SOC250 Lecture 1
September 15, 2010
The social is cognitive, carried in our heads
What is the relation between the known and knower
Objective knowledge, based on methods not opinions
Social sciences- studying humans, relevant to oneself, the known (e.g.
studying other people/opinions
has no direct/objective access to that purported
Natural sciences- studies the other, the unknown external knowledge
Religion is based on and creates and epistemological dualism or split:
- religious believers claim the reality of the Divine or Transcendent, but social
scientist/historians have ??no empirically verifiable or falsifiable resource.
Epistemologically methodological atheism/agnosticism.
- Faith statements i.e. claims of religious believers- arent fundamentally
factual or empirical
- They are declarative (God is love) making claims; performative (I have
been saved by the lord); There is no God, but Allah, and Muhammad is his
messenger saying religious, tradition, you are performing the role- being a
- Emotive i.e. expressing feelings of awe, reverence, dependence, joy, etc.
1 Religious language is akin to poetry.
- Evidence/proofs of faith statements are internal to each particular religion-
they arent convincing to those believing in other traditions, nor to skeptics or
2 SOC250 Lecture 2
September 22, 2010
ONTOLOGYY- concerned with the nature of being, reality, or existence
causally and constitutively (= what the world is and how it works)
EPISTEMOLOGY- concerned with the nature of knowledge, how we know
other scientists are studying other things; in sociology we are studying
ourselves, so that raises the intrusion of different types of beliefs in our
Weber said social sciences have verstehen (understanding); natural science
knowledge = external.
Our own psychological, social, historical experience gives us the
opportunity to establish deeper understanding of the subject; also, our
subject matter talks back to us
Religion is based on a distinct ontology- the claim that there are supernatural
beings or powers, or a super-sensible reality, an Absolute, Divine, or
Transcendent realm that is ultimately primary & causally responsible for both
the Natural world & the Social world
Social science has no direct or objective access to that purported
Transcendent reality; it cannot be visited for purposes of measurement of
exanimation (unlike the realities of politics, art, war, etc.)
3 Religion is based on & creates an epistemological dualism or split: religion
believers claim the reality of the Divine or Transcendent; but social scientists
& historians have no ways of assessing or testing the legitimacy/accuracy of
that belief. That is to say, for science, the divine or super natural is not
empirically veritable or falsifiable.
Epistemologically, faith statements, i.e. the claims of believers to spiritual or
divine truths- are not fundamentally factual or empirical. Rather, they are
PARABLE OF THE TWO EXPLORERS AND THE GARDEN
2 explorers come upon a beautiful garden; theistical explorer beliefs there
must be a gardener (aka GOD); skeptical explorer believes the garden is the
work of nature. The two try to catch the gardener (but fail to do so).
This epistemological situation results in:
(1) An insider-outsider polarity (believers + nonbelievers in other religions +
(2) A split or polarity between subjective & objective ways of knowing- i.e.
religion experience is sustained by cultivated faith in the claims of a tradition;
those without the faith will experience or comprehend the true nature of
that religiosity, or say the insiders.
The dilemma or tension: social science cannot access that posited domain of
the Divine or Transcendent yet believers claim their actions and experiences
are desired from that source; social science accounts which attribute the
actions or beliefs of believers to ____________ social and historical forces/factors
will thus appear reductionist and superficial to the religion actors