Beyond Cultural Clumps

Clumppity-Clump Traditional approaches to the study of culture begin with “cultural clumps” and theorize from there. Like the devil, these clumps have been given many names throughout history. For instance, the unqualified use of the term “culture,” from Tylor’s famous definition onward, is usually meant to refer to such a …

Sociology’s Motivation Problem (Part II)

In a previous post, we outlined the three critical mistakes sociologists make in theorizing about motivation. We referred to them as the mono-motivational, social-psychological, and list-making fallacies. In this post, we briefly summarize each fallacy. We follow with a more extended discussion on how recent interdisciplinary work in social, cognitive, …

A Finer Grained Taxonomy of Artifactual (Cultural) Kinds

In a previous post, I reviewed a taxonomy of cultural kinds proposed by Richard Heersmink. Under this classification, there are four families of artifacts: Embodied, perceptual, cognitive, and affective. Perceptual artifacts in their turn could be classified into three distinct “genera”: Corrective, enhancing, or substitutive, depending on the way they …

Sociology’s Motivation Problem (Part I)

Sociology has an action problem. Explaining social action rests at the core of sociological inquiry. However, at best, the typical explanatory mechanisms focus almost exclusively on two of Mead’s three aspects of the self: the generalized other and the me. Six decades after Dennis Wrong’s (1962, 1963) critique of mid-twentieth-century …

A Taxonomy of Artifactual (Cultural) Kinds

In previous posts, I made a broad distinction between the two “families” of cultural kinds. This distinction was based on the way they fundamentally interact with people. Some cultural kinds do their work because they can be learned or internalized by people. Other cultural kinds do their work not because …

Thick and Thin Belief

Knowledge and Belief A (propositional) knowledge (that) ascription logically entails a belief ascription, right? I mean if I think that Sam knows that Joe Biden is the president of the United States, I don’t need to do further research into Sam’s state of mind or behavioral manifestations to conclude that they …

Can Schemas Motivate?

In an influential paper entitled “Schemas and Motivation,” the cognitive anthropologist Roy D’Andrade once remarked on the curious lack of relation (with reference to anthropological theory) …between culture and action. Of course, one can say ‘people do what they do because their culture makes them do it.’ The problem with this formulation is that …

Culture and Action, or Why Action Theory is not Optional

The main reason social scientists study culture is because of the (sometimes implicit) hypothesis that culture “affects” or “causes” action (Swidler 2001a, 2001b; Vaisey 2009). If culture was a causally inert cloud of stuff floating around doing nothing, it would not be worth anyone’s attention. That is, cultural theory and …

Habit versus Skill

Habit versus Skill Ascriptions Habit and skill tend to be run together in social theory and the philosophy of action (Dalton, 2004). However, there are good conceptual and empirical reasons to keep them distinct (Douskos, 2017b). Notably, the ascription of skill and habits entail different things about action, and only …

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