Sociology / A Quotation Manifesto

A Quotation Manifesto for Sociology

'Sociology needs to defend itself.' Pierre Bourdieu

Sociology as science - described below - follows the so-called 'French Epistemological Tradition' with distinguished logicians and theoreticians such as Alexander Koyre, Jean Cavaille, Gaston Bachelard and George Canguilhem. According to this tradition all scientific knowledge is created through 'breaks' with common sense and/or breaks with earlier forms of scientific knowledge. The idea of 'breaking' with common sense to be able to enter a true scientific understanding is also strong in the sociological tradition (and it can even be found in the classical Greek tradition of medicine; see below):
'Durkheim’s polemic against artificialism, psychologism, or moralism is simply the counterpart of the postulate that social facts ’have a constant mode of being, a nature that does not depend on individual arbitrariness and from which there derive necessary relationships’ (…). Marx was saying the same thing when he posited that ‘in the social production of their life, men enter into determinate relations that are necessary and independent of their will’; and so was Weber, when he refused to reduce the cultural meaning of actions to the subjective intentions of the actors. Durkheim, who insists that the sociologist must enter the social world as one enters an unknown world, gives Marx credit for having broken with illusion of transparency: ‘We think it a fertile idea that social life must be explained, not by the conception of it created by those who participate in it, but by profound causes which escape awareness.' Pierre Bourdieu et al., The Craft of Sociology
It is sociological that any want-to-be scientist should work to be able to identify and understand the most advanced knowledge so as to be able to advance knowledge and use it as the most legitimate scientific norm or criterion to evaluate all knowledge in a given scientific field - and in the history of a given scientific disciplin. Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault were also using this approach. As Foucault explains:

'Michel Foucault clearly described Bachelard (and Canguilhem’s) ‘epistemological history’: ‘A type of historical analysis … [that] takes as its norm the fully constituted science; the history that it recounts is necessarily concerned with opposition of truth and error, the rational and the irrational, the obstacle and fecundity, purity and impurity, the scientific and non-scientific. It is an epistemological history of science.’ Foucault opcit. I Christina Chimisso 2008: 151

Social Science for What?


'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

'Those who nowadays drape words like ‘fact’ in scare quotes would no doubt be surprised to learn that positivism saw itself often enough as a radical phenomenon. Yet though pioneers of the human sciences like Mauss were wary of distorting the facts with values, they could still move from the descriptive to the prescriptive, plucking a whole programme of social reform, right down to proposals for state pensions, from what they saw as the human solidarity of premodern cultures. For these archaic avant-gardists, as for some Modernist artists, the surest guide to the future was the past.' Terry Eagleton in review of Fournier's Marcel Mauss biography

'The social world is the locus of struggles over words which owe their seriousness - and sometimes their violence - to the fact that words to a great extent make things.' Pierre Bourdieu

'Politics is essentially, a matter of words. That’s why the struggle to know reality scientifically almost always has to begin with a struggle against Words.' Pierre Bourdieu

'On the importance of the matter we have testimony from ancient times. Everybody knows that conceptual clarity was essential for Socrates. But let us here take an even older example. When Confucius one time was asked, what he considered to be of the greatest importance in the art of government, he answered: To put words and concepts correctly. Because if the concepts don't fit, the works won't be made. If the works aren't made then morality and art cannot thrive. And if morality and art do not thrive then the punishment do not hit the targets. And if the punishments don't hit, the people don't know where to put the hand and the foot. - That is why the scholar make sure that he can transform his words into action. The scholar cannot endure anyting in his words that do not fit. This is what everything depends on.' Knud Grue-Sørensen

'Scientific insights ought to be useful to us as real people living our lives as they actually happen.' Randal Collins

'Social research is to serve as a cognitive map, which reveals to people hidden connections and unintended consequences of their actions and helps them.' Joseph Ben-David

The nature of science

'What is not put into words in society - doesn't exist.' Norbert Elias, Symbol Theory
Wittgenstein wrote: ’The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’ He should perhaps have added: ‘And the limits of my language are the limits of my sanity’. (Roy Harris in Rethinking Linguistics p. 185)

'The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.' Pierre Bourdieu
'Le réel n'est jamais ce qu'on pourrait croire, mais il est toujours ce qu'on aurait dû penser.' Gaston Bachelard
'All scientists work for universal explanations.' Pierre Bourdieu
'Truth is one.' Pierre Bourdieu
'Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.' Mark Twain
'What matters is whether we want to lie or to tell the truth and write the truth.' Thomas Bernard
'It is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.' Charles Darwin
'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 test of all science.. indeed the validity consists.. in the power of understanding, prediction of and control over.. reality.' Louis Wirth  

