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Sociology 2240E Lecture Notes - Organicism, Atomism, Cultural Relativism

Course Code
SOC 2240E
Charles Levine

of 2
Wednesday September 19, 2012
Lecture 1
- Theory template science enlightenment- (emphasize relationship between reason and
rationality- romantic conservative reaction- Hegel.
- Hegel tried to make sense of the previous theories, he failed
- Template:
- Social theorists have to think in a certain way in order to do social theory- this template is about
how social theorists think
- Deep structure of thought- ways our mind work that were not always aware of- how social
theorists are
- Moral awareness is based on mathematics
- Questions social theorists deal with:
- 1. What is society? Has to be something holding society together. Institution- organization
integrated by values. Society is a coordinated system of institutions. How is it coordinated?
Structurally and culturally- sharing of dominate values towards the whole system:
- Answers: organicism: society is like a organic phenomena integrated by different parts and inter-
relationships. If you are in the organic model because you are a product.
- Atomism- thinks about society as an organism (like organicist) with one difference: concerned
with the role of the individual. Individual is a product of the social.. Sometimes under certain
circumstances the individual has psychologically separated themselves from the social in order
to evaluate it or critic it. They think you can be something other than a product. Human mind is
capable of stepping outside its role in order to critique its role. Atomist wants to understand
what is going on with reflexivity- takes the form of a moral object, a critique- we don’t push
ourselves out until we are angry about something. E.g cultural relativism- what is moral.
Organicist is not going to see a difference between morals and conforming- following morals
and norms is conforming to the norms. Atomist is saying that morality is not conformity.
Morality only exists when a human being senses a dilemma- anything as you understood as a
contradiction of norms that you were committed to. Morality for the atomist implies that
human beings can provide answers and think critically about what they should do and reason
what they ought to do. Agency or autonomy or unpredictability. Atomist challenges relativism.
- 2. What is human nature?
- All the questions we are dealing with is relevant with one another. The way you answer question
1 will determine how you answer the rest of the questions.
- Do we have instincts? Does it matter?
- If there is such a thing of human nature that implies human beings must have instincts
- Has to be universal, it cannot be mutable (conditions for instincts)
- Once we start to think, the idea of instincts become challenged
- Instinct is a disposition- to entertain the idea that it is mutable, it can be conditioned, like the
- Assertion that we have human nature and instincts is problematic. Even if we had them, what
would the sociological influence be?
- To some social theorists these things would not matter
- Some social theorists say: Human beings are many things by nature. :
- For example: by nature, women are inferior to men.
- Nurture: we are something by nurture. We are all these things (selfish, smart, greedy etc) by
nurture, we have been taught them. The question is under what circumstances are we more
likely to be one or the other.
- 3. What are the relationships among society, culture, and individuals?
- For some theorists: Individuals are seen as Reactors. Reactor= sponge, Robot. From a
sociological view, it is sufficient to see us as socialized beings. We simply are how we have been
programed. Organiscits see us as reactors.
- Atomists see us as Actors. They say people CAN be actors and CAN be autonomous once and
awhile under certain conditions and when they are, their actions will be moral- what is fair and
what isn’t fair.