......~er to observation, but experimental manipulation
intervention is almost ne'iTer practicable. That i.s. precisely \. .~hy l/1/einbe

and Chomsk-y invoke (a certain Koyran vision of) Galileo lo legitim
. that
their ov. n ivork. Cosmology and cognitive science remain science.s
represent; the laboratory sty1e introdu
m a de
1 judge that the la hora tory s tyle began about the time that Boyle
the air pump in order to investiga te the spring of the air. lt is charact
of styles that they have popula r myths of origin.
right note just because it codifies familiar legend. How could it be otherthat
. . . .i.s.e if one is recapitulating European science from -,.vithin? There "'las
legendary momen t when, as Althusser pul it, Thales "discm'
nent of mathematics" (Althusser 1972, 185). Kext in the list of contine
is "and Galileo discovered the contine nt of mechan
erybod)?s favorite hero-n ot only for Chomsky and Weinberg but
Husserl (for whom Galileo is simply The Hero of Science) and Spengle
Crombie's talk on styles of scientiiic thinking that
ago was about- Galileo . Al that sarne conference, \Vinified \\'-isan read
paper titled "Galileo and the Emergence of a 'lew Scientific Style (Wisan
Jet us
1981). A.ll these authors referred chiefly to sorne aspect of style (e}, so
purnot forget that according to Stillman Drake, itwas Galileo who, by the
est ose of style (b), estab lished the ver y fust e>q>eri
himlaw of na ture. Galileo is the stuff of myth, a point m ade by Crombie
nt of
self (1987). Althu.sser continued, "and 1\.Jarx discovered the contine
history." Good myth, wrong man; 1 much prefer :vlichel
questionwith Bopp, Cuvier, and Ricardo. Cuvier as many have notked~ is
as the
able, and we'd add a geologist, but
start of the historico-genetic style. As for style (e), that too
t by a
. "A problem abou t games of chance proposed to an austere j ansenis
or so
man of the world wa.s the origin of the calculus
wrote Poisson {183 7, l) . And 1 take Schaffer and Shapin' s bo ok, subti
myth of
Hobbes, Bayl.e, and the Experimental Life ( 1986}, as setting out the
origin for the laboratory >tyle. Their hero, as both Bruno
and 1 (1991} have observed, is not a person but an instrument, the appara
tus, the air pum
Sry~les, to con tinue i.J th usser' s meta phor, open up nelj.l territory as they
intergo.l am sure that the lndo-Arabic style of applied mathematics, little
ested in postula!ion but dedicated to finding algorith
refer\'lrith, of course) non- European origins. 1 call it the algorismic style,


''.Style'' for Histori.ans and Phlosophe rs

Historic:al Ontology

ring to yet another legend.

'~'\1-gorismi" vms the early European name for

the Arab mathematician who t1ourished in the early ninth century. (Abu
j a" far 1\-lohammed Ben ];lusa, native of Khwarazm, or al-Khowarazmi.} Hi.s
book on algebra {which i.s also probably the so urce of our word "algebra")
was the text from which Europeans learned the .>.rabie nuruerals -and the
algorismic style of re asoning.
The algebrizing of geometry, the Arabicizing of the Greek, was an essential piece of territorial eli..-pansion. Every such expans.ion is contested. \Ve
can overhear today's battles. For example: are computer- generated con-

cepts and proofs really mathematics? Wben J was a student, 1 went around
"ith sorne topologists who would talk and draw pictures and tell tall stores; today, when 1 have topological house guests, tbe fust thing they do is
set up their :v!acs in my basement, not calculating but generating ideas to
-,.rhich real-time computati on is integral. And I knm... others 'i...Tho say that
my friends have stopped doing mathematics. That's how it is, when a style
goes into ne\.,T territory.
For al! these differences in emphases, 1 do not differ signiftcantly from
Crombie, either in my individuat ion of styles or in hmv~ 1 describe them.
\Vithout hi.s three-volume vindica!ion of his, 1 would be left
with dubious anecdotes and fables. !'m not claiming that !'m on solid nonT

ideological ground ,...,,hen I resort to a historian for an initial individuat ion

of styles. I daim only a certain independe nce: his motivation is very differ-


began; "When we sp ea k today of natural science we mean a specific vi

sion created "ithin \Vestern culture, at once of knowledge and of the object of that knowiedge) a 1-ision at once of natural sdence and of nature))

(Crombie 1988, !}. He said on the ne:\."1: page that,



The 'i."{hole his.torical e.."'q'erience of sdentific thinking is an invitation to

treat the history of science, both in its development in the \Ves-t and in its
comp lex diffu.s.ion through other cultures} as a kind of comparative his.torical anthropology of thought. The scientific movement offers an invitation to e..xamine the id en ti ty of natural S.{ience ,...,ithin an in tellectual
culture, to distinguish that from the identitie.s of other in tellectual and
practical a(tivitie.s in the arts, scbolarshi p) philo.sophy, la,.,.~_, government,
commerce and .so on) and to relate them all in a ta.xonomy of .styles.. lt i.s
an invi t:ation to analyse the varjous ele m en ts that make up an .in tellectuaJ
style in the study and treatment of nature; conceptions of nature and of
science, method.s of sentific inquiry and demonstration diversified according to subject matte.r, evaluations of scientific goals with con.sequent
motivations., and intellectual and mora1 {Ommitments and expectations
generating attitudes to innovation and change.
This is history in the grand manner) an im.itation to a comparative histori-

ent from mine, but the list he presents admirably suits my purposes. It is a
good workhorse of a list that holds no surprises. To use yet another obso-

cal anthropology of thought. Regardless of interest, philosophical or historical, many of ns may be glad that at a time of so many wonderfully
dense and detailed but nevertheless fragmented studies of the sciences, we
are offered su eh a long-ter m proi ect. This is especially so for philosophers,

lete metaphor, it covers the waterfront) and provides a directory to the

to Y'lhom the most fascinating current hi.s.toriography of the sciences is

main piers, in a readily recognizable and fairly sa ti.sfactory way. A.nd it

could be the wrong waterfront for me. :vlaybe he was describing a once
wondrous but now gutted Liverpool, or at any rate a dignified San Fran
cisco that has taken up leisure pursuits like denim and tourism-h arbors
that history has passed by. Perhaps J should instead be attending to a bus-

work of the "social studies of knowledge" schooh of philosophically moti

tling container port like FelL""'\:stowe or Oakland.1'laybe science as -,.\re knov.

it began late in the nineteenth century and the philosopher who is notan
antiquarian should just forget about the olden times. 1 don't think so. The

vated history: the .s.trong program, network theory, the doctrine of the construction of scientific tacts by negotation . Increasingly fine-grained analy-

ses of incidents, sometimes made tape-recorder in hand, have directed the

hi.story of science towards the tleeting. On the other hand, many of my
philosophical colleagues take it to the quasi-timeless end, as when Hilar{
Putnam ;Hites of "the ideal end of inquiry." Crombie's st}ies may
seem to be edging off towards the excessi,,ely long run. But his intentions

proof of m)' oonfidence that Crombie'.s. list remains germane is., hm.,Tever~

are plain} to conducta historica1 investigation of that specific 'ision mostly

nota matter of principie but of the success of the resultan! philosophical

created around the !Viediter ranean basin and then in more norther !y paro


of Europe} "a comprehen sive historicai inquiry into the sciences and arts
mediating man's e..xperience of nature as perceiver and knower and agent

Our differences lie not in the identit)' of styles or their description, but
in the use to which we pul the idea. Crombie's advance notice of hi.s book

[that must 1 include qnestions at different levels, in part given by nature, in


Historical Ontology

"Style" for HFstorians and Philosopher.s

part made by man: Cmmbie was well aware of the need to establish the
historical continuity of styles across periods of latency, of the need to nnderstand "the in tellectual and social commitmen ts, dispositions and habits, and of the material conditions, that might make scientific activity and
its practica! applicatiom intellectually or sociaUy or materiaUy easy for one
society but difficult or impossible for another." He wanted to compare
those nov. familiar i tems, "the n umbers, social position, educa tion, oc eupation, in.s.titutions, priva te and public habits., motives, opportunitles, persuasions and means of communications of .individuals.,>l and .so on: '(military context," "rhetorical techniques of persuasion." The grand view need
not neglect the tashionable tapies of the moment, nor on the other hand
ignore philosophical chestnuts like the existence of theoretical entities.
That" conundrum is described in the mandarin manner, as you -,....,.ill have
noticed from m~' other quotations: "distinguishing the argument giving ra-

tional con troJ o fsubj ect-m alter from an implication of the existence of enti ties app earing in the language med" {tha t is, the polarizing electron gun

1 ~9

to be correct about} prior to the deve1opment of a style of reasoning.

Every .s.tyle of reasoning introduces a great many novehies induding new

types of.
.s.entences, ne1,-v l{ays of being a candidate for truth or ta.Isehood
laio~,s, or at any ra te modalities

possibili ties.
One v...ill a1so notice, on occasion~ ne\Y types of classi:fication and ne\1\~ type.s.
of explanatiom. We should not envisage first a style and then the novelties.
That is one of the many merits of the word "style." \'ie did not first have
fauvism, and then lV!atisse and Derain panting iau\'e pictures in 1905. The
style comes into being with the iustauces, although (as the example of the
fauves makes p lain) the recogni tion of something as ne'i..,T, e'i.~en the naming

can a philosopher make use of so "'l'ansive an idea of a style of scientific

of it, may solidify the style after it has begun. What the word "style" does
not make plain is why fauvism fades almost as s.oon as. named, i'llhile a
fe\-\ styles of reas.oning become autonomous of their origin.s. and their originators. That is a pre&sing philosophical issue in the study of styles of rea-

thinking or reasoning in the European tradition? First, I notice the \my in



but do electrons exist?).

I have hardly begun to enumera te


historiographk airns. Hov.T

which styles become autonomous. Every style comes into being by little

Each style, I say, introduces a number of novel types of entities, as just

microsocial interactions and negotiations. It is a contingent matter, to be

listed. Take object.s. Every style of reasoning is a.ssociated "ith an ontological debate about a new type of object. Do the abstract obiects of mathematics exist? That is the problem of Platonism in mathematics. Do the
unobservable theoretical entities of the laboratory style really exist? That is
the problem of scientific realism in the philosophy of the natural sciences.
Do the taxa e:xist in naturel or are they, as Buffon u.rged, mere artifacts of
the human mind? Are there ob.iects, such as languages, to be understood in
tenns of their historical derivation, or are the)' .i ust a way of organizing a
mess of com plexity on top of the only reality, a postula ted innate universal

described by historians, that sorne people >;ith disposable time and available serYants should value finding something out. Yet each style has become independen t of its own history. We can forget the history or enshriue
it in myth. Each style has become what we thiuk of as a rather timeless
canon of objectivity, a standard or model of what t is to be reasonable
about this or that type of subject matter. We do not check to see whether
mathematical proof or laboratory investigation or .s.tatistical studies are the

right way to reason: they have become (after fierce struggles) what it is to
reason rightly, to be reasouable in this or that domain.
1 assert neither that people have decided what shaU count as obiectivity,
nor that we have discovered what does the ttick. l am concerned ith the
way in which objectivity comes into being, and shall shortly state how to
address the question of what keeps certain standards of objectivity in
place. Why do 1 not say that we have simply discovered how to be obiective,
how to get at the truth in a long haul? This is beca use there are neither seuterree,; that are candidates for truth, nor independently identified objects

grammar? Are coefficients. of correlation or the rates of unemployment

real features of populations, orare they products of institutonal arrangements. of classification and measurement?
Each style of reasoning has its. own existence debate} as illustrated, be-

cause the style introduces a uew type of object, indi,iduated by means of

the style, and not pre,iously noticeable arnong the things that exist. lndeed, the realism-autirealism debates so familiar in recen! philosophy will
now be understood in a new and eucydopedic fashion, as a by-product of


H istorical Ontology

styles of reasoning. That is not true of questions of global idealism, mind

versus matter debates, which are not engendered by t:llli or that style of

Objects are only one kind of novelty. One may run down my list of novelties checking that each style introduces the.s.e noveltie.s.. That) I argue-~ is
an essential and definitive feattne of a style of reasoning, accounting for
the relatively small number of styles on Crombie's list. Hence we are in a
position to propos.e a necessary condition for being a style of reasoning:

each style should introduce novelties of most or all of the listed types, and
should do so in an op en-textured, ongoing, and crea tive way. Ivla thematicians do not ju.s.t introduce a fe,...,.~ sorts of abstract objects) numbers) and

shapes, and then stop; the type "abstrae! object" is open -ended once we be-

"'Style" for Historians and Philosophers.


as Durnmett has well taught, even when similarities in the surface grammar and in possible lj.{ays of inquiry may make us think that sentences we
investigate using them are beyond question bivalent, scrutiny abet-

ted by a stern theory abont meaningfulness may make us skeptical.

The kinds of sentences that acquire positivity through a st}-le of reasoning are not well described by a correspondence theory of trnth. 1 have no
instant objection to a correspondence theory for lots of humdrum sentence.s, what we mght call pre~style or unreasoned sentences) including the

maligned category of observation sentences. But 1 reject any uniform allpurpose semantics. The instant objection to correspondence theories, for
sentence.s. tha t have posi tiv'ity only in the con teA.'t of a style of reas.oning, is

gin reasoning in a certain ivay. Note that on this criterion, logic) be it de~
d uctive) ind uctive) or abductive, do es not eo un t as a style of reasoning.

that there is no way of individuating the fact to which they correspond, except in terrns of the ""~Na}' in '"''hich one can investigare its. truth) namely by
using the appropriate ,style. As J. L. Austin showed, that objection does not

This is as ir should be. Crombie did not list the branches of logic, and no

so in.s.tantly apply, for

\mnder. People ever;r1..,There make inductions~ drm..,, inferences to the be.s.t

e>.:planation, make deductiom; those are not peculiarly scientiiic st}les of

icate or subject-relation-object form. 1 reject the first dogma of traditional

anglophone philosophy of language, that a nniform "theory of truth" or of

thinking, nor are they ~v1editerranean in origin.

I use my list of novelties as a criterion, as a necessary condition for being

''meaning" should app ly across the board to an entire- "language." Tha t is a

fundamental lesson to draw from Wittgenstein's talk of different "Jan-

a st}le of reasoning. !'ve mentioned the ontological debates arising from

one sort of novelty, the new types of objects; now 1 shall saya little more

guage-games." Among shop-soiled theories of truth and meaning, the one

that best fits sentences of a kind introduced by a st}le of reasoning is a

about new types of -s.entences. Each nelj.vT style, and each territorial extension, bring.s. v.:ith it new sentences, things that \'{ere quite literally never .s.aid

verification theory.

befare. That is hardly unmuaL That is what lively people have been doing
sin ce the beginning of the human race. 'What's difieren t about styles is tha t
they introduce new ways ofbeing a candidate for truth or for falsehood. As
Comte put it-and there is a lot of Comtanism in my philosophy-they
introduce nelj..,.T kinds of "'positivity," ways to have a positive truth value, to

be up tor grabs as true or false. Any reader who fears too much early positivism should know also that 1 took the word "positivity" in the first in.s.tance from :\:Iichel Fouc.ault, "Nhose int1uence on my idea of styles of reasoning is more profound than that of Comte or Crombie. 1 should repeat
for philosophers what was said in chapter ll, that his idea of positivity falls
far short of what :'>..Iichael Dummett calls bivalence, of being definitely
true) or definitely false. Bivalence commonly requires far more to be in
place than a style of reasoning. It may demand a Foucauldian episteme,
sorne of Jardine).s. questions) or e'i.~en, as Gavroglu argues) an entirely per-

sonal research style localized in a single laboratory. And even after all that,


to ""obsenatlon s.entences)) in subject-pre-d-

The truth of a sentence (of a kind introduced by a style ofreasoning) is

what we find out by reasoning using that style. Styies become standards of
objectivity because they get at the truth. But a sentence of that l..ind is a
candida te for tru th or falsehood only in the context of the style. Thus styles
are in a certain sense "self-authenticating." Sentences of the relevan! kinds
are candidates for truth or for falsehood only when a style of reasoning
makes them so. This statement induces an unsettling feeling of circularity.
The statment is dosely connected with the claim that st}les of reasoning introduce novehies, including ne"v kinds of sentences. There simply do
not e.,-..;::ist true-or-false sentences of a given kind for us to dis.cmer the truth

of, outside of the conte>.-t of the appropriate style of reasoning, The doctrine of self~authenticating styles is distinct from "constructionisC accounts of scientific dis.covery. For in those accotmts _indhidual tacts of a

typically familiar kind become constructed-as-facts in the course of re.s.earch and negotia tion. There l{aS no fact "'there)) to discover until con~
structed. Acoording to my doctrine, if a sentence is a candidate for truth or


H[storical Ontology

"Style" for Hfstorians and Philosophers

falsehood, then by using the appropriate style of reasoning we may find

out ;.\rhether it is true or false. There is more to say here, connected ,-~,ith the
differenc.e bet\l.'een a sentence having positivity and bivalence 1 but 1 may

have said enough to show how my doctrine falls a long way short of
constructionism .

The apparent circularity in the self-authenticating styles is lo be welcomed. lt helps ex:plain why, although styles may evolve orbe abandoned,
they are immune to any-rthing akin to refutation. There is no

higher standard to which they directly answer. The remarkable thing about
sty!es is that they are stable, enduring, accumulating over the long haul.
i\1oreover, in a shorter time frame the knov. 'ledge that \{e acquire
them is moderately stable. lt is our knowledges that are subject lo revolu1

tion, to mutation, and to several kinds of oblivion; it is the content of v.That

~...-e find out 1 not hmv V{e :find out 1 that is refuted. Here lies the s.ource of a

certain kind of stabilty. Sorne years ago, when 1 published a brief paper
about the stability of the laboratory sciences, l could refer only to sorne obsenations by S. S. Sch'i....Teber and to sorne vwrk on "finality in science" done

by a group in Frankfurt (Hacking 1988b}. Kow the tapie of stability 5 positi,ely trendy, and at the time of writing this had occupied the correspondence pages of the Times Literary Supplement for severa! weeks (Duran!
1991, cf Hackin g 1999a, 84-9 2).
l believe that understanding the self-authenticating character of styles of
reasoning is a step towards grasping the quasi-stability of science. l doubt
that Crombie agreed with this.lf so, our difference would no! be between a
historical judgment and a philosophical one, but rather a philosophical
difference ben. . .~een two students, one a historian and one a philo.s.opher.
Other historians, of a more constructionist ben~ will hold that my doc
trine of self-authenticat ion does not go far enough; in any e\rent 1 the i.s.sues

are philosophical, not hi>torical.

In respect of stability l do wholly endorse one much used lemma from
the strong program in the sociology of knowledge. The truth of a proposition in no ......Tay e.,'---plains our dis.covery of it, or its acceptance by a scientific
communi ty, or its staying in place as a standard tem of knowledge. N or
does being a fact, nor reality, nor the ""~Nay the 'i....Torld is. :rviy reason.s. for saying so are not Edinburgh ones; they are more reminis.cent of ...~ery tradi-

tional philosophy. l would transfer to truth (and lo reality) what Kant said
about existen ce, that it 5 not a predicate, adding nothing to the subject. l
m.<~y belicve th at there was a solar eclipse this summer be ca u :Se there was


one in the place l was then staying; the eclipse is part of the explana tion of
my belief (a view which might be resisted in Edinburgh), along with my
experience, my memory, my general knovdedge 1 the folderol in the nelj..,-rspa pers, etc. Bu! the fact tha t there was an eclipse, or the truth of the proposition thatthere was an eclipse, 5 not part of the ex1'lanation, or at any rate
not m'er and above the eclipse itself. This is no occasion to develop that
theme, except to say that anyone who endorses the Edinburgh condusion,
that truth is not e.xplanatory, should want an uoderstanding of the stability
of what we find out, and no! settle for "because that's the way that the
world is:" 1 shall now sketch how the theory of styies of reasoning may provide such an understanding.
The idea of self-authentication is only a step, a fingerpost, towards an
understanding of the quasi-stability of sorne of our knowledge. We shall
no! progress further by thinking abont method in general, Jet alone "science" in general. E.ach s.tyle of reasoning has its Qlr\o"TI characteristic self-stabilizing techrq u es. An accoun t of each tedmiq u e req uires detailed analysis, specific to the style, and it is aided by vivid historical illustration. Each
5 a long story. l have published three papers abont the statistical, the
mathematical, and the laboratory styles ( Hacking 1991 a, 1992a, 199 Sb).
There is Ji ttle overlap between these essays, beca use the techniques and th e
histories involved differ substantially from case tocase.
AJmost the only thing that stabjlizing techniques have in common is
that they enable a self-authenticatiug style to persist, lo endure. Talk of
techniques that l describe are quite well known, bu~ l daim, inadequately
nnderstood. For e>.'aillp!e, Duhern's famous thesis about how to save theories by adju.sting auxiliar; hypotheses is (by one measure) exactly 1/14th of
the stabilizing techniques that l distingui>h in the labora tor; sciences. l
m-1:e m u eh more to recent v. ork by Andre\l Pickering, to V~o'hom 1 \muld attribute another 3/14th (Pickering 1989). Overall we are concerned with a
mutual adinstrnent of ideas (which include theories of different types),
materiel {which we revise as much as theories) and marks (including data
and data analysis). Al! three are what Pickering calls plastic resonrces that
we jointly mold into semi-rigid strnctures. 1 should emphasize that, althongh l use Duhem, thi> account does not go :in the direction of the
underdetermina tion of theory by data (Quine's generalization of Duhem's
remarks). On the contrary, \..Te cometo understand 'i:l.'h}' theories are so determnate, almost inescapable. Likewise m y accoun t of the stabili t:y of the
mathematica1 style owe.> m u eh lo two nnhappy bedfellows, Lakatos and