Sociology versus 'official sociology'

'Search for science only where true science can be found.' Michel de Montaigne
'Max Weber observes science values is a question of culture.' Karl Löwith
'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.' Joseph Ben-David

'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
'… false clarity is often part and parcel of the dominant discourse, the discourse of those who think everything goes without saying, because everything is just fine as it is. Conservative language always falls back on the authority of common sense. It’s no coincidence that nineteenth-century bourgeois theatre was called ‘the theatre of common sense’. And common sense speaks the clear and simple language of what is plain for all to see. A second reason is that producing an over-simplified and over-simplifying discourse about the social world means inevitably that you are providing weapons that can be used to manipulate this world in dangerous ways. I am convinced that, for both scientific and political reasons, you have to accept that discourse can and must be as complicated as the (more or less) complicated problem it is tackling demands. If people at least come away with a feeling that it is complicated, that’s already a good lesson to have learnt. Furthermore I don’t believe in the virtues of ‘common sense’ and ‘clarity’, those two ideals of the classical literary canon (‘what is clearly understood can be clearly expressed, etc.) When it comes to objects of inquiry as overladen with passions, emotions and interests as those of social life, the ‘clearest’, that is, simplest discourses, are probably those which run the greatest risks of being misunderstood, because they work like projective tests into which each person imports his or her prejudices, unreflective opinions and fantasies. If you accept the fact that, in order to make yourself understood, you have to work at using words in such a way that they say just what you wanted them to say, you can see that the best way of talking clearly consists in talking in a complicated way, in an attempt to transmit simultaneously what you are saying, and in avoiding saying, against your will, something more than and different from what you thought you were saying. Sociology is an esoteric science – initiation into it is very slow and requires a real conversion in your whole vision of the world – but it always seems to be exoteric.' Pierre Bourdieu
'The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.' Stephen Hawkins
'Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought upon the unthinking.' John Maynard Keynes
'We must demonstrate that scientific concepts develop differently than everyday concepts, that the development of these two types of concepts does not follow the same path. Therefore, the task of our experimental research includes acquiring empirical support for the position that there is a difference between the development of scientific and everyday concepts. It also requires the acquisition of data that will permit us to clarify the precise nature of this difference.' Lev Vygotski
'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.' Pierre Bourdieu, The Craft p. 4
'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
'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, Agenda for a Radical History

Scientific Critique  

'Many people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong. It is character.' Albert Einstein
'In the words of Marcus Aurelius: ‘Although everything happens at random, don’t you, too, act at random’.' Pierre Hadot
'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
'.. it was with the birth of Western political thought, crystallized in the conflict between Socrates and the citizens of Athens, that the potential tensions between what the Greeks would call the bios theoreticos and the bios politicos were realized. Speaking out against those teachers of ‘mere’ practical wisdom, the Sophists, Socrates played a crucial role in transforming the main concerns of the life of the mind from physics to ethics. The effect, of course, was to make philosophy a far greater threat to the powers that be than it had been previously – a problem the citizens of Athens temporarily resolved by making the world safe from philosophy by forcing the execution/suicide of Socrates. But a potential for conflict had nonetheless been established, and although future advocates of the life of the mind (Plato and Aristotle, among others) would continue to defend the bios theoreticos as the highest form of human existence, it was not until the advent of Christendom that their hopes were made good. For what Christendom embodied was a resolution of the tension between contemplation and action that effectively turned the life of action into a servant of the life of contemplation.' S. T. Leonard p. 4

