Sociology of knowledge – Verbete da “The Encyclopedia of Philosophy” – Paul Edward, Editor in Chief. vol VII. Collier Macmillan Publishers, London.
Social origin of ideas. While there is general agreement among
.scholars in the field that social relationships provide the key to the
understanding of the genesis of ideas, there are also far-reaching
disagreements among several distinct schools, within which there are again
individual differences. An attempt will be made here only to characterize the
three most important basic attitudes.
school. A materialist group
of writers emphasizes that human beings are creatures of nature before they
are creatures of society and tends to see human beings as dominated by certain
genetic drives, with decisive consequences for their emergent mentalities.
Nietzsche, for instance, ascribed to man an elementary will to power; if this
will is frustrated by a barrier, self-consolatory ideas are apt to appear. Christianity is one such idea; it is essentially a philosophy of “soul
graper", a "slave morality." It assures the defeated that they are really superior
to those who have defeated them.
Pareto’s Trattato di sociologia generate is the most elaborate statement
of this position. According to Pareto, men act first and think of reasons for
their action only afterward. These reasons he calls "derivations" because
they are derived from, or secondary to, the "residues," or quasi
instincts, which in fact determine human modes of conduct and, through them,
human modes of thought as well. This school continued the line initiated by the
rationalists. Theirs is a doctrine of ideologies which devalues thought while
it accounts for its formation.
school A second group of
writers asserts that every society has to come to some decision about the Absolute
and that this decision will act as a basic premise that determines the content
of the culture. Juan Donoso Cortes tried to explain the classical Greek world
view as the product of heathen preconceptions about the Absolute, and the
medieval world view as the product of Christian-Catholic preconceptions. An
ambitious presentation of this theory is Pitirim Sorokin s Social and
Cultural Dynamics. He distinguishes three basic metaphysics that,
prevailing in given societies, color all their thinking. If a realm beyond
space and time is posited as the Absolute, as in ancient India, an
"ideational" mentality will spring up; if the realm inside space and
time is posited as the Absolute, as in the modern West, a "sensate"
mentality will come into being; and if, finally, reality is ascribed both to
the here and now and to the beyond, as in the high Middle Ages, an
"idealistic" mentality will be the result. Sorokin’s doctrine is
itself idealistic in character and finds its ultimate inspiration in a
of knowledge. The third
group of writers occupies the middle ground. These writers do not go beyond
the human sphere but divide it into a primary and conditioning half and a
secondary and conditioned one. There is, however, great diversity of opinion
over exactly which social facts should be regarded as conditioning thought.
Marx, for instance, held that relations of production, which themselves
reflect still more basic property relations, were primary, but many other
factors, such as power relations, have been singled out by other thi nkers.
Still others regard the social constitution as a whole as the substructure of
knowledge, thought, and culture. A typical representative of this numerous
group is W. G. Sumner. In his classic Folkways, he suggested that
wherever men try to live together, they develop mutual adjustments which harden
into a set of customs, supported and secured by social sanctions, which
permanently coordinate and control their conduct. These habits of action have
as their concomitants habits of the mind, a generalized ethos that permeates
the mental life of the society concerned. This theory can be sharpened by
formulating it in axiological terms. A society is a society because, and
insofar as, it is attuned to certain selected and hierarchically ordered
values. These values determine what lines of endeavor will be pursued both in
practice and in theory.
third group represents the sociology of knowledge in the narrower and proper
sense of the word. The theory just summed
up has received some empirical
confirmation through the discovery that societies do gain mental consistency
to the degree-that they achieve better human coordination and integration.
Relation of a
society to ideas expressed in it. The problem next in importance to the
identification of the substructure of knowledge is the explanation of its
relation to the superstructure. Here again there are three schools which may,
but do not always, correspond to those already discussed. One tendency is