Becker on the Philosophy of Society

Sociologist Howard Becker published his first article in 1951. Just today, I opened the table of contents email from Science, Technology and Human Values to find that Becker has written a 6p book review for the latest issue. In that review, Becker discusses recent two books by philosophers attempting to create a “social ontology”. The first is Searle’s Making the Social World, which Becker describes as follows:

Searle describes the nature of human society and the mode of existence of its parts as the consequence of ‘‘Status Function Declarations,’’ that is, statements people make (collectively, one supposes), which change the nature of social reality by declaring that it is changed and then collectively recognizing that change as real. Sociologists will not see a lot of difference,other than a loss of clarity, between that thought and W. I. Thomas’ well-known 1918 remark that “if men define situations as real they are real in their consequences.”

Searle’s main insight being something we already knew and the rest of it ignoring what we already know, the verdict of irrelevant stands, perhaps to be overturned by further developments. I am not holding my breath.

Oh, snap!

Read the rest of the excellent, and short, review here. I hope that 60 years after my first publication, I can be anywhere near as lucid, insightful and punchy (and, well, alive).

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2 Comments

  1. That’s quite seriously an ‘oh, snap!’ comment. And the flow chart… Well, that might just be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while…

  1. Beaker, Becker | Angie Andriot