Synthese 136 (3):389-408 (2003)

Paul A. Roth
University of California, Santa Cruz
A suggestion famously made by Peter Winch and carried through to present discussions holds that what constitutes the social as a kind consists of something shared – rules or practices commonly learned, internalized, or otherwise acquired by all members belonging to a society. This essays argues against the explanatory efficacy of appeals to this shared something as constitutive of a social kind by examining a violation of social norms or rules, viz., mistakes. I argue that an asymmetric relation exists between the notion of mistakes and that of the social. In particular, mistakes do not presuppose a concept of the social, but the concept of the social requires prior specification of a category of mistakes. But no such prior specification proves possible. The very notion of a mistake is so inchoate that it makes it impossible to provide the kind of regimentation required for a rule-governed domain. Thus, there may be recognized mistakes even in the absence of a unified system or common knowledge of norms.Later writers attempt to avoid Winch's over-strong assumption that something shared and internal constitutes the social but cannot. Extending recent work by Stephen Turner, I argue that ``the social'' is not a domain that is susceptible to lawlike treatment, but rather a heterogeneous, motley collection. For absent the assumption of a shared something, no social object exists to be explained. So, I conclude, we have at present no clear way of marking out the social as a coherent or unified domain of inquiry.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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DOI 10.1023/A:1025187611264
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References found in this work BETA

A Plea for Excuses.John Austin - 1957 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:1--30.
Understanding a Primitive Society.Peter Winch - 1964 - American Philosophical Quarterly 1 (4):307 - 324.
The Idea of a Social Science.Alasdair MacIntyre & D. R. Bell - 1967 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 41 (1):95-132.
The Question of Linguistic Idealism Revisited.David Bloor - 1996 - In Hans D. Sluga & David G. Stern (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Cambridge University Press. pp. 354--382.
Theorizing Practice. [REVIEW]Michael Lynch - 1997 - Human Studies 20 (3):335-344.

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Citations of this work BETA

Hearts of Darkness: 'Perpetrator History' and Why There is No Why.Paul A. Roth - 2004 - History of the Human Sciences 17 (2-3):211-251.
Peter Winch and the Autonomy of the Social Sciences.Jonas Ahlskog - 2022 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 52 (3):150-174.

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