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Lecture 12

SOCI 230 Lecture 12: SOCI 230 German Idealism & Social Thought
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Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCI 230
Professor
Prechel Harland

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German Idealism and Social Thought (1770-1831) SOCI 230 I. German Idealism  Immanuel Kant and George Fredrick Hegel o Attempted to distinguish between 1) world of ideal or metaphysics= ultimate principles that were beyond empirical reality and 2) the natural/empirical world  Phenomenon= appearances in natural/empirical world o How they appear to us  Noumenon= things in themselves, non-empirical, not visible cannot be described, yet exist in form only II. Social Philosophy of Kant  We can’t describe the world as is. We can only prescribe to it to the form in which we perceive it  Perceive through aprior categories, which exist prior to humans and is base of understanding  Human mind organized by these categories, making it possible to understand them o Important because categories make sense of complexity of society o Even though they are generalizations  **Most sociologists reject aprior categories  How is knowledge possible for Kant? o Reason: aprior categories that are universal and exist in the mind o Observation of Phenomena: empirical level of testing and establishing laws  Problem: mind attempts to go outside of self o Yearn for knowledge o Creates illusions distorting reality o Occurs because humans are part rational and part sensual. In some cases, sensual impulses make “Reason” a slave to passion • EX: why does this person love them more than me?  Ensuring people act morally: need to control impulse. Develop moral code, we only need to ask ourselves simple questions o Should my actions become universal law, governing…not merely my actions, but everyone’s in similar… III. Kant Contribution to Modern Positivism  Scientific explanations not simply discovered in empirical world, but constituted and synthesized aprior (before experience)  Aprior categories make it possible to establish scientific laws because they make it possible to do empirical research and thereby establish scientific laws  Although flawed, this is important… IV. Hegel (1770-1831)  Rejected: o Enlightenment thought: “Reason” was a positive and impersonal force in history o Kant saying that we could not know aprior categories o Positivism as basis of knowledge because of its reliance on empiricism • Sense perceptions  we have no way to know how this happens • EX: one person knows Johnny is a bad kid, another person does not know this. When Johnny acts up, the two people will have different perceptions of Johnny.  Idealist: forms of understanding emerge from society so that they could be used as mediative categories through which mind knows itself  self-awareness  Ideas are essential to understanding the world  Spirit (knowledge): universalistic because it represents general ideas and interests in society, it includes mediative categories Spirit History Abstract knowledge o  Empirical form: observable and visible Organization of human o  Organization of society ideas o EX: you don’t kick out a 5 year old because they don’t have knowledge of categories in society just yet, they can’t live on their own socially just yet. V. Emancipation: Freedom and History  Development of spirit and history is intertwined o Spirit=universal knowledge  ** no one is free unless they are aware of the effects of society on certain behaviors  Unless fully conscious or aware of surroundings and their relationships, we can never be completely free because of the constraints from the society o EX: people used to need to own property in order to vote, so non-property owners said “hey I font like this category” and then they worked to change the law and remove that specific constraint  Self-understanding entails how a society affects us as individuals  In order for a society to exist, it must put constraints on people o Constraints are there for order and organization among the society VI. Categories of Thought: Kant vs. Hegel  Theory of social change  Kant: knowledge base is permanent and unknowable o Can’t know aprior categories o Spirit= societal knowledge  Hegel: spirit is cumulative and progressive o Socially constructed o Universal knowledge can change  Hegel: total understanding is the absolute spirit, also absolute spirit is not possible because society is always altering o Absolute spirit= ideal stage which society moves toward but never
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