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An Idea Whose Time Has Come & Human Inquiry SOC101.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Christian O.Caron

1 An Idea Whose Time Has Come  Babbie: sociology is an idea whose time has come. Study of how rules come into existence. Of how rules are organized and perpetuated. (rules of grammar, good grooming, etc)  Human beings create rules to establish order in the face of chaos  Rules are constantly changing  Sociology has a logical/empirical basis = to be accepted, assertions must make sense and correspond to the acts.  Understanding sociology can empower you to be a more effective participant in the social affairs around you whether you are a conscious player or not  No knowledge can be counted on to remain true - anything we learn can change things - must keep asking questions Chapter 1 Human Inquiry and Science Most of what we know is a matter of believing what we've been told - basis of knowledge is agreement When our experience conflicts with what everyone else knows, there's a good chance we'll surrender our experience in favour of the agreement (eg. Eating something and enjoying it not knowing what it was, then vomiting when you find out it was something abnormal) Looking for Reality  Science offers an approach to both agreement reality and experimental reality o Agreement Reality Experimental Reality What we "know" as part and parcel of the culture What we "know" from personal we share with those around us experience and discovery  Scientific assertions must have both logical and empirical support; must make sense and not contradict actual observation  Epistemology: science of knowing. Methodology: science of finding out (illuminates procedures for scientific investigation) Ordinary Human Inquiry  Humans seem predisposed to undertake the task of predicting the future using causal and probabilistic reasoning, recognizing future circumstances are caused/conditioned by present ones and that effects occur more often when causes occur than when causes are absent, most of the time. o Eg. Students know studying will produce better grades (causal) but not always (probabilistic)  Often willing to act on basis of demonstrated predictive ability o Race track buff that discovers 3rd horse in 3rd race always seems to win will probably keep betting w/o knowing or caring why it works that way. Drawback of predicting w/o understanding evident when buff loses  Human inquiry aims at answering both "what" and "why" questions - pursued by observing and figuring out Two important sources of second-hand knowledge: Tradition  Advantage to human inquiry - By accepting what everybody knows we are spared the task of starting from scratch in our search for regularities and understanding o Knowledge is cumulative, inherited body of information/understanding is jumping-off point for development of more knowledge - standing on the shoulders of giants  May also hinder human inquiry - seeking fresh understanding of something others understand we may be marked as fools for our efforts, rarely occurs to most of us to seek different understanding of what we all know to be true. Authority  Acceptance of new acquisitions depends on status of discoverer.  Can both hinder and assist human inquiry - it's good to trust a person with expertise/credentials in given matter, however problematic when they speak outside their realm of expertise Both provide starting point for own inquiry, but can lead us to start at wrong point and push us off in wrong direction Errors in Inquiry and Some Solutions  Inaccurate Observations o Should make observations deliberate or use simple or complex measurement devices to help guard against errors, do not guess!  Overgeneralization o When looking for patterns we often assume few similar events are evidence of a general pattern - we overgeneralize on basis of limited observations. Greatest when pressure to arrive at general understand is high. Guarded against by using sufficiently large/representative sample of observations, or sing replication to see that results are same each time  Selective Observation o Once concluded that particular pattern exists, we focus on future events/situations that fit pattern and ignore those that don't. Guarded by making special effort to find deviant cases - those who don't fit general pattern or making many observations  Illogical Reasoning o The exception proves the rule - brushing away contradictions with a simple stroke of illogic. Gambler's fallacy - a consistent run of bad luck means good luck is right around the corner What's Really Real?  We operate in "naïve realism" in daily life, not questioning what is real Three views on reality that provide a simplistic + schematic philosophical backdrop for discussions of science to follow Premodern View  Guided most human history - ancestors assumed they saw things as they really were (so fundamental not even considered an assumption) evolution brought light to diversity, causing recognition that their view is not always shared but other views are wrong Modern View  Accepts diversity as legitimate - different strokes for different folks. Nobody is right/wrong. Acknowledges inevitability of subjectivity Postmodern View  Spirits don’t exist, neither do dandelions - there's nothing out there, it's all in here. All that's real are
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