Back to the drawing board

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (4):509-518 (2005)
Abstract
Within ontology new theories are extremely rare. Hacking bravely claims to have one: "historical ontology" or "dynamic nominalism." Regrettably, he uses "nominalism" idiosyncratically, without explaining it or its qualifier. He does say what historical ontology is: it is "the presentation of the history of ontology in context." This idea is laudable, as it invites presenting idealism as once attractive but no longer so (due to changes in perception theory, for example). But this idea is a proposal, not a theory, muchless an ontological theory, as it does not say what things are made of. Also, Hacking's details are often misleading. Thus, he falsely hints that he respects Wittgenstein and that he agrees with him. Considered as a study of ontology sans its (often amusing) incidental material, it appears surprisingly thin and repetitious. The study is either excessively opaque or quite clear but stale: the choice between these options is open. Key Words: Ian Hacking • Michel Foucault • ontology • contextualism.
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