The Grid of Perception

John Levi Martin

in The Explanation of Social Action

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199773312
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897223 | DOI:
The Grid of Perception

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Chapter 4 traces the development of this conception of the fundamentally arbitrary nature of cognition by examining Durkheim’s attempt to give a social ontology of the Aristotelian categories. Durkheim assimilated Kant’s formulation of the categories of the understanding to the general status of abstract and general representations (concepts) that were used to order particular and concrete representations (images), thereby opening the door for the collapsing of all categories of the understanding to the particular category of “class.” This supports the conclusion that there is something fundamentally arbitrary in actors’ framework for processing sense information. This Durkheimian sociology of knowledge became the exemplar of a loose “social constructionism,” according to which there was no fish nor fowl but that culture makes it so. Ignoring rigorous work on comparative ethnozoology and ethnobotany, sociologists resuscitated vague stories about other cultures inability to “see” what our culture sees and so on. Closer attention to empirical material forces us to reject the idea that our senses bring us unordered perceptions—a blooming buzzing confusion—that must be organized by a social grid.

Keywords: Durkheim; categories; class; ethnozoology; framework

Chapter.  15961 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Theory

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