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 …

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 …

Explaining social phenomena by multilevel mechanisms

Four questions about multilevel mechanisms In our previous post, we discussed mechanistic philosophy of science and its contribution to the cognitive social sciences. In this blog post, we will discuss three case studies of research programs at the interface of the cognitive sciences and the social sciences. In our cases, …

Causal mechanisms in the cognitive social sciences

The social sciences and the cognitive sciences have grown closer together during recent decades. This is manifested in the emergence and expansion of new research fields, such as social cognitive neuroscience (Cacioppo et al. 2012; Lieberman 2017), cognitive sociology (Brekhus & Ignatow 2019), behavioral economics (Dhami 2016), and new approaches …

Varieties of Implicitness in Cultural-Cognitive Kinds

In a previous post, I addressed some issues in applying the property of “implicitness” to cultural kinds. There I made two points; first, unlike other ontological properties considered (e.g., concerning location or constitution), implicitness is a relational property. That is, when we say a cultural kind is implicit, we presume that there is …

Four arguments for the cognitive social sciences

Despite increasing efforts to integrate ideas, concepts, findings and methods from the cognitive sciences with the social sciences, not all social scientists agree this is a good idea. Some are indifferent to these integrative attempts. Others consider them as overly reductionist and, thereby, as a threat to the identity of …

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 …

Categories, Part III: Expert Categories and the Scholastic Fallacy

There’s a story — probably a myth — about Pythagoras killing one of the members of his math cult because this member discovered irrational numbers (Choike 1980). (He also either despised or revered beans). The Greeks spent a lot of time arguing about arche, or the primary “stuff.” Empedocles argued …

Thinking with Theory Diagrams

A recent book by Kate Raworth entitled Doughnut Economics (2017) has garnered a lot of attention. The goal of the book is revolutionary in spirit: to move economists to think more about basic social and ecological well-being. While this aim will certainly resonate with sociologists, the means of getting there …

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