Re: "Ideas have a life of their own"

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 03 Mar 2004 - 05:53:34 GMT

  • Next message: John Wilkins: "Re: "Ideas have a life of their own" (Origin of Quote?)"

          "While there are differences between, among, and within the creative sociologies, they all belong together in their resistance to using the methods of the natural sciences in studying social phenomena. Underlying them all is the assumption that human beings are different from the subject matter of other sciences in that they create, or construct, their social reality in interaction. They are joined in their opposition to sociological approaches that assume that human behavior is determined by social structure.

          "Sociology is not the only discipline experiencing schisms of this kind. It is well known that the field of psychology is sharply divided between "humanists" and clinical or experimental psychologists, 1 but it is, perhaps, less commonly known that similar differences divide anthropologists and historians of science, as well as those in other disciplines, including some of the natural sciences. In the history of science, the debate is between the "internalists" and the "externalists."

          "The question concerns whether the origin and growth of science depend upon factors external to the substance of science itself, such as social and economic influences, or whether scientific ideas have a life of their own, insulated from the general cultural, economic, and social state of a nation or a community of nations. 2"

    Page 173

    _An Excursion into Creative Sociology_ by Monica B. Morris; Columbia University Press, 1977

    You sure find some bizarre statements in Sociology because both halves of the last sentence are true. It is historically obvious that social and economic influences had a determining role in the origin and growth of science, early science having very much depended on people with time and money to spend on it. It is also true that what science finds, such as elements, is "insulated from the general cultural economic, and social state of a nation or a community of nations."

    (Assuming a consistent real word, materials studies will find about a hundred chemical elements, and you are no more likely to find an element between carbon and nitrogen than you are to find a whole number between 6 and 7.)

    Keith Henson

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