"'Style" for Historians and Philosophers

H istoric::al Ontology


\Vittgenstein. It introduces an idea of [<analy1fication"-of hm""' sorne .s.ynthetic if a priori propositions are made analytic: thus the logical positivist
doctrine of the a pr-iori is historicized. But 'iNe no more arrive at the radical
conventionalism or constructionism sometimes read into Remarks on the
Fourulations of A.fathematics than we arrive at the underdeterrnination of
theory by data (Hacking 2000).
A happy by-producl of this analysis is that not only has each st;le its
0\o\,'ll .self-stabilizing techniques_. but also sorne are more effective than others. The taxonomic and the historic-genetic styles have prodnced nothing
like the stability o f the labora tory or the mathematical style, and l daim lo
be able to show why. On the other hand, although :\Iark Twain, Disraeli, or
whoever could, in the earlier days of the statistical st;le, utter the splendid
canard about lies, damn lies, and statistics, the statislical style is so stable
that i t has grm.."ll its m ..."l1 v.mrd tha t gives a hin t abo u t i t& most p ersistent
technique.s.: "robust." In the case of statistics there is an almost too e'i.rident
version of self-authentication (the me of probabilities to assess the probabilities). But thal is only par! of the story, for 1 emphasize the material, institutional requirements for the stabilit; of statistical reasoning. 1ndeed, if
my accounts deserve lo be pegged by any one familiar philosophical " ism;' then it s materiafum. That is most notably lrue of my account of the
labora lory slyle, despi te my incorporating the idealist "Quine- Duhem thesis}) as an adjunct.
Techniques of self-slabilily retum os to the question of how to individuate styles. We began with an ostensive definition, Crombie's list. Then we
moved toa criterion~ a necessary condition: a .s.tyle must introduce cert.ain
novelties) ne;...Tkinds of objects-, la\. .T.s., and so on. But llO"r"l .....Te- get doser to
the heart of the matter. Each style persists, in its peculiar and individual
way because- it has harnes.sed its m.,m techniques of .s.elf~stabilization. That
is. \lhat constitutes something as a style of reasoning.
This three-stage definition of st;'les mmt be treated with caution. Consider for example the question of whether sorne sties of reasoning have
simply died out, after a robmt life in recorded hislory. In chapter ll l suggested one extinct st;'le, the Renaissance reasoning by similitudes so well
represented by Paracelsus . .'v!y characterization ofstyles above began with a
his.torian's. dassification of styles, not intended to be exhaustive: of course
that allows that sorne st;'les are no longer with us. 1 don't know whal
Crombie thought about Renaissance medicine, but 1 know of nothing in
his published writing to exclude il as participating in an additional style
that has now been abandoned. So the possibility of "dead" .<tyles is un


problema tic for the fust, ostensive, definition of slyles. Barry Allen ( 1996)
has suggested ,,:itchcraft as another.
Next 1 gave a philosopher's necessary condition for being a style, in
terms of introd ucing a ba ttery of new kinds of ob_i ects. Tha t too allows tha 1
sorne styles die out. It is at leas! arguable that the reasoning of a Paracelsus satisfies this criterion. Finally I haYe suggested-and here only
gested-a more analytic definition, in lerms of a style being constituted by
<elt~stabilizng techniques. There arise two questions: first, whether hermetic medicine of !hose times did have such techniques, and then, if the er is )'e-S) why this style of reasoning has been so bru.s.quely disp1aced.
I believe that the answer to the fust qu.estion is a qualified affirmati,ce-but see my observation above about sorne techniques being more effec~
tive than others. The second question leads inlo dense hislory; recall
wm plaints addressed lo ,,fiche! Fouca ult tha t he neyer explained why
epistemes die out in particular why his Renaissance episteme of rese-mblance expired. I do nol believe that one can giYe purely interna! explanations of why ""{e abandon certain practice.s., but have no confidence in extema! explanations either. lt does not discredit the philosopher's use of
styles of reasoning that it leads directly lo such historical chestnuts; the
contrary, 1 should imagine.
The historian w:ill wan l lo distinguish severa! trp es of even ls. There is
the extinction of a style, perhaps exemplified by reasoning in similitudes.
There is the insertion of a new style that may then be integrated with another, as has happened with algorismic reasoning, combined with geometrical and poslulational thought. There is the challenge offered by a new
sl}le, the laboratory style, loan old one, the postulational slyle, and the ensuing triumph of the new. l am inclined to go with the contingency theorists among hstorians on al! these poin ts. It is altogether con tingen l that
there have been such replacements, and the concept of slyle is of no aid in
explaining ;;hat happened. Style is a more metaphysical concept, importan! for understanding lruth-or-falsehood once a sl}le has become autonomous.
i\-lore pressng lo the philosopher than dead, merging, or emerging slyles
are que.s.tions posed in the present by a number of special~interest groups.
.\Vhat are the- other styles of reasoning? Historical reasoning? LegaJ reasoning? l\-lystical reasoning? .'v!agical reasoning? john Forrester ( 1996) makes
a case for the ~'case," in psychoanaJysis, as a style of reasoning. Arnold
Davidson ( 1996} has a more general argnment for the whole of psychiatry.
\Ve m ay C"r'Cn, in <1 modcst way, get a grip on Richard Rorty',.;;. que.stion,


''Style" for His.tori.ans and Philosophers

Historical Ontoogy


"!.s Science a Natural Kind?" (Rorty 1988) without being reduced to his
vie\1.' that there is only the largely undifferentiated conversation of mankind. We can do so without embracing the opposed idea of Bernard V>/illian15, that science leads us lo something worth calling an absolute conception of reality (Voiilliams 1984, 214 and 1985, 138-139). The very mention
of styles, in the plural, corrects the direction of the debate: we shall stop
talking of science in the singular and return to that he al thy nineteenthcentury practice of Williarn \\'hewell and most others: we shall speak of
the history and philosophy of the sciences-in the plural. And we shall no!
speak of the scientific method a.s if it were sorne impenetrable lump, but
instead address the different st-les (Hacking 1996). On the other hand,

tia! aspect of Westem culture. 'Wittgenstein's philosophical anthropology is

about the "'natural history o f man;l or) as I prefer to put i t, about human
beings and their place in nature. lt concems facts about all people, facts
tha t make i1 p ossible for a.ny comrnuni t- to dep lo y the self-slabilizing te ehnique.s of styles of ieasoning. lt is in philosophical anthropolog}' that we
slough off the Eurocentrism with which rhil study began.
We should be wary of giving gra.nd names to our modest projects. In
1990, two works were subtitled "Towards a.n Anthropology of Science."
They were written a few hundred meters apart, at the cole Pol}1echnique
and the cole des ;\lines in Paris. They were both published in England
{Atran 1990, Lalour 1990). They are both written from perspectives at

once 1"te have a dearer unders.tanding of wha t, from case to case 1 keeps

righ t angles to \Vittgensteinl s. ~1-y m"11 abuse of 'iNhat \Vittgenstein meant

each style stable in its own wa. we shall not think that there are just end
less varieties. of Rortian "cDnversation.-,. ~:Iy doctrine of self--authentication)
whch sounds like part of the current mood for sceptically undermining

b anlhropology has more in common


Atran than


Latour. This

is because Atran is concerned lth-among many other things in his ex-

traordinarily versatile book-what made po55ible the taxonomic style (d).

the sciences 1 turns out to be a consen'ative strategy explaining lj.lhat is peculiar about science 1 distinguishing it to sorne extent from humanistic and

He also has a Chomskian tision of an underlying) innate~ universal struc-

ethical inquiry.
A proposed account of self-stabilizing techniques begins by observing

thropology of science is profoundly anti-innatist) anti-universalist. These

h,m authors do, however1 have one important thing in common, as distant
as possible from \Vittgensteinls Anthropologie or natural hi.s.tory of man-

that a style becomes autonomous of the local microsocial incidents that

brought it in lo being. Then there is the detailed accounl of how each stle
do es stabilize itself. That is not the end of the matter. It is a contingent facl
about us and our world thal the techniques work at a\l-that we can
analytify the sentences of mathematics or create phenomena in the labora-

lory lo w hich our models are true. The p ersistence of a st-le demands
sorne brute conditions about people and their place in nature. These conditions are not tapies of the s.ciences) to be investigated by one or more
stles, but conditions for the possibilit of stks. An acconnt of them has
to be brief and banal, becanse there is not much to say. What we have lo
supply are, to quole Wittgenstein, "really remarks on lhe natural history of

ture for whal he calls folk-laxonomy. In contrast, Latour's projected an-

kind. Atran does real ethnography, studying classification .systems used by

:\'layan peoples in the jungles of Guatemala. Lalour too was trained as an
ethnographer, and his study of the synthesis and identification of a tripep
tide was conceived of as a.n ethnography of the workplace, the laboratory
(Lalour and Woolgar 1979). That work now serves as a role-model--or as
horrid cautionary tale-for a generation of trainee anthropologists ...,..,.-hose

field site is a laboratory. (1 myself think it is a plausible example of a leso

plausible general thesis about construclionism; Hacking 1988d.)
What should we cal! my inquiry, less ambitious tha.n philosophical anthropology, namely the detailed study of the slabilizing techniques used by

man: not curiosities 1 hmrever1 but rather obsen'ations on facts . . .rhich no

a given style? If

one has doubted and which have only gone unremarked because they are
ah..~ays there beore our eyesn (VVittgenstein 1981) 47). \-Vittgenstein and
others also called this (philosophical) a.nthropology (cf Bloor 1983). The
resona.nce is "~th Kant's il.nthropowgie rather than the ethnography or ethnology commonly studied in departments of anthropology or sociology.
Crombie's "comparative historical a.nthropology of thought" is b and
large hstorical ethnology, a comparative study of one profoundly intluen-

the study of self-stabilizing techniques would be philosophical technology.

This label does not carry its meaning on its face, for 1 am not ta1king about
what we usually mean by "technology," namely the development, application, and exploilation of the arts, crafts, and sciences. \Vhat l mea.n by
philosophical technology is the philmophical study of cerlain lechniques,
just as philosophical anthropology is the study of certain aspects of man,
epidemiology of epidemic diseases.


are to u.s.e the suffix ''-ology/' then a :fitting name for


Historic:al Ontology

We have finally reached the fundamental difference between the historian'> and the philosopher's use of the idea of a scientific .style of fhinking
or reasoning, a difference that has nothing todo with disagreements about
history or divergence in philosophies. Crombie led us toa comparative historical antlrropology (moved, he abo told us, by the e:q:leriences of teaching in Japan, and of crossing parts of }\_sia and its oceans 'i."'Then visiting his
native Australia). l invite what l call philosophical technology: a study of
the ways in which the styles of reasoning provide stable knowledge and become not the uncoverers of objective truth but rather the standards of objectivity. And when asked how those techniques could be possible at al!, l
fall back on a few and very obvious remarks about people, of the sort to
which \V!ttgeustein has already directed us. less all-encom passing histories ;,ill provide the social conditions within which a style emerged and
those in which it t1ourished; less ambitious essay-s n philosophi cal technoldescribe) in a more :fine-grained tmyJ the 'i..,Tay-s in 'i...Thich a style


too k on ne\o\.' stabilizing te eh niques as it pursued its seeming destiny in ne . . . .~

territories. Comparati,,e historical anthropology is a fundamentally different enterprise from either philosophical anthropology or philosophical
1 began by saying that the philosopher requires the historian. lf Crombie's three volwnes did not presenta coherent ordering and analysis of European scientific practice and vision, then my talk of self-authenticating
styles and of philosophical technology would be suspect. That is why l
called the relation between the history and the philosophy of the sciences
a.s.ymn1etric. The philosopher \..,Tho concei\~es of the sdences as a human
production and even invention requires the historian to shmv that analytic
concept;; have app\ication. After learning from the historian's analysis, 1
turn lo a different agenda, which, -o u "ill have noticed, summom all the
old gang: truth, reality, existence. But also, as is al""Ta"}'S the case in philo.sophy, 'i...Te are directed toa complementary range of entirel"}' new tapies, such
as p hilosophical tedmology.
For all the manifest differences of endeavor between the historian and
the philosopher they have this in oommon: we share a curiosity about our
Westem "scientific" vision of object>ity. That is as central a philosophical
concern as could be: the core que.stion of Kant's. first critique. Crombie'.svolumes. wilL 1 hope~ be read in part asan account of ho'i...,T conceptions of
obj ective knowledge have come into being, while the philosop her can describe the techniques . . . .hich become autonomous of their historical ori1

"S.tyle" for Hstorians and PhHosophers


giru, and which enable styles of reasoning to persist a t al l. Yet 1 would not
push this division of labor too far. As 1 said in chapter !, objectivily, in its
.several guises, is a hot topic for active historians of science su eh as Lorraine
Daston, Peter Galison, Theodore Porter, and many others. Even when ob_jectivity is not explicitly in view, however much the historian may ab_jure
philosophical i&sues, every sound history is imbued "ith philosophical
concepts about human knowledge, nature, and our conception of it. And
aside from central shared concerns, there is a more general predicament
that the historian and the philosopher experience. Crombie was powerfully
aware of the ret1exive elements of Iris volwnes. He knew that he who describes _a certain 'i.ision of ourselves and our ecology has tha t vision himself..\'[ore constraining, although more difficult to come lo coherent terms
with, p hilosop her and historian alike are part of the eomm unity of living
thing.s. that has been transformed by bearers of that vision in their interaction.s. wi th nature as they .saw i t.

Leibniz and Descartes



Leibniz and Descartes:

Proof and Eternal Truths

This., the e.Jrliest piece in this collecrion , ,...-ras given in 1973 at the British
is. the
~o\.cademy as a Da'wes Hich Lecture in the history of philosophy. Here
first attempt to practice , ..That in
phy." One 'iN.ay is only one \''ay among many. This. lecture appeared in print

at about the same time as my totally a-chroni.stic account of Leibniz's- theorr

of infinitel y long proofs, in "vhich 1 e-:x.--plicate them in terms of the transfinite
proofs in Gerhardt Gentzen's theory of natural deduction (Hacking 1974}.
Referente-s to ,.;orks by Leibniz_ are given as foHm...--s: P = Die philasopl.sche Schriften (l.eibniz 1875-90) and ]1..1 = ~\iathemat-iKhe .Schriften
(leibniz_ 1849-1863 ), both edite-d by Gerhardt; O = Opuscules et ,fra.grnents
indjts (Leibniz 1903), edited by Couturat. References to Descartes may be-

iden titie-d in any standard edition.

Leibniz knew what a proof is. Descartes did not. Due attention to this fact
helps resolve sorne elusive problems of interpret ation. That is no! my chief
aim today. 1 am more intereste d in prehistor y than histOI)': Leibniz's concept of proof is almost the same as ours. It did not exist un ti! about bis
time. Hm.~.r did it become poS-sible? Descartes, according to Leibniz, furnished most of the technolo gy required for the forrnatio n of this concept,
yet deliberately shied away from an'thing like our concept of pro of. 1 contend that Descartes, in his implicit rejection of our idea of proot: and
Leibniz, in his excessive attachme nt to it, are both trying to meet a fundamental malaise in seven teenth -cen tury epistemo lo gy. I speak of a malaise
rather than a problem or difficulty, for it was not formulate d and was perhaps not formulab le. But although these unformu lated precondi tions fnr


the concept of proof are forgotten and even arcane, many facts of the resulting theories of proof are familiar enough.L eibnz was sure that mathematical truth is constitut ed by proot; while Descartes thought that truth
condition s have nothing to do .,Nith demonstr ation. \Ve recognize these
competin g doctrines in much modern philosop hy of mathema tics. The
,...,,ay in ...,.rhich the tlj.l historical figure.s- enacted many o f our more recent
concerns has not gone unnotced : Yvon Belaval deliberately begins his
importan ! book ou Leibniz and Descartes with a long chapter called
"lntuitio nisme et fonnalisme'-' (Belaval 1960). There are plenty more parallels there for the drawing. 1 find this uo coincidence, for 1 am afflicted by
a conjecture, both unsubsta ntiated and uuorigna l, that the ''space" of a
philosop hical pro b lem is lar gel y fixed by the condition s that m a de it possible. A problem is indi,idua ted only by using certain coucepts, and the precondition s for the emergence of those concepts are almost embarras singly
determin ing of l{hat can be done '-vith them. Solutions} counter.s-olutions,
and dis5olutions are worked out in a space 'i...,Those properties. are not recognized but whose dimensio ns are as secure as they are unknm..,'ll. 1 rea1ize
that there is no good evidence for the existence of conceptua1 ".space" nor
of "precond itions" for central concepts. Nothing iu what follows depeuds
on succurnb iug lo the conjectur e tha t there are sueh things. The annua)
Dawes Hicks lecture is dedicated to history, and l shall do history, but l do
want to warn that my motive for doing sois the philowph y of mathema tics and its prehistory:
In saying that Leibniz knew what a proof is, l mean that he anticipat ed
in sorne detail the conceptio n of proof that has become dominan t in our
century. He is common ly said to have founded symbolic logic He occupies
the first forty entries in Alonw Church's deinitive Bibliography ofSymbol ic
Logic. 1 do not have tha t logical activity in mind. Jv[ost seventeen th- century
v. ;restling with quantifiers 1 relations, comb.inatorics, and the syllogism
.s.eems el umsy or even unintelligib1e to the most 1iYlll pa thetic modern
reader. In contrast, Leibniz's ideas about proof sound just right.
A proof, thought Leibniz, is valid in virtue of its form, not its contenL It
is. a sequence of sen tences beginnin g l'ti th identi ti es and proceedi ng by a
finite number of steps of logic and rules of delinition al substitut ion to
the theorem proved, He said so e:>qJ licitly to Conring in lvlarch 1678 (P. l,
!94) and to Tschirnh aus in lv!ay (M.JV, 451; e[ P. VII, 194 and Q_ 518). He
experime nted with various rules oflng:ic and sometime s changed his miud
on which "ir.vt truth>" are admissible. He was notable lo foresee the struc-


Lebniz and Descartes

Historical Ontology

ture of the first order predica te logic. He um..ittingly made one of our

more beautiful theorems-the completeness of predicare logic-into a

definition through his equivalence bel'Neen provability and truth in all
p ossib le worlds.
lvly daim for Leibniz is only that he knew what a proof is. He was not
even good at writing clown proofs that are formally corree!, for by nature
he -,.,ras ha.sty) .in contrast to Descartes} "r'fho despised formalism and ,..,.rho is
nearly ab.Tays fonnally correct.

The Leibnizan understanding of proof did not m u eh exist before bis

time. Yet so well did Leibniz understand proof that he could offer metamathematical demon.s.trations of consistency using the fact that a contradiction -cannot be derived in any number of .s.teps frorn premises of a given


ter of getting rid of sorne content. Hence in virtue of Descartes).s discovery~

geometrical proof can be conceived as purely formal. Leibniz thought fbat
Descartes had stopped short, and did not see bis way through to a completely general abstrae! Universal Characteristc in which proofs could be

and ,.,.Thich truth stable vis.ible and irresistible, s.o to speak, as on a
mechanical basis . . . Algebra, which we righ tly hold in su eh esteem, is
only a par! of this general device. Yet algebra acmmplished this muchthat ,.,.Te cannot err even if we wish and that tru th can be grasped as if pietured on paper Nith the aid of a machine. I have cometo understand that
everything of this kind which algebra proves is due only to a higher sci1

form. One example is the notes he wrote in Kovember 1676 to prepare

himself for a discussion with Spinoza {P. VII, 261). He understood that a

ence, ..,,,.hich I nm.,.T usually -call a wmbinatorial chanuteristic. (To Oldenburg 2 8 December 16 75; ..._\.f. 1, 84)

proof of a necessary propo.sition must be finite) and made an important

"Nothing more effective;) Leibniz venture.s. to say1 "can '~Ne11 be conceived

par! of his philosoph:. hinge on the difference between finite and infinite
proofs. We owe lo him the importance of the definition uf necessity as reduction to contradiction, and the corresponding definition uf possibility
as freedom from contradictionJ under.s.tood as the inability to provea con-

tradiction in finitely many steps. Proof is not only tinite but computable,
and the checking uf proofs is called a kind of arithmetic. Leibniz even saw
the importance of representing ideas and proposition.s. by a recursive num-

bering scheme (Lingua generalis, February 1678; O. 277). His inventon of

topology is motvated by a theory uf the notation needed for valid proo
(To Huygens, 8 September 1678; M. ll, 17; cf P. V, 178). He is not alone in
any of these observations, but he did have the gift of synthesizing and stating sorne of their interconnections. In asking hov. the.s.e ideas became pos-

sible, it is immaterial whether they are the ideas uf a single man. It suffices
that fbey were novel and had become "idespread in the era of Leibniz, bnt
it is convenient to have an Olympian :figure 'iNho so perfectly epitomized
this nev.. understanding.

Ldbniz himself has a plausible explanation of why the concept of proof

emerged al thi.s time.lnsight into the nature of proof is notto be tc'qJected
,..,.Then geometry i:s the standard of rigor. Geometrical demon.strations can

appear to rely on their content. Their validity may seem lo depend on facts
about the very shape.s under study1 and ,..,.rho.s.e actual construction is the

aim uf the traditional Enclidean theorems. A Cartesian breakthrongh

changed this. Descartes alge br ized geometry. Algebra is specifically a mal-

for the perfection uf the human mind." lnsight beco mes irrelevant to recognizing the validity of a proof, and trnth has become "mechanical." Two
trains uf thought parallel this conception of proof. One has long been
knm'r"'ll: leibniz's. be1ief that there exists a proof, possibly infinite, for every

truth. Sometimes readers have inferred that the Universal Characteristic intended to settle every q uestion) ..,,.Thereas in fact Leibniz contin u es the

letter qnoted above saying that alter tbe Characteristc is complete, "men

\. .Till return to the investigation of nature alone) which will never be completed." The second train of thought concerns probability. Leibniz did often say that when the Characteristic is available, disputes would be resolved
by calculation. Sometmes these calculations would be a priori demonst
rations, but more uwally they wonld work out the probability of vari
ons opinions relatiYe to the available data. ln surprisingly many details
Leibniz 's program resembles the wor k o f Rudolf Carna p on ind uctive logic
(Hacking 19 7l). 1 shall argue at the end of this chapter tha t fbe Lcibnizian
conceptiom uf proof and probabilit:y have intmately related origins. For
the present l shall restrict discussion to proof.
A.lthough the conception of proof and probability is partly familiar,
there is a point at ,.vhich most admirer.s. of Leibniz stop:
EYery true proposition that i.s. not identical o.r true in itself can be
proved a priori with the heJp of a..xiom.s. or propositions that are hue in

themselves and with the help uf definitions or ideas. (P. VII, 300)


Historic:al Ontology

"Every" here includes al! contingent truths. Jvloreover. Leibniz thought one
does not ful!y understand a truth un ti] one knows the a priori proofs. Since
the "analysis of concepts" required for proof of contingent propositions is
"not "ithin our power;' we cannot fully understand contingent truths. In
these passages Leibniz is not gi,ing vent to sorne skeptic's claim that only
ivhat is proven is reliable. Leibniz is no skeptic. He is not even an epi.stemologist. You need a proof to under.stand something because a proof actually comtitutes the analysis of concepts which in turn determines the
truth, "or 1 know not what truth is'' (lo Arnauld, 14 july {?), 1636, P, Il,
56.). :vloreover, a proof gives the rea.son why something is true, and indeed
the cause of the truth. Truth, reason, cause, understanding, analysis, and
proof are inextricably connected. lt is part of my task lo trace the origin of
these connections. The connections are not automatic then or nm{. To illustra te this we need only take the contrasting doctrines o f Descartes.
Leibniz thought that truth is constituted by proof. Descartes thought
proof irrelevant to truth. This comes out nicely at the metaphoricallevel.
Leibniz' s GDd, in knm,ing a tru th, knows the infini te analysis and thereby
knows the proof. That is what true knowledge is. Leibniz's God recognizes
proofs. Descartes"s God is no prover. A proof might help a person see sorne
truth, but only beca use people have poor intellectual vision. lt used lo be
held that angels did not need to reason. il.lthough commendably reticent
about angels, Descartes has just such an attitude to reasoning. He is at one
with the mathematician G. H. Hardy, "Proofs are what Littlewood and 1
call gas, rhetorical flourishes designed to affect psychology ... de,ices lo
stimulate the nagination of pupils'" (Hardy 1929, 18). ::\aturally Descartes
says little about dentonstration. ~. luch of y.,rhat he say.s is consisten! 1lith
the doctrines advanced in the Regu!ae. lntuition and deduction are distinguished. Elementary trn ths of ari thmetic can be intui ted by almos! anyone.
Consequences m ay al so be in tuited. Deduction req uires th e in tuition of
initial propositons and consequential steps. The modern reader tends to
equate intuition and deduction with a.>ciom and theorem proved, but this 5
to .see matters in a leibnizian mold. The Cartesian distinction is chiet1y
psychological. One man mght require deduction where another would intuit. In either case the end product is perception of truth. Sorne Cartesian
scholars have recently debated ...,rhether the cogito ergo sum is inference or
intuition or something else again (Frankfurt 1966, 333; Kenny, 1970, ch. 3;
Hintikka 1962). 1 most closely agree with Andr Gombay (1972), from
whose conver>ations about Descartes 1 have much profited.

