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Individuals. In order to coordinate and cooperate, people need to understand each other This requires communication.

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Presentation on theme: "Individuals. In order to coordinate and cooperate, people need to understand each other This requires communication."— Presentation transcript:

1 Individuals

2 In order to coordinate and cooperate, people need to understand each other This requires communication

3 Communication Ants communicate via pheromones E. O. Wilson Bees communicate via elaborate dances Von Frisch Humans communicate principally through language

4 The importance of common language Communication facilitated by common language The Tower of Babel

5 Genesis 11 (King James Version): 11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 11:2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 11:3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 11:9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

6 Insufficiency of common language Shared language is essential But it is not enough

7 Insufficiency of common language Language offers a means of describing objects and feelings Without common knowledge, no understanding Cricket vs. baseball But the meaning given to objects is variable

8 For example Weights and measures Currency Time (the calendar)

9 For example What is the meaning of a coke bottle to you? What is the meaning of a coke bottle to the people in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy?”

10 Meaning, cont’d What is the meaning of an apple to you? What is the meaning of an apple to Snow White? A teacher? A Kazakh? An American?

11 Meaning, cont’d Meaning affects how people behave Lack of shared meaning may create conflicts

12 Explaining meaning If shared meanings matter so much, then we need to explain them

13 Karl Marx

14 Marx What is Marx trying to explain? Shared meaning: consciousness/ideology

15 Marx: Cause Men differ from animals in that they produce their means of life What individuals are corresponds with what they produce and how they produce it The production of ideas and concepts flows from man’s material activity and commerce

16 Marx: Cause Cause: The mode of production What we produce and how we produce it

17 Marx: Causal Relation Mode of Production  Ideology

18 Marx: Mechanisms/Assumptions People are malleable Not innately “good” or “evil” Rather, we change depending on our material world

19 Marx: Draw the theory Mode of Production Ideology

20 Marx: How do we know if the theory has merit? Look at the empirical world

21 Empirical implications Ideals of sharing should be more pronounced in societies dominated by big game hunters than in those dominated by gatherers of salmon and berries Groups that participate in the global economy ought to see things differently than those that engage primarily in subsistence agriculture (see work by the Norms and Preferences Network)

22 Emile Durkheim

23 Durkheim What is Durkheim trying to explain? Religion/Beliefs Why some objects/actors/ideas are viewed as sacred So, Outcome = Beliefs

24 Durkheim, cont’d Religion involves sacred things Sacred versus profane Sacred things Set apart by a peculiar attitude of respect toward them Totem Profane things Defined by their intrinsic properties

25 Durkheim on ritual Rites are the actions that are performed in relation to sacred things Without knowing its beliefs, the ritual of religion is incomprehensible You cannot understand rituals by invoking instrumental logic Rituals are symbolic Rituals are indicative of the existence of common values in a society

26 Where do notions of sacredness come from? Society The intensity of social interactions So, Cause = Intensity of Interaction

27 Durkheim: Mechanism/Assumption Social interaction produces emotion Sense of obligation General efferverscence People have the desire and capacity to attribute cause They attribute their strong emotions to the divine

28 Durkheim Thus strong emotions generate religious beliefs and sentiments

29 Durkheim In turn, beliefs affect behavior Individuals living in moral harmony have a sense of confidence Individuals act in accordance with their beliefs Contradictory beliefs are held at bay

30 Durkheim: Draw the theory Intensity of social interaction BeliefIndividual action consistent with belief

31 Durkheim How do we know whether the theory has merit? Look at the empirical world

32 Fleck on scientific facts Durkheim: religious and political concepts have social roots, but scientific concepts are universal Fleck: scientific concepts are also social constructions

33 Fleck, cont’d Research findings only become scientific facts via extended social negotiation ‘thought styles’ Cf. T. S. Kuhn: ‘paradigms’ in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970)

34 The case of syphillis 15 th c: syphillis first described. Cause: the product of a particular astrological configuration on 11/25/ st c: syphillis caused by the bacterium Spirochaeta pallida

35 One-sex vs. two sex model From ancient Greece to the 18 th c, men and women were regarded as having the same type -- a male type -- of body Females thought to have the same reproductive organs as men, only turned inside out (Laqueur 1990) 18 th c. onward: prominence of the ‘two- sex’ model

36 Fleck: Cause Networks of interaction

37 Fleck: Outcome ‘thought collective’ ‘thought style’

38 Fleck: Mechanisms Communication, misinterpretation Because we can’t see inside each others’ heads, communication is imperfect Furthermore, people have ideas when interacting with each other that they wouldn’t have had otherwise

39 Fleck: Draw the theory Networks of interaction Thought style

40 Fleck How do we know if the theory has merit? Look at the empirical world

41 George Herbert Mead

42 Mead Not only are ideologies, beliefs, and scientific facts socially constructed, so is the individual We know who we are only by understanding how others see us We take on their attitudes towards us

43 Mead The unity of the ‘self’ comes from membership in social groups We can only be ourselves if we are members of a group

44 Mead: The generalized other We not only take on the attitudes of others towards us. We also take on their attitudes towards activities. Only when people take on the same attitudes towards social activities is it possible to organize social life

45 Mead For Mead, the problem of social order is like a game The problem is making sure that everyone knows the rules of the game

46 Mead Example: The game of baseball

47 The game Once everyone knows the rules of the game, they behave accordingly When people take on the attitudes of the community, then in some way their behavior is dictated by the group Note that individuals direct their own behavior because they have internalized the attitudes of the group

48 Mead In summary Cause = social roles

49 Mead: Mechanisms People put themselves in the shoes of the other and imagine what the other’s expectations are People generalize those expectations People internalize those expectations

50 Mead Outcome Internalized attitudes

51 Mead: Draw the theory Social roles Attitudes

52 Mead How do we know if the theory has merit? Look at the empirical world

53 Order via meaning Mechanisms: Situational: Social and physical environment affects meaning Behavioral Shared meaning  individual behavior is consistent with meaning, and therefore predictable. Transformational Individual behaviors aggregate to produce social order (coordination)

54 Empirical implications of meaning theories Cohen and Vandello on the different conceptions of violence in the American South and North Why is there more violence in the South than the North? Southerners and Northerners attach different meanings to violence


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