Methodological Consequences of the Sociology of Knowledge

Complete Text of Mills’ (1940) ‘Methodological Consequences of the Sociology of Knowledge.’

Pragmatism and Its Discontents: Selected Bibliography compiled by Ralph Dumain

American Philosophy Study Guide

Political Pragmatism and Educational Inquiry by Audrey Thompson

Nietzsche’s Sociology by Patrik Aspers (2007)

Epistemology and the Sociology of Knowledge: The Contributions of Mannheim, Mills, and Merton by Derek L. Phillips (1974)

Schaar argues that legitimate authority is declining in the modem state, and that (Schaar, 1970:279) “the crisis of legitimacy is a function of some of the basic, defining orientations of modernity itself; spe- cifically, rationality, the cult of efficiency and power, ethical relativism, and equalitarianism”. Sociologists, I believe, by generally neglecting questions regarding their status as knowers and the status of their knowledge, have effectively cut themselves off from a concern with this issue of legitimate authority. Questions about what it is to “know” something and about who are to establish the criteria or standards for showing that one does know or that one group knows better than another, are simply ignored by most sociologists. If one shares with Schaar, as I do, the belief that the modern condition is characterized by the shattering of authority, then one longs for (Schaar, 1970: 292): “an account of reality, an explanation of why some acts are preferable to others, and a vision of a worthwhile future toward which men can aspire”. Sociologists have had very little to say about such matters.

An awareness of the absence of moral absolutes and certainties is, of course, widespread in contemporary society. In ethics, the notions of “right” and “wrong” have come to be recognized as culturally-dependent. But now there is a growing awareness that science, – which has been viewed by many, including sociologists, as the source of absolutes and certainty – is a fully human enterprise, where truth is not something lying “out there” but, rather, a construction of scientific communities. Witness, for example, recent contro- versies in the philosophy and history of science, involving, among others, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Toulmin. Despite the enormous attention given these problems today, they are almost ignored in the sociological literature. This is somewhat surprising in that Kuhn, especially, has emphasized the sociological nature of his work, and the term “sociological” is utilized by Popper, Lakatos, and other critics of Kuhn, as a word of degradation.

Philosophical Parameters of Karl Mannheim’s Sociology of Knowledge by Gunter W. Remmling (1971)

THE ROAD that leads from philosophy to sociology has been well traveled. Comte mapped sociology in the framework of Saint-Simon’s positive philosophy. Spencer’s sociological reflections form part of his synthetic philosophy. It was the philosopher Emile Boutroux—teacher of Bergson and Blondel—who stimulated Durk- heim to view society as a distinct area of investigation. Durkheim’s sociological theory of knowledge is strongly influenced by the phenomenological neo-criticism of Charles Renouvier. Durkheim identified himself as a scientist of moral behavior but the overarching awareness of the moral philosopher never faded from his quantitative universe of social facts. Ferdinand Tinnies’ “Gesellschaft” presupposes the rational-contractual conception of society propagated by Thomas Hobbes, whose philosophy provided the German sociologist with his point of departure. Likewise, Tinnies’ contrasting societal type of “Gemeinschaft” is anciently rooted in Aristotle’s doctrine of social origins and invites comparison to the social philosophy of the romantic conservatives of the nineteenth century: philosophical traditions which emphasized the naturalness of social development and the spiri- tual intimacy of kinship and neighborhood that Tdnnies attributed to social interaction in the community. Georg Simmel’s opening question: “How is Society Possible?” is deliberately posed in the manner of Kant’s philosophy. Max Scheler has roots in Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy—and so does Karl Mannheim, exponent of a relativistic sociology of knowledge.

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