Simmel as a Theorist of Habit

The Journal of Classical Sociology has recently made available online a new translation, by John D. Boy, of Simmel’s classic essay on “The Metropolis and the Life of the Spirit” (better known to sociologists and urban studies people in previous translations as “The Metropolis and Mental Life”). Boy has an …

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, …

The Cognitive Hesitation: or, CSS’s Sociological Predecessor

Simmel is widely considered to be the seminal figure from the classical sociological tradition on social network analysis. As certain principles and tools of network analysis have been transposed to empirical domains beyond their conventional home, Simmel has also become the classical predecessor for formal sociology, giving license to the …

Cognition and Cultural Kinds (Continued)

Culture and Cognition: Rethinking the Terms of the Debate As noted in the previous post, very few sociologists today doubt that insights from cognitive science are relevant for the study of cultural phenomena. In that respect, DiMaggio’s (1997) call to consider the implications of cognition for cultural analysis has not …

Does Labeling Make a Thing “a Thing”?

“Reality is continuous” Zerubavel (1996:426) tells us, “and if we envision distinct clusters separated from one another by actual gaps it is because we have been socialized to ‘see’ them.” This assumption, that without “socialization” an individual would experience reality as meaningless—or as William James (1890:488) said of the newborn …

Rethinking Cultural Depth

The issue of whether some culture is “deep” versus “shallow” has been a thorny one in both classical and contemporary theory. The basic argument is that for some piece of culture to have the requisite effects (e.g., direct action) then it must be incorporated at some requisite level of depth. …

An Argument for False Consciousness

Philosophers generally discuss belief-formation in one of two ways: internalist and externalist. Both arguments are concerned with the justification of the beliefs that a given agent purports to have. Internalists and externalists dispute the kinds of justification that can be given to a belief, in order to lend or detract …

Identifying Cultural Variation in Thinking

What does it mean to identify cultural variation in thought? Sociologists routinely identify differences in the way people think or reason about things (e.g., Young 2004), but what does it mean to think differently, and how are differences identified? In this post, I introduce a way of thinking about this …

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 …