Leibniz and Descartes


Descartes does give varying accounts of this famous ergo~ but it is completely immaterial to hn whether one person needs to infer where another intuits directly. The point of the cogito> as the Discourse informs u.s, is
lo display a truth one cannot doubt. Then one may inquire what, in this
truthl libera tes. us from doubt. Ifle intuition/inference/performative controversy is misguided because Descartes is indifferent to V'hat sort of "gas~'
induces clear and distinct perception. HO'i. . 'ever you get there) 1vhen yo u see
with clality and distinctness you note that there is no other standard of
tru th than the natural light of reason. Leibniz, al though granting sorne
sense to "wha t is called the natural ligh t o f reason" (to Sophia Charlo tte,
1702, P. VI, 501), ine\itably observed what Descartes "did not know the
genuine source of truths nor the general analysis of concepts-" ( to Phili p)
Dec. 1679, P IV, 282).
The Cartesian independence of truth from proof is illustrated by Descartes's unorthodox view on the eterna! truths. These comprise the truths
of ari thmetic, algebra, and geometry, and usnally e:>.."tend to the laws of astronomy1 mechanics, and optics. Contemporary authorities like Surez's
Disputatio nes Metaphysicae of 159 7 taugh t tha t eterna! truths are indepen
dent of the will of God. illl the eternal ''erities are hypothetical. If there are
any triangles, their interior angles must sum lo two rigbt angles. Sin ce God
is free to -create or not to crea te triang]e.s) this hypothetical necessi ty is. no
con.s.traint on his pm..Ter (Cronin 1987, 154). Descartes although -cautious
in e:x.' opinions at odds. ,.,i th received doctrine) disagreed. The eterna] truths depend u pon the "ill of God, and God could have made squares
with more or fewer than four sides. As we migbt e:qness it, the eterna!
tru th.s. are necessary1bu t they are only -con tin gen tly nece.s..s.ary. "Even if God
has willed that sorne truths should be necessary, this does not mean that he
willed them necessarily, for it is one thing lo will that they be necessary,
and quite another to will them necessarily" (To .Ivlesland, 2 lvlay 1644.
Other te:ns on eterna! truths are as follows. To lvlersenne, 6 lo.lay and 27
l\lay 1630 and 27 May 1638. Reply to Objections V and \1. Principies xhiiixl::.)

1 very m u eh like the way tha t Emile Brhier ( 193 7, 15) uses this theory
about eterna] truth in order to explain away the Cartesian "circle'" alleged,
in the first instance, by Arnauld. The circle goes like this: from the clarity
and distinctness of the third meditation it fol!ows that God exists, but darity and d.stinctness can be counted on only if there is a good God. _1>,.-fany
commentaton;. interrupt this simple-minded circle by saying that God\; ve-


Leibniz and Descartes

His.torical Ontology


racity is not needed -...vhen \l.'e are actually perceiving truth l?Tith dari ty and

thesis is deduction, whose paradigm s Euclid. Deduction may bully a

turn our minds to another

reader into agreement~ but it do es not teach hm..,T the theory ,..,tas discov-

thought. This leaves open the question of the role that God plays when we

ere<L Only analysis can do that. At the end of the .second set of Objections,
Descartes subscribed to the standard myth that the Greeks hada secret art
of dis-covery. The new aJge braic geometry rediscovered it. He called it analytic geometry, as we still do. As he pul it at the beginning of his Geometr}:
its method is to:

distinctness. God comes in only ,...,,hen


are thus distracted. There are severa! competing interpretations. Andr

Gombay ( 1988) 'uses this comparison. In moments of passionate love, a

man (such as the husband in Strndberg's play, The Father) cannot doubt
that his wife is fai thful. Bu t at more humdrum momen ts he doubts her
!ove. What s hi5 doubt? (a) His memory is plaing tricks; the feeling of
pas.sionate certainty never occurred. ( b) He remembers correctly his pas-

sionate conviction, but subsequeutly feels that he was rnisled by his passion. No matter ho""T convinced he ,.,ms then} he was 'i..."Tongly convinced. (e)
She was true to him at that passionate moment, but is no longer so. In the
case of Cartesian doubt 1 recent commentators correctly rule out doubts. of

l...ind (a): God is no guarantor of memory. Gombay, probably rightl, favors

(b). But doubt of kind (e) is instructive. Brhier that God i>
needed to emure that an "eterna] truth," once perceived dearly and distincdy, sta_,_,...s true.

No set of texts tells condusively for or against the Brhier reading. This.

in itself shows how tar Descartes separa tes proof from truth. What would
happen to the proof of p if p, previously prm'e, went false? We can imagine
that in the evolution of the cosmos Eudid'.s fifth postulate was true, relative
to sorne assigned metric.. and subsequendy ceased to be true. At least this

remains, we thnk: if a complete set of Euclidean a_'Xioms is trne, the Pythagorean theorem is true too. That necessary connection ben..Teen axiom

and theorem cannot itself be con tingen t. Descartes disagreed. God is at liberty to crea te a Euclidean non-Pythagorean universe. \-Ve m..Te to Leibniz

the clear statement that if not-p entails a contradiction, then pi> necessary
and indeed necessarily necessary. Descartes grants that it is unintelligible
how p can entail contradiction and still be true. But this unintelligibilit:y
shows the weakne~s of our minds. In the Monadolagy, 46, Leibniz caustically dismisses ths 'iew of betrays, he thought, a lack of comprehension of the very concepts- of necessity, contradiction, and pro o f.
Not only did Descartes acknowledge no dependence of necessary tru th
on proof, he also challenged ac<:epted modes of presenting proot He favored "analysis" rather than "synthesis." Hi> doctrine is sufficiently hard to
understand that Gerd Buchdahl ( 1969, ch. 3) distinguishes radically different Cartesian meanngs for "'analysis," but even if Descartes. ought to have
d istinguished meanings of the word, he in tended to be unequivocal. Syn-

su ppose the sol ution already effected~ and give names to all the lines that
seem needful for the construction . . then, making no distinction ben,..,Teen knm'r'll and unknm..,"TI lines, we must unravel the difficulty in any
Y\'ay tha t shows most na turally the rela tions be!\{een these lines, until \'{e
find it possible to e4ress a quan tity in two '"''ays.
Then .....Te solve the equation. }rnalysis is. a mode of discovery of unknmvns,

and the arguments of the Geometry show how solutions can be obtained.
Descartes thought that the physicist postulating causes on the basis of observed effects may be doing analysis, and he maiutained that the Meditation....;; furnish another examp le of analyss.
The Carte.sian notion of anaJysis undenvent strange transforma tions.

The fact that Euclidean synthesis was deemed to depend on contentas well
as form is lr"tell illu.s.trated by Descartes'.s. own observations that .in geometry
the primal]' notions of synthetic proof.s. "hannonize with our senses." The
point of all thos.e "minute subdivison.s. of propositions" is not evento en-

sure that the proof is sound. It i> to render dtation easy "and thus make
people recollect earlier stages of the argument even against their "ill." Synthetic proofs work pardy becaus.e t{e have sensible representations of what
we are prming and are thus. unfit for metaphysics \lhich uses ab.s.tract concepts. Yet by a strange inversion, it is Cartesian that enables Leibniz

to argue that proof is en tire! y a matter of form, and lo apply this thought
lo deductive p roo f in general, including syn thesis ..\loreover, wha t he calls
the anal;isi> of wncepts proceeds by what Descartes would have called synthetic demon.s.tration!

Descartes wanted good ways to find out the truth and was indifferent to
the logical status of hi> methods. This 5 wel! illustrated byyet another kind
of analysis. Traditionally science was supposed to proceed by demonstraton of effects. from causes stated in first principies. In practice, the more
.s.u-cce.s.sful .s.dentists. were increasingl y guessing at ca uses on the basis of
effects according lo what we can now call the hypothetico-deducti ve


His.torical Ontology

method. When challenged, Descartes s.aid that his too is a kind of "demon.s.tration," at least according to "conunon u.s.age," as oppo.s.ed to the "special
meaning that philosophers gi''e" lo the word "demonstration." In reality,
.s.ays Descartes., there are fli.m kinds of demonstration, one from causes to
effects, in "'lhich ,...,.~e prove the effect from the cause, and the other from effect to cause, in which we ''':plaiu the eftect by postu!ating a cause (To
:\lorin, l3 )uly 1638).
There was a pressing practica! problem tor the second kind of so-called
demonstration. ~1\s his correspondent put it, "nothing is ea.sier than to fit a
cause toan effect." To which Descartes replied that "there are many effects
to .....Thich it is easy to fit separate causes> but it i.s. not a11j.lays so easy to :fit a
single cause to many eftects.'"' Ibis -thought o~,as lmrked up by Leibniz into
the theory of "architectonic" reas.oning { Tentamentum Anagogicum_, 1696,
P. VII, 270). We seek those hypotheses that would be attractive to the Ar-

chitect of the World, who has a mania for maximizing the ''ariety of phenomena governed by laws of nature, while minimizing the complexity of
tho.s.e la-,.vs.
On snch questiom of method there doe.s not seem, in perspective, very
much at issue between the two philosophers. But they have radically different theories of what they are finding out. Leibniz supposes that truths are
constituted by proof, and so proof is essentially linked to truth, while Descartes imagine.s. that tru ths exist independen tly of any proof. Hm,,rever, l'rTe
shall not find the migin of this difference in what might be called the philosophy of mathematics, but in what we should now call the philosophy of
.science. The very success _of scientific activity in the early .seyenteenth century had crea ted a crisis in man'-s. under.s.tanding of ,..,rha t he knows. In the
medieval formulatiom, adapted from Aristotle, knowledge or science was
arrived al by demomtration from first dernonstrated eftects
from causes., and its proposition.s were universal in form and were neces.s.arily true. In giving the causes, it gave the reasons for belief, and also the
reasons .....Thy the proposition proved is true . .A.s .,Neil as arithmetic and geometry, science induded astronomy, mechanics~ and optics. This did not
mean that one \las su pposed to do all one s mechanics. a priori, for it migh t
need ample e)L--perience to grasp the fir.s.t principies of the universe. Francis.
Bacon fumishes a good example of a thinker trying to preserve this old ontology, insisting that instead of being dogma tic, the scientist must survey
large-quantities of eA'Periences before he ventures. to at the a..xiom.s,
common notions, and first principies. V~t'hat one is. aiming at, hmrever, is :a

Lefbniz and



body of universa1 and necessary a-...:ioms l'{hich ,,..-m, llhen recognized and
understood, have the character of self-evidence.
Bacon 's methodolo gy is a despairing attem pt to save the oid theory of
truth on its mvn ground. Increasingly, men of science are not doing what
they are supposed to be doing. Among what 1 shall cal! the high sciences,
astronomy, mechanics., and optics~ there is a dogmatic school maintaining the Aristotelian physics. lt is shattered by new theories which do not
merely contradict the old physics bnt do not even have the s.ame kind
of propositions that the old physics sought after. ;vloreover, among the
low sciences, medicine and alchemy, '"''hose practitioners are 'i.{hat Bacon
scornfully called the em pi rics, there has developed a set of practices and
concepts that are unintelligible on the old model of knowledge.
Descartes\ curious a.s.sertion.s about "tals.-e hypotheses.~' illustrate how far
he has come from traditional views. He says at length in his Principies, and
throughout Iris life to various corresponden!, that the chief hypotheses of
hi.s physics are strictly false, and may be regarded as a kind of fable (Principies, xliii-xlvii, and, e.g., To i\.Jesland, lv!ay 1645}. It is common to comtrue
this as a safety net spread out after the Galilean scandaL Is it? Hypotheses
sen'e as the basis for deducing true effects, but are not themselves to be asserted as true. ~. lany ancient vaiters, including Archimedes) base their
demonstration.s. on hypotheses that are strictly fals.e, or so Descartes says.
Perhaps he is merely seeking bedfellows in support of political caution. l
see no reason to think so. Leibniz sa:~ that if they worked, Descartes'<
"talse hypotheses" would be like cryptograms tor solving the regularity of
phenomena (To Coming, 19 :\"larch 1678, P J, 194}. He also says that Descartes is _just wrong in changing the direction of physies- to a search for false
hypo theses. In short, the Cartesian view was taken Ji terally by the next generation of readers.
If Descartes means what he says, everything has been turned upside
clown. Science was to make the world and its truths intelligible. From universal first principies concerning essence and cause and the true being of
things one was to deduce the effects and their reasons, making intelligible
the variety of general phenomena present to us. The first principies were to
get at the very -core o f truth. But nm.,.T the eore evapora tes, tums into a mere
sham, a cryptogram of falsehoods. New merits have to be found for science, chief among them~ in the seventeenth century, being the 'irtue of
predictive power. In the traditional theory of truth, predictive power did
not matter m ueh beca use science was demonstrating necessitie,.;;.. \-Vhen it


His.toric.a! Ontology

abandons its ability to give reasons and causes by .....Tay of first principles, all
it can do is provide us 1vi th predictions.
The evaporation of truth is what l have called lhe malaise or even lhe
crisis. in the ear ly seventeen th century. \Ve have be en accustomed, especially in Britain, to notice the epistemological lvorries of the period. In fact,
men "Tole treatises not of epistemology but of methodology. The methodology was an attem pt lo tell how to do what was in tact being done, and
how to do il better. The Cartesian tilles such as Rules for direction of the
mindj or Discourse on 1.i.Je thod} are characteristic of the time. U nderneath
these \mrks run.s. not the problem of British empiricism-scepticism~ "Hm. .T
can I ever know?"'' It is rather, -l..Vbat is knm..,'ledge, "vhat is truth, are there
su eh thing>?"
Reconsider the situation of De.s.cartes. \\~e have usually read him as an
ego, trapped in the v.mrld of ideas} trying to find out what corresponds to
his- ideas, and pondering questions of the form, '~How can l ever know~"
Underneath his work lies a much deeper worry. 1s there auy truth al all,
even in the domain of ideas? The etemal truths, he telh- us, are "perceptions ... that have no existence outs.ide of our thought" (Principles, L
xlviii). But in our thought they are, in a sens.e, isolated perceptions. They
may be sy.stematized by synthesis, but this has nothing to do with their
lrulh. The body of eterual truths which encompassed mathematic5, neoAris totelian phy.sics, and perhaps all reality, wa.s a dosel k ni t self-authenticating system of truth, linked by demonstration. For Descartes, there are
only perc~ptous which are ontologically unrelated to anything and moreover are not even candidates for having sorne truth outs.ide my mind. One
is led, l think, toa new kind of worry. l cannot doubt an eternal truth wheu
l am contemplating it clearly and distinctly. But when 1 cease to contemplale, it is a question whether there is truth or falsehood in what 1 remember having perceived. Brhier suggested that demonstrated propositions
may go ta! seems tome that Cartesiau propositions, rendered loue and
isolated, are in an even \.,'orse ,.;;.tate. Perhap-s neither they nor their negations have auy truth at all. They exist in the mind only as perceptions. Do
they have any status at all when not perceived? \Vhen demo_ns.tration cannot uni:fy and give ".s.ubstance" to these truths, the constancy of a veracious
God who ""ills thi.s truth suddenly assumes immen.s.e importance. \Ve have
long been familiar with the role of God as the wiliing agent that causes
Berkeley's perceptiom. We know Leibniz required the mind of God as the
arena in ,...,.hich the essence-s of possible v. orlds compete for existence, .s.ay-

Leibniz and Descartes


ing in "The Radical Origination of Things" that "neither the ess.ences nor
the so-called eterna! truths about them are ficttious but exist in a certain
region of ideas, if 1 may so call it, namely in God himself" (P. V!!, 305). 1
am suggesting that DeS-cartes's ,.eracious God i.s. nee-ded not just to guarantee our b eliefs, bul also lo ensure lha t there is sorne truth to believe. l do
not claim this as a worked out Cartesian thought, but rather asan underlying response to the breakdown in the traditional conceplion ofknowledge.
Descartes was almot ingenuously radical. Faced by the iact that the new
science was not Arulolelian knowledge or scientia, he abolished the tradi
tional concepts even yv-here they did lf\rork, namely in arithmetic and geometry. Leibniz, in contrast, ,.vas ingeniously conservati. .~e. The merit of the
old system was that it gave us .sorne under.s.tanding of the nature and intercounection of trulhs. The demeril was the iuadequacy of the implied
methodology of doing physics by deduction. So Leibuiz grafted a new
melhodology ou lo the old theory of demonslration. Demonslration was
tormerly the key lo both ontology and method. Leibniz restricts il to the
tormer. lt is turned into the theory of formal proof. In the old lradilion
only propositions are subject to demonstration. In the new practice, only \vhat l'rTe now call pure mathematics. fits thi.s. rnodel. But Leibniz~
rnaking proof a matter of ontology, not methodology, asserts that all true
propositions have an a priori proof, allhough in general human beiugs
cannot make those proofs. This is to res.olve the open question asto the nature of truth. Hence his careful distinction between finite and infinite
proof.1, the importance of form over conlent, and all the res! of Leibniz's
rendering truth "mechanical" The universal characteristic, you will recall,
"tenders truth .s.table, visible, and irresistible, as on a mechanical''
The new science that was not scientia had made truth totally unstable. The
concept of formal proof wa.s in tended to restore the balance.
The ingenuity of Leibnjz's edecticism show.s. itself in another direction.
The Cniversal Characteristic, as 1 have said, was to be the vehicle of finite
deductions and of probabilily calculaliom of iuductive logic. Whereas
demonstration is the too! of what wa.s lradilionally called knowledge,
probability, in medieval times, pertained lo a quite different realm, opin
ion. The low .sciences of alchemy and medicine are the artisans. of opinion
and lhe forgers of probabilily--or so largue at length in The Emergence of
Probability ( l975a). Those thoroughly alien hermetical figures of the Renaissance did more: they actua1ly engendered a concept of incondusive evidence derived from facts, as opp osed to teslimony. The high sciences re


Histori-cal Ontofogy

Leibniz and Des.carte5-


lated to e..\.--perience in a hypothetico-deductive or one might say Popperian

coveries are not "knmvledge" and the "ob_iects" are not objects.. Despite this

wa)' That is, they concerned themsekes with the deductive connectiom
too inchoate for that, and created what, in recen! times, has been called
probability and induction. Leibniz puts the antique theory of demonstration into the realm of ontology. Fnite demonstratons become the tapie of

fantastic and perplexing attempt to get rid of all these inherited notions,
'1\~ttgemtein ends up "ith a dilemma that is essentially Leibniz-Cartesian.
On the one hand he suggests, in quite the most radical way, that m athematical "truth" is constituted by proof, and on the other he is obsessed by
_j ust the in tuitions that so impressed Descartes. Hardly anyone thinks he

mathematicsJ nov. ' rendered formal. ~o\rchi tectonic reas.oning is his version

achieved a of these notions. There is a rea.s-on for this. He rejects.

of the hypothetico-deductive method.lnductve logic is the ratonalization

of what Bacon dismissed as mere empiricism. The vehicle for all these
parts of methodology i;; the Cniversal Characteristic. It is a vehicle that
cheerfully carries finite proofs and calculations of probability, and yet is a

that antque tryptch, truth, lmowledge, aod obiects, but works in the space
created by that earlier period, and is driven to ernploy the concepts created
then for the soluton of quite other problems, aod which are fettered by
their need to salve those other problems. The "tlybottle'' was shaped by
prehistory, and only archaeology can display its shape.

bet\{een experienced effects and conjectured causes. The lm..Tsciences '"''ere

coarse and inade-quate mirror of the very nature of truth, the infinite

Carnap aod Popper have re-enacted the tension between leibniz's inductive logic and his architectonic reasoning. Iv!y topic is proof, not probability. 1 claim that the concept of trmal proof was created in the time of
Leibniz to overcome quite specific breakdow:ns in traditional ontology. The
Cartesian concept of anti-proof has the sarne origin. These concepts were
devised, almos! unwittingl), to fill a vacuum. We still employ those concepts but live in a vacuum that those concepts cannot fill. Consider the sterility of modem philosophy of mathematics-not the collection of mathematical disciplines now called the foundations of mathematics, but our
cont1ictng theories of mathematical truth, mathematical knowledge, and
mathematical objects. The most striking singlefeature of work on this subject in this century is that it i;; very largely banal. This i;; despite the ample
fertilization from the great programs and discoveries in the foundations

of mathematics. The standard textbook presentatons of "Platonism,"

constructivism, logicism, tinitism, and the like re-enact conceptual moves
which were determined by an ancient and alien problem situation, the disintegration of the concept of sci.emia and the invention of the concept of
evidence, culminating in the new philosophy of the seventeenth century.
We have trgotten those events, but they are responsible for the concepts in

which we perform our pantomime philosophy.

Take, for exarnple, the most seemingly novel, and also the most passionately disparate of contributions, '\:\rittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations
ofMathematics. He invites us to destroy our very speech, and abandon talk
of mathematical truth and knowledge of mathematics and its objects. \Ve
are asked to try out ]anguagc in .....Thich mathematic.s. is not "'true," our dis-





Wittgenstein as
Philosop hical Psychologist

The t,..,u volwnes of Lud. . . .rLg lNittgenstein 's Renwrks on the Philosophy of Psycho1ogy ...... ere published only in 1980. The Nelt' York Rel-"ie-w of B(loks sent
them to me, along 'Nith armfuls of recen t books about W'ittgenstein. The
idea ,...-ras. that 1 should ,.,.~ite a smvey article. 1 did. 1t -~Nent on and on.
Happily i t had to be cut, and 1 ended up 'r\'riting only about I:Vittgenstein.

