Sociology / A Quotation Manifesto

A Quotation Manifesto for Sociology

Social Science for What?

"Social science for what?" (Lynd, 19..; O'Connor, 2008)

"Politics has often been compared to medicine. We need only reread the ‘Hippocratic Corpus’, as Emmanuel Terray has, to discover that, like the physician, the conscientious politician cannot be satisfied with information gleaned from statements which, in more than one case, are produced by a mode of questioning that is unaware of the effects that it can have: ‘Anyone can take down symptoms and statements. If that were enough for effective treatment, there would be no need for doctors.’ The physician must strive to discover illnesses that are not obvious (àdèlà), precisely the ones the practitioner can ‘neither see with his eyes nor hear with his ears.’ Patients’ complaints are vague and uncertain; body signals are obscure and convey their meaning only very slowly, and often after the event. So we must look to reasoning (logismos) to uncover the structural causes that statements and apparent signs unveil only by veiling. In this way, Greek medicine anticipated the lessons of modern epistemolo-gy. It affirmed at the outset the necessity of constructing the scientific object by brea-king with what Émile Durkheim called ‘preconceptions’ – the representations that social agents make of their own condition.

And just as early medicine had to work with the treacherous competition of soothsayers, astrologers, magicians, charlatans or ‘hypothesis makers’, so social science today is up against anyone and everyone with a claim to interpret the most obvious signs of social malaise, as when, for example a scarf worn by a schoolgirl is immediately labeled an ‘Islamic veil’. It has to deal with all these people, too clever by half and armed with their ‘common sense’ and their pretensions, who rush into print or to appear on television to tell us what is going on in a social world that they have no effective means of either knowing or understanding. According to the Hippocratic tradition, true medicine begins with the knowledge of invisible illnesses, with the facts patients do not give, either because they are not aware of them or because they forget to mention them. The same holds true for social science, which is concerned with figuring out and understanding the true causes of the malaise that is expressed only through social signs that are difficult to interpret precisely because they seem so obvious." (Pierre Bourdieu The Weight of the World p.628)

The nature of science

Many people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong. It is character. Albert Einstein 
 
With the question of the importance of telling the truth, knowing who is able to tell the truth, and knowing why we should tell the truth we have the roots of the 'critical' tradition of the west 
Michel Foucault
 
The truth is that the ideals we introduce into the subject matter of our science are not peculiar to it, nor are they produced by this science itself; rather they are the old, general types of human ideals. 
Max Weber
 
The principle of continued culture is moreover at the root of modern scientific culture. The modern scientist is a more apt recipient than anyone else of Kipling’s austere advice: ‘if you can see your life’s work suddenly collapse, and then start work again, if you can suffer, struggle, and die without complaint, you’ll be a man, my son. Gaston Bachelard - The Formation of the Scientific Mind (p. 249)
 
'The prehistory of Wissensoziologie only goes to support Whiteheads observation that ’to come very near a true theory, and to grasp its precise application, are two very different things, as the history of science teaches us.' (Merton i Lazarsfeld 1955: 499)

Sociology vs. 'official sociology'

"Official sociology have no scientific ambition." Pierre Bourdieu
 
"Thus continuity of research and unity of purpose were much better preserved in eighteenth-century natural science than in the social sciences today. Above all, there were no serious attacks from within the ranks of scientists on the validity of science, as there were in the social sciences in the 19220s and the 1930s and as there are again today. Therefore, it seems that in addition to the relative poverty of the intellectual traditions of social science, there must be further reasons for this state of affairs. The proposition to be investigated in this article is that the discontinuities and the doctrinal fights in the social sciences are not due to anything inherent in the logic or stage of development but to the uses made of them by a variety of publics and to the resulting intrusion of nonscientific criteria into the evaluation of contributions to social science. To the extent that these criteria clearly incompatible with science, they are rejected by the majority of social scientists. But it will be shown that even this majority is willing to recognize as scientific some innovations which contain both scientific and nonscientific elements and that the evaluation of these marginal instances has been a major condition of the weak resistance offered by social scientists to the intrusion of extraneous criteria into their field." (Ben-David p.366)
  
