20 research outputs found

    On the assumption of self-reflective subjectivity

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    Contemporary social theory has consistently emphasized habitual action, rule-following and role-performing as key aspects of social life, yet the challenge remains of combining these aspects with the omnipresent phenomenon of self-reflective conduct. This article attempts to tackle this challenge by proposing useful distinctions which can facilitate further interdisciplinary research on self-reflection. To this end, I have argued that we need a more sophisticated set of distinctions and categories in our understanding of habitual action. The analysis casts light on the idea that our contemporary social theories of self-reflection are not consistent with everyday notions of agential knowledgeability and accountability, and this conclusion indicates the need to re-conceptualize discourse and subjectivity in non-eliminative terms. Ultimately, the assumption of self-reflective subjectivity turns out to be a theoretical necessity for the conceptualization of discursive participation and democratic choice

    For a social ontology with a self-reflective knowing subject: towards the articulation of the epistemic criterion of reflexivity

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    This thesis argues for the idea that there are deep interconnections between the notions of ontology and reflexivity. It starts from the idea that ontological claims are cognitionally prior to epistemological and methodological accounts. It is argued that ontology is of particular importance to social science because the boundary between the substantive and the ontological is less clear than in natural science. Furthermore, because social science is located within its object, society, it is argued that self-referential questions about the epistemic status of every social ontology emerge. In the face of these self-referential questions concerning ontological coherence, the ‘epistemic criterion of reflexivity’ is proposed in this thesis. Meeting this criterion is required to deal successfully with the self-referential problem emerging from the fact that the knowing subject is part of her object. I argue that it is only by conceptualizing agents as self-reflective knowing subjects that an ontology has a chance of satisfying the criterion of epistemic reflexivity which is proposed by this thesis. In Chapters 1 to 3, the works of Roy Bhaskar, Pierre Bourdieu, Jügen Habermas, Alvin Gouldner and Andrew Sayer, as well as of several social constructionists and ethnomethodologists are examined, considering their contribution to the notions of ontology and epistemic reflexivity. It is argued that proponents of both relativistic and deterministic social theories cannot satisfy the criterion of epistemic reflexivity because they cannot coherently account for their knowledge-claims using their own ontologies. I thus argue that it is not enough for a social theory to provide an account of self-reflection – for the wider ontology in which it is situated may itself deny the possibility of such a self-reflective activity. It is in this sense that I argue for the need for an improved conceptualization of self-reflection in which agents are conceptualized as having the capacity of self-objectivation within context. It is through having such a presupposition that ontologies can fulfill the epistemic criterion of reflexivity proposed. The need for such a conceptualization of self-reflection leads me to explore two relevant approaches in Chapters 4 and 5, those of Archer and Castoriadis. I begin by looking at Margaret Archer’s account of the ‘internal conversation’. However, Archer’s internal dialogue will be shown problematic in the sense that it results in various contradictory claims. The thesis then considers Cornelius Castoriadis’ notion of self-reflective imagination which partially meets the epistemic criterion of reflexivity proposed in this thesis

    Residuality and inconsistency in the interpretation of socio-theoretical systems

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    This article addresses the interpretation and criticism of theoretical systems. Its particular focus is on how to assess the success of theories in dealing with some specific phenomenon. We are interested in how to differentiate between cases where a theory offers an unsatisfactory acknowledgement of a specified phenomenon and those where a theory offers a deeper, more systematic understanding. We address these meta-theoretical issues by developing Parsons’s analysis of positive and residual categories in various respects including a focus on mutual support as the basis of positivity, differentiating synectic (reconcilable) and antinomic (irreconcilable) residual categories, and distinguishing divisions that are central to systems from those between centre and periphery. We also consider how this conceptual toolkit can be put into practice

    For reflexivity as an epistemic criterion of ontological coherence and virtuous social theorizing

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    This article offers an approach that combines, on the one hand, the philosophical notion of reflexivity, which is related to the ideas of self-reference and paradox, and, on the other hand, the sociological discussion of epistemic reflexivity as a problem of coherence, which was mainly initiated by certain branches of ethnomethodology and social constructionism. This combinatory approach argues for reflexivity as an epistemic criterion of ontological coherence, which suggests that social ontologies should account for the possibility of self-reflective subjectivity – for otherwise they result in a paradoxical conclusion according to which a social scientist reflects on her or his ontological commitments even though these commitments deny her or him the capacity for self-reflection. This analysis presupposes that all human sciences are categorically premised on social ontologies; and it argues for an analytical distinction between self-reflection, which refers to the agential capacity for reflecting on one’s own commitments, and the epistemic criterion of reflexivity hereby proposed. These two analytically distinct though interdependent socio-theoretical concepts are frequently conflated in the literature; thus, this article also aims at a ‘clearing of the ground’ that can be of categorical use to the human sciences

    Ontogenesis versus Morphogenesis towards an Anti-realist Model of the Constitution of Society

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    This article firstly criticizes Margaret Archer’s Morphogenetic Approach for being indecisive about the realist notion of emergence it proposes as well as for her inadequate account of structural conditioning. It is argued that critical realists’ conceptualizations of emergence cannot but lead to inconsistencies about the adequate placement of agents as parts of emergent entities. The inconsistencies to which these conceptualizations lead necessitate an anti-realist model of the constitution of societies which takes into account that social structures are existentially dependent upon ideational elaboration. This alternative anti-realist theoretical perspective is provided by Ontogenesis, within the framework of which the realists’ idea of the ‘necessary and internal relations’ give their place to the ontological pervasiveness of the culturally shared imaginary schemata. Archer’s denial of a collective synchronic impact to social forms is implied in her analysis of morphogenetic cycles, according to which, structural elaboration post-dates social interaction; and this denial is also expressed in this very idea of emergent structures. Instead, for Ontogenesis, social forms are synchronically dependent on the collective impact of the differently socially placed agents, who have different interests and material resources, and whose interaction only becomes meaningful when drawing on these culturally shared imaginary schemata

    What Do People Expect from a Financial Awareness Platform? Insights from an Online Survey

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    Social Imaginary and the Metaphysical Discourse: On the Fundamental Predicament of Contemporary Philosophy and Social Sciences

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    This book departs from approaches to truth in social science and ideas in philosophy that connect truth to the ability of language to fulfil certain ‘real-world’ conditions of objectivity. Pointing to an extra-linguistic level in our cognition at which scientific creativity occurs, it highlights the manner in which epistemic communities share, work on and modify not only the world-imaginaries that they endorse, but also those world-views that they reject or which partially overlap with their own. Through the concept of the social imaginary, the author explores the theoretical interrelations among various metaphysical world-imageries by which we organise our scientific understanding of the world and our expectations of experience, thus shedding light on the manner in which social ontology can inform our practices of sharing belief. A study at the intersection of metaphysics and social theory, The Fundamental Predicament of Contemporary Philosophy and the Social Sciences will appeal to scholars of sociology and philosophy with interests in questions of ontology and epistemology
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