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Balzan Prize goes to University Professor Emeritus Ian Hacking

Leading philosopher cited for “fundamental and pioneering contributions”

Among the awards philosopher Ian Hacking has received are the Holberg International Memorial, Molson, and Killam Prizes (photo by Johnny Guatto)

University Professor Emeritus Ian Hacking is a winner of the 2014 Balzan prize, an $800,000 (US) award that recognizes scholars and scientists who have distinguished themselves in their fields. 

One of the foremost philosophers in the world, Hacking is known for his work in the philosophy of science, medicine and psychology; the logic and history of statistics; the history of philosophy and the philosophy of language. He has written 14 books and more than 300 papers and reviews on a wide range of subjects.

Hacking was cited by the International Balzan Prize Foundation for his “fundamental and pioneering contributions to philosophy and the history of social and natural sciences, for the thematic breadth of his research, for his original epistemological perspective centred on a version of scientific realism and defined in contrast with the dominant paradigm in the philosophy of science of the twentieth century.”

The Balzan Prize is the latest in a string of honours for the philosopher. In 2000, he was the first anglophone ever elected to the Collège de France. He has also been celebrated with a host of awards, including the Holberg International Memorial, Molson, and Killam Prizes and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada’s gold medal. He is a companion of the Order of Canada and a member of the Royal Society of Canada, the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Hacking joined the University of Toronto in 1982 and was awarded the title University Professor – the University’s highest honour – in 1991. He also holds the title Professeur honoraire, Chaire de philosophie et histoire des concepts scientifiques at the Collège de France.

“It’s quite unexpected,” said Hacking about the win. He noted that the International Balzan Prize Foundation stipulates that half the prize money be used for projects involving younger researchers.

“I fully approve of that. Half of the money will be given to the philosophy graduate department to support younger researchers.” 

“On behalf of the University of Toronto, I congratulate Professor Hacking on winning this richly-deserved award,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “Ian Hacking is one of the great thinkers of our time. His scholarship is celebrated as both wide-ranging and profoundly insightful. We are immensely proud that he has called the University of Toronto home for so many years.”

Gertler noted that Hacking’s winning the Balzan prize is also a tremendous honour for Canada.

“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Governor-General David Johnston and Dr. Howard Alper, one of Canada’s most distinguished scientists, for promoting Professor Hacking’s recognition by the International Balzan Prize Foundation. His Excellency and Dr. Alper are spearheading an effort to gain more international recognition for excellence in Canadian science. Clearly, that effort is bearing fruit.”

The International Balzan Prize Foundation’s aim is to promote culture, the sciences and the most meritorious initiatives in the cause of humanity, peace and fraternity among peoples throughout the world.

Prizes will be awarded by the president of Italy on November 20.