Lud"ig 'Wittgenstein wrote his Remad:s oi1 the Phi!osophy af Psycho!ogy

about thirty-five years befare they were pubfuhed in 1980, rather late in a
long sequence of posthumous books. The tlj.m volumes are suc.ces.sive attempts to sort out the same ideas. He tms never fully satisfied by them)

but they may well turn out to be his most enduring secondary work, fair
com paniom to the only books tha t Wittgenstein did cast into final form:
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, finimed in 1918, and Part I of Philosophical
rnvestiga ti ons, done by 1945.
W!ttgenstein' s retlectiom on the human mind are central to his later
philosophy. He pairo off quite nicely "ith Descartes, llli predecessor by exactly three centuries, and the founder of philosophical psychology. ll.lthongh great philosophers never come two of a kind, these men are strikingly alike. The similarity m ay se em a bit surprising, since Wittgenstein is
often presented a> the very opposite of Descartes, and even a> the man who
brought the Cartesian era of philosophy toan emL
Each man chose to be an migr. The Viennese Wittgenstein made llli
base at Cambridge University, while the French Descartes worked in Holland. Each lived in the mdst of a foreign language but wrote most of his
thoughts in hs native tongue. Each soldiered in yet other conntries. Both
not muy settled abroad but also set off for very strange par!.>. \Vittgenstein

Wittgenstein as rsychologist


traveled to the Soviet Union in 1935, possibly intending to become a doctor in Siberia. Descartes finally accepted the bidding of Queen Christina
and went off to Sweden to die of the cold.
Both philosophers were secretive about their work, holding it back for
years. Each could be furious if any of it was leaked prematureiy to the puble. Their eccen trici ties were legion, but ea eh had a personality that do minated, nay, obsessed, close friendo. Both men told m never to hurry "ith
their work. The few pages of a Cartesian Meditatim1 are to be reread on
successive days. Only when you have made them your m. .-n should you
move on to the next thought. Wittgenstein: "lv!ywork must be read slow!y"
He ensured that if you do read it, you do so slowly. Eclectia can dip into
tllli or that choice fragment speedily enough, but if you read the matter
systema ticaJly yo u have to take your time.
'Wittgenstein "Tate in nurnbered paragraphs, a few of which pnrsue the
same topic and then m ay abruptly m~ tch to something different. Even a
single paragraph may be a series of quick exchanges between 'Wittgenstein
and an interlocutor. A topic that has been dropped will reappear many
paragraphs later. Strange possibilities are described and the same phenomenon will be held u p again and again to be glim psed from new perspectives. This style fits the content, for Wittgenstein's thought keeps on
illustrating related themes from successive vantage points, shooting off,
recollecting, transcending, backsliding. It 5 not unlike a mind that talks to
itself in a half dozen different conversations at once, but the succe.ssive
paragraphs are the su btly organized, in temely discip lined prod uct of unending toil. Both Descartes and Wittgenstein are remarkably graceful a uthor&~ graceful not on1y in the seemingly relaxed tlm. . of ...~mrds, but also in
the meticulous seq uencing of ideas tha t les beneath the charm of the senT

lt is a commonplace that the "philosophical psychology" of Descartes

and that of Wittgenstein are totally different, the one the very negation of
the other. That is half righ t and half 'wong. \Vha t's right is that Descartes
start.> from inside himself, while Wittgenstein begins in the world of human communication. The Cartesian philosophy says that 1 best know my
mv11 mind . ..._o\ll m y knm...~ledge is based upon m y priva te experiences, sensations, and thoughts. Thought is the movement of ideas in the mind.
ll{ittgenstein hoJds in contrast that shared practices, actions, reactions, and
interactiom among people provide the foothold upon which allsuch selfdescription of our mental lite must rest, Language is first of all public and

216 Ontology

firmly rooted in ....,That -..v~e do together. He rightly resented casual reader.s.

who \muld dismiss him as a behaviori&t:

Then > it mis!eading [\\~tlgemtein a.sks himsdf] to >peak of man's soul,

or of his ~pirit? So little misleading, that it is quite intelligible if I say "I\.l;r'
soul is tired, not just my mind." But don't yuu at least say that everything
that be expre.s.sed by means of the \lord ".soul," can als.o be eA.-p.ressed
somehnv.T by means of words for the corp oreal? 1 do not say that. But if i t
were so-'i.lha t vmuld it amo un t to? For thc .....urds, and al so .....That 'i-ve
point to in ex-plaining them, are nothing but instruments, and everything
depends on their use.
To a:sk \'rThether Descartes believes in the human soul, .....,.Thile \"/ittgenstein
does not, is simply to pul abad question. "Do 1 believe in a soul in someonc elsc, when I look into his eye.s. with astoni.shment and delight?" \Vitt-

genstein thought that it s not a queston of belief founded on evidence

al al!.
Descartes held that mind and body are distinct substances and wondered how they in teract. Tha t doctrine, called d u alism, has oh sessed m ueh
Western philosophy. It will be said that \\~ttgenstein was no dualist, thus
emphasizing his fundamental difference from his predecessor. 1 do not
agree. The contras! is, 1 think, wrongly understood. Wittgenstein certainly
did not hold that mind and body are two "substances," or that "mind"
name.s. a special kind of thing. But in many essentials, he is ju.s.t as. much a
duafut a.> Descartes. Both hold that psychology requires forms of description and methodo!ogy quite different from those called for in natural science. Ret1ecton on thinking is not remotely like the study of the inhuman
worl d of spatial, mechanical ob_iects.
Descartes took a word-cogitare, pensc-r, Kthink"-and gmoe it an extended sense in whcb it captured al! the disparate bnt roughly mental activities such as hoping and remembering and seeing and hurting. Where
Descartes unifies~ \Vittgenstein mercile.s.sly divides. Something different
ma)' have to be said about each mentalistic verb. Hence there is a long se-

quen ce of items that jut out in an index lo the two volumes of Phi!osaphy
of Psy[hologJ: believing) cakulating, expecting, eA'Periencing, feeling, inlending, and so on. Precise!y sucb a list might be used to elucida te Descartes\ p ortrnanteau term "thinking." Both p hilosop hers understood tha t
descriptions o f these items will be unrelated to anything that goes on in the
material, space-occupying organs of the body such as the brain. Al the

Wittgenstein as Philosophi-cal Psychologist


same time, \Vittgen.s.tein rejects the very possibility of any doctrine about

Cartesian tho ugbt-in-general.

Before looking at \Vittgenstein's descriptions of the mental, one needs to

place thern within the rest of this work. Three decades separate the com
pletion of his Tractatus and the final form of Part 1 of Phi!osophica!Inve>tigariot!S. These masterpieces are usually said to represen! his early and his
later philosophy. Both are worth calling philosophies of Janguage. In the
Cartesian epoch, language had been a wonderful system of signs for conveying thoughts from one mind to another, but language tvas ah-~.'ays secondary to ideas in the mind. 'There carne al la.>t the strange reversa!; Janguage became a nece.s.sarily public institution within 1ivhich human sekes

are forrned and by which people constitute the world they live in. The
switch from the prirnacy of private thought lo that of pub le discourse is
no t the work of\-\"lttgenstein. In 1868, C. S. Peirce, founder of pragmatism,
had published in a St. Louis philosophy magazine the remarkable sentence:
"1\ly language is the sum total of myself." That was twentyone years before
'Wittgenstein was bom, and the sarne thought.s were circulating ehewhere
about that time.
Wittgenstein no more invented the idea of human beings and their
world being consttu ted in language than De;;cartes invented the mindbody problern. Both philosophers are historical personages whose ;Hitings
tur.n the da p trap of their time in to monumen ts. Insofar a.s. \\'i ttgenstein
hadan earlier and a la ter philosophy, his monument.s face away from each
other. The Tractatushad a vsion of a single role for language, while the Inve>tigations tells of innumerable language garues, each of which is embedded in its mvn o~,;eb of activi ties.
The Tractatu; is Ttten as iflanguage had but one function: representing the world. That creates a problem to which the book addresses itsel[
How is it possible to represen! a nonlinguistic world in words? The open
ing sentences begin the amwer. "The wor!d is the totality of facts, not of
things." When the penknife is to the left of the sn uffbox, we tend to think
of two things, the knife and the box. We think of a world made up of tbings
like penknives that can be arranged in various way.s.. Not so~ says \Vitt-

genstein: the world consists simply of a set of facts, like the fact that the
knife is lo the left of the box. This is not to deny that there are things, such
as penknives. lt says ouly that the totality of facts is al! there is to the world.
Once that totality is given, yo u add nothing more by saying, "and there are
things too, such a.> snuffboxes." This idea of the world begins to explain


Historical Ontology

how representative language i5 pos.ible. Propositiom represent the wmld

by picturing the structure of the tcts. Thi5 idea has been called "the pie
ture theory of meaning."
A theory of Janguage as es.sentially representative exdudes an enormous
amount of discourse. Jl,luch of life most dear to us, induding beauty. philosophy, and moral worth, has nothing to do with representation. Although val u es can be lived, acted out, or displayed, they cannot, on Wi ttgemtein's early accoun t, literally be stated. This is not tor the simpleminded reason later exp ounded by positivists, tha t values are mere e>..-pressions of feeling} and thus neither true nor false. On the contrary, we can
repres.ent facts about feeling just as well as any other facts, and there are
tru th.s and falseho ods abo u t the inner world just as m u eh as the e>.:ternal
one. Wittgenstein's difficulty is that neither a value nora philosophical thesis is a represent.ation at all, and sois not something that can be '\aid." lt is
only something that can be "shown" by saing or doing something else.
The Tractatus i.s ;."Titten as a sequence of num bered prop ositions. 1t con-"
eludes by showing its own im po ssibility. This ver;- philosophy cannot be a
series of propositiom at, too, can at best be shown. The book ends by
recommending silence.

Among the many themes in that strange and powerful book, 1 would
here emphasize only its unified conception of the role of language: repre.sentation of facts. by propositions. That vision is abandoned in the ]ater
philosophy. \\'ittgenstein carne to see that language is not one monolithic
system of representations for picturing reality. lnstead, it is composed of
myriad fragments that loosely overlap and intersect. J;lost of these are not
used to represen! anything. We are told to look at little bits of real or in
vented discourse to l?That nonlingui.stic acti\oity-\. .That social oontext or
use-must accompany each one in order for t to make sen.s.e. A case in
point of this approach is the way in which Remarks on the Philosophy of
Psychowgy replaces the Cartesian concept of "thinking" by detailed study
of lots of different mentalistic verbs-introspecting, calculating, remembering, intending___.,ach of which demands its own social setting.
Philosophical Investigations begins by imagining a game in which builders call out a fe,.,.r words such as "block;) '~pillar)" ''slab:' or "beam," therehy
indicating lo their he\ p ers wha t materials they wan t where. Actions and
words are formed in a language game from which the words take their
meaning. Later, we lea m tha t what we say about knowing and teeling and
pain are likewise a mlange of smalllanguage games, each with its own

Wittgenstein as. Psyc:hologist


tamily of preconditions and applications. Collectively, these display how

;wong it is to seek a single model for language. They show us the disunity
The game of the builders began an attack on the idea that words work
chiefly as names. We are led through many related themes, inel uding the
famou.s. ma'Lim, ''Dodt ask for the meaning~ a-sk for the u.s.e.)' One point of

that slogan is: don't ask tor objects that might serve as meanings of our
words. i\leanings are not objects that are e>..-pressed by words. Consider
-,..rhat ,.,re do with 'i:mrds, not v.That they represent. That comes out even in
m y long Phi/oso phy of P,ych ology quotation about the soul, above. It i5 part
of the reason that \\~ttgenstein wuld doubt that we me the words "son\"
or "'mindn to name a thing.

Phiwsophical Imestigations is also farnous tor its "prvate language argument," that there cannot be a language that is in principie inaccess.ible to

anyone else. There can, for example, be no language with names for just
my sensation.s.. A word like "painn does not get its use by fir.s.t naming
something that we feel, and then telling others about it.lnstead, it is necessarily embedded in various kinds of things


do in connection \,...-ith being

hurt. That is not to say that there is no pain "ithout beha,ior, or that pain
is a kind of behavior. But the idea of stoically concealed pain is nested in
and parasitic u pon more public \...Tay-rs of talking about pain-e\rincing itJ
-,.~,dncing, trying to comtOrt the victim or relieve the suffering. \Ve must
particularly resist the idea of a prvate object (pain) that is named by the
word "pain." Remarks 011 the Phi!osophy of Psychology imaginatively applies
this line of thought to al\ kinds of mental goings-on. For example, knowing is not in general a state named by the "'knm..Tn -words, nor does "1
know"" have the same family o f uses as "he kno\"lS .}' i1gain, V{ittgenstein

asks, "Why can a dog feel fear but not remorse?" :'--!ot because there is
something in the dog's mind correctly named by the word "fear" while
there is nothing in the dog's mind to which the word "remorse" applies.
i\.Jany philosophers nowadays make eclectic use of these and many more
ideas. "Wittgenstein m ay, howe,,er, have hoped tha t his though ts would one
day be understood less for his theses than for his method and altitudes. He
had a gloomy view of scientific culture and a deep pessimism about the
possibilit:y of his work's being understood in the darkneso of his times.
:>-Iaybe he was right. After his death, his thougbt was briefly quite fashionable among leading philosophy teachers, but now it is not. lt continues to
attract young people, and the name "Wittgenstein" is often enough in-


Wittgenstein as J>hilosophical P:sychologist Ontology


voked in high culture. Yet most serious philosophers seem to have pul him

he re lies in postula ting that there is an exclusively subjective means of

aside, tending to find his concentration on cases unproductive for

gaining self-knowledge.
Philosophical psychology is certainly no cousin of psychoanalysis.
"Freud's fanciful pseudo-explanations (precisely because they are so bril-

the systematic analyse~s that philosophers have traditionally preferred. The

other day, 1 heard a distinguished older philosopher, no "\\'ittgensteinian"
herself, say crossly: "Really, it is astoni>hing. It i5 justas ifWittgenstein had
ne';rer lived! ,_

Wittgenstein carefully preserved bis work in tin boxes. His literary executors have edited it piece hy piece in what sometimes seems haphazard order. They will be m ade fnn of (or insu! ted) w hen a later genera tion prepares an Academy Edition of the Great lvlan's Work, but the somewhat
personal style of editing may well coincide ;dth the anthor's own intentions. At any rate, chnnks of \V!ttgenstein's ;>Titings have appeared every
year or so sin ce his death in 19 5J. They have the effect of time-release capsules. Thi> i5 salutary if yon think, as l do, that manr of us skim his words
and forget.
He filled notebook after notebook. Often he clipped out the paragraphs
and rearranged them. The s.ame paragra ph can appear in differen t settings.
\V~en he ivas confiden t of an arrangement, he 'i.muld \ ..Tri te i t all dov.m
again and then dictate it to a typist Volume 1 of these Remarks was dictated in the fall of 1947, and Volume ll a year later. A third later and
shorter suney was u sed by the editors to form a s,:ty- page "Par! I1"
of Philosophical Investigations, but aside from a remarkable disrussion of
"seeing as," it has neither the tightly knit craftsmanship of Part I nor the
wealth of examples di=sed in the two previous bnt newly publshed
type.s.cripts. under revielj.,.r,

'What is Wittgenstein's philosophical psychology? \Ve can see al once a

n umber of things that it is not, lt is not experimental psycho logy. A famous remark tha t condudes Phiwsoph ical Investiga tions runs th us:
The ronfusion and barrenness of psychology is no!


be explained by

catling it a young science-the ex;stence of experimental metho ds makes

us think we have the mean.s of solving the problems that trouble us;
though problems and metbods pas.s. one another by.

Philosophical psychology i5 not introspection, whose nobles! practitioner was Vrilliam james. james is the only psycholo gist (besides sorne of
the Gestalt people) to whom Wittgenstein regularly alindes. The vigor of
fames's \;rriting is used to make plain the bizarre paths into which \{e are

led by the very idea of a fuculty of introspective knowledge. The danger

liant) perform a disservice. Kow any ass has the.s.e pictures available to use

in 'explaining' symptmns of an illness."

Philosophical psychology is not cognitive psycbology, which seeks models of what goes on in the brain when we think, know, talk, perceive. Cognitive psychology nowadays most often meam the study of how mental
repre.s.entation.s. are connected vlfith cognitive function.s. in the brain. \'llittgenstein would have been quite hostile lo this. "! don't care whether bis
brain goes green or red when he thinks of that."
Even when cognitive psychology does not po.s.tulate representations

in the brain, it still seeks explarwtions of what is going on in the head

when we act or think or talk. Tha t is j nst what Wittgenstein resi>ts. "Peop le
who are constantly as.king 'lvhy' are like tourists. who stand in front of a
building reading Baedekker and are so busy reading the history of its construction that they are prevented from seeingthe building." "The tendency
lo "'<Plain instead of merely describing" gives only bad philosophy. Describing: that is what he would like lo be doing. "Kot to explain, but to accept the psychological phenomenon-that is what is so diflicult."
i\-ere descri ption is so difficult beca use one beeves that one needs to
fiU out the facts in order to unde.rstand them. It is as 1f one sa..v a .s.creen
,Nitb scattered color-patches and s.aid: the way they are here, they are
unimelligible; they only make .s.ense when one completes them into a
shape.~\Vhereas 1 wan t to say: He re is the ''{hole. (If )'OU complete i t,

yo u falsify it.)

1 find this wnception of philosophical psychology oddly wngenial to

Descartes. Tha t's odd, be ca use Descartes was a great explainer, He did
make e::.:planatory models ofhow the body works, of the movements of the
blood, even in the brain. He was tZtbled lo have made a human robot,
thrm{n overboard during a storm on the voyage to Sweden beca use the

s.ailors thought it was a jonah. He was, then, intrigued by speculations

about how the body Vlforks. The mind, h01vever, is something else. He

thought it is not in the sarne ballpark, or in another ballpark, either: mind

and body are about as different as the Oaldand A's and the letter A. That is,
they are not open to remotely the same styles of des.criptionJ and whereas


H.storical Ontology

Wlttgenstein as Psychologist

the Oakland i often need explanation, it is obscure what it would mean

to try to e::q' lain the letter A.
Descartes was very cagey about the relationship of mind to body. He did
not like the ancient formulation that "1 am in my body as a pilo! in his
ship." He >>TUte that instead "1 am most tighdy bound to my body, andas it
""lere intermingled """'i th it, so that it and I form a unit." i\n intervie'i.{er
asked what he mean! by that. Descartes tartly replied: "lt is ''ery difticult to
explain; but our experience is enough) s-ince it is so dear on this. point that
it cannot be gainsaid. T'his is evident in the case of the feelings and so on."
It is possible to put sorne of Descartes's des.criptions of love, yearning, and
desire alongside those of \Vittgenstein and not quite knmv~ \{hose is. which.
"1 find my arms reach out as if to embrace something; my soul is thereby
moved to join itself willingl to fbis object." "One really always thinks of
the stance of the body tm..Tards an object. The stance of the soul to the image is just what one might represent in a picture: the man's souL as it leans
1rvith gestures of Jonging t0 Nards the picture (an actual picture} of an object.,.,. The first remark \ms. \.,"Titten in 1647, the .s.econd in 1947.
It seems to me that Descartes wants to say not only that all this is. (~yery
difficult to n-plain," but also that one ought not to try to explain the way in
which e'ents in fbe brain are associated with teelings. There is a whole domain of de.s.cri ptio ns abo ut how one feels thirsty, .s.ees tree.s., grieYe.s., and so
forth, where one vmuld be n1aking some sort of conceptual error to ask for
explana tions of a materialistic s.ort This is the importan t sense in which
Wittgenstein and Descartes are eq ually d ualistic.
1 would never urge tbat a person cannot Jearn from botb philosophical
and cognitive psychology. 1 say only that they are different of
which only the latter could ever be tc'--planatory. Human interests are commonly so narrm..,T that you won't find many people who, like Descartes
could take pleasure and proJit from both kinds of endeavor. But we must
not let differences in taste or in lite-:-projects. make us think that one of
these enterprises is right-minded 'i.\'hile the other i.s. w:rong~headed.
\Ve must not imagine that \Vittgenstein in rejecting eA'Planation~ randomly descrjbes a '~screen" of .s.cattered mental events.) refi,J_sing to '(complete" it for fear fbat he might "talsify it." His paragraphs are ne\-er unmotivated. They turn out always to be directed at "fbe problems that trouble
us." He means conceptual problems and confusions. 1 shall take only one
example} a s.u.s.tained dis.cussion of "imaging" in VoJume II pages 13-28.
"lmaging" is the bes! fbe English tramlator C<Jn do for fbe activity of form


ing images. The word "image" trans.lates 1/0rstellung, as central a tenn of

art as exists in fbe whole of German philosophy. H is a word variously
translated as "representa!ion" or "-idea," but \Vittgenstein uses it more in
the sense of "image," like the English translation. Indeed, the opening shot
is fired not at a German fbinker but at a Scotch one. 'Auditor images,
visual images-how are fbey to be distinguished from sensa tions' N ot by
The target is David Hu me, who, like Descartes, would have liked lo
build up all knowledge from our immediate mental "'-"Perences. He badly
wanted a way to tell mere ideas (which would indude visual images) from
sensations and sense irnpre.s.sions. "They differ," Hwne vHote, "only in
their different degrees. of force and vivacity." To call sensations more lively
than images is to suppose that they are the same sort of thing, all bits of
that global Cartesian "thought." That is so wrong that we should not even
assert fbat seeing and imaging are different phenomena. Better to say fbat
neither is a phenomenon) and that "image' and ((sen.s.e impression" do not
na me kinds of en ti ti es.
Wittgenstein is ver fborough. He gently pro bes the idea fbat still Jures
manya pers.on: a s.ense impression andan image might have the .s.ame "e..x+
periential conten t." He do es not sarcastcally urge (as did the Oxford Phi
losopher ). L. Austin in Sense and Sensibilia, 1962) that an "image" and a
"sense irnpression" of the Taj lviahal would never look fbe same. On fbe
contrary. Could 1 not form a detailed image of a lace, and later see exactly
that face in reallife? l/{ould not my earlier image have the same '(experiential content" as my later seeing? (Wittgenstein often hands his interlocutor
a better exam p le than we read in his real-life opponents.) He holds fbat
"one can not .say the hm are not the same on the grounds that an image
andan irnpression never look alike." We might even draw .iust one picture
to illustrate what first one imaged and later saw. lf you Jike, you can cal!
fbat very picture-the one yo u drew on the paper-the "experiential conten!" of both events. "Only one mustn't allow oneself to be deceived by
the mytb of the in ner picture." lt was of co urse ,iust that myth that torced
Hume to di.s.tinguish images and sense impression.s. in terms of their vivadty.
Instead, consider what may be es.sential to our usage of '"''ords such as
"irnage" and "see." 1 cal! Wittgenstein a philosopher of language, but he is
not a "linguistic philosopher" of fbe sort once dominan! in Oxtord, and
who studied, often wifb great panache, the actual uses and nuances of Eng-


H istoricaJ Ontology

Wittgenstein as Phllosophical Psy-c:hologist

lish words and phrases. Wittgenstein directs us often to imagined language

games to get at 1vhat is essential to this or that concept. So imagine t,..,.~o
games. In one of them people say, "Loo k at that figure!" perhaps pointing
to a cube in a book of geometry. In the other they say, "Imagine that figure~" One game goes along -,.vith other instructions such as "Look over
there!"-said holding up the book. The other might have, "Shut your
eyes." The verb "see" will have a role in one, but need not in the other. ('~A,
language game comprises the use of severa/ words." But only severa!.)
We are not to think of seeing and imaging as being different phenomena
in themselves, but as verbs distinguished by the ways in which they "relate
toa host of importan! kinds of human behavior, to the phenomena oflife."
The phenomena are not the seeing and the imaging, but the practices in
which they are embedded. Wittgemtein's examples indude: "dosing one's
eyes to form an image, straining to see something, a moving ob-

ject with the eyes:"

In the mere fifteen pages devoted to this topic, numerous con.s.iderations

weave in and out. Imaging, for example, seems subject to the will while
seeing is not. \Ve can call up, form, or banish images, but seeing is not

like tha t. Is that the real difference between the t:wo kinds of thing? :'>!o.
\Vittgenstein-tells a story where


might say that sense impressions are as

subject to the will as are images, but that does not reduce them to the same
kind of thing. 1Ne are led back to the more general point: "\Vith the sentence 'jmages are voluntary, sensations are not,' one differentiates not be~


more in the pockets. From none of that does it follow that \-v"!ttgenstein either ends philosophy or stands outside it. My litde example about imaging
reminds us how much he stands in our own tradition. He himself did not
quit, hut kept on filling up notebooks on new topics until he was on his
deathhed. His las! wrtten thoughts were about concepts of color. They are
published in a short book, Remarks 011 Colour {'Wittgenstein 1977), and are
very much an instan ce of work in progres.s..
Emotions, intention.s., and e';rer so many more aspects of beihg alive are
illumined in these two volumes of Remarks. Why, he asks, may sorrow and

grief be so naturally described as gray, oras a hea>T cloud descending from

the sk-y? Such an array of particulars does not, however, stay putas a row of
isolated insights. There are general implications. For example, many of our
leading philosophers at present debate the merits of this or that proposed
systcmatic and general theory of meaning for a natural Ianguage. This
takes many forms. There is no current work by an American philosopher
that 1 more admire than that of Donald Davidson-as may be seen from
my revi""' of his pa pers on Ianguage (Hacking l984a). His account of
meaning, truth, understanding, and translationJ combined ,...,.ith his theory
of human action, has an enormous range of consequences. It starts with a

precise version of the idea that language, action, and belief are to be approached as a whole. Our evidence may he piecemeal, bnt our interpretation of another person's spee-ch is a theory about one unified thing.

