Edmund Husserl in Talcott Parsons: Analytical Realism and Phenomenology [Book Review]

Human Studies 36 (3):357-374 (2013)
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Abstract

This article aims at clarifying the philosophical (=phenomenological) implication of Talcott Parsons’s analytical realism. Generally, his theory is understood as being confrontational to phenomenology; however, in his first book, The Structure of Social Action, Parsons positively referred to Husserl’s Logical Investigations. They shared a sense of crisis: Husserl thought that there was no certain basis in modern science, and Parsons had the feeling that there was no common theory to establish sociology as a science. Thus, both of them criticized the factual sciences of positivism (positivistic empiricism) and showed a strong orientation to the general theory. For this, they depended on conceptual realism (Platonic realism). According to Husserl, scientific knowledge will be arbitrary if the Ideal is not there as the norm of fact. He believed that in truth all people always see Ideas. Similarly, Parsons thought that in truth all people always act toward the Ideal, because the Ideal element is necessarily found through the logical framework of sociology, i.e., the action frame of reference. Hence, he maintained that the Ideal element that gives a normative orientation to actions is real, though analytical, insofar as the social order is established

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