"One cannot talk about such an object without exposing oneself to a permanent mirror effect: every word that can be uttered about scientific practice can be turned back on the person who utters it. (…) Far from fearing this mirror – or boomerang – effect, in taking science as the object of my analysis I am deliberately aiming to expose myself, and all those who write about the social world, to a generalized reflexivity." Pierre Bourdieu
 
"The question of the affiliation of a piece of sociological research to a particular theory of the social system, that of Marx, or Weber, or Durkheim, for example, is always secondary to the question of whether that research belongs to sociological science. The only criterion of this is whether it implements the fundamental principles of the theory of sociological knowledge which, as such, in no way separates authors who differ in every respect as regards their theory of the social system. [The] sociologist’s practice, or rather his “craft” - the habitus () is nothing other than the internalization of the principles of the theory of sociological knowledge. (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 4-5)
 
"Many people are afraid of exploring this region further, just as people used to fear scientific discoveries about the human organisms. And, just as before, a few argue that the scientific investigation of people by people – something they do not want – is simply not possible.But as men, lacking any more solidly founded understanding of the dynamics of the interweaving they form with each other, drift helplessly from small to ever greater acts of self-destruction, and from one lapse into meaninglessness to the next, so romantic ignorance loses much of its charm as a license for dreams."
Norbert Elias (p. 32)
 
"It is not possible to advance the science of the social world, and to make it known, except by forcing the return of the repressed, by neutralizing neutralization, denying denial in all its forms, not the least of which is the de-realization through hyperbolic radicalization performed by some revolutionary discourse. (…) The subjective and objective difficulty of writing is not solely due to the fact that language is being asked to say what it is normally used to deny or negate. It is not easy to find the right tone, to avoid both celebration and provocation (which is merely its inversion), when the very questions that have to be asked in order to construct the object are rejected in advance, within the object itself, as barbarisms." Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction p. 510
 
Wollstonecraft in the 1790s said, 'mind has no sex'. I know that some contemporary feminists want to revise that position because the mind is situated very much within a gender context. But I think we want to remember Wollstonecraft's astonishing courage in saying exactly that in the 1790s. When she said, 'mind has no sex', she both demanded entry into the whole world of the mind for her gender, and she also refused any privilege for her gender. If I can use an analogy, radical history should not ask for any privilege of any kind. Radical history demands the most exacting standards of the historical discipline. Radical history must be good history. It must be as good as history can be. (E. P. Thompson essay Agenda Radical History)

Critique  

”In the spirit of the Enlightenment, critique, in the form of reason, becomes a weapon in the struggle against superstition. Critique and the use of reason become synonymous.” (Skovsmose p. 15).
 
”The archetype of these methods is of course the Socratic dialogue, where the teacher manages, by way of questions, to destroy the semblance of knowledge in the disciple, and replace it by true knowledge. (G. Gohau p. 191)
 
"I'll show you nonsense." Ludwig Wittgenstein
 
"Herein  lies  one  of  the  first  tasks  of  social  science,  for  unless  the  social  scientist  is  enabled  to  show  how  society blocks  the  progress  and  utilization  of science,  in  the  long  run  science will  become  the  enemy  of  society  and  will  be reduced  to  a  futile exercise, or  there will be no  science at all." Louis Wirth 
 
”In short, the problem is: What are the social and political consequences of the intellectual system under examination? Do they liberate or repress men? Do they bind men into the social world that now exists, or do they enable men to transcend it?” Alvin Gouldner (p.12)
 