'… any true philosopher will have to be radical. It is his business to get at the roots of any problem. This means that the philosopher cannot escape coming in conflict with the powers that be – in almost any age. Worse than that, he gets in trouble even with the masses of his fellowmen; for, these too stand committed, for the most part, to conserving what they have. They find the critic of the status quo quite unsavory. Thus, Socrates gets the hemlock, Spinoza is excommu-nicated, Kant is forbidden to teach or to write on religion, and Einstein is dubbed a ‘fellow-traveller’ for insisting on the Constitutional rights of witnesses.' A. Schilpp, Human Nature and Progress p. 82
'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
'I'll show you nonsense.' Ludwig Wittgenstein
"... 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
'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
'The critique of contemporary society cannot be deepened exept insofar as the intellectual instruments of this critique, including sociology and the other social sciences, are themselves critically sharpened. Correspon¬dingly, a critique of sociology will be superficial unless the discipline is seen as the flawed product of a flawed society and unless we begin to specify the details of this interconnection. What is required therefore is an analysis on different levels, in which sociology is seen in its relation to larger historical trends, to the macro-institutional level, and especially to the state; it also means seeing sociology in the setting of its most immediate locale, the university; it means seeing it as a way in which men work as teachers and researchers, and operate within an intellectual community with a received occupational culture, where they pursue careers, livelihoods, material ambitions, as well as intellectual aspirations. Finally, and centrally, a critique of sociology also requires detailed and specific analysis of the dominant theoretical and intellectual products that sociology has created. It is these intellectual products that distinguish sociology from other activities, that justify its existence, and that produce its distinctive impact on the larger surrounding society. There can be no serious critique of sociology without a fine-grained close analysis of its theories and its theorists.' Alvin Gouldner 1971:14
'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.' Pierre 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…' Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 12
'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.' Pierre Bourdieu, The Craft of Sociology 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.' Pierre Bourdieu social kritik 37/1995: 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.' Menchen p. 148 in The Intellectuals 

Anti-Science Symptoms and its Consequences

'To put it simply, if scientists are talking about something real, then what they say is either true or false. If it is true, then how can it depend on the social environment of the scientist? If it is false, how can it help to liberate us? The choice of scientific question and the method of approach may depend on all sorts of extrascientific influences, but the correct answer when we find it is what it is because that is the way the world is.' Steven Weinberg p. 149
'It should be noted in passing that most applications outside science merely reveals ignorance about science. For example, relativism in nonscientific fields is generally based on farfetched analogies. Relativity theory, of course, does not find that truth depends on the point of view of the observer, but, on the contrary, reformulates the law of physics so that they hold good for every observer, no matter how he moves or where he stands. Its central meaning is that the most valued truths in science are wholly independent of the point of view.' G. Holton Intellectuals p.186
’Nazi theory’, writes Orwell, ’indeed specifically denies that such a thing as ’the truth’ exists’. (…) Nazi theory was of course not articulated within the context of an explicit philosophical theory, but philosophers nevertheless were available to generate theories. Thus arguments are advanced in the 1930s and beyond which make the Nazi attack on ‘the truth’ philosophically plausible. This brings us to what Chomsky calls Orwell’s problem: ‘How can we know so little, given that we have so much evidence.’ (…) What are the factors that block our understanding and enhance the plausibility of, e. g., Nazism? (…) An important factor of course, is propaganda. (…) The destruction of epis-temology and the death of truth create an open field for rhetoric and the exercise of power.' H. M. Bracken p. 64f.
'As Putnam there puts it, ’Quine and Davidson argue, in effect, that a consistent relativist should not treat others as speakers (or thinkers) at all (if their noises are that ’incommensurable’, then they are just noises), while Plato and Wittgenstein argue, in effect, that a consistent relativist cannot treat himself as a speaker or a thinker’.' Hawthorne p. 177
'The curious and ironic result of such extreme and ostensibly tolerant relativism is that it has profoundly conservative results. In the name of tolerance – which now means not judging anything, whatsoever, negatively – it tends, ironically, to conserve everything, including practices and beliefs that are clearly stupid, maladaptive, harmful, oppressive to believers, and to most people deeply evil. In short, wherever promoted, relativism immediately risks becoming the most oppressive of all possible moral positions, forced by its own foundational moral assumption (that there is no moral foundation) to agree that whatever is believed to be good must be so.' Gairdner Absolutes p.54

