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Taking a Look at History

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AbstractIan Hacking urged that philosophers take a look at history. He called his recommendation the “Lockean imperative”. In the present paper I examine how Hacking understands the relation between philosophy and history by concentrating on his 1990 essay “Two kinds of ‘New Historicism’ for philosophers”. In this particular paper Hacking uses the visual metaphor of ‘taking a look’ which can also be found in the work of two other philosophers, Kuhn and Foucault, who are called by Hacking his mentors. I argue that in the work of these three philosophers, as well as in the work of Wittgenstein who has influenced both Hacking and Kuhn, one can find interest and attention to particulars which can be furnished by history, an approach which cultivates a sensibility for difference. I begin by presenting Hacking’s understanding of the relation of history to philosophy and then discuss what the Lockean imperative is. I concentrate on Locke’s understanding of history which differs considerably from the contemporary and end by focusing on the similarities in the work of the aforementioned thinkers.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy and History of Science, University of


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