”The social strength of false science lies partly in the fact that it attracts to its reasons a challenge which should be directed at its causes, and those who read to the end of this text will perhaps understand why energy which can be better employed elsewhere has not been expended or arguing with false science (having to read it is quite enough). (...) By the tribute it has to pay to science, false science lends itself at least to scientific criticism, and it is sometimes possible to take from it facts that it has produced and to set them in a quite different system or relations.” (P. Bourdieu, The specificity of the scientific field p. 259)
 
”Here [in matters of taste] the sociologist finds himself in the area par excellence of the denial of the social. It is not sufficient to overcome the initial self-evident appearances, in other words, to relate taste, the uncreated source of all ’creation’, to the social conditions of which it is the product, knowing full well that the very same people who strive to repress the clear relation between taste and education, between culture as the state of that which is cultivated and culture as the process of cultivating, will be amazed that anyone should expend so much effort in scientifically proving that self-evident fact. He must also question that relationship, which only appears to be self-explanatory, and unravel the paradox whereby the relationship.. (..) And he must do this without ever.. (..) Hidden behind the statistical relationships between educational capital or social origin and this or that type of knowledge or way of applying it, there are relationships between groups maintaining different, and even antagonistic, relations to culture, depending on the conditions in which they acquired their cultural capital and the markets in which they can derive most profit from it. But we have not yet finished with the self-evident. The question itself has to be questioned…” (P. Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 12)
 
Max Weber observes science values is a question of culture.
 
Karl Kraus - Polics is.... 
 
It follows that any residues of what may seem to be ad hominum polemics that remain here are simply due to the limits of sociological understanding of the conditions of error. An epistemology that appeals to a sociology of knowledge is less entitled than any other to impute errors to subjects who are never entirely the authors of those errors. If, to paraphrase a famous text by Marx, ‘we have not painted a rosy picture’ of the empiricist, the intuitionist, or the methodologist, we have never thought of the ‘persons except insofar as they are the personification’ of epistemological positions that can only be fully understood in the social field in which they are put forward. (craft p. 3)
 
"Gilles Lipovesky og Zygmunt Bauman beskæftiger sig med etik. Men det er hverken filosofi eller sociologi. Det er dårlig filosofi, og det er overhovedet ikke sociologi. Det er svært for de intellektuelle at gøre deres ansvarlighed gældende i denne sammenhæng. Der er nu en kategori af essayister, der deltager i debatten og som påvirker stemningen. Det er dårlige filosoffer, de er ikke en del af den filosofiske kultur, og det er ikke et sociologisk arbejde, eftersom der ikke er anvendt nogen af sociologiens redskaber. Den slags mennesker bavler og pjatter med et alvorligt emne. Det er indslag med filosofisk skær om sociologiske problemer. I bund og grund er de konservatorer af det bestående. De siger hvad som helst, banaliteter som mediefolk og semi-intellektuelle labber i sig.” (P. Bourdieu social kritik 37/95: 15)
 
We are beset endlessly of quacks - and they are not the less quacks when they happen to be quite honest. In all fields from politics to pedagogics and from theology to public hygiene, there is a constant emotional obscuration of the true issues, a violent combat of credulities, an inane debasement of scientific curiosity to the level of mob gaping. The thing to blame of course is our lack of an intellectual aristocracy – sound in its information, skeptical in its habit of mind, and, above all, secure in its position and authority. (Menchen p. 148 i The Intellectuals)
 
Bourdieu - we do not need authority in the scientific field... referring to Wittgenstein, Bachelard etc. 
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language." If that sounds a bit too lofty, we might return to the simpler words of William Langland in his 14th century poem The Vision of Piers Plowman: "Grammer, the ground of al."
 
Hintikka - on Wittgenstein's premier presentation at 'Logical positivists'' Meetting. Morality and logic is the same...
 
"No doubt these arguments will provide rich grounds for debate. But since social science is, after all, a continuing contest founded on a shared commitment to honest evidence and reasoned argument, that is just as it should be." (E. Wanner in O’Connor p. xi)

Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; O grant an honest fame, or grant me none! Alexander Pope
 
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