]l..ichael Dummett at Oxford has for some years he en mounting an

tween sensations and images, but rather hetween the language games in
which we deal with these concepts."

"atomistic" attack against Da'i.idson, holding that we confer meanings

upon our vvords almost one by one, situa tion by situa tion. Even he, al-

.;:In philosophizing~" l'rTte \'\~ittgenstein~ "-...,.~e may not ternnate a di.s.ease

of thought. It must run its natural course, and s/mv cure is al! important."
:\'ly speedy snippets from a few pages are no substitute for slow reading,

though once strongly int1uenced by 'Nittgenstein, has fallen prey to the

idea that there could he such a thing as a "theory of meaning" in general,
aud tha t there could be a genera! theo ry of the conditions under which
what we say is trne. 1 think that Wittgenstein's theme of the disunity oflife,

especially since they cannot adequately illustrate \Vittgenstein's thesis of

reason, and language runs counter even to Dummett, let alone Da'i.idson.

disunity-tha t we engage in endless loosely overlapping language games.

Once we have described imaging, other stories mus! be told for other mental activities such as hoping, ,,..,..ishing, describing, hearing, and so forth. Hi~
remarks about "cures/' alas, are too often overemphasized. \~le. are sorne-

times told of a Wittgenstein as therapist who would gladly bring philosophy to an end. He certainly did think that we are prone to certain kinds of
conceptual mistakes, and he detested philosophers who feel good heing
quick, clever, and flashy, three arguments on the hlackboard anda hundred

Neither of these men nor their students will he much moved by the disunty aspect of Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychalogy. but in the end
\Vittgenstein's little guerrilla army of unlike examples may begin to tell
against the big guns.
:\.fore immediately, the disunity thesis helps vindicate the claim that
there is a legitirnate pro.iect to be called philosophical as opposed lo coguitive psychology. It even conuects "ith a phenomenon familiar to ethnographers, namely that once you have ceas.ed being tlummoxed by an in-


His.torcal Ontology

ability to recognize phonemes and "words" in a really foreign language,

yo u can make quick headway with translation. But as soon as yo u getto in
teresting concepts, things go poorly. You may find that hoping or e,:pres
sions of anger or joy don't have a place in that rulture, thanks to a lack of
the s.ame array of practices that lle have in ours. Like,..vise for their importan! concepts. lvloreover, having grasped "hope;' the other people needu't
by analogy grasp our ".ioy" or "anger," for each is embedded in its own web.
T'hi5 may even be true for speech acts, like promsing or e''en stating, that
are sometime.s. he1d out as neutral bet\{een cultures.. lvoreover, the dis.uni ty
thesis is germane not just to psychology, but also to the "motley of mathematics" which \\"lttgenstein did discnss al length, and to the manifold
styles of scien tilic reasoning abo u t which he was silent.


Dreams in Place

This paper ,..,-ra_s. first given in April1998 at a conference in Toronto in celebration of my coUeague i\ndr Gombay, ,..,Tho is fascinated by both De.scartes
and Freud. Dreams seemed the right way forme to ronnect the t'No enthus.iasms.. Aodr gave me a copy of .\chd FoucauJt's Aiadness and Civilimtion
early in 1968, 'i.,ohen \Ve "''ere both teaching in U ganda-.and thus set in motion the eh a in of thoughts con tained ln this chapter. In Jrme of 1998 1 substantially re'r'ised the teAL; it has nu;,.,.T been publis.hed in the Journal of A.esrhctic.s a nd ilrt Criti;._-ism, 39 {2001i, 245--260.

ObJectivity has its. home in the 'vaking life; dreams . . .~elcome unreason. So
much is taruiliar to all good rationalists in the Westem tradition. Yet there
are ways to weave dreams into knmo~.ledge, evidence, and proof, a fabric be-

loved by Aristotle, sought after by the Enlightenment, and respected by a

host of small-time, old-time rationalists like myself. How do we do it? By
putting dreams in places, or places in dreams. Bnt it is a slippery operation.
I shall end by wondering if it is not the dreamer who has made the place
for obiectivity, and still runs it behind the scenes.
Dreams are either significant or not-and '(significan

e itself can have

many meanings. Siguifican t dreams, in the cultural tradition wi th which 1

identif)r, are characteristically associated vo!ith place~ although 1 as is the ,..._,ay

with dreams, the role of place is protean; the place may be the place in
which the dream is dreamt, ora place in the dream; "place" is itself a trape
that is freely moved about. There seem to be no compelling reasons why
dreams and places should be so related. We do know that reasoners from
time immemorial dismiss dreams and fail to loca te them; the an ti reason-"}"1'7



Historical Ontology

er.s. take dream.s. .s-eriously, and as part of their .s.trategy seem aho~,ays to fit
them into place 1 generously understood. That is hm.v1 in any '""~ortd 'i.dth a
craving for objectivity, dreams are made "ubjective"-by embedding them

in place, or by embedding places m them. Descartes, wbo "TOle clown

three drearns at the moment of his epiphany, took them to be highly significan! as portents of his future life as a philosopher. I argue that his
dreams fit well into my theme of place, and that Descartes created reason

Dreams. in Place


Descartes's Three Dreams

l know of my culture beca use it is a written culture. The peoples of West
Asia were peoples of the book. Hence we know a lot about dreams in Israel,
in Islam, and even in :\hni, the prophet :\-"lani being undoubtedly the most
dream-inspired founder of a great religion. to say1 to v.Trite is al-

someone's dream.s. and 'i-'rTaking life t1mv- into each other1 the per.son is con-

ready to place-on the page, the parchment, the tablet, the stele.
Writing plays a remarkable role in sorne dassic dreams of my culture.
For example, Descartes (to whom 1 shall return severa! times) had three
dreams d uring the nigh t of 1O :-1 ovem ber 1619, when he was 23. Yes, the
night of the pole, the stove on l.-l.'hich he . was sleeping. He lnote dm.."'ll
these dreams. The text itself is lost, but his first biographer, Baillet, did see
the text in a notebook, a;; did Leibniz. The text is called the has
be en he! pful!y reprin ted and re-examined in two recent books (Col e 1992
and Hali'Il 1995).
The first "-as a bad dream, then a short dream of sparks that I like to
think of as the strobe dream, and then a good drearn. l shall say more
about the bad dream later. 1 have nothing to say about the strobe dream,
the dream in which there is a bolt of lightning and the room s fui! of scin
tillating sparks. I imagine the sparks are like the f!ashing of a sttoboscopic
light. john Cole ( 1992, 146) attends to a different aspect of the dream and
calls this the Thunder Dream. D escaries ha;; had su eh dreams before. He
ha;; learned to blink hard and wake himself up. The sparking goes away
and he falls a.>leep.
The third dream i.s. a dream of v.~ritten words. Sorne commentators state
that the drearn is a literary composition, on the ground that dreams like
this are commonly reported around 1600, especially in describing or announcing radical ffianges in one's life. Hence Descartes had arnple literary
models on '"''hich to draw in order to com pose his own con tribu tion to thi.s
literal"}' gerue of a decisive life ffioice being enacted or represented in a
dream. (A Raptus Philosophicus of 1619, by Rodophilus Staurophorus, has
be en mentioned in this connection. Boethi us i.s. ci ted as a roo t source for
the genre.) Al the strongest: Descartes ne,er dream t this drearn at all; he
composed it while awake, or at any ra te dressed it up while awake.
The fact that Descartes told a dream according to a genre is no proof
tha t he did not dream the dream. All of our own dreams tha t we tell, we

sidered mad.

tell according to the genres of our tiine and piace. Of course Descartes

for himself out of this unreason.

I intend to discuss sorne as.pects of dreams in ....,,hat 1 will call m y culture,
namely relative1y high European 1iterate culture, as traditionally conceived,
with Greek and Judaic origins. :~vlore specifically for present purposes, my

culture indudes dassical Greece, bblica! Israel, the Ronwn de la rose, Des
autes, Freud, and thc Stanford sleep laboratories. That list lumps together
distinct civi!izations in a way that rna1 be traditional but is hardly fashion
able. One principie of lumping is that this is a sequen ce of groups or individuals that prize vaiting.
There are now many ethnographic accounts of dreaming. They .all emanate from "my" culture. As in so many other social domains, univers.alis.m

and localism compete. Sorne students find that features of dreaming are
shared by al! peoples. Under the influence of Freud or )ung, they detect a symbolic system. Even .s-tructuralist anti- Freudiansl taking a cue
from Lvi-Straus.s., discover a Jogk of dream scene-.s.witchingl a mechanism

of the mind or ts languages exemplified in al! .societies (for example,

Kuper 1989). Conversely, a great deal of recmt ethnographic work on
dreams expresses the vi""' that almos! e\er)"lhing about drearning differs
from culture to culture. 1 take no stand on such issues, but my opening
presumption is that until we are given compelling reas.ons to the contrary)

a great many aspects of dreams will be peculiar to the so ciel) in which

the dreamer dreams, remember.s. the dream 1 tells the dream, acts out the
dream, behaves in the light of the dream 1 and incorporates the dream into
'i-'r~aking life (or ~'{eludes ). That is 'iNhy l say 1 am discussing '(my" culture,

a rag-bag of snippets amar to most of m. One importan! difference

ben...Teen my culture and 'i.,_That appears to be the case in rnany others is

that there is a definitiw break between waking and dreaming life. 'When


Historical Ontology

could have made up the third dream. But dreams are mimics. Descartes
could equally well (if there is a truth of the matter) have had exactly the
dream he wrote clown, a dream tha t aped a familiar literary form.
In the third dream Descartes saw a book on a table. He opened it and
sa'i.... that it -,.vas sorne sort of dictionary or encydopedia, and , .,ras overT

whelmed b the hope that it would be very useful. But at that moment he
found another book to hand. lt was an anthology of poetry. Opening the
book he found the verse Qod vitae sectabor i ter' (What life shall 1 lead?)
1mmediately a man he did not know ga,,e him a piece of ver&e beginning
Est et non (it could be "''l"essed as "Yes and No"). Descartes said t:his was
from the Idylls of Ausonius, which are in the anthology on the table. But
then he found the dictionary (encydopedia) was less complete than it was
at first viewing, and he could not find fhe verses Est et non. The words were
not in their proper place~

There is m u eh more, in el udin g Descartes' s attem pis, while dreaming, to

interpret what he has just dreamt, and knows, while dreaming, to be a
dream. Plato's debate between poetry and philo.sophy is enacted in the play
between the verses and the dictionary. Here l emphasize ouly the role of
writing, and the difficulty of locating the writing, of finding it in place.
Descartes cannot obtain the In"! he wants in fhe anfhology, he is thrust towards the dictionary, and so on. There are also other elements connected
wifh printing, if not writing. Descartes sees certain copperpoint plates that
he cannot identif}. Throughout there is bofh the recogntion of the word
or fhe image and yet fhe inability to grasp exactl y what it is.
The same inability appears in the most famous dream of modern times,
Freud's Irma dream of 23-24 July, 1895. (Yes, one could develop a subsidiary theme, that not only are dreams in place, but dreams, or at any rate the
most memorable dreams~ occur at precis.ely recorded dates, su eh as 16 )lo-

vember 1623, or 23 July 1895.) "This is fhe first dream;' Freud wrote in a
footnote, ('that I subj ected to so exhaus.tive an interpretation .~' 1t , ..,.. as the

starting poin t for Th e Interpretation of Dreams and tor full- fledged psychoanaly.sis.. "\\'e were directly mlare, too, of the origin of the infection. Not
long betore, when she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given her an

injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls ... propionic acid ... trimethylamin (and 1 saw befare me fhe formula for this printed in heavy
type)" (Freud 1954, 107). Here we have two drearns, one of which inangu-

Dre.ams in Place


rates the Enlightenment, and the other, psychoanalysis. In both cases there
is a writing that the drearner cannot quite loca te or make out. You might

say that these are frustration dreams. Certainly. Vv'hat is notable is that the
frustration is precisely an inability to make out a text, to find it in the right
1 s.aid fbat Descartes was drearning in a genre of dreaming, and telling
his dream in a genre of telling. Descartes and Freud are more typical fhan
unique. These are not only frustra tion drearns bu t ina ugurating dream5,
ini tiation dreams, remem bered in tranquility at the beginning of a career
that is almost super human. The geni us who begins an age suffers from no
ta!se modesty. For another example, take Wordsworth's Prelude. That was
bis retrospective vbion of fhe origin of the poet, and, we might say, of the
romantic movement in Britain. Book V has a dream analogous to the n.,ro

.iust de.scrib ed. Had Wordsworth be en reading Descartes, of whom he was

lo present a pastiche? Certainly he had be en reading Cervantes. "At length 1
;-,.Jy senses yielding to the sultry air., l Sleep seized me, and 1 passed into a
dream." He dreams an Arab lmight, a "semi-Quixote" who holds a stone
under one arm and a shell in the other hand. The stone, he continues,
\\'as "Euclid's Elements;" and "This," said he,
"Is. something of more worth;" and at the '"mrd
Stretched torth fbe shell, so beautiful in shape,
In colour so resplendent, , ...-r:ith command
That 1 should hold it to my ear. 1 did so,
i\nd heard that ins.tant in an unknm...'TI tongue,
Which yet 1 understoo d ... ( The Prelude, V, 89-93)

The shell speaks, and toretells the destruction of the earfb by t1ood. Yet although it speaks, the stone and the shell are "two books" that fhe Arab will
bury (!in e 102). The dreamer never "do u bted once but tha t they both were
books" ( 113), fhough he saw plaiuly fhat one was a stone and one a shell.
The book of geometry "wedded soul to soul in purest reason'; while fbe
other had fbe "power 1 To exhilarate fbe spirit, and to .sooth, l Through every dime, the heart of human kind." Philosophy and poetry strike again!
The drearner begs for the two books, but the knight rides off into the
"illimitable waste" with a wild fiood pursuing him. Once again, frustration, unattainable words in other Ianguages, books fbat will be buried or


Dreams in Place

Historical Ontology

Realism and Positivism in the Telling of Dreams

Almos! eveJ11hing tha t can be im portant in a dream can al so be importan t, in so me changed or e''en reversed modality, in the telling of the
dream. For example, ,.,le that , . .Triting not only oc{urs in these dreams,

but also that we know about them beca use they have been written clown.
One of the things that is constan t, in m y culture, 5 that in order to be preserwd, dreams must be rehearsed. >Ne mus! recite the dreams to ourselves,
\..Te can tell them out loud, even to other people, or "'>le can V\rrite them
dm.,'n u pon awakening or after they are recalled by sorne chance incident
of the following day. Ofhen''ise fhey are lost.

Thi> may not be a universal. Sorne peoples have a rather short repertoire
of dreams to tell. lt is reallv. not ven'' hard for them to recal\ what fhe''
dreamt, because there are relativdy few dreams to te!!. ls this small repertoire a narrative convention ora fact about their dreamsZ This ques.tion is

useful for distinguishing two extreme atti tu des to dreams.

Realist: lt might be true, although it would be hard to find out without
interfering with fhe was in which these people dream, that their dreams
are mstly more rich fhan the reports they give. So these people might have
dreams as varied and unpredictable a.s mine, but fhe conventions of fheir
comm unity determine that they report ouly a small group of ra ther stylized dreams. The genre, on this view, is in the telliug of the dream, but not
necessarily in the dream itself. The realist position is the common sense of
my culture, and, l smpect, of every human societ' fhat has ever existed.
Positivist: There s in general no tact of fhe matter, as ro whefher a dream
differed from a dreamer's report of it. Better: it usually make.s no sense to
ask if the report accurately tells fhe drearu. Of course on any one occasion
a person may lie about what -,.,ras dreamt. But in general} sa)'S the po.sitivist,
the way the dream is told is the dream. This is not beca use people truly repor! dreams (a contingent matter of fact}, but because the report constitutes the content of fhe dream, by and large----and this is an anal1ic truth.
:-!arman JI,.Jalcolm's slim volume DrearnitJg (1959} is one authoritative
representative of su eh an attitude. He is entirely uncompromising. There is
no more to the canten t o f a dream than the report ( or successive reports)
of a dream. Forms of words :s.uch as "1 am drearning nmv" make no sen-se,
beca use there are no criteria for their correct application. Jvialcoln; argu-

ment derives from bis understanding of Wittgenstein (Hacking 1975b,

chap. 5). But his immediate aim was to challenge the takeover of dream


studies by fhe recently triumphant work on Rapid Eye :\.Jovement, which

for a short time made it a la'i."L' of natwe that )'OU dream if and only if you
are asleep and your e yes are oscillating wildly. Hilary Putnam -{1962) defended the scientists against the disciple of V{ittgenstein, incidentally setting in motion his own highly regarded account of the meaning of "'meaning"' ( l975a). Dreaming, seemingly so inconsequential, has the curious

attribute of leading us on into deeper and deeper philosophical topics.

Whatever Ivlalcolm's motivation, and where''er it leads, he provides fhe
perfect example of what 1 am calling the positi,ist attitude to dreams. In
!v!alcolm's opinion, it is an analytic truth that the dream as told is the
dream. Freud, in contrast, ,-~,as merely ""tha t we m ay call a metho dological

posi tivist. "We can help to 0\'ercome the defect of the uncertain ty o f remembering dreams if -,..,.Te decide that 'i-.rhate\'er the dreamer tell.s. us mu:st
count as. his d.ream, without regard to what he may have forgotten or al~
tered in recalling it" ( 19 53, 85}. We decide tha t fhe dream as told is the
l feel the force ofboth extremes, reali>t and positivist. BLit we should not
limit ourselves to a formal choice ben...Teen po.s.itivism and realism. ~A.ll

dream reporting is in a larger framework. The Brazilian ethnographer

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro told me about an Amazonian people wifh a
sma\l, specific repertoire of narra ted drearm. Here is an ex am pie of a type
of dream, by no means peculiar to fhis group, and cheerfully cited by antiFreudian.s, 1-vhich a man vmuld dream t ..Tho wants to ,...,.in a position of social power and leadership in fhe community. 'This is foretold by his dreaming of copulatiug with his mother, so he spends .sorne time before falling
asleep preparing for this dream, which is one of a cou pie of dozen possible
dreams to have. (Dreams of incest were generally held to be au.spicious in

ancient Greek culture too, Sophocles notwithstanding. Plato was the odd
man out, holding in Book !X of the Republic (571-2} that such dreams
were disgustiug and betrayed the foul instincts of fhe dreamer.)
In the Amazonian group dreams are integral to the whole of life. Our
sharp distinction of dreamiug/waking do es not make much sense to them.
They plan their dreams before they fa!! asleep, in fhe hope fhat they have
fhe right (fortuna te) dream that bodes well for sorne future concern. When
they wake up, they immediately recite 'i..o,.That they dreamt-from a small
range of possible dreams. How different from my own life: 1 would be
deemed to be a total bore, and doomed to be one, ifl told my dreams el'ery

especia1ly if there ,..._ere nothing odd or curiou.s. about them.


Historic:al Ontology

To retum to m y culture and Descartes: wme cri ties say that the third
drearn must be a literaf}' composition, given such a genre. The realist says
that there is a real fact of the matter as to the extent to which the actnal
dream is correctly described by what Descartes wrote clown. The positivist
says that althongh of course Descartes could have been outright lying, in
general the report given, even if highl)' stylized according to the conventiom of the day, cannot properly be distinguished from what Descartes

lo si ng Ore a ms: Th e Boo k of Da ni e 1

\ltle all knov~o' that 'i...Te lose dream.s.. That is, ,.ve ,.. .-ake up with the com.iction
of having dream!, bnt wi th only the fo ggiest recollection of what. Or we
""Take up vdth a goodish memory, but unless 'j.{e at once rehearse the dream)
it is usually forgotteu a few moments later. At best, an incident during the
day may trigger a recollection or reporting of a lost drearn. il.lthough these
facts are so familiar, 1 should like to recall the greatest forgotten drearn, in
A..nd in the second year of the reign of Kebuchadneu:ar~ :-.J" ebucbadnezzar

dreamed dreams, wherevth his sprit was troubled, and his sleep brake
from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers~ and the ChaJdeans) for to shew the king bis

dreams. So they carne and stood before the king. And the king said unto
them, I have dreatned a dream, and m y spiri t 'i.?Tas troubled to know the

dream. Then spake the Chaldeans to tbe king in S)Tiack [vz: old Aramaic] O king) live for eYer; tell thy ts the dream) and .... ,.Te shev..'
the interpretation.

The lwg amwered and said to tbe Chaldeans. Tbe tbing is gane from
me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, 'i...i th the jn terpreta-

Dreams in Place


great confidence trickster. He knew the king could not remember, so he invented the king's dream, and then interpreted it.
The drearn of Nebuchadnezzar seems never to be mentioned by Freud.
He would have known tbe book ofDaniel, perhaps the greatest book of recorded dreams befare The Interpretation of Dreams itself. ls this beca use
there is a lot of Daniel in Freud, the man who learned to tell other people's
dreams to their faces?
Read the book of Daniel for much more fascinating material on dreams.
1\'ote how words too play their role in the book. Daniel's biggest triumph is
at Belshazzar's feast, where the words Mene, ,\,lene, Tekc~ Upharsin appear
on the wall. Or rather, sorne signs that non e can read appear on the wall.
Daniel both pronounces them and in terprets them. lndeed, the signs resemble dreams, which only he can tell, and only he can interpret. Here we
do not have a forgotten dream) but letter-like marks devoid of mean-

ing, terribly scary. (Or are they part of a dream after alE) ln one of
bis most marvelous paintings, Rembrandt ciares to paint the semblance of
mar ks- withou t-meaning tha t Daniel w:ill invest with meaning. Susan
James ( 1997) used a detail from it for the cover of her recen! book about
the emotions; 1 would pul the whole on the cover of a book about Freud.
The book of Daniel describes events of about the seventh century BCE.
The book is almos! entirely about dreams. An un usual idea about it has
been suggested to me in con''ersation: the book is derived from a much
older Sumerian tradition that starts around 2200 BCE. In Sumerian civilization dreams played a central role, <>ith the court going from dream si te
to dream site around the kingdom, in order to have dreams at each site. If
there is sorne truth in this suggestion, then the most dream-filled book of
the Hebrew Bib le m ay in part be an attempt to establish authority by recalling an ancient tradition, in which the place of the dream is central to its


tion thereof~ ye shatl be cut in pieces, and ;rour houses shall be made a

dunghill. But ifye shew the dream and the interpretation thereof, ye shall
receiYe of me gifts. and great honours; therefore she\V me the drearn and

Dream Sites

minder of the tdct that we lose dreams. lv[oreover, no one can tell another',~

The way in which drearns are told is an integral part of the dream. In Greek
antiquity there was a fairiy sharp distinction beh,reen significan! and insignificant drearns. That was the solution te a problem of objectivity. The significaD! dreams have sorne objective character and he! p foretell the future.

dream. Yet Daniel did pul! it off. ln a "night vision" he saw what Xebuchadnez.zar dreamt. (He re-dreamed's dream?) The king
acccpted what Da ni el 1-i.a id. Cyn ies among us ,.....,..n .s.ay that Daniel was 1

But the insignificant dreams mean nothing; they mere1y reflect personal
oo ncerns of th e dreamer.
In a signific<csnt dream a god) or goddess, or .sorne other significan! otber,

the in terpretation thereof.

