What is a person? This fundamental question is a perennial concern of philosophers and theologians. But, Christian Smith here argues, it also lies at the center of the social scientist’s quest to interpret and explain social life. In this ambitious book, Smith presents a new model for social theory that does justice to the best of our humanistic visions of people, life, and society. Finding much current thinking on personhood to be confusing or misleading, Smith finds inspiration in critical realism (...) and personalism. Drawing on these ideas, he constructs a theory of personhood that forges a middle path between the extremes of positivist science and relativism. Smith then builds on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, and William Sewell to demonstrate the importance of personhood to our understanding of social structures. From there he broadens his scope to consider how we can know what is good in personal and social life and what sociology can tell us about human rights and dignity. Innovative, critical, and constructive,_ What Is a Person?_ offers an inspiring vision of a social science committed to pursuing causal explanations, interpretive understanding, and general knowledge in the service of truth and the moral good. (shrink)
What kind of animals are human beings? And how do our visions of the human shape our theories of social action and institutions? In Moral, Believing Animals>, Christian Smith advances a creative theory of human persons and culture that offers innovative, challenging answers to these and other fundamental questions in sociological, cultural, and religious theory. Smith suggests that human beings have a peculiar set of capacities and proclivities that distinguishes them significantly from other animals on this planet. Despite the vast (...) differences in humanity between cultures and across history, no matter how differently people narrate their lives and histories, there remains an underlying structure of human personhood that helps to order human culture, history, and narration. Drawing on important recent insights in moral philosophy, epistemology, and narrative studies, Smith argues that humans are animals who have an inescapable moral and spiritual dimension. They cannot avoid a fundamental moral orientation in life and this, says Smith, has profound consequences for how sociology must study human beings. (shrink)
Drawing on Connell's notion of gender projects, the authors assess the degree to which contemporary evangelical ideals of men's headship challenge, as well as reinforce, a hegemonic masculinity. Based on 265 in-depth interviews in 23 states across the country, they find that rather than espousing a traditional gender hierarchy in which women are simply subordinate to men, the majority of contemporary evangelicals hold to symbolic traditionalism and pragmatic egalitarianism. Symbolic male headship provides an ideological tool with which individual evangelicals may (...) maintain a sense of distinctiveness from the broader culture of which they are a part. At the same time, symbolic headship blunts some of the harsher effects of living in a materially rich, but time poor, culture, by defusing an area of potential conflict, creating a safe space within which men can negotiate, and strengthening men's material and emotional ties to their families. (shrink)
In recent years atheism has become ever more visible, acceptable, and influential. Atheist apologists have become increasingly vociferous and confident in their claims. In Atheist Overreach, Christian Smith takes a look at the evidence and explains why we ought to be skeptical of some key atheists' claims about morality, science, and human nature.
Malcolm Jeeves, ed., Rethinking Human Nature: A Multidisciplinary Approach Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 269-270 Authors Christian Smith, Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA Journal Journal of Critical Realism Online ISSN 1572-5138 Print ISSN 1476-7430 Journal Volume Volume 11 Journal Issue Volume 11, Number 2 / 2012.
Here I respond to four critics of my book, What Is a Person?, seeking to find areas of common ground and crucial disagreement. Most importantly, I explore the question of whether all human knowledge is conceptually mediated, acknowledging that, no, indeed, there are likely forms of experiential knowledge that are purely and directly acquired without conceptual mediation.