Identifying the Explanatory Domain of the Looping Effect: Congruent and Incongruent Feedback Mechanisms of Interactive Kinds

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Winner of the 2020 Essay Competition of the International Social Ontology Society

Ian Hacking uses the looping effect to describe how classificatory practices in the human sciences interact with the classified people. While arguably this interaction renders the affected human kinds unstable and hence different from natural kinds, realists argue that also some prototypical natural kinds are interactive and human kinds in general are stable enough to support explanations and predictions. I defend a more fine-grained realist interpretation of interactive human kinds by arguing for an explanatory domain account of the looping effect. First, I argue that knowledge of the feedback mechanisms that mediate the looping effect can supplement, and help to identify, the applicability domain over which a kind and its property variations are stably explainable. Second, by applying this account to cross-cultural case studies of psychiatric disorders, I distinguish between congruent feedback mechanisms that explain matches between classifications and kinds, and incongruent feedback mechanisms that explain mismatches. For example, congruent mechanisms maintain Western auditory experiences in schizophrenia, whereas exporting diagnostic labels inflicts incongruence by influencing local experiences. Knowledge of the mechanisms can strengthen explanatory domains, and thereby facilitate classificatory adjustments and possible policy and treatment interventions on psychiatric disorders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social Ontology
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 611 Philosophy
  • Philosophy of social science
  • Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • 5143 Social and cultural anthropology
  • psychological anthropology
  • psychiatric anthropology
  • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
  • cultural psychiatry

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