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Lecture 2

SOC103H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Cogito Ergo Sum, René Descartes, Human Capital

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Lecture 2: Material Settings: Population, Cities, and the
Two Different View of Social Life:
1) I think, therefore I am (“Cogito ergo sum”)
Rene Descartes
An idealist approach
The notion that life goes on inside human heads has effected the way that sociology is
2) I die, therefore I am (“Morior ergo sum”)
Lorne Tepperman
A materialist approach
What goes on inside of peoples’ head is due to their material experiences
Cities as Miniature Staging Groups
Cities are the perfect venue in which to study the interconnection between
populations and environments
Cities are a built environment to protect humans from the natural environment
Population Growth and the Environment
Societies are made up of people who need food and occupy space (both are limited)
Despite the limit on food and space, the population has been rising exponentially over
the past two centuries this has led to concern over overpopulation and its effects on
the environment
Demography: the study of population: births, deaths, migration
Several demographic variables have an effect on the environment
Population size
A large population puts more pressure on the natural environment than a small
population but is also more likely to invent new technologies and new ways of
producing food and wealth
Large populations are usually dense or crowded and often found in cities mass
migrations of people are connected with over population and insufficient supplies of
food (ex. Irish potato famine)
City people are more settled than transient hunter-gatherers but less settled than
City populations are also diverse
o Vary in sex, age, education, interests, and occupations
o City people also have high levels of human capital (i.e. a high level of health,
education, and training)
These things contribute to high productivity and increased prosperity
Approaches to Population Growth
Functionalism: Malthus
First to suggest that population problems could threaten human existence
Without preventive checks, populations would always outgrow its food supply
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