Sociology 2240E Study Guide - Nominalism, Atomism, Montesquieu

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Midterm Review Notes
The Enlightenment
was about rationality and reason
science was going to save us
writers had ideas about what the state should be, what democracy should be, etc
Rousseau! the social screws up our heads, but we can change it
o Revolutions in education (promising a better world! for men)
o Macro view
Wollstonecraft! talks about the rights of women
o Critiques Rousseau based a conceptualization of the world based on
relationships between the person
o Micro view
Theory Template
Cognitive stencil! a way of thinking
Involves six or seven questions that any theorist has to answer if they are going
to be able to write or think social theory
o Answers are deep structures of cognition! things we know and think
about but are not aware of
What is society?
o Social order and social solidarity
o Culture: norms and values
o Institutions: an organization plus a commitment to certain values
o A society is greater than the sum of its parts
" There’s much more to it! it’s the relationship that’s among those
parts that is equally or more important
o this view of society is based upon biology
o organicist
" we are all role occupants, if you do not play the role you become a
" system of interconnected institutions
o atomists
" Organicism with one exception: atomists say that society works
like an organism, most of the time
" They also say that under certain circumstances, individuals can
psychologically distance themselves from the social in order to
critically evaluate it
" The atomist is interested in the circumstances that generate
people to do this, and how they do it
" Psychological distancing! reflexivity
" Circumstances include: pain, something is pissing you off
" People deal with being pissed off by removing themselves from
society and making who they were an object to their own
" The atomist is interested in those stimuli that cause people to see
themselves as objects and from judgments about who they are
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" If people are stimulated to become reflexive, an atomistic thinker
is assuming they are becoming reflexive because they are pissed
off and want to critique society
o From the organicist point of view, all you are is people who play roles
o Morality cannot exist in a role, it has to exist in the minds of persons
o That means it only exists when the mind of a person perceives a dilemma
" When you see unfairness
o This means that it is not present all the time
o It is an attribute in our minds that we can access when we need to
o If a lot of people started questioning things and discovering new moral
dilemmas, there would be chaos
o Causes theorists to think that their may be a universally moral idea
What is human nature? Do we have instincts? What are instincts?
o If something is an instinct then it has to be present among every member
of the species
o It also has to be immutable (cant be changed)! but it can die or be
o Some sociologists say we are fundamentally egotistic and self interested,
we are all greedy and some of us are smart but most of us are dumb by
o Some theorists would say yes, we are something by nature
o Another group would say of course human beings are egocentric, greedy,
etc. but it is not logical to say that they are these things by nature
" Environments make or break us
" Nurture
People are greedy, dumb, etc but it depends on the social
How are the relationships among society, culture and individuals understood?
o Reactors! we are all sponges: all we are and what we do is what we are
told to do. We are simply performing our roles
o Actors! agree that most of the time we are reactors, but once in a while
we become actors (atomists) and act unusually within society
What are the analytical epistemologies that social theorists use?
o Epistemology: a way of knowing, a style of inquiry
o Realism
" Explain social events and processes without reference to the
intentions of human beings, but with reference to “natural”
" Natural is everything that your attitudes aren’t! something you
are not aware of or that you never think about controlling
" Realists argue that your attitudes and intentions aren’t really
yours, but instead have been taught to you
" Closely aligned with Organicism and the idea that you are a
o Nominalism
" Explain social events and processes with references to the
intentionality of persons
" Closely aligned with atomism and the idea that you can be an
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Statement that things happen
because society has drilled things
into our minds
Statement that things happen
because of human intentions
Statement about what ought to
be the case for collective
Statement about what ought to be
the case for an individual
do social theorists deal with facts and/or values?
o Coherence! the idea of logic, deductive systems in the mind
o Correspondence! the idea of concepts making sense of objects
" Both are monological
" Both are totally dependent on language
" You cannot know anything without words
" You cannot think without language
" You cant even know something with a word, but we also need to
make sure that the word is shared (fuck/sponge)
o Consensus #! communication
" Whatever a fact is, has to be negotiated
" Need to use language in a way that we can all sense makes
" Things are only as they are because we can all agree upon it
" Communication becomes essential for knowing what a fact is
" If communication is going to be the basis for claiming what a fact
is, then we have a requirement
People involved in the communication have to be sincere
about coming to an agreement and they must have equal
" When is a fact objectively true? NEVER
Never can I say all swans are white. I can only say I have
yet to see one of another colour
Truth is a process
" There can never be truth or certain facts, no such thing as
" Intersubjective agreement! the process of trying to come to an
o Some theorists argue that sociology deals with facts, that it is objective
and that it ends up defining what is true
o Others realize that we have to entertain the possibility that people call
things facts, but at least we are aware that values and biases influence
these facts
" Values influence what we study and what we choose to study!
no such thing as neutral choice
" Values influence our definition of a fact by being mediated with
language! therefore they influence our explanation of the fact
o Values influence how information is used
How do social theorists conceptualize social order and social change and the
reasons for these phenomena?
o Some theorists will explain order and change from a realist point of view
" Every explanation they come up with for either social solidarity or
social change will vary but will all be realistic (no Nominalism)
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