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Sociology of Knowledge

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Key Concept  Knowledge is culture; reality is socially constituted

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Quote  "...knowledge is best conceived and studied as culture, and the various types of social knowledges communicate and signal social meanings--such as meanings about power and pleasure, beauty and death, goodness and danger."  "Knowledge as Culture:  The New Sociology of Knowledge," E. Doyle McCarthy, Routledge, 1996, p. 1.

"... sociology of knowledge is closely linked to the philosophical tradition of pragmatism identified with such figures as the philosophers James, Peirce, Dewey, and Mead.  What these thinkers share with sociology of knowledge is a view of mental life as a facet of human action.  The human mind is conceived as an activity; mental attitudes and knowledge are always linked with action.  Forms of knowledge are not inherent in the human mind but represent one of the many ways of being and thinking, one of the ways human beings carve out a reality.  Knowing is interested activity.  No knowledge of reality is possible or even conceivable that is determined by things in themselves.  Pragmatists borrowed from the idealists the metaphor of knowing as 'carving': out of a world brimming with indeterminacy, human actors carve determinate objects, thus enabling action to proceed."  Ibid., p. 2.

 

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"Why then is it so easily assumed that sociological reflexivity undermines the truth of whatever socially produced knowledge it focuses upon?"

 

"The widespread assumption is that truth is determined by reality; a statement is true because it meets the criteria of truth, not because of any other reason.  If truth is socially determined, then it cannot be determined by truth itself.  This is like saying that one sees things accurately only if one sees without eyeballs, as if knowing must take place without any human apparatus for knowing." 

 

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"If a brain flickers and brightens with statements which are true, this happens only because that brain is pulsing in connection with the past and anticipated future of a social network.  Truth arises in social networks; it could not possibly arise anywhere else."  The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change," Randall Collins, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 877.

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Page updated 10/3/01