Re: Durkeim's take on the categories

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Mon 16 Feb 2004 - 01:53:56 GMT

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    On Monday, February 16, 2004, at 11:58 AM, Scott Chase wrote:

    > This is a very preliminary view, but in reading through the first parts
    > of Durkheim's _The Elementary Forms of Religious Life_ (I have two
    > separate translations to go by), it seems that Durkheim is grounding
    > Kant's categories in the social realm, that is that categories of
    > thought are socially imposed upon us from without. This could be a
    > reversal of Kant's view in his _Prolegomena_ that we impose our laws
    > upon nature. For Durkheim, our laws would instead be imposed upon us
    > from collective representations that have been established through the
    > generations.
    > It would be interesting to compare Durkheim's views with those of
    > Popper
    > in _Objective Knowledge_ where the categories would IIRC instead derive
    > from within via an evolutionary process of conjecture and refutation.
    > Popper's views would be much more aligned with those of evolutionary
    > psychology than Durkheim's would be.
    > Popper and ev psychers would say that Kant's a priori categories are an
    > evolutionary derived natural given, where Durkheim seems to be arguing
    > that they came from the social milieu.
    It is my understanding that this view, that the Kantian synthetic a prioria are the evolutionary post hoc traits of cognition, was first proposed (in a Nazi journal!) by Konrad Lorenz in 1941.

    John S Wilkins
    Head, Communication Services
    The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    Parkville, Victoria, Australia
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