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Peter Winch The Idea Of A Social Science Notes

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Peter Winch - The Idea of a Social Science Chapter Two - The Nature of Meaningful Behaviour Philosophy and Sociology
* there is a distinction between peripheral branches of philosophy and epistemology
* philosophy of science, art, history etc is concerned with the particular nature of those forms of life
* epistemology is concerned with what is involved in the notion of a form of life as such
# Wittgenstein's concept of following a rule and its corollary form of interpersonal agreement are contributions to this debate
# this debate is played out in the social sciences: should sociology synthesise all social studies, or be one among many?
* The central problem of sociology - giving an account of social phenomena - belongs to epistemology, though it has been misconstrued as a scientific problem
* Often the crucial ingredient of sociology - language - is barely touched upon
* the notion of having a language, and things such as meaning are often taken for granted
* in fact categories of meaning are logically dependent for their sense on social interaction between men
# 'it is only by virtue of their possession of concepts that they are able to make generalizations at all' Meaningful Behaviour
* Forms of interactions that have meaning or symbolic character all depend on following a rule, as in language
* People usually perform actions for reasons, whether explicit or implicit
* a necessary condition of a reason constituting a reason for an action (i.e. forming part of an explanation) is that the concepts involved in the reason make sense to the agent
* Sometimes people behave without having reasons for doing so
* e.g. habit - a person may understand what they are doing, and hence is actually casting a vote, but does not have a reason: he simply does it because his father did
* An act that looks like exchange is only economic if it has a sense, if the agents 'carry with them..a regulation of their future behaviour'
* placing a slip of paper between pages is only using a bookmark if it is done with the idea of using the slip to determine where to start reading later
* we can only be committed in the future if our acts are the application of a rule
* So it only makes sense to say that N votes if:
* the political institutions of his society allow for voting
* N is familiar with those institutions, and the symbolic act of voting
# thus N applies a rule in a context in which application is possible Activities and Precepts
* Even an anarchist follow rules insofar as he has a way of life that involves meaningful choices
* Reason doesn't come from without: means employed and ends sought do not generate forms of social activity, but rather depend for their very being on those forms
* a scientist with a certain end in mind can only be understood by someone with familiar knowledge

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