Hierarchical versus dimensional taxonomies of cultural kinds

Hierarchies versus Dimensions: Let them Fight! A new collection of essays on autobiographical memory (Organization and Structure of Autobiographical Memory, edited by John Mace), provides a state of the art overview of the most recent work on this form of memory. Chapters range across the board, including contributions from a …

Compositional pluralism, causal history, and the concept of culture

In previous posts (see here and here) I made the case for the importance of specifying underlying philosophical claims when conceptualizing culture and cultural phenomena. First, I distinguished between what I called epistemic and ontic claims about culture (following the philosopher Mark Rowland’s 2010 similar argument with regard to the …

From “types of culture” to “poles of cultural phenomena”

Recent sociological theorizing on culture has made a distinction between “personal culture” and “public culture” (Cerulo 2018; Lizardo 2017; Patterson 2014; Wood et al. 2018). Precise usage of the concepts varies somewhat, but generally speaking, personal culture refers to culture stored in declarative and nondeclarative memory, and public culture refers …

Types of claims about culture and cultural phenomena

A relatively neglected task of cultural analysis (or cultural/culture theory) concerns itself with specifying the nature (and therefore expected properties) of the sorts of entities and processes that can be said to be cultural. Most serious cultural theorists do this, but they are seldom explicit to note that this is …

When is Consciousness Learned?

Continuing with the theme of innateness and durability from my last post, consider the question: are humans born with consciousness? In a ground-breaking (and highly contested) work, the psychologist Julian Jaynes argued that if only humans have consciousness, it must have emerged at some point in our human history. In …

Cultural Cognition in Time, from Memory to Imagination

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about the concept of imagination. It emerged out of my efforts to understand the generational change in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the U.S. when it became clear to me that young and old simply imagined homosexuality and same-sex marriage in …

Embodied knowledge vs. flesh and blood

As DiMaggio (1997) originally noted, most sociological theories of action make assumptions about the nature of cognition even as they dismiss any explicit discussion of cognition in favor of “social” explanation. Thinking about how culture comes to be taken up by the mechanisms of cognition and how it influences action …