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 …

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 …

The Symbolic Making of the Habitus (Part I)

Habitus and Embodiment Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and embodiment (Bourdieu, 1990, 2000; Lizardo, 2004; Wacquant, 2016), represents a promising conceptual starting point for renewed studies of socialization. On the one hand, habitus is a way of specifying what is really at stake with socialization, namely the nature of its product. The idea …

Three Types of Ontic Distinctions About Culture

Following up on a previous discussion, in this post, I argue that it is useful to differentiate between three types of ontic claims about culture that have typically been made in the history of cultural theory. Typically, these ontic claims are made with the goal of isolating the “nature” of …

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 …

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 …

Categories, Part II: Prototypes, Fuzzy Sets, and Other Non-Classical Theories

A few years ago The Economist published “Lil Jon, Grammaticaliser.” “Lil Jon’s track ‘What You Gonna Do’ got me thinking,” the author tells us, “of all things, the progressive grammaticalisation of the word shit.” In it, Lil Jon repeats “What they gon’ do? Shit” and in this lyric, shit doesn’t …

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 …

Practice Theory versus Problem-Solving

In 2009, Neil Gross argued that the critique of action as a calculation of means to ends, which had been ongoing for at least the prior thirty years, had been successful. Not only that, the insistence that “action-theoretical assumptions necessarily factor into every account of social order and change and …

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