Re: Durkeim's take on the categories

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Mon 16 Feb 2004 - 18:42:22 GMT

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    >From: John Wilkins <>
    >Subject: Re: Durkeim's take on the categories
    >Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 12:53:56 +1100
    >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
    >>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.
    Yipes! Are you trying to set a Godwin's law record? One reply into the thread even...

    Anyway, I suppose Lorenz (dark past and all) is an important consideration as you point out. In short, I think I was trying to draw a contrast between Durkhaeim and Popper using their tendencies toawrds social construction and inatteness respectively. Lorenz was on the innateness/instintive side of the coin and his brand of ethology was a precursor to ev psych.

    One, could, I suppose look at science as a collective representation which depends as an evolutionary process on Popper's conjecture/refutation method. This mind meld might depart a tad from both Durkheim and Popper. One could likewise try this approach with memes.

    If memes are unleashed (contra the epigenetically biased/leashed culturgens), how much do they differ from Durkheim's collective representations (or "collective ideas" for that matter)?

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