"The thing i.s gone from me." This is, to my mind, the most powerful re-


Historical Ontology

Dreams Pn Pface

stands at the head of the dreamer, and the dream is enacted by this other,
who speaks to the dreamer. Even if yon have ne,,er gane further than Book
11 of the Iliad, you wl! recall that Zeus sends to '~A.gamemnon, son of
Atreaus, / a 'i:moly menace~ a Dream" that is just such a dream._l\.1y des.cription is not quite right, for apparently the severa! Greek words for dreaming
do not take propositional clauses as in our "] dreamt that" followed by a
proposition. lustead they take objects; one dreams a person.
The Dream stood above :Agamemnon'>j looked
Like Kestor} the old man that


Respe<:ted mmt, looked jmt like Kestor

And this dream that was a god addressed the king. (Homer 1997, 21)
You might want, at leas! occasioually, to dream a significan! dream. How
do you do that? lt lj...Ta.s. '"";idely believed that there '""'ere certain si tes) sacred
sites, sui table for significan t dreams. The bes! known was Epidaurus, favored by the healer Asclepius. In Epidaurus you might dream Asdepius
standing moer you. If he dreamt you as healed, you ,.,.-rould alj...,.~ake vJ!ith a
memory of that, and be healed.
lv!any classical scholars take the highly stylized character of significan!
dreams to indicate that these dream reports are no! to be understood literally. These reports, they say, simply do not have the feel of dreams (meaning, of '(our" dreams). I react differently. I have no trouble imagining my
dreaming sueh a dream, and have recen tly trained myself to dream dreams
something like that. Bu t they are not truly like tha t, because su eh dreams
have no meaning, no lite} 'i.{ithin my present community. To repeat v. 'hat I
.said about Descartes: dreams oonfonn to the dream genres of the day. The
realist and the positivist gi''e difterent spins lo this. The positvist is indined to say, "these people told what they dreamt, so that is what they
dream t (in general} allovl!ing for occasional lies) ." The realist keeps open
the unknowable option that what was actually dreamt was different from
what was narrated. l do not take sides on that issue. lnstead, l emphasize
the importan ce of place to significan! dreams.
The Greek philosophers had their m,Tl, rather skeptical line on dreams.
They rejected the possibility of significan! dreams, and paid little heed to
place, either in or around dreams. ~o\ristotle is dosest toa modern rationalist sensibility, but even his texts about sleep, dreaming, and divjnation in
dreams form a strange mix. There is a recen! consensus that On Sleep and


lVaking, OnD_reams, and On Divination through Sleep are among the last of

the Aristotelian corpus to be composed (Gallop 1990). Even though he is

skeptical, Aristotle allows that possibly sorne dreams truly foretell the future. But he is. ronvinced tha t dreams are not of divine origin. Even animalo dream; gods would not impar! dreams lo animals, mduding humans.
He thus implicitly undoes the distinction between siguificant and iusignificant dreams, because one could save the divine origm of significan!
dreams by holding that animah dream only iusignificant ones.
__._-\ristotle' s ra tional accoun t of apparently precognitive dreams 'i-mu ld
sene any modem rationalist. \\re dream of things that interest us. Images
are prompted by recen t e),_--perience, but drearns re-order e1rents and people.
By coincidence, sorne dreams will match the future. Oni y those dreams
that match are later recaJled, and .s.o mere coincidence gets turned into
clairmyance. Nothing is significan! in itself, and nothing is dreamt m
place. There is a good deal of medicallore, especially about how the state
of one's digestion, and the amount of "ine one has drunk, affects the conten t o f dreams.
Aristotle did not completely give up on divmatiou. we may be more
aware of our bodily states when asleep, so dreams may help a physician detectan illne.s.s that has not yet become s.erious in v.:aking life. \Ve may forrn
intentions while dreaming, if only by moving our limbs in ways that foreshadov. hml ,.,.~e may move them 1. .hen we are la ter m{ake. De mo cri tus.
coniectured that sleepers pick up "emanations" from moving obiects. Perhaps, on oue reading of the texts, he meant that they pickup the thoughts
of others, a sort of ancient version of the telepathy imagined by psychic re.s.earchers at the end of the nineteenth century. Arj.s.totle swallmvs ju.s.t this
much of the idea: motions of bodies elsewhere may transmit movements
ln the air or ,.,later that a sleeper may detect, and bence know v.;hat is going
on elsev-chere to a very slight exteut. Stupid people with few thoughts will
be more lia ble to be receptive to su eh te eble stimulations, and so it is that
dhination, jf it do es occur, is to be had from the mouths. of simpletons.
Km.,~here is the .s.ite of the dream ever mentioned, and so no place is made
for significan! dreams.

Storie5 a nd Pi ctures

Dream.s. have to be told, and, if not \'{fitten down, at least rehearsed, in order to be pre>erved. Narration provides &tability for dreams. There may be


Dreams in Place

Historical Ontology


an unexpected dependence in the reverse direction. Take Cha ucer, the man

have conventions, as illustrated in the cornic strip. The speaker\; 'i.mrds are

commonly taken to have given Engli.s.h a nev. genre, the written-dm..-n tale,
as opposed to epic, .saga, history, ffij"th, or religious foundation. \Ve read

in a bubble coming out of the mouth, a bubble with a fum boundary.

Thoughts come out "ith a less firm boundary, connected to the bead by
small soap bubbles. The same convention is used for dreams, but the
dreamer is portraed as asleep, and in the big bubble there i.s a picture of

the Canterbury Tales "ith such avidity that we seldom recall Chaucer's earlier ( l3 7(}-1380, sa) long poems m eh as The Bo ok af the Dw:hess, The
House of Fame, The Parliament af Fowls. These, and others such as Dido, are
all dream poems~ that is to say, stories that are cast in the form of dreams.
This genre .....Tas widespread throughout Europe, the most tamous model

being the Roman de la ro5e. Chaucer's dream-tellings are full of pbilosophical specula tion-said to be strongly influenced by Boethi us--abou t the
nature of truth and objectivity. \Vhat can one believe? The senses? Dreams?
(a question posed within a dream). Books? Revelation? Books in dreams?

Writlen-down revelations that are dreamt? Revelations gained b reading a

book in a dream' The insidelout>ide play i.5 phenomenal: a regular pressure from the outside to tell which dreams are obiective, significan t, true
predictors, but in Cha ucer' s dream poems} this question of obj ectivity is
debated within the dream.
Then Chaucer had a brilliant idea (Boccaccio was there betore him). lt
enabled him, on the occasion of being temporaril out of work because of
a change in patronage, to '\Hite down the Canterbur,v Tale.s. He discovered
tha t we can le ave out the framewor k of telling a dream, and si m ply have
the telling. The telling is still framed, but notas dream: each pilgrim mmt
tell a story. That is where secular, fictional narrative begins in early English.
Drean>& mus! be toldas narratives so as no! to be forgotten, and, reciprocally, the genre of telling a fictional story is derived from the telling of
Chaucer himse!f ma have felt quite liberated. He put only one dream
in lo the Tales: the "N un' s Priest' s Tale." Surel it i.5 deliberate that this is a
secondary tale, told by one v.Those role is to accompany someone else. In
this tale the dreamer is a ro oster, one Chantecleer, 'i.{hose favori te hen,

Pertelote, is a skeptic about dreams. Chantecleer believes that dreams foretell, a doctrine that Pertelote ridicules. He then dreams of dangers, but he
do es not heed bis own theory of significa tion. So he is tricked by a fox, who
carties him off to a woo d. Lnckil he tricks the fox at the las! moment.
Sorne schools of psychotherapy encourage a disturbed person, especially
a child, to draw drearns directly. That too is a way of telling a dream.
Stepping up one level, hO"r"l do '"'Te represent in a picture that someone is
dreaming, and at the same time, the content of v.That is being dreamt? \'{e

'i...,Tha t is being dreamt.

\Vhat about earlier com~entions? Francesco Salviati (Francesco de'
Rosso), 1S 1(}-]563, was one o f the fust of the "mannerist'' pain ters and a

great adrnirer of .'vlichelangelo. He has done sorne striking works, like a

painting of the three Graces as three men in drag. In Florence, Cosimo 1
started a tapestry factory to make 20 giant ta pestries for Salle de Due
Cento in the Palazzo Vecchio . .Salviati was hired to make one of joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dream of the seven fat years followed by seven lean
ones. Pharaoh is. on a couch (yes, really) with Joseph nearby, manifestly interpreting the dream, but how to portray the dream' In the tapestry there
is a Renais.sance 'i...indow, properly framed, in lj.'l.rhich one .sees seven lean
cattle devouring .seven fat ones. One corner of the frame is posed just off

Pharaoh 's shoulder. Salviati a! so m ade a small cartoon Salvia ti in preparation for the tapestry {reprodnced in lvlonbeig Gogueli998) .In the cartoon
the comer of the frame i.5 posed exactly at Pharaoh's head. A picture is
made lo be a picture of a dream by being put in the right place.
The tapestry was h ung on 16 lvlay 1548. lt has be en conjectured tha t it
1\ras a contribution to the great debate about the paragon of the arts that
excited Florence in 1547. Which is the greater art, sculpture or painting?
Here is one way in ~ovhich painting is superior. You can easily repre.sent a
dream in a painting, by putting it in the proper place on the canvas or
cloth. Bu t there is no su eh \...Tay to represen t dreaming in sculpture. Tha t is.

a simple comequence of physics and the strength of materials: a sculpted

dream attached to joseph's shoulder would break off(unless it were on a
frieze, which is the inferior mode of sculpture).
Back to Descartes

In the fust major collection of ethnographic papers on dreams, one editor

v.rrote that in the modern era inaugurated by DE\~cartes~ "\Ve have less need
of our dreams" (Callois and Grunebaum 1966}. Yet thi.s lessening of the
need for dreams had been going on long befare Descartes. (And Aristotle
had no need of dreams! There were lots of Aristotelians between Aristotle



and Descartes.) One might say of Chaucer and sorne ofhis contemporaries
that they had leso need of their dreams. And in a literal sense, Chau(:ef had
less need of dreams when he .stopped writing dream poem5 and started
vaiting tales. Kevertheless Descartes is pivotal. This i.s not beca use he introduced skepticism with an argument from dreams. Noting the familiarity of dream arguments, Hobbes tartly objected to the first :'vleditation: "]
am sorry that so excellent an author of new speculations should publish
thi;; old stuff." (That is the racy-and accurate--trausla tion of Anscombe
and Geach (Descartes 1964).)
Why then should Descartes be pivo tal, if he is merely regurgitating tire
sorne old platitudes? Beca use at the age of 23 he had that epiphany, his
dreams. He wrote them down in the notebook in which he kept many seri
ous thoughts. 1 think he too k them seriously for the rest of bis life. 1 believe
(again:st most commentator.s.) that dream skepticism is a ltve skepticism for
Descartes: that is, not a mere philosophical position, but genuine doubt.
:\-loreover~ this is in part because of the content of those three dream.s, to
which 1 shall return.
What do 1 mean by live skepticism? I introduced the terrn in Hacking
(199 3b), a da pting the adi ective "live" from William james. l mean that one
is genuinely in doubt, and terrified that one's doubt might be well warranted. llll of m can understand dream skeptirum, but hardly any of m are
gennindy moved by it for any length of time. But suppose one took it seriomly. Compare solipsi;;m. David Pears (19 87-88) has argued tha t Wi ttgenstein actually felt or experienced solipsism, which most of us think of
as a mere philo.sophical stance. Louis Sass, a philosopher w:ith a thorough
training in psychiatry, goes further in hi.s book subtided \Vittgenstein,
Schreber and the Schizophrenic Afind ( 1994). {Daniel Paul Schreber was the
high court judge of Sa.xony book-length report of bis own madness
[ 195 5] sened Freud as bis paradigm of paranoid schizop hrenia.) Sass
compares the mental conditions of Wittgenstein and Schreber, arguing
tha t they are similar, and that "Wittgenstein 's phi! o sophy is a troub led bnt
sane response to that condition of mind 'i.'lhich incidentally produces. a live
skepticism about the very existence of other minds--and which drove
Schreber mad. For a profoundly moving version of this idea, one should
read Thomas Bemhardt's single-paragraph novella, lVittgenstein's Nephe1v
( 1986). The eponymous nephew appears to be a strange merging of the
h'ro men, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Daniel Paul Schreber. Live skepticism
is close kin to madness.

Dreams in Pla-ce


l suggest that Descartes and dreaming are comparable to Wittgenstein

and solipsi;;m, and tha t Descartes at leas! for a time experienced a Jive
skepticism about drearns. In the convoluted replies to the seventh set of
objections, Descartes obsenes that he was "the first philosopher to overturn the doubts of the skeptics" (AT VII 554). Well, perhaps thi;; mis-states
matters. l agree with :'vlyles Bnrnyeat ( 1982}, who has argued that Descartes introduced a wholl new leve! of skeptirum, unknown in the Greek
tradition. 1 add the thought that Descartes did not only make this intellectual step forward (or bad:ward into chaos); he abo experienced it as a live
donbt, not as a paradoxical conundrum.
On this vie-,...,;J Descartes 'i.".TaS right and Hobbes was .....Tong. He 'i.{as the
first to OYerturn a wholly new skepticism about dreams, his own. Hobbes
did not see the point, because he could not experience the new skepticism.
Only at the very end of the Medita tions could Descartes laugh at his wo rry
about dreams. Is it the aftershock giggle of someone 'i.{ho truly scared?
The e..xaggerated doubts of the last fev. days should be di>missed as la ugh
able. This applies especially to the principal reason tOr doubt, namely my
inability to distinguish between being asleep and being a\~lake. For 1 nmv
notice- tha t there .is a vast difference beD..,Teen the two in tha t dreams are
never linked by memory with al! the other actions of life a> waking expe
riences are ... when I dis.tinctly .see \.,There things come from 1 and ,.vhen I
can connect my perceptions. of thern 'i-Vith the .....Thole of the rest of my lite


a break, then 1 am quite certain tha t '"{hen 1 encounter these

things 1 am not asleep but awake aud 1 ought not to haYe even the slight
est doubt of their reality if alter calling upon al! of the senses as well as
my memory and m y intellect in order to check thern, 1 have no cont1icting .reports from any of these s.enses..

Coherence arguments like that are two a penny in the history of philosophy. What is remarkable is not the argument, but that it comes as the
dnouement of one of most powerful European tex:ts of al! time.
One do es sym pa thize with Ho bb es. Why do es Descartes find dream
skepticism so exciting? Hobbes 'Nas tascinated by dreams, but as a question

of physiologr and psychology, not as epistemology and metaphysics. 1\ly

answer is that Descartes was that rare thing, a philosopher who invents and
experienceslive philosophical skepticism. At the end of the Meditations he
recites the old stuff, the coherence argument, but only because by then he
has convinced himself that he no longer experiences live skepticism.


Orea m s in PI a ce-

Historkal Ontology


v. orld except this monad, me; in fact it ljvould make no difference to anyAnother Young Man Aged 23

Descartes had his dreams when he .....Tas 23. (Spinoza '""'as excommunicated
when he was 23, and dreams were not in the forefront of hi5 thought.) But

here is what another thoroughly modern young man wrote about dreams
"~-"Then he 'iNas 23, Leibniz, in 1669:
V{e have this criterion for distinguishing the experience of drearning
from being a"l.lake-'Ne are certain of being awake only 'P"lhen we remember why have wme to our present position and condition and see thetitting connection of the things which are appearing to us., and to each
other, and to those which preceded. In dreams we do not grasp this. connection "1...,.-hen it is. present, nor are surprised when it is absent It is to
be noted, hov.Te\'er, that nmv aod then the dreamer himself obsenes that
he is dreaming, yet the dream contin ues. He re he must be thought of as if
he \,.ere a'rvake for a brief interval of time, and then, once more oppressed
by sleep, returned to the pre-,.ious state. It is also to be noted that sorne
m en can 'Pvake themselves. up, and it is a familiar experience of mine tha t,
lvben s.ome pleasing vis.ion presents. itself, 1 notke that 1 arn dreaming
and try my eyes and pull them open 'i..,ri th my :fingers to admi t the ligbt.
We should al so think about the ca use of sens.atiom offalling out of b ed,
whkh are popular ly ascribed to lapses into sin, and 'i..rhich occur sornetimes, and to sorne peop le, a1most ben..~een the limits of s.leep and \'raking, s.o that they are suddenly awakened at the very moment of talling
asleep. Sometimes. v.:hen this has. ha ppened to me, I can scarcely persuade

myself to fati asleep all night For in the first moment of falling asleep, 1
suddenly recollect myself and, sensing this fact, leap up. "Nor ought 'iNe to
overlook the s.pontaneous ejection of semen .....-1.thout any contact in .s.leepi
in "l.lakers it is expelled only when they are strongly agitated, but in sleep
the spirits are moved intemally by a strong imagination alone and "1-vithout any rubbing of the members.. 1 have also heard this confirmed by a
physician. (Leibniz. 1975, 2, 276-8)

thing, except God. Leibniz was com p letely un trou bled by soli psi sm or any
other kind of philosophical skepticism such as dreaming.
Leibniz found dreams totally ordinary, unsurprising, in almost every resp ect except one: he was amazed at the inven tiveness of dreams, the way in
which we, or at any rate he could dream quite e..,-;;;:traordinary visions of
brilliant architecture, noble towers, intricate tracery, "while in \.,Taking it
would be difficult for me and 1 could succeed only with enormous difficulty in framing the idea of the simples! house." Xot to mention "all the
vwnderful speeches, books~ letters, and poems which I have ne'i.~er
read but have encountered in my dreams." The structures that Leibniz
dream t were so extraordinary, so bea utiful, tha t they be derived from
the Art of Invention in its most sublime form, as intimations of the m.ind
of God itself-from which, the young Leibniz seems lo have opined, we
ought to be able lo construct an argument for the ex:istence of God. I believe that he continued in this attitude. Certainly the dream of Descartes
that interested Leibniz most -,.vas the very one that interests. me least-the
stro be dream. He seem.s to hmce thought tha t the scintillating sparks, like
nothing on earth~ might be one of those intimations of divinity.

In the vein of vision dreams, parenthetically, one building is famous in a

poem presented as a dream, the most tamous poem in allegedly recovered from a dream under opiates. But even before the building we have
a place. The dream is not dreamt in a si te, but is the dream of a si te, a

building site, witness again to the malleability of the role of place, consisten! with place having a role.

Leibniz and Descartes both gave a -coherence criterion to dis.tinguish

dreaming from waking lite. But Leibniz ne,,er entertaned live skepticism
about dreaming. He e''en granted that we could have a coherent lifelong
dream, but then it would not matter that it was a dream. This thought is in
the same vein as his seemingly solipsistic remark in the Monadology 6,
that it would make no difference to me if there were nothing else in thi.s

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure dome de-cree
\Vhere }Jph the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
D own to a .sunles.s. sea.
Scholars agree that Coleridge crafted Kub/a Khan when he was stone sober,
and rej ect as romantic my"1h the story of the poem b eing lo\'ri tten down on
awakening. That doe& not preclude Coleridge's having dreamt the perfect
archi lectura! dream in the p erfect site. And eYen if he did make up the
whole thing, Coleridge knew the significance of place to dreams that aimed
at significance.


H istoric::al Ontolagy

Dreams in Place


Lucid Dreams (i)

The Bad Orea m of Descartes

For .sorne readers the mo.s.t interesting bit of my quotation from Leibniz
will be the mention of dreams in which the dreamer is aware that he is
drearning. lmd recall that towards the end of this third dream Descartes
started interpreting the ear ly parts of the dream, knowing them to be a
dream. Today this is called "lucid dreaming." In mid-nineteenth century, a
sinologist at the College de France, Hervey de Saint-Deni>, became fascinated by this phenomenon, which for Leibniz is commonplace. l think
Hervey's profession as scholar of Chinese culture is relevant, for he
thought that there were certain Chinese sects who made great use of such
drearns. He tried to cultivate lucid dreams, for he thougbt they were a profound guide to sorne other reality, e\'en if it vv"B:s only a reality inside ourselve.s.. ...:Joreover, he thought we could gain sorne control over our dream.s., our awareness of them as %ye '"''ere dreaming ( Hervey 1982). The
label "lucid dreaming" did not become entrenched in English until 1913,
when the Society for Psychical Research in London leamed it from a Dutch
psychiatrist, Frederick 'i.oatl Eeden, ,Nho was familiar with H;en~ey's essay.
Like Hervey, van Eeden (1913b) was able to directhis dreams. The London
SPR was, al that time, much involved in survival after death and medium
contact with the other world. Van Eeden told how he directed bis dreams,
so that in them he was able to meet a nuruber of dead people. A psychiatrist by profe.s.sion, he \..-as cautious in e).._'Plaining his. e.,'---periences and :first
wrote them up as a novel (van Eeden, 1913a.l. The practice of directing
one's dreams was seldom explored, at least in print, but see Dumas (1909)
for another e.,yample. Today, hmo~,'ever, it has achieved cu1t status, and, as. ,.~,-Te
shall see, makes use of the latest (pseudo) technology.
Dream direction is pan of the ongoing subculture of lucid dreaming,
V!hich produces a stream of arc.ane books- that continue to inter.sect ""ith
spiritism and parapsychology. How about this tide (Godwin, 1994): The
Lucid Dreamer: A. Haking Guide for the Travel/er between llvo lVor/ds? Or
thi.s (Green 1990): Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consc1ousness during
S/eep! Where the cult of lucid dreams finds paradox and supernatural experience, Leibniz, the prototypical modern man, saw nothing paradoxical
about lucid drearning. The phenomenon was a rather trifling part of the
natural world of e\~eryday experience} and had a common-sense e_;..'Planation.

