Published: Gruppen als Akteure

An essay of mine on group agency has been published on Soziopolis. Soziopolis is a platform for sociologists and other social scientists maintained by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. My essay tries to convey the relevant implications of theories of groups agency, especially the proposal by List and Pettit, for the social sciences.

The essay is in German, which limits its readership on the one hand, but on the other hand the analytic debate on group agency has received less attention there so far. I hope I can contribute to changing this.

The first paragraph:

Die Beschäftigung mit Fragen des Gruppenhandelns – etwa danach, ob Organisationen zielorientiert handeln, Klassen genuine gesellschaftliche Akteure sind oder Staaten Handlungsfähigkeit besitzen – hat in der Soziologie eine lange Tradition. Dabei ist jedoch umstritten, ob Gruppen als irreduzible Akteure tatsächlich dasselbe Gewicht für soziologische Erklärungen haben wie Individuen, insbesondere, ob Gruppen dieselbe irreduzible kausale Rolle einnehmen. Können die Handlungen von Gruppen also Tatsachen kausal erklären, ohne dass eine individualistische Reduktion auch nur im Prinzip möglich wäre?

More here.

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Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eleven

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter eleven.

Are Dollars Memes? Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eleven”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Ten

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter ten.

On page 212 Professor Dennett suggests that a memetic theory of cultural evolution might provide the mechanism that Durkheimian functionalism lacked. I find the claim intriguing, yet dubious for the following reason: At least as far as I am familiar with sociological functionalism the function of social practices, traditions and so forth is relative to the whole society. Memes might also be functional e.g. a word functions very well to express a certain issue and therefore may be operated upon by natural selection. But how could a meme be functional relative to the whole society? How would this functionality lead to the meme being selected for?

Until this question is answered, I do not see Professor Dennett’s account of cultural evolution helping Durkheimian functionalism.

UPDATE (9. 3. 2017)

I have received confirmation from Professor Dennett that he in fact asserts that memes can functional relative to the whole society. Furthermore, I have been pointed to chapters 5-8 of Breaking the Spell.

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Nine

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergradute students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter of his recent From Bacteria to Bach and Back. This time I comment on chapter nine.

I took some issue with Professor Dennett calling words minimal agents and comparing them to viruses (p. 189). Allow me to explain what I take to be the decisive difference. Words do not have a structure of functionally differentiated parts. They are not organisms in this sense of the term. They do not have any perceptual organs, nor any parts exhibiting a mechanism analogous to perception. Viruses have at least some functionally differentiated parts. The letter a in the word apple has no corollary differentiated function. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Nine”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eight

This post presents a question about chapter 8 of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. For more information see this post.

 

On pages 161-162 Professor Dennett expresses his regret for certain formulations he used for presenting his position. The position in question is homuncular functionalism and Professor Dennett has come to regret the use of the terms “committee” and “machine” in presenting it. I can see, why he finds the term “committe” misleading. He is unhappy with the “cooperative bureaucracy” suggested by it. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eight”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Six

I have recently started reading Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. The area of research covered in this book is mostly foreign territory, but I am currently on a visit to Tufts and did not want to miss the opportunity to learn from one of its best known thinkers. I even used the opportunity to contribute comments on the book to an online forum for Tufts students. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Six”

Register for SNOW

CfR for a workshop I help organising.

 

Call for Registration!

Social Norms and Obligation Workshop
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

Tuesday 18th October 2016

We cordially invite registration for the Social Norms and Obligation Workshop (SNOW). The workshop will be held at the University of Sheffield on Tuesday 18th October 2016.

What are social norms? How, if at all, do social norms relate to obligations? How do social norms differ from other norms such as moral, prudential, and logical norms? Do linguistic norms count as social norms? If social norms are obligating, are different social norms obligating in different ways? Who are the subjects addressed by social norms?

Keynote: Ulrike Heuer (University of Leeds) – Title tbc.
Invited paper: Brittany French (Simon Fraser University) – ‘Two Kinds of Wronging’
Invited paper: Albert Newen (Ruhr Universitat Bochum) – ‘Whom to blame and whom to praise. A cross-cultural pilot study to prove the influence of social hierarchy for attribution of moral evaluations’
Invited paper: Ingrid Salvatore (University of Salerno) – ‘What is pluralism: Institutions, obligations, individuals’
Keynote: Anandi Hattiangadi (University of Stockholm) – ‘Logical disagreement’

Please write to Jack Warman at snowsheffield@gmail.com to register your attendance no later than the Friday 7th October. Please include your preferred name, your institutional affiliation, and your dietary preferences. Lunch will be provided. There is a fee of £15 for the workshop dinner. Please indicate whether you will be joining us for dinner.