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Jens Christian Hermansen

Jens Christian Hermansen

Ekstern lektor

Øster Farimagsgade 5, Postboks 2099

1014 København K

    Primære forskningsområder

    Wittgenstein og samfundsvidenskaberne (især sociologi)
    Social teori og metodologi
    Viden, normativitet, praksis, konstruktivisme/realisme, naturalisme, sprog

    Aktuel forskning


    Preliminary PhD Project Plan                                                                 

    Title: Essays on theory and method in the social sciences: a Wittgensteinian approach

    Introduction

    Whereas the philosophical research on the late Wittgenstein has developed considerably during the last 15-20 years, the reception of Wittgenstein in the social sciences continuously is heavily influenced by material written back in the late 1950ies, especially the writings of Peter Winch. However, during the last especially 5-10 years scholars from different disciplines such as sociology, political science, cultural theory and science- and technology studies have showed renewed interest in (post-)Wittgensteinian (and Winchian) thought. The PhD project in different ways introduces to, discusses and critically assesses the historical reception, influence and critique of Wittgenstein (and Winch) in the social sciences, especially in sociology. The project discusses similarities, developments and discontinuities, in particular between the more recent literature and the conventional (primarily Winchian) reception of Wittgenstein. In the light of new uses of Wittgenstein and, in particular, recent philosophical research on Wittgenstein (that assists but also calls into question the general reception of Wittgenstein in the social sciences), the project argues for the relevance of rediscovering Wittgenstein and post-Wittgensteinian philosophy in the social sciences.

    The PhD project consists of 4 or 5 essays. These are as follows:

    1. On the use and critique of Wittgenstein in the social sciences

    Whereas the philosophical research on Wittgenstein has developed considerably during the last 15-20 years, the reception of Wittgenstein in the social sciences continuously is heavily influenced by material written back in the late 1950ies, especially the writings of Peter Winch. However, during the last especially 5-10 years scholars from different areas such as sociology, political science, cultural theory and science- and technology studies have showed renewed interest in Wittgensteinian (and Winchian) thought. The paper provides a general (and critical) survey of the historical reception, influence and critique of Wittgenstein (and Winch) in the social sciences, especially in sociology. The paper discusses similarities, developments and discontinuities, in particular between the more recent literature and the conventional (primarily Winchian) reception of Wittgenstein. In the light of new uses of Wittgenstein and, in particular, recent philosophical research on Wittgenstein (that assists but also calls into question the general reception of Wittgenstein in the social sciences), the paper argues for the relevance of rediscovering Wittgenstein in the social sciences.

    2. Wittgenstein and the linguistic turn in social theory

    The paper discusses the ‘linguistic turn' in social theory. Especially, the paper explores the relation to Wittgenstein. The aim is two-fold. First, the paper shows that the linguistic turn in social theory comprises (at least) 3 turns. These are: (a) the linguistic turn ‘proper' (the idea that language plays a pivotal role in social life), (b) the practical turn (the idea that language is a practical activity, a language-in-use), and (c) the communitarian or social constructionist turn (the idea that the social is a construction of the activities of linguistic communities). The social theories that (explicitly of implicitly) ascribe to the linguistic turn often ascribe to the entire package, although in different ways. Second, the paper critically assesses the linguistic turn in social theory. This is done on the basis of partly critique by theorists such as Jürgen Habermas and Roy Bhaskar, partly recent research in the philosophy of language, especially Wittgenstein. The paper argues for the importance of a linguistic turn in social theory but in a re-conceptualised way that questions especially social constructionism.

    3. Conceptual analysis - a Wittgensteinian approach to theorizing in the social sciences

    The paper presents an outline of a Wittgensteinian approach to theorizing in the social sciences. The starting point is Peter Winch' concept of ‘conceptual analysis' (inspired by the late Wittgenstein's concept of ‘grammatical investigation') and the extensive critique, especially prevalent in sociology, that resulted from Winch' methodological studies. In the light of recent philosophical research on Wittgenstein, the paper argues that Wittgensteinian social science need not (as is often argued in the literature on Wittgenstein) succumb to a kind of ‘common-sense thinking', that is, a flat (or anti-theoretical) and descriptive kind of research. The paper presents an outline of a Wittgensteinian methodology that questions not only the Winchian model but also challenges the integrative or ‘both/and' approaches that dominate the social sciences today. The paper discusses different perspectives of a (re-assessed) Wittgensteinian approach to theorizing, in terms of theorizing on different ‘levels', the use of empirical (qualitative and/or quantitative) data etc.

    4. The bearings of social inquiry on the methods of everyday life - a Wittgensteinian perspective

    From a perspective highly influenced by Wittgenstein and post-Wittgensteinian philosophy the paper discusses different aspects of the bearings of social inquiry on the methods of everyday life. In particular, the paper throws light on 3 important aspects. First, the paper argues that the validity of social enquiry depends on (a previous understanding of) the methods lay actors employ in everyday practices (as they understand, describe, criticise, infer, explain etc.). Social studies that neglect to acknowledge this end up in various distorted or one-sided pictures (I discuss different examples of such pictures). Second, the paper argues that although we should be cautious when theorizing about methods, everyday methods are nevertheless corrigible. They can be ‘theoretically' perfected, extended, formalized, challenged or criticised, even discharged (as lay actors themselves often do). Third, the paper argues that the theoretical ‘handling' of everyday methods itself is a (continuation of everyday) practice. The practical nature of methodology (as opposed to methodology as a set of hypotheses or abstract rules) imposes severe constraints on ‘transposing' methods of everyday life into technical guidelines for social enquiry.

    5. A social theory of (second) nature

    The paper argues for a ‘natural turn' in social theory, discusses typical objections to (and advantages of) naturalistic approaches. The paper surveys the role different conceptualisations of nature play (if any) in theories on such social things as work, capitalism, gender, modernity, science, language and social practice. What are typical concepts of nature in social theories and how can we understand such concepts in relationship to broader social, scientific and technical changes, especially the process of secularization and the development of a scientific world view? The paper argues that the conceptions of nature in social theory in important respects constitute a problem for social theory and method. On the basis of a re-conceptualised concept of nature (inspired by newer research in the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of language) the paper argues for a naturalist ‘paradigm shift'. The paper discusses the possibilities and benefits for social theorizing and analysis of re-conceptualising the social (or rather: the social as embedded in practice) as a part, or as a continuation, of the natural world.

    ID: 3141147

    127477