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Schutz The Phenomenology Of The Social World Notes

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Alfred Schutz - The Phenomenology of the Social World Chapter One - The Statement of Our Problem: Max Weber's Basic Methodological Concepts

1. Preliminary Survey of the Problem
● Debate between social scientists who treat social phenomena as if they were natural phenomena (causally determined) and those who see social phenomena as belonging to a world of 'objective mind', intelligible but not under scientific laws (interpretive sociology)
○ in the latter, social scientists' attitudes are determined by their own presuppositions
■ but simply interpreting the social world according to our presuppositions (subjective biases) runs contrary to good research, which should be unbiased
● Weber thought that the social sciences should abstain from value judgements
○ importantly, he reduced all social relationships/structures/cultural objectifications/realms of objective mind to elementary forms of individual behaviour (as did Simmel)
■ sociology is to study social behaviour by interpreting the subjective meaning of the intentions of individuals
● this is to be done through constructing 'ideal types'
○ Weber had good theory, but didn't explore its presuppositions
■ he makes no distinction between:
● action and act
● meaning of the producer and meaning of the produced
● meaning of my own action and meaning of someone else's
● self understanding and other-understanding
■ doesn't show how meaning is constituted
○ in order to understand the way the other self is grasped as an ideal type, we need to recognise the way acts are interpreted as a part of the whole social world
■ Weber took for granted the meaningful phenomena of the social world as a matter of intersubjective agreement, without examining what constitutes meaning
● Hence we can see the complicated relation between the social sciences and their subject matter the structure of the social world is meaningful for its actors and also for its scientific interpreters
○ in experiencing others as others we understand their behaviour, and assume they understand ours
■ it is through these acts of interpretive meaning that the structure of the social world is constructed
○ the social scientist interprets the world of already constituted meanings - the meaningful acts of people in their everyday experience
■ there is a stratification of meaning-interpretation, and these are two types: the meaning-understanding of everyday life, and the sophisticated meaning understanding of the ideal types in interpretive sociology
○ macro sociology can always be reduced into processes of interpretation/meaning establishment in individuals
● So, the project is: we need to understand meaning in order to analyse the meaning-structure of the social world

2. Max Weber's Concept of Meaningful Action
● Weber: the task of interpretive sociology is to understand/interpret social action
○ social action is action in which its subjective meaning takes into account the behaviour of

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