Styles of Reasoning, Human Forms of Life, and Relativism

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The question as to whether Ian Hacking’s project of scientific styles of thinking entails epistemic relativism has received considerable attention. However, scholars have never discussed it vis-à-vis Wittgenstein. This is unfortunate: not only is Wittgenstein the philosopher who, together with Foucault, has influenced Hacking the most, but he has also faced the same accusation of ‘relativism’. I shall explore the conceptual similarities and differences between Hacking’s notion of style of thinking and Wittgenstein’s conception of form of life. It is a fact that whether or not the latter entails epistemic relativism is still a controversial question. From my comparative analysis, it will emerge that there are stronger reasons to conclude that Hacking’s notion of style leads to epistemic relativism than there are to reach the same conclusion in the case of Wittgenstein’s conception of form of life. This point will be at odds with the anti-relativistic stance that Hacking has taken in his more recent writings.
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Archival date: 2020-01-12
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