Back again to Descartes and drearm that matter. The story of Descartes\
three drearns reads like pure Borge>. The young man inscribes the dreams
in bis notebook The notebook, much like my own notebook, begins al
both ends, i th comments on different tapies, and has en tries, separa ted
by blank pages, on yarious tapies. Who read the notebookl His biographer,
and one other, Leibniz. Leibniz has much of the notebook copied, but
barely mentions the drearns. The book is lost. We rely on the biographer's
version, already a problem because the notes on dreams 'Were in Latin~ and
Baillet published his summary of the dreams in French. Cross-checking
with Leibniz's Latin transcriptions, we know that Baillet took sorne mild
liberties with other pam of the text. To complete the cirde of readers,
Baillet's text was sent to the elderly Freud for analysi.s. Could Borges improve on that?
Freud began by being true to psychoanalysis. One had to know the associations that the dreamer would make on the basis of the manifest content.
There was no ,;,..rar ,..Te can do that, so forget it . But then Freud was untrue
to himself, for the sake of universalism. He suggested that sorne items in
dreams have such a universal .s.igniiicance that one can drm,.r a few inferences. The first dream caught bis atten tion.
That dream begins with terrif)1ng phantoms. As Descartes tries to drive
them away, he ex--periences a terrible 'weaknes.s. in his right side. There i.s. a
great wind and he is whirled around on bis left foot. He cannot stand up
straigbt, Ior he s constantly blown to the left. He tries to get to a college
chape! to pray, but realizes he ha> passed a man whom he knows but has
not acknowledged. He is thrown against the chape! wall by the wind.
Someone else calls out bis name and tells him that he should seek 1\'lr. N,
who "ill give him something. Descartes thinks that this something is a
melon from a far country. The man is surrounded by p eop\e who can
stand up straight, despite the wind. The "ind lessem, he wakes, he feels
pain in bis left si de.
Descartes thougbt the melon signified the solitary life. His eighteenthcentury readers thonght the melon wa;; a capital.ioke. Freud abandoned bis
resolve not to comment. The sinister bending to the left while others stand
up straight, the stranger who is bringing the melon from afar, these all add
up to one thing: Descartes' fear ofhis homosexual indinatons. When l re-


H istorica1 Ontology

lated the dream lo my "~fe, she s.aid immediately, "oh, that melon. 1 surpose he has gol wmeone pregnant." A whole new field tor Cartesian research opens up. john Cole has offered the most convincing chain of
as.s.ociations bet\lee-n the melon and s.ongs, s.av. '-s, and sayings of the day.
Here is one of severa! examples, curren! between 1585 and 1630, in translation:
Friends in the presen t da)'
Have this in common with tbe melon:
You've got to try fifty
Before yo u get a good one. (Col e 1992, 142}

Cole finds two preoccupations in the dream. The first is readil recognized:
Descartes' break with his filial obligation to become a lawyer. The second s
more personal. Descartes had a deep emotional attachment to his older
friend and mentor, Isaac Beeckman. Descartes felt betrayed by Beeckman 's
unenthusiastic response to .sorne of his .sketched mathematics; hence the
melon: his mentor '""'as no true friend.
Something else is more interesting than the androgy11ous melon. Descartes
was mercilessly buffeted by the "~nd, wh:ich thrust him against the wall of
the eh ape l. At the end of bis dreaming Descartes (as rendered by Baillet),
fhought that, "Le ven! qui le poussait vers l'glise du college, lorsqu'il avait
mal au ct droit, n'tait autre cho.s.e que le mauvais Gnie qui tichait de le
_ieter par force dans un lieu oU son dessein tait d'aller volontairementn
(Hali'fl 1995, 37). (The wind that bl"" him toward the chape! wall while
his right side hurt was none other than the evil geniu.s./spirit) ,.,.rhich tried to
tltrow h:im by force against the place where he intended to go voluntarily.)
In the margin Baillet l ..Tote -...rhat is presumed to have been De.scartes. originallatin: A. malo Spiritu ad Templum propellobar. F. Hali)'fl (1995, 14) remarks that "the latn text states that an evil spirit pushes fhe dreamer towards the chape\, while the French account mentions an evil Genius." One
may-....,rell ask 'i...That ,.,,ras. the latin equivalent of the other oo....-urrences. of ((geniusl' in Baillefs version. For e_,-..:ample~ Descartes awakes convin-ced that, in
his m"''n ,.,mrds, quelque mauvais gnie is the cause o f the pain he feels in his
left side. Baillet's words are: que ce ne ft fopration de que/que mauvais
gnie qui l'auratt voulu sduire (... that it were not the work of sorne e,
genios that wanted to lead him astray).
What were the words of Descartes? ,\Jlow me lo imagine fhat Baillet did

Dreams in Place


get things more or less right. Then there is a truly remarkable inversion.
The first surfacing (of which we know) of fhe evil genius that Descartes
uses to crea te a doubt more hy-rperbolic than dreaming '"''as actually e::>.._'Perienced as fhe product of fhe first of the dreams that Descartes himself says
set him on his career.
That is highly contentious. Here is an acerbic comment by Genevieve
Rodis-lewis (1992, 328, n.29): "Whereas malus spiritus clearly refers to fhe
spirit of evil (!'esprit du mal), Bailiet's translation leads to confusion "ifh
the ver y mueh la ter mali n gn ie_, the deceiver of the A.feditations, the instrument of supreme doubt. This confusion skews the en tire interpretation offered by J. .'vlaritain, Le Songe de Descartes, Paris, 1932."
Actualiy, Jl,laritain seems to have been more interested in the "Spirit of
Trufh," identified as the lightning that sets off the strobe dream and which,
D escaries thought in retrospect, "Juul forecast these dreams to him befare he
retired to his bed." He continues: "The hi.storians of rationalism ought to
settle for m once and foral!, the identity of this geuius. Could it be by any
chance a cousin of the Ma!in Gnie of the Medita tions!' (lvlaritain 1946,
116, original italics). Has not the historian answered, in the person of
Rodis-Le'r.,.is? She says, in effect) that there is nota chance that \{e ha'i.e even
a distan! cousin here. J should say that 1 have quoted the only occasion on
which 1\faritain appears to make a comparison with the malicious demon
of the _.~_\'Ieditat-ions, either in the essay called ((Le Songe de Descartes)" or in
fhe coliection of essays which bears that name. 1 would hardly want lo defend Iv!aritain in general; his final paragraph in his final ess.ay (on fhe Cartesian herit.age) begins, "1 have often said that Descartes (or Cartesianism)
has been the great French sin in modern history"-and he urged the Russians to, as peop le now say, deconstruct Hegel, while the English and
Americans should decomtruct locke, each people taking npon itself the
sin of its intellectual father. Not my cup of tea, but it is hardly debunked
in its en trety b)' p oin ting lo a single question asked by lvlaritain abou t
'i...,Thether the n-wlin gnie is cou.sin toa benevolent spirit of truth.
1 am suggesting somefhing far more radical than :vlaritain ever allowed
himself in print, and I am not fuliy dis.suaded by the historian. Rodis-le"is
does not quite convince me that we shouJd never allm{ ourselves to speculate that the Baillet version, although using a French phrase that Descartes
did not use in 1619 ( mauvais gnie), did capture Descartes 's though t about
his dream, a thought that !asted him the res! of his life.
\Vh_y i.s the evil geni U5--{)r, to use a better transla tion, a maliciom;.


Dreams in Place Ontology


in the first !vleditationi \Vhy won't dreaming suffice for

skeptical doubt'
The trouble seems to be this: "Whether I am awake or asleep two and
tbree added together are five, and a square has no more than four sides."
Even in dreams two plus three equals five, and squares have four sides. So
dreaming skepticism 5 not enough. But why cannot 1 dream that 1 go to
geometry dass and learn that .squares have five sides? In tbe ne>.~ dass (in
my dream) 1 leam that two plus three equals four. IV!oreover, l dream that
what 1 am taught is right, and l myself see tbat two plus three equals tour.
Why not? 1 suggest it is because tbe telling of such a dream ceases to be intelligible. "You can dream those "'~Nords 1 if yo u v.Tant) but you cannot dream
a .s.quare vlo'ith five sidesl~ "\Vhat ,...,Te ha\~e is a cons.traint less on what is
dreamt, but on what can be told as dream. The evil genius, descendant of
that terrible wind in the original first dream, 5 then invoked to create a
new kind of doubt that goes even deeper than dream skepticism.
The malicions demon does not en ter until tbe page after tbe rellection
on the truths of arithmetic and geometry. He is an all-purpose demon who
can create do u bt about anything, particnlarly the truth that I have a body,
that 1 have a head and arms. Ths doubt, about my very body, is in fact
strikingly dos.e to sorne manifestations of ~Nhat i.s. called paranoid schizophrenia. A reallive felt skepticism is close to genuine madness.


time befare Freud set the pace in analytic interior decoration, he had anotber fixation "ith a place that he wanted to be hallowed, namely the
building in which he first formed his theory of dream interpreta!ion, 15
Bergasse. He wrote to his then dosest friend, Wilhelm Fliess, "Do you suppose that sorne day one will read on a marble tblet on this house:
Here, on 24'" !uly, 1895
Ihe Secret of the Dream
Revealed itself to Dr. Sigm. Freud.
The plaque was dulyerected on 6 iV!ay, 1977 (Freud 1985, 417).

The Couch
Dreams., placel and signiticance are profoundly connected but never1 oralmo.s.t never, in .straightfonmrd ways. 1 mentioned Epidaurus) a holy place

in which the healing colt of Asclepius encouraged ou to dream. That is

straigh tforward. Yo u go to a place to dream. The holy si te for drearm, in
the l'Nentietb century, has of course been the couch. It is not that you
dream on the couch but you te1l your dream on the couch, and free-associate thereon. Let the pro blem be: how can we make a dream significan ti
Sol u tion: no t to dream in a holy place, but to tell tbe dream in a sacred
place, in tbi5 case, the couch. And Freud was not satisfied with the couch;
he insi>ted tha t the room in which it sat was sealed off from the consulting
room by double doors, each lined witb fe! t. The temple at Epidaurus ;,ith
its altar; the fel t- insulated ro om with its couch.
Freud's couch and the double doors were unique, but they have become
generic as p sychoanalysts copied the layout of the analytic chamber. So m e

An Ex peri m en t with ( Space )-Ti me

Beh.,Teen the i'>'rTO ,..,mrld v. ars, the 'i-Hiting dm. ."TI of ,..,,aking memor ies of
drearns was much encouraged in the English-speaking world by a strange
book by , !VI. Dunne, l1n &perirnent tvith Ti me ( 19 2 7). Per ha ps infl uenced
hy Bergson and by the Cambridge philosopher .'v!cTaggart's ret1ections on
time, Dnnne believed that we Ji ve in all time, all tbe time, altbough we are
prirnarily cnscious of a shortish (roughly t~om-day) moving segment of
timei the moments. that we are conscious of in ,..,Taking lite are experience.s.
o f the middle of su eh a segment. But in dreams we b lend togetber even ts
that we experienced when awake during the whole of time surrounding a
dream, both past and fu ture, with even ts doser in time being more salien t
tban tbose further away. \Ve can establish this by writiug clown our drearns
as soon as we wake (we must keep pencil and paper by the pillow). A day
after a dream} we read it through as an impersonal account, and
notice many eventsl of a purely personal .s.ort (reading about a volcano in
the newspap er ra ther than exp eriencing a volcano) that took place either
preceding or fo!/owing the recording of the dream. This is no precogni tion
but cognition in dreams of the larger segment of time that \Ve e2i..-perience
'iNhen dreaming.
Dunne -,.vas an eccentric innovator. Kenton Krker told me that DUllile
was among other things an engineer who built one of the first t1ying machines, and certainly the first swept-wing or "delta" aircraft, in the first
decade of this century. He tried to sell it to the British military. They seem
not to have be en in terested. He then flew the machine to France and apparen ti y sold it to the French governmen t. Bu t his ideas abou t dreams really did take off. The middle classes of Greal Bri tain were m ueh taken


Dreams in Place

Historic:al Ontology

by his practice of inscribing dreams. J. B. Priestley was so interested by

Dunne's ideas that he used them in three plas that ran succes>fully in the
West End of London (Priestley 1937a, b, 1939; cf. 1964).ln 1939 Ben,iamin
Brillen composed a Suite for orchestra inspired by the third play, Jolmson
over Jardan (Brillen 1993). A la ter thriller w:ith Dunnean overtones, The
Inspector Calls ( 1946), is still performed in repertory.
One reason for the success of Dunne's bizarre theory of time ~ovas its inrimation of immortality. lt presented a vision of existence in lj.'l.rhich -,.e
are, albeit dimly, aware of events in the whole of time, eternity, both past
and future. This was a comforting thought for the mriad aging parents,
""l.dmY--s~ and spinsters t{ho had lost their sons, husband.s, or lover.s. in the
Great \-'lar.
Dunne\ lj.yTiting dmvn of his dreams \'rTas a terribly lonely, solitary event,
m ade pu blic and fascinating only v.Then e m bedded in a bizarre theory
about time. Indeed, Dunne wonderfully fits my !heme of dreams in place.
He . ..,rote in the era in \vhich his readers. .....Tere fascinated by tour-dimensional Iv!inkowski space-time, even if they d:id not much understand it.
D unne m a de drearn.s. significan t by embedding them in an entirely novel
"location" in this ne\.r hyperspace.
Internet Dreams
1 should update my remarks about loneliness and the writing down of

dreams. The telling of dreams has been totally transformed in the past decade. The Internet is now full of dream s:ites--bulletin boards and web sites
in which to write dreams. Apparentl- people wake up in the morning and
scurry off to wri te clown their dreams. And other people in cyberspace
cDmment. discus.-s, elaborate, interpret these dreams, and in exchange present their own. 1 said that l would be deemed to be a total bore, and
doomed to be one, if 1 told my dreams every morning. Certainly that
1\ould be true if 1 did it to my and dearest, but in the massive
im personali ty-or is it a ne'i.{ -.,,.Ta)' to have a personali ty-of the Internet, 1
can tell m)' dreams to everyone, and leave to electronic space itself the
question of who is reading, listening, attending, replying. It has been a
subtheme of mine that -,.vriting moves around in connection ".."' dreams;
it has, in the past decade, moved afresh-to writing that is promiscuously
available to everyone, and tono one. How is it that all these people, writing
down their dreams on their keboards, can imagine that the dreams are of


the slightest significan ce? Beca use they tell them in that new place that they
call cyberspace.
Between the couch and the Internet, the other holy place for dreaming
in the twentieth century has been William Demen sleep laboratory at
Stanford, and other.s. like it. Here -,.,re have far stranger practices than -..vere
ever conducted at Epidaurus. You are wired up, anda whole bunch of electrodes are attached to your face, and often lo other parts of your body, to
determine the rnovements of your eyes in sleep. Actually it is not so hard to
observe eye movemen t 'i...Thile 'i.'mtching a sleeper in a sui tably illuminated
room. But the movements became .s.ignificant only lj..rhen a .s.acred place

carne into being, a sleep lab with a lot of expensive electrical equipment
.....ired to your body.
The sleep labs produced one of the strongest claims ever made about
dreams. For sorne time scientists believed tha t people are not dreaming at
aU~ unless thejr eyes are moving in a 1 ray that would be detected in the sacred place, the sleep lab. The place certified the discovery of the rapid eye
mmcement (REi\l) phenomenon. Kenton Kroker (2000) has confirmed in
personal intervie'i.'L'S ,.,.ith le.ading researchers that rapjd eye movements can
be readily detected without any apparatus at al!. But in fact they were onl y
attended to when experimental subjects were hooked up to apparatus in an
uncomfortable laboratory. Kroker argues that the apparatus was necessary
to embed dream study within a tradition of physiology research that descends from the dectroencephalograph. That mus! be right, but l repeat
the importance of the place, the special site where the .1leeper is observed.
In fact, the simplistic identity of rapid eye movements and dream:ing has
not fared very well. Quite a number of physiological states during sleep
ha,'e been distinguished. One of the original motivations was to be able
not only to detennine the time when one dreamed, but also to draw inferences about the wntent of the dream: remember that in 1953, when REM
research too k off, Freudian psychoanalysis held sway in the p>ychia try departments of . lunerican medical schools. Since that time~ correlations be1

t\.,reen the character and content of dreams reported v,.rhen .s.1eepers are

aroused from these various state.s. have become increasing1y su.s.pect.

There are more seriou.s. problems. Rapid eye movement is most common in the fetm.lf RL\..[ were a mark of dreaming, we would have to gran!
a vigorous prenatal dream life. After birth, RE!vl is ouly a little less com~
mon in the ne\ovly born infant. ~1\mong adults., movements are most rapid
late in the sleep cyde. A recen! paper may explain this. lt appears to estab-


Historical Ontology

Dreams in PLace


lish that rapid eye movements circulate the aqueous material so as to enable oxygen to get to the cornea ....,Then the eyes are dosed. H en ce the fetus
needs constant 1Nashing of the cornea since its eyes are never open to air;

ment of the East that transcends reason, aud the Enlightenment ofWestern

infants need a lot, as they sleep much, and adults need REl\.J after they have
had their eyes closed for a long time (i\Iaurice 1998). That does not prove
that dreams are not associated with rapid eye movement. lt does take REM
out of the domain of dreaming into ordinal)' experimental physiology.
The core phenomenon i.s. that our corneas need oxygen all the time, and
sleeping eye movements, which can be determined in many ways, are usefu! for bathing the eye when it is shut. Dreams drop out, and so do es the
original sleep la b, the sacred place.

mund Freud, on the .s.ide of anti-reas.on. Dreams are interpreted to unoover, among other thingsl the repressed drives that are at 'i.....~ork in the unconscious, the very drives that reasonable and civilized humanity ,.,.ill not
own up to. Freud i.s. not prmroking an anti-sciencel but a science of anti-

lud d Dream s ( ii)

The sleep lab, or its descendants, have not disappeared for people who take
drearning seriously. The lucid-dream .seeker.s. have ah..~a;:-s favored .some sort

of holy si te, but have not agreed what it shonld be. The rapid eye movement detectors may be a godsend. Thus Keith Hearne ( 1990), who self-describes as "the world's leading researcher in 'lucid' dreaming," has a sleep
laboratory in Iv!anchester. He has gane one ftrrther than the early enthusiasts who held that you dream when and only when you have rapid eye
movements. He has adapted the technolo gy to determine times at which
you are having lucid dreams. Suitable simple electronics either wake you
up (beca use telling lucid dreams is an merwhelmingly profound experience} or re~-v-ard yo u in sleep by reinfon:ement so yo u v.:ill go on dreamin g
The lucid-dream people adapt the technology of the sleep lab in environments that simula te the laboratory. Arnusingly, sorne maintain that the
ea.siest 'iNay to identifr rapid eye mmremen ts is by certain changes in the
moisture in the no.s.e. Devices in the nostril are nml us.ed to detect these

changes, and wake the dreamer up when the changes indicate RE'v[ and
"hence" that dreaming is going on. _A]) this is to serve the ends that the lucid-dream people think of as a path towards what they call (using the very
word) en!igh twment. This enlightenmen t is patterned on so me ill- rmderstood and romantic model of the wisdom of the East. That is, dreams are
systema tically worked upon, using the seeming paraphernalia of reasoned

Europe tha t elevates reason.

1 am no Freud-basher, but l pul that superb dialectical reasoner, Sig-

reason. He used that sacred place, the couch, lo indnlge the free associations arising from dreams. That is the deliberare cultivation of incoherence, o f breakdown in pattern, in order to crea te a pattern. D reams and the ,.,,e have made of them since 1619 are not so much the mirrors of rea.s.on as. the mimics. of reason, which use the simulacra of reason to bring
unreason to the surtace.

\Ve do not commonly attend to the sites of philosophy. Ye~, there s old
Kant taking his daily constitutional in Konigsberg, by which people set
their watches. And so on "~th other manifestly accidental anecdotes. Perha ps only in Phaed rus is there a true sense of place, and even that is because the place is a large prop, a stage setting, what the japanese, in describing .sacred .s.itesl cail "'-borrmvTed scenery.:>l But one site in the whole of

philosophy is different: the pole, the stove. l put t lo you that this, the si te
of Descartes.'s dreams} 'i."''as wittingly -constructed as a sacred place, so that

his dreams should be significan!. The man who would vanquish the skeptical threat that we might be dreaming had that place for the dream in which
the evil genius constantly tried to knock him over~and then formd the
way to a base from which even the genius of evil could not knock him over
into unreality. All that required a place. If tbe Cartesian room "~th the
stove were still intact in a village on the banks of the Danube, we could
erect a plaque there to the effect that,
Herel on l Qrh



The Secret of .\lethod

Revealed 1tself to Reu Descartes.

experimental science, in order to provide an anti-sdence, an anti-rea.son.

Part of Desca1ies's entire proiect was to pul dreams behind us, outside
of us, forever. We fe el tha t he succeeded wi th a vengeance. Bu t drearns have
a ha bit of creeping back in. The Enlightenment view, or the enlightened
'i.iel?T, is that dreams are nothingl physiological productions that at most

We get the janus-faced sense of the word "enlightenment": the enlighten-

jumble up sorne recent memories. They are at most chance wea,dngs of


Historical Ontology

image.s. or thoughts, many of ...vhich are connected to events of the preceding day. The essence of the dream is incoherence. But dreams have a habit
of mimickiug the coherent life, making mockery of it. If the coherent life is
the life of reason, then dreams are anti-reason. But .s.uppose reason got
there by anti-reason?

Jl,ly remarks about dreams have, with sorne deliberation, mimicked dreamsca pes themselves. abruptly switchin g from scene lo scene. Think of them
as the "i'Wrk of a dreamer. 11y vie-.... of dreams, at lea.s.t in m y culture~ is that
ea eh of m has a dreamer, or p er haps many dreamers. Dreamers play with
us, as 1 have, sligh tl, p layed with the reader. Play? If 1 as k a das.s of firstyear undergraduates to keep a dream diary for a month, they come back
amazed. Nota one of them has hada dream for a week. But when 1 decided
to keep them company \...-rith my ovvn dream diary~ my dreamer, who kno'iN.S.
1 know about censorship, malicious!y counterattacked, allowing me to
wake up with enough fully remembered dreams that it would take mean
entire day to write them al! clown. Peop le standardly remark tha t Freud' s
patients dream Freudian dreams (and )ung's, Jungian). But it is much
more complicated thau that. :vi dreamer deliberately plants Freudian
puns~ most of Nhich are quite funny} to get me to focus on them, and not
lo listen to what else is being dreamt. The dreamer, for me, filches Freud's
batan, while for another person it filches the holy e\ectrodes and plays
games with them. The dreamer, one might say, is always one step ahead of
the culture, making fun of it. It was the brilliance of Descartes to trick his
dreamer, reversing the reversa! of roles, tuming the malus spiritus_. the
wind, into a hyperbolic trickster in arder to demolish him.
Many are ha ppy to say that the era of Descartes brough t in a gam u t of
new types of demonstratio n, tests, and proof-brough t in a new sense of
ob,i ecti\i ty, a new feel for wha t 5 significant. lt is part of that ob,iecti<i ty
that dreams are rnthlessly exduded from real life, and cease to be signifiers
at al l. Bu t the dreamer m ay have won after all. If that obj ecti\ity arose by
reversing a dream held in a sacred place, is not the dreamer still in charge



Works Cited

o f ob_i ectivity?

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( 1992), 1-20.
13 "Leihni.z and lk.K<lrtes: Pmof and etc-mal rruths." 19th Annual Da.,.es Hicb



Lecture for the British Academy. Proceedings of theBritish .4caden-lJ~ 39 (1973),

pp. 175-188.
14 "''iNittgenstein as philosoph ical psychologist" appeared as a1\;_ttgenstein the
p5ychologist" in The Sew YOrk Review of Books! 1 April, 1982.
15 "Dream.s in place:' ]oumal of iJ.esthetics and Art Cri.ticim1, 59 {2001 }, 245-260.


