Pragmatism, Phenomenology, and Twentieth-Century American Sociology

Neil Gross

in Sociology in America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780226090948
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226090962 | DOI:
Pragmatism, Phenomenology, and Twentieth-Century American Sociology

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This chapter shows that despite the prevailing attitude that sociology and philosophy are worlds apart, American sociology in the twentieth century has in fact been shaped in deep and profound ways by movements of thought centered in philosophy. Thus, at the same time that most sociologists have turned their back on the philosophical enterprise, the most creative among them have actively drawn on philosophical ideas, mining them for their epistemological, ontological, normative, and action-theoretical insights and potential. The chapter focuses on two philosophical movements with a deep and enduring impact on American sociology: pragmatism and phenomenology. The historical contexts out of which these movements emerged are radically different, as is the nature of the philosophical programs they advanced. But they share an intellectual characteristic that made them particularly susceptible to sociological appropriation at key junctures: a concern to understand the distinctive nature of human subjectivity, and an insistence that this understanding preserve the distinction between humans as subjects and humans as objects, that is, the distinction between an image of the human being as an active creature who responds creatively to her environment using the cognitive tools and habits she is endowed with by her culture, and the image of a mere entity pushed along by larger forces, her every action predetermined.

Keywords: philosophy; sociologists; pragmatism; phenomenology; human subjectivity; human beings; creativity

Chapter.  18377 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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