The Incommensurability of Styles of Reasoning: The Case of the Existence of Theoretical Entities

In History of Rationalities: Ways of Thinking from Vico to Hacking and Beyond. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 271-302 (2023)
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In this chapter I shall address the question as to whether there exists a universal and atemporal justification for the claims made by a community that adopts a particular style of reasoning. I shall present a case study in which a claim made in the laboratory style of reasoning has no universal and atemporal justification. As I shall explain, Hacking justifies his belief that unobservable entities exist on the ground that they can be regularly manipulated by experimenters in order to find out and produce various phenomena (experimental realism); he also maintains that no belief that our theories are true is required in order to be realist about unobservable entities. I shall argue that his justification is relative to the laboratory style of reasoning. Ultimately, from this case study I shall draw the important conclusion that the styles of reasoning project implies epistemic relativism. In the first part of this chapter, I shall analyse Hacking’s experimental realism in the light of the styles of reasoning project. I shall start by making these points: Hacking’s theory anti-realism denies the possibility of ranking styles of reasoning in terms of their capacity to explain phenomena; furthermore, Hacking is not successful in showing that his entity realism is justified for a community that does not adopt the laboratory style of reasoning. It will follow that the styles of reasoning project is in conflict with the claim that we know about unobservable entities.

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Luca Sciortino
E Campus University


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