Philosophy of Scientific Objectivity

'Objectivity is not neutrality.' Thomas Haskell
'What is true will only be accepted by people living the culture of science.'
Max Weber
'For a philosopher who declares that ’the real is never what one might think, but what one ought to have thought, the true can only be ‘the limit of lost illusions’. So it is not surprising that no realism, least of all empirical realism, finds favor as a theory of knowledge in Bachelard’s eyes. The real does not exist before or outside science. Science does not detect or capture the real, it indicates the intellectual direction and organization with which ‘one can be assured that one is approaching the real’.' George Canguilhem in The Craft of Sociology p. 84
'They are found among businessmen and scientists, educators and politicians. Their thinking is fully congruent with their doing, since they seek nothing beyond what they can actually achieve by practical manipulation. In this sense, they describe themselves as ‘realists’: after all, they have done away with all myths, with all concepts that are not fully operational. But are these people truly realists? We hold that they are not. For ‘realism’ cannot consist in doing away with all historically given forms of distantiation and then equating the remainder with ‘the’ world itself. There is more to the world and, in particular, to man as a real being than is open to manipulation. (....) The danger inherent in the modern ontology, then, is that it tends to succumb to the temptation to take its specific perspective, that of the manipulator, to be that of absolute truth. A true ontology cannot be such a partial, perspective-bound one. We have to show these ‘realists’ and pragmatists that they do not yet face ‘the world’ but only a limited segment of it, the segment corresponding to practical manipulative operations. When they equate this segment with the whole, their thinking is not ‘realistic’ but very ‘unreal’.' Karl Mannheim 1993:517
'Descartes said that theoretical science remains the same in its essence no matter what object it deals with – just as the sun’s light is the same no matter what wealth and variety of things it may illuminate. The same may be said of any symbolic form, for language, art, or myth, in that each of these is a particular way of seeing, and carries within itself its particular and proper source of light. The function of envisagement, the dawn of a conceptual enlightenment can never be realistically derived from things themselves or understood through the nature of its objective contents. For it is not a question of what we see in a certain perspective, but of the perspective itself.' Ernst Cassirer Myth p. 11

'We must recognize the participation of the ‘subject’, and learn to see therein not only an essential limitation but a positive condition for all our knowledge of nature. Even in the field of mathematics and the mathematical sciences the proposition that Kant put in these words holds good: ‘that only is known a priori in things which we ourselves put into them’. Thus even physics owes the revolution in its mode of thought, which has been of such benefit, solely to this conception: seek in nature (without imputing it to nature) that which reason itself has prescribed, even though reason must still learn all that from nature, and purely by itself would not know anything about the matter. If this be true for physics, it is so to a far greater degree for history. Here ‘subjectivity’ enters, in the general sense of theoretical reason and its presuppositions, but in addition the individuality, the personality of the author continually asserts itself. Without that there would be no active historical research or writing.' (also on Ranke) Ernst Cassirer p. 232
'Henceforth, my dear philosophers, let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a "pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject"; let us guard against the snares of such contradictory concepts as "pure reason," absolute spirituality," "knowledge in itself": these always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing"; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity," be.' Friedrich Nietzsche
'We have seen that the thought of truth implies a desire for it, and is to that extent personal. But since such a desire is for something impersonal, this personal motive has an impersonal intention. We avoid these seeming contradictions by accepting the framework of commitment, in which the personal and the universal mutually require each other. Here the personal comes into existence by asserting universal intent, and the universal is contributed by being accepted at the impersonal term of this personal commitment. Such a commitment enacts the paradox of dedication. In it a person asserts his rational independence by obeying the dictates of his own conscience, that is, of obligations laid down for himself by himself. Luther defined the situation by declaring, “Here I stand and cannot otherwise”.' Michael Polanyi, 1998, p. 308
'What then in the end has Polanyi done to free us from the choice that Bertrand Russell left us with – the choice between honest skepticism and dishonest hope? – This was the choice that Polanyi saw as the root of so much of the despair and violence of the modern world, leaving men as it does with no honest hope, yet with moral passions that must find an outlet. He has shown how our faith, imagination and personal judgment, so long paralyzed by the poison of skeptical doubt, in fact run right through all our knowledge. Without faith in a real universe and in our own powers of getting hold of some direction and sense in it, there is no knowledge at all. Science relies on these same powers and stands or falls with them. The skeptics cheat by relying on powers which they cannot admit to be real; if things are as bad as the skeptics say, then they are much worse, for there is no sense anywhere, even in skepticism.' D. Scott p. 197
'The need to break with preconstructions, prenotions, spontaneous theory, is particularly imperative in sociology, because our minds, our language, are full of preconstructed objects, and I think that three-quarters of research simply converts social problems into sociological problems. There are countless examples: the problem of old age, the problem of women, at least if raised in a certain way, the problem of young people.There are all sorts of preconstructed objects that impose themselves as scientific objects; being rooted in common-sense, they immediately receive the approval of the scientific community and a wider public. For example, a good number of divisions of the object correspond to the division into ministries, with the ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Sport, and so on. More generally, many instruments used to construct social reality (like occupational categories, age groups, and so on) are bureaucratic categories that no one has thought through. As Thomas Bernard says in Alte Meister, we are all more or less ’servants of the State’, functionaries, insofar as we are products of the educational system, teachers. And, to break away from pre-thought objects, you need a terrific energy, an iconoclastic violence that you find more often in writers like Bernard or artists like Hans Haacke than in professors of sociology, however ’radical’ in intention.” Pierre Bourdieu, The Craft of Sociology p.249