~'\arslefr~ Haus, 7, 124, 127-131

Adam, 7, BS f, 1SI)
Adamon, ~-iichd, 9{1
Addlson, Joseph, 45, 50
i\.drlenne/l ucie, see l.,..lultiple perwnality
Agarnemno n, 236
agenda ~setting, 68
algebra, 186, 203
"A[ ~gorismi," 18-fi.
..!illen, Barry, 19"5
ilithusser, Loui:s., 76, 162, 185
analysis. and synthesis. (mathemati ca1
proof\, 21}6, philosophtca!, 51, 68, 7{1f, 88, 122,
13:J.f, 223
analytificat ion, 194
anarcbo~rationalism, 162f
anatomo~politics, 99, 112

Annales d'hygiene p~blique et de



}rnnales scbool, 83

G. E. .:O..f ., 4.8, 108, 139

r.t prior~ bis.toricaf,

5, 79, 81, 9J; synchetic, S.,

91, 137,203
archarology , Foucault's, 5, 26, 93, 213

1\rchimedes, 174
arcb.ite.....--tonlc reasoning, 21)8
arch ~ration~!is.m, 162f
~-\rendt, Hannah, 149
Ao.istotle, 2, 25f, 51, 57, .89, 181, 1.83, 211.810, 227, 236-39"
~-\rnauld, Antoinl", 2115

Art<lucl, Antonil1, 14L}


ru:.ceticism, 118
A.sdepiu:s., 236
i:ran, Scott, 197
August der Stark, 28-30
Augu:Stine, 117
Auoonius, 23{1
Austin, J. L 26, 33f, 51, 67f, 191, 223
Bacbelard, Gaston, 9, 44, 76, 9"3
Bacon, franci.s, 57, 8-9", 208, 212
Baillet, Adrien, 229, 245-47
Baltas, ~o\ristlde, i 78
Baizac, Honor de, 179
B.arnes, Barry, 16, 159
Baye:s., Ihomas, 13
Becquere1, A. H., 44
Beed::man, Isaac, 246
Belaval, Y,:on, 2{11
Bdshazzar's. feast, 23 5
Benjarnin, 'i:Y'alter, 133
.Bennett, Jonath.a.n, 55
Berem, Johann Chrk.""toph, 133-35, Gusta\', 34
&rkeley, George, 32, 57, 63, 98, 137, 139
Berlln, Isaiah, 121, 125, 128--30
Bembardt, Tbomas, 240
b[o~pol[tics, 49, 99, 112
biva]ence, 16.S., 190
B1oomfidd , Leonard, 127
Bloor,, 16, 159
.Eoccaccio. G[manni, 238
Boetbim, 229, 2 38
Bopp, Franz, 126f, 14 l-44, 18 5




Eos;.~-rell_. _lohn_.

104bourgeois, 81; in-d.ividualism, 124

Brecht, Bertolt, 27, 32-34, 43
Brhier, Imi\e, 205, 2l O
Britten, &n,iamin, 250
Broad, C. D., 51
Buchdabl, Gerd, 2(16
Buchwald, Jed, 11, 15
Buffon. G.-L L. 17'9
Burnyeat, l\.-1-)'les, 241
caloric, 166
cam.era, 10
Canguilbem, George-s, 5. 76, 79, 91,93
Carnap, Rudolf, 203
cause and effec~, 21}-8
Cervantes, 11iguel de, 231
Charles/Eri-c/Mark, see 1-lultiple perwnality
Chaucer, Geoffrey, 238, 24D
child abuse, 4, 6-9
child de-;.'elopment, 20----23
OJadeniu.s, -J. :\i., 146
Chomskr, Noom, 7, 33, 85, '90, 125-7, 130f,
162, 167, 176, 179, 184f
Cburch, /Uonzo, 201
Cicero, 113
Clause-;.\itz, Karl, 84
Clifford, James; 113
wdes,, 11 ti
cogito ergo sum, 204f
Coheo, l. B. 179
Cale-, John, 229, 246
Coleridge, Samuel I;;;ylor, 243
Colliogv.ood, R. G., 162
wlor, 225
Columbine schoo! murders. 2
C.omte, 1\:ugust, 4, SS, 63, S9, 164-67, 190
coocepts, 35---38
conceptml &eheme, -159, 168, 172-75
Condillac, E. B. de, 63, 129f
Condorc:::t, ~L J. i\. X de Caritat, 63
Comad, Jmepb, 113
Conring, He-rmann, 21} 1
con.:.--r:ruction: social, 16, 64-<67, 191f, 197;
ethical, 119
Cook, James, 152f
Cosimo l, 239
ws.mopoliti-c.::, 17
couch (p-sychoanal;1ic), 24Sf
Cou sin, -Vi-:...lor, 1O1

Crombie,,--rair, 5, 159_. 167-73, l7S-81J,

190-92. 196-99
culture-con-cept, 129
CmLer, Georges, 76, 126, 141, 155, 185
Danlel (biblical), 234f
D~--ron, Lorralne, 7f. 17, 24-, 199
David._.::.on, ilinold, S., 99, l07f, 179, 195, 225
Davidwn, Donald, 60, 139, 167, 169f, 17273.
Ddeuze, Gilles, 6, 60
D.anocrituS--. 23 7
Derain, Aodr, 189
Descartes, Ren, 89, 77,9-4-, 116, 121;
dreams of, 229f, 239--42, 24 5-48, 253;
eternal trutbs, 2{10----13; O~mpica, 164;
ropuiarity of, 27, 30-33, 56; Reg'...W:, .84;
skeptlcism, .fi3; and 'i,.'J,.Titt;geflh""tein, 214-16,
Dewar, James, 1.80
De\''ey, John, 31, 39
Diaz, Diogo, 138d[sdplioe, S1
di~course, 7S----8-2, 9(1
dispatch ( spred of -communicatioo) 144-46
dlliunity, 4
div[mtion, 237
Drake, Stillman, 1.83
Dreams, 7, 227-54; ~-\game-mnor/s, 236;
Chantedeer's, 238; Descartes's, 229f, 23942, 245---48, 253; di-..W.ation, 237; at
Epldaurus, 236, 248, 251; Freud's of
Inna, 230f; internet, 250; genres of, 229,
232, 236: Josepb's fat and lean cattle, 239;
Leibniz':S, 242; lucid, 244, 252; Dunne's,
249f.: Kebuchadn.enar's, 234-f; and
objectivity, 227, 234-; significant, 227; in
Sumer, 235; \'\'s, 231
Dreaimvork, 37
Dresden, 28
Dre)'-Tus, Hubert L, 3, 115, 118
dualism, 216
Duhem, Piern~:, 93, 193
Dumme-t~, 1'1ichael. 164--67, 19(1f 225
Duncan, A. R. C., 34
Dunne, J. M., 249
Dyson, Freeman, 1SO
Einsteln, Albert, 44

Enlightenme-nt. the, 14 5, 147, 231, 25 3;

drearns and -en!igbtenment, 252; ''\\'hat
Is En li,ghtenment," 3
"en-drina.." l56f
nond, 91
Epidaurus., 236, 24.8, 231
eplstemology, 25-, 8-8, 178-, 2{10, 203, 210;
hismri;::al_, 7f; me-ta-epistcrnology, 9f
Esquirol, ]. E. D., 112
ethics, 2, 10, 19, fKi---69, 115-20
etymology, 144f
Eudid, 2{17, 231
e'ridence, 189
-exlstence. 192
e-xlsteotla.lism, 22, 112
e-xplanatioo, 22 7
-expres.3ionism, 128
f'ancber, l't"lollie, 11}3
Faraday, Micbael, 43
fauvlsme. 1S.-9
Flida X, 1D1
Fenni, Enrim, 43
Feye-rabend, Paul, 96, 163,167, 169-171),
Flacourt, Etienne de, 15.!:'.
Fleck, Ludwik, 38, 18{1
Flie;ss, \o\-Tilhelm, 249
Forrester, Joho, 193
Fort-Dauphin, 138
Foucau1~. Michel, v, 18, 28, 31, 48, 32, 151;
arch.aeology 5, 24, 50, 213; bio-pollti-c-s,
49; Birth ofthe ClinR-, 70, 75, 77; and
Chomsl-r, 85; criticis-ms o, 76, 140-51,
193; Di_<:.:.--ipline .:md Pwsh, 70, 79;
epi:iteme, 121, 180; ethics, knmvledge,
and pm~er axe:i, 3-5; gen.,.alogy, 3, 24, 84-,
114, 11'9; on grammar, 12 5f, 140-42;
gnlag, 83-8 5; on Hegel. 4- S; hlstorical
ontology, 2, 20; Hist-N}' o_f Se~:uality, S.IJ;
his-tory of the present, 24, 51, 1S2; Hum.,.,
90; Introduction a I'anthrG}'tOI.Dgie de- Kant,
78; I, furre Ril-lb'e, 8{1; and Kant, 3, 7S,
S6, 119f; Language, Co w--.ten-nen-wrJ;
Practic..e, 79; ~\fa.dne-ss and C-i. . ilizatian..
70f, 75{; "On the genealogy of ethlc<'
115; on :\lan, 78, 8-4, 86; Mao:i:Sts, SS; Ihe
Order af Tltings, 2 3, 77-79, S4, 125, 131,
142; posi tivity, 1'90; power, 70, 73, 75, Sl;
Power,..'Krwwll'lJ~_.;,:-c, 3, 73-86; Rousse], 47;


on ilie smere-ign, 8lf; tmth, 46; "\'\~at Is

Enli,ghtenment," 3, H. W., 33
Frederid the Great, 128, 148
freedom, l19
Frege, Gottlob, 71, 121, 123, ltiS
Freud, Sigmund, 71, 254: couch of, 248; on
Descartes's d.-eams, 245; eA-planation, not
C-ure, 36f. 71; Ir m a dream, 233; tablet
wmmemorating bis. di..-<;.CO-very, 249;
trauma, 18; 'i.''t'itt_geru;tein on, 221

Galileo, 162, 176, 179, 209; Galil.:an ~tyle-,

Gali~on, Peter, 8, 184, 1S.9
Garkr, Danlel, 12
garron de m)'1?, 109
Gawo,glu, Kosta."-, 178. 1SO, 19{1
genealog}~ 3, 84, 113, 115, grammar, -89, 125, 140, 144
genetlc fallacy, 63
Gentlen, Gerbardt, 2{10
G-essel , Amold, 21
Gingras, Yves, 9
God, 107, 139, 20-4-11}
Gombay, Andr, 204, 206, 22"7
Goodm<!in, :-.e]son, 60, 66, 105-f
Graham, ~1akolm, 11)2
Graub.ard,PJan, l~J
green family, 27
Grice, H. Paul, 51
Grimm, Jacob, 141 f
gulag, 8-3_g5
G usfie-ld, Joseph, 6-8
h, silent, 131}
Hall effect, 14-16
Hamann, Geor,g, 57, 121f, 128~ 132-3'9, 147f
Hardy, G. H., 204Ha-..<:i__lland, John, 153
Heame, Keith, 2 52
Hegel, Georg Friedcb, 29-, 31, 71; Foucault
on, 4Sf; on Hamann, 133; hiswricism, 24,
54, 58; language- p-ri\'ate and public, I2lf;
PheJ-wmenolog;,. ,._--._r Spirit, 123; nnbap-p;
consciousneS-3. 36
hege-mony, S3-S6
He-idegger, filartin, 1, 6, 59f
Herder, Johann Gottfried Yon, 57, 125, 128,



hermeneutl cs. 93, l<ffi--48

Hen:nes, 144
Her&;:hd, \\'illam, 173f
Hertz. Heinrich, 15
Hen:er de Sajnt Deni~ 244

Jews, l32f
Jobn the evangeLi~t, l 3.8
Joseph (bibliwl}, 23-9
Joyce, Ja:nes, 149
Jung, C G., 7, 228, 254

lagos, 13-8
Lukes, Ste-;:-en, 159


hi-stmickm , 24, 54, SS; n<!'.,;, 51

Hobbes, L~omas, 133; hbo~atol), op~osed.
to, 15; L.el'iat~u:r.n, 3, 82; oominallsm , 105;
prl-..oate language, 121 f
Hoffman, Volker, 14S
homropath y, 176
homosexua l 82' 9'9, :;,_ 03' 11 ot freud 00
Descartes as, 243
Home Iooke, Jobn, 14:::-4:5
Humboldt, ~-\lexander -.,:on, 126
Hmnboldt, 'iNilhelm voo, 57, l26f, 14"':.. . 14S
Hume, Davld . 121, deatb of, 11 S; Foucault
on, 90~ and Good.mar.:, 105f, Hamann on,
13-2, 137, 14S; Hi5tory ofEnglM;.d, 54;
idologue, 63; Loduct:ion, 12-14, 24, 61;
and Kant, 13: on suicide, 113; -..1-...--acity of
ideas, 223
Hmon, 124
Husserl. Edmund, 6, 179, 1S5
Hypolyte, Jean, 31
hypothetico -dednctive reasoning, 207, 212

"kangaroo : l::02f
Kant, Immanuel, 29, 34, 61, .89. 116, 121,
16.8, 181; Amiuopologie, 78, 118, 132;
critique, 37: on ex:i.stence,-192; and
Fou.;:.ault, 3-, 83, 1:.8f, <'lnrl Ham.ann, 1323-6-, 14.8; ho!Je-, 86; and Hume, 13;
promenade :; of. 23-3; synthetic ~ prior~ 5,
91; 'i.l{hat Js A-Ian", 78
Kierkeg.aard, 50ren, 13-2f
Klei::>t . Hermann vo:n . 113
Klemm, Gust.av, 29
Knorr, 'i.'\~ilbnr, 1.83
know1edge-, depth and surface, 77f, 9(1, 95
Ko)T.f. ~;le..-..::andre, 93-, lSl
Kr.afft-Ebing, Rkhard, lOS
Krip~e, Saul, 106
Kris;:e.,..a, Julia, 149
Kroker, Ken:on, 249. 251
Kuhn, Thoma~ S., 65f, 71, 87-89, 93f, 106,
13-9', l67-7
Kuper, Adam, 228

ideologtws, 124, 129

immonalit y. 250
incommens urabihty, 96f, 139f. 167, 169--72
indetermin acr of ~ranslacion, 160, 1fi.7,

label:n,g theor~, 67, 103, 11 O

laboratorr lfl4f, 189; stabllitr of. 192
language gamc, 217. 224
laph;::e-, P. S. de, 96, 166
laser, 15
btour, Bruno, 11, 16~. ~SS. 19 7
Le:bniz, G. \\'., 29f, 34, 54, 57, 121; and
Desarcds notebook, 229, 243; on
tl reams, 242f; on language, l24f, 128;
_i\ro:.n-eaux E5sctis, 125; on proof 2-D0-1 3
lemur, 153-5S
lenard, Philip, 44leventhaL Robert. 147f
lvi-Straw s, Claude, 78, 91,228
le-;.\i;:.,, 154
leys, Ruth, 18
llnguk---tic ideallsm, 13S, 131}
linnaeus, Carl vo:1, 90
locke, Tobn, 37, 6-3, 113, 121 Lockean
impcrative-. 70; l2!nguage, 123
logic, l-67, 190

indri. 154-57
induct:im, pro blem of, 11-13, 24, 61 , 167,
191}, 2 "ll f; ev.asion of p-roblem, 13; new
riddle, 165
internct drcam.s, 250
introspect:i on, 220
intuitionism , 165f
lnvest in Klds, 21
[rma dream, 23[i
Jaco bi, Friedri;::h Hein0dt, 136
James, Susan, 2 33
James., Willlam, 12, 23, 35, 60f. 65, 71, 221},
J;;mec, Pierre-, 1O1
)<~ rdine, ~kholas, l SO

:\iary, l m
ll.lac::-.xi.ill, hdy of, lO 1
:\Iadagasca r, 15.5-5.8
).{aine de Biran, 63
~1:ialagasy langu.age, 135-58
l't'bkolm,, 23 2f
rruU-ir.: g(;""nie, nuwvais gin-ie, 246--48
:\falinm\'5ki, Bror.islaw, 113, 115
maloste-nsi on. 154
1-lan, 7Sf, 88, 119, 151
11ao[sts, SS, 131
:\faritain, J.acques, 247
.ll.farx, KarL 36, S5f, 1.88
mathematic s, 137, 182-85, l89f, 194,20126
:\iathse, Heml. 189
~iaupertuis, P. L M. de-, 128}..-'tl'ell, James Clerk, ~ 4, 166f
1kGeer, Victoria, 135
:\.fe Taggart, J. ;\L E., 249
memory, 18
1-ier leau-Ponty, Maurice, 6
Mlcbdange lo, 23'9
\iichelson, A. A . 167
.:...crobes, li)S
microsoclolog:.', 16, 64, l S-S
Mdelfort, H. C. Eric, 76
:\fill, Jobn .Stuart, 123
1iinkowski , Hermarm, 25{1
Mins.k--y, 1't', 122
}o..loore, G. E., 12, 3lf, 51, 61, 71
morals, 10, 66-7{1, l 15-20, UF; e.\.1rinsically
me-t2-mora l, 70; intr~nslca11y moral, 70
11.-lorand, J. E C., 154
multiple pcrson.alir:r~- 99, 101-11}3, l06f
:\fmrloch, Irls, -67


r-..ebuchadoezzar, 239f
nece-;s..slt}', 206
~estor, 2J6
neurosis, 18
l\ e;man, Jerzy, l-68
Nicaragua, 19
oihilism, 70, 86
nomin.alism , 39, 98, I 04-, l 06; d}n.a.rnic, 2-6,
4Sf, 1011, 106, ll3f; Foucault, 83, 113,


l6S; bistorlst, 65; Quine, 16.8;

Te\olutionar}' 42--45, 4Sf
numbe-rs, av~!an;::he af printed, lOO
objoctivity, 6--S, 161, 181. lSS, 191, 19.8,
227, 238, 2 54
ob,iects, lOf, 18&-90
obsen.-atto n sentences, 16-1, 17lf, 191
Ockham, \\'illiam of, 1-6
Oly1pim, 224
ontology, lf, 26, 189, hlstorical, 1-26,61,
9ii,. 21If
origloality, 149
pain, 219
Paracelsus, 96, 17 i, 195
paradlgm, 5, 4(1, 170
Parks, Kathleen, S
Paz~ Octa'io, 3 7
Pears,, 240
Peirce, C. S., 13, 31, 38, 123, 168, 21"7
perve-r.s!on, 99, l{l7f
Pharaoh, 239
phe-nomen a, creat:ion of, 14, 43, 4S
pbenome-notog:.', 6, 78-, 9fJ
phi1olog:.'. 89, 126---23., 140, 146;
seminar. 138, Andrew, 16, 64-69-, 1'93
picture theory' of me-aning, 218
Planck, _11.-iax, 3-9
Plato, 2, S, 57, -6ll:~ 138-, 230, 23 3; Platonis-m,
poetry and phl[osophy , 230f
Pollen, Fran.;;-ois, 156
Poove-y, 1-la:ry, S, 12
Poppcr,Kar L .::., 163,176,21 2
Porter, Theodore, S, 19'9
Port Rop~, 126por.;:::elain, 28-30
posblllty, 9 7, 189, 4, sst. 63f, 71, 91}, 164; logjcal,
59-, 64; positivist psycbology , 1{11; and
dreams, 232-236; positivity, 175, 190
post-t:raum atic .stress disorder, lS
power, 2f, 19, 47, 50, "70, 73, 116
p-ragmatism , 38
prison, 7{1, 79, SS
private langu age- ar_gument, 122, BSf, 21 S,




prob.abihty, ;J, 142, 18.5, 203, 211

problems, philosophical, 12, 35, 37f, 52, 59-iil, 7lf, 201
progress, 58
proof, 200-11, 254; .computer~generated,

psycbolo-gy, philo~ophical ('i.1littgen5-tein},
214; positivist, 1O1
Putnam, Hilar:.-~- .87, 13'9, 154, 1S7, 233

Quine, V'i'illarcl Orman, 92f, 152f, 167170, 173f.193

RabinO\\', Paul, 3, 113,115, 118
rapid eye movemem, 233, 23 lf
rationality, 41
Re, Jonathan, 6---.8
r-eference, in.scrutahility of, 152
relati'.i:'>m, 23, 30, 66, 118., 15-9f. 167
Rcrnbrandt, 235Reynolds, 1-lary, 141, 185
Ri-cardo, Da--d, 126, 141, 1S 5
Richardson, -Sarnuel, 149
Rodis-Lewis, Genevihe, 247
Rorty, Ricbard, 9, 31}f, 34, 45, 5-2-.54, 59--61,
71, 195
Rothsten, \Villlam, 1112
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, SSf
R-oi.L<:.3el, Raymond, 4-7
Rowland, Henry', 14
Russell, &rtrand, 35, S 1, 61, -68, 71f, 122
S.ade, f,.larquis de, 1OS
S.alviati, Francesoo, 239
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 23, 31, l09f, 177
Sauvages,P. A. B. de, 112
-Schaffer, Simon, 12, 1ti, 6.5, 18-5
-Schlegel, Friedrich, 140---143
Scblick, .tloritz, 4, 52, 72, 1Mf
Schopenbauer, ~-\rrhur, 80
Schreber, Daniel PauJ, 240
Sdtweher, Sam, 235seeing. a.<:., 220
self-authenticating, 191-9'3
se[f-improvement, 191-93
Sellar~, V\'ilfred, 60
-Se1.'LUS Empiricus, 12
sexuality, so, 117
Sbapin, Steven, 12, 15,65. 185

Sibree, J., 15 5
Sirlg'-'fick, H-enry', 34
similitudes, 97, 170, 176, 193
S.kepticism, 13, 33, 63, 203, 24{), 248Smart, J_ J_ C., 153
social contr.act, 7
-Society for Psycbkal Re~ch, 244
Socrates, 1S3
solipsliun, 135,240f
Sonnerat, Pierre, 154--57
Sophocles, 233
soul, 13-6, 216,219, 222, 231
sovereign, 8 1f
speec.h act, 2.26
S.pengler, S">\'ald, 179



ta.xonomic style, 161, 1S2, 194

tecbnolog:r, philosophical, 198
telepatby, 237
Thales, 185
Iooke, Jobn Horne, 5ee Horne Tooke
topology, 1.86, 202
trading zone, 1S4
trauma, 17-21
trutb, 46, .S 1, 173, 1.88.; correspondence
thoorr, .59', 191; eterna!, 107, 2(1.5;
evaporation of, 2HI; Leibniz on, 203:
true-or-fabe, 79, S4, 95, 97, 160, 164, 173,
lS.S, 90, 195; truth-keeping, 1O
Tsclrirnhaus, Ehren:fried 1-\'a[ter, 201
tuberculosis, 1{15

Uganda, 19, 224

undoing, 57f
universal cllaracteristic, 203, 2l1

W (weak elementary partide), 46

'i.Vasbing:ton, George, 1G7f
\ol/einberg, Steven, 162, 179, 184f
\'\~ewell, 1\'illiam, 196
\\:-illiams, Bernarcl, 45f, 62, 67, 1%
\\;san, 1\rtnifred, 162, 1S5
\\isdom, John, 3 7
'i,.\'ittgenstein, Ludwig, 22, 26, 51; depoliticizing effect of, 136; and DescarteS-,


Spock, Benjamin, 21
stabllity of re:'>ults, 192-94; sdfstabilization, 1'94
Stanford :J~p laboratory, 228, 251
statistics., 103, 111, 160, 1S2, 184, 193f
Staurophorus, Rudophilus, 229
Strindberg, August, 2{16
structuralism, 91, 221
styles of reasoning (, 6, 3 S, S'9,
160f, 17&---9"9; Crombie'.s, 161, lSlf
S-urez, Francisco, 20:5suicide, 112

Van Eeden, FrederLck, 244

"vasistas," 154
-....-erbalism, 13 Sf 150
verilicatlon principie, 4, 165, 191
-.,:ictimolog:y, 18
Vlemu~ Clrde, 6G, 62, 138, 164
vf\-acity of ideas, 223
Vh1cros de Castro, E-duar-do, 233
voltaic cell, 42



\ '



214--16, 22lf; dreaming, 232t language

games, 191; philosophical anthropology,
1%; philosophical psycbologr. 214-26;
prLYate hmguage argument, 122f, 135f;
psychology, 50: Renwrks on the
Foundatms uf M.athE':I'l'fatics, 194-, 212;
s-ol[psism, 240f; tlterapy, 37, 71 f, undoing,

'i..Y'olff, Chtistian, 1, 29
'i:llong, James, 2{1
1'\~ordsv.""Orth, \\'illiam, 2 31
"~Titing in dreams, 229, 250
Young, Allan, 1-8
Young, E-dward, 137, 148--5(1
Zabell, S. L, 12
Zeus, 226
Zlff, P.aul, 236

ISBtJ 0-b74 -~.... bD"i -.:.

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