In this book, Hacking seeks clarity on the entire subject of social construction. I was particularly interested in the physics chapters, though I am looking forward to reading the chapters on mental illness as well. A book that brings mental illness and physics together into the same investigation!
The following passage was particularly interesting to me:
...Thus my strategy here is the exact opposite of Sergio Sismondo. He is a peace-maker. One "reason for the lack of realist/constructivist debate lies in the fact that each side usually views the other position as obviously untenable" (Sismondo 1996, 10). By lopping off extremism on the edges of both doctrines, he hopes to find common ground. In constrast, my sticking points emphasize philosophical barriers, real issues on which clear and honorable thinkers may eternally disagree. (p 68)
I have often thought of myself as a peace-maker, but find this role exhausting in the face of so many extreme differences out there. Here, Hacking offers me a new suggestion for an approach to strong diasagreement. In a way, one can be more modest in one's goals. Instead of seeking reconciliation and hoping that eventually everyone will come to a common understanding, one can at least seek a mutual respect for each other's opinions relating them to age old controversies.
My first impulse on hearing this is a gut sadness that people with opposing views will forever remain embattled. But then I remember that there is more to a person than their views on a few philosophical positions. This perspective allows people to more clearly say "fine, we disagree on x, y, and z" and once that is articulated, maybe the areas of agreement and mutual humanity can be more clearly articulated and appreciated as well.