Levels of Scientific Understanding and Application

'I suppose you aren’t aware that when lads get their first taste of (philosophical arguments), they misuse them as though it were play, always using them to contradict; and imitating those men by whom they are refuted, they themselves refute others; like puppies pullingand tearing with argument at those who happen to be near… And as a result of this, you see, they themselves and the whole activity of philosophy become the objects of slander among the rest of men.' Socrates
'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 in Lazarsfeld 1955:499)
"A sentence such as ’The world is surrounded by a gravitational field’ can mean very little or a great deal. What it means to a physicist, to a student, to a seventy-year-old former university student, will vary in comprehensiveness as well as in substance. The physicist may have reflected for years on the question of gravitational fields, and he will be at home in the whole complex of considerations that, at his level of understanding, go into this sentence. Variations in level of knowledge, interest and intelligence inevitably result in variations in the depth and clarity of a person’s grasp of what he reads or hears." (Arne Næss, Communication and argument p. 35)
Polanyi - on Einstein
'One is not truly installed in the philosophy of the rational until one understands that one understand and can confidently denounce the errors and semblances of rationalism. In order for self-monitoring to have this confidence, it must in some way itself be monitored. There then comes into existence forms of monitoring of monitoring, which we shall designate, for the sake of brevity, in exponential form: (monitoring)2. I shall even indicate the elements of a monitoring of monitoring of monitoring, in other (words monitoring)3.' Gaston Bachelard

'Those who refuse to accept (as do Wittgenstein and Bachelard) that the establishment of ‘the authorities’, which is the historical structure of the scientific field, constitutes the only possible foundation of scientific reason condemn themselves either to self-founding strategies or to nihilist challenges to science inspired by a persistent, distinctly metaphysical nostalgia for a “foundation,” which is the nondeconstructed principle of so-called deconstruction.' Pierre Bourdieu Hastings law p. 819
'The experience of scientists resembles that of other professional men: for example, lawyers, engineers, or airline pilots. All of these men accumulate ’experience’ by finding out what can or cannot be achieved, using the different items in their repertory of professional equipment.' Jacques Bouveresse
'In the first sentences of his introduction to the Cambridge Economic Handbooks, Keynes wrote: ‘The theory of economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique of thinking, which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions.’ The theory of sociological knowledge, understood as a system of rules governing the production of all possible sociological acts and discourses, and only those, is the generative principle of the various partiel theories of the social (such as the theory of matrimonial exchange or the theory of cultural diffusion), and as such it is the unifying principle of specifically sociological discourse, which is not to be confused with a unitary theory of the social.
As Michael Polanyi observes: “Natural science is regarded as a knowledge of things, while knowledge about science is held to be quite distinct from science, and is called ‘meta-science’. We have then three logical levels: a first floor for the objects of science, a second for science itself and a third for metascience, which includes the logic and epistemology of science.” To confuse the theory of sociological knowledge, which is at the level of meta-science, with the partiel theories of the social that implement the principles of sociological meta-science in the systematic organization of a set of relations and principles explaining those relations, is to condemn oneself either to renounce the practice of science by expecting a science of meta-science to stand in for science, or to treat a necessarily empty synthesis of general theories (or even partiel theories) of the social as the meta-science that is the precondition for any possible scientific knowledge.' Pierre Bourdieu et al. The Craft of Sociology p.30

The (scientific) world has to be re-made 

'I once told an audience of school children that the world would never change if they did not contradict their elders. I was chagrined to find next morning that this axiom outraged their parents. Yet it is the basis of the scientific method. A man must see, do and think things for himself, in the face of those who are sure that they have already been over all that ground. In science, there is no substitute for independence.' J. Bronowski Values in Science
Canguilhem - Bachelard - on enlightenment philosophers
'Words are deeds.'
Ludwig Wittgenstein
'In philosophy the slowest man wins.' Ludwig Wittgenstein
Hintikka - on Wittgenstein's premier presentation at 'Logical positivists'' Meetting. Morality and logic is the same.
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."
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; O grant an honest fame, or grant me none! Alexander Pope