About this topic

The Philosophy of Sociology refers to the use of philosophical thought to critique or clarify the discipline of sociology in either its academic form or intellectual content. With regards to the academic form of sociology, there is philosophical questioning of (1) the coherence of a discipline bound by a theory of society and its proper delineation from other historically related fields (e.g. economics, anthropology); (2) applications of the demarcation problem in philosophy of science — whether sociology yields scientific knowledge, or whether it should be oriented towards doing so. With regards to the intellectual content of sociology, various lines of philosophical thought (e.g. epistemological, ontological, ethical) are used in the construction, interpretation, and modification of conceptual, theoretical, and methodological frameworks central to sociology. Predominant issues of concern among philosophers who assess the content of sociology include, thematically, notions of modernity, culture, collective-intentionality, social structures and practices, and forms of social reasoning. The philosophical study of sociology is reciprocated by and closely linked with the sociological study of a central philosophical concept, knowledge. Here sociologists address the impact of social relations, processes, and institutions on knowledge, both in the generic sense ('Sociology of Knowledge') and in the scientific sense ('Sociology of Science'). Understanding social influences on knowledge in either of these senses may generally enrich understanding of knowledge-claims or more specifically inform solutions to problems of delineation and demarcation.

Key works Frisby & Sayer 1986 reviews the dependence of sociology's development on theories of society while Urry 2000 argues for the discipline to move beyond such dependence. Gieryn 1983 argues that the boundaries of scientific status for disciplines (incl. sociology) are fluid while Collins 1989 defends sociological knowledge as a candidate for science. Philosophical inquiry into core sociological concepts is ubiquitous; systematic works worth highlighting are Sewell Jr 2005 (pp. 152-174) on culture, Reich 2010 on intersubjectivity, and Turner 1990 on modernity and post-modernity. 
Introductions Turner's introduction to Turner & Risjord 2006 (pp. 3-69)  illustrates some main ways sociology has been implicated in philosophical discussion from the time of its founding. For introductory analysis of important concepts in sociology, I recommend relevant installments of the Routledge 'Key ideas in Sociology' series (e.g. Jenkins 2014 on social identity,  Field 2017 on social capital, or Jenks 2005 on culture).
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  1. Pierpaolo Donati, Relational Sociology: A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences. [REVIEW]Barry Vaughan - 2012 - Journal of Critical Realism 11 (2):255-261.
  2. The “Public” And “its” Ignorance: Reply To Wisniewski And Fenster.Bret Chandler - 2010 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 22 (1):85-96.
    In their debate about whether Cultural Studies is helpful for understanding public ignorance, Chris Wisniewski and Mark Fenster view ignorance as inevitably plaguing the public in mass democratic society; and they see “the public” as an abstract entity. However, Pierre Bourdieu's sociology rightly contests these positions. A thorough investigation of the concrete social conditions of political ignorance reveals that ignorance is unevenly dispersed throughout social space and that its relevance depends on social position, such as that of the advantaged and (...)
  3. The Sociology of Justice.Alfonso J. Damico - 1982 - Political Theory 10 (3):409-433.
  4. The Organized Freedom of Love: An Interview with Eva Illouz.Emanuele Coccia & Barbara Carnevali - 2014 - Diogenes 61 (1):84-88.
  5. The State, Penality and Human Insecurity: The Sociological Insights of Loic Wacquant.S. Davies - 2014 - Thesis Eleven 122 (1):97-106.
  6. Raymond Boudon: A Life in Sociology.M. Cherkaoui & P. Hamilton (eds.) - 2009 - Bardwell Press.
  7. EIBLEMAN'S The Institutions of Society. [REVIEW]Cobb Cobb - 1958 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 19:263.
  8. Introduction to Pareto: His Sociology.Charles P. Curtis - 1935 - The Monist 45:156.
  9. Where Did the New Economic Sociology Come From?Bernard Convert & Johan Heilbron - 2007 - Theory and Society 36 (1):31-54.
  10. Bourdieu and the Media: The Promise and Limits of Field Theory. [REVIEW]Nick Couldry - 2007 - Theory and Society 36 (2):209-213.
  11. For a Sociological Philosophy.Randall Collins - 1988 - Theory and Society 17 (5):669-702.
  12. From Industrial Democracy to Professional Adjustment.StevenR Cohen - 1983 - Theory and Society 12 (1):47-67.
  13. Analysing Institutional Effects in Activity Theory: First Steps in the Development of a Language of Description.Harry Daniels - 2006 - Outlines. Critical Practice Studies 8 (2):43-58.
    This paper explores the benefits that might arise from an appropriate fusion of the version of Activity Theory being developed by Yrjo Engestrom and the sociology of the late Basil Bernstein. It explores the common roots of the two traditions and on the basis of empirical work carried out in British special schools formulates an approach to the development of a language of description which would extend the analytical power of Activity Theory.
  14. Nicos Mouzelis's Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong?: Diagnoses and Remedies.Charles Crothers - 1999 - Theoria 46 (94):108-122.
  15. The Individualism-Holism Problem in Sociological Research.Olof Dahlbäck - 1998 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 28 (3):237–272.
    This paper treats the problem of which type of units, individuals or whole societies, should be used when explaining societal phenomena. It is argued that factors operating at the individual level in principle form societies, and that societal phenomena therefore should ideally be explained at this level. However, it is also argued that many societal phenomena cannot in practice be analyzed at the individual level in a clear and strict way, but rather must be analyzed holistically, because it is not (...)
  16. The Sociological Approach to Ethics.Gerard J. Dalcourt - 1973 - Metaphilosophy 4 (4):298–320.
  17. Social Theory and Social Problems.Arthur K. Davis - 1957 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 18 (2):190-208.
Philosophy of Sociology, Misc
  1. Wyobraźnia ontologiczna. Filozoficzna (re)konstrukcja fronetycznych nauk społecznych.Andrzej W. Nowak - 2016 - Warszawa, Poznań: Adam Mickiewicz Press, Instytut Badań Literackich PAN.
  2. Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century: Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization-- Articles and Reviews 2006-2017 2nd Edition Feb 2018.Michael Starks - 2016 - Las Vegas, USA: Reality Press.
    This collection of articles was written over the last 10 years and edited to bring them up to date (2019). All the articles are about human behavior (as are all articles by anyone about anything), and so about the limitations of having a recent monkey ancestry (8 million years or much less depending on viewpoint) and manifest words and deeds within the framework of our innate psychology as presented in the table of intentionality. As famous evolutionist Richard Leakey says, it (...)
  3. Looping Kinds and Social Mechanisms.Jaakko Kuorikoski & Samuli Reijula - 2012 - Sociological Theory 30 (3):187-205.
    Human behavior is not always independent of the ways in which humans are scientifically classified. That there are looping effects of human kinds has been used as an argument for the methodological separation of the natural and the human sciences and to justify social constructionist claims. We suggest that these arguments rely on false presuppositions and present a mechanisms-based account of looping that provides a better way to understand the phenomenon and its theoretical and philosophical implications.
  4. Coleman’s Boat Revisited: Causal Sequences and the Micro-Macro Link.Gustav Ramström - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (4):368-391.
    This article argues that empirical social scientists can be freed from having to account for “micro-to-macro transitions.” The article shows, in opposition to the (still) dominant perspective based on Coleman’s macro-micro-macro model, that no micro-macro transitions or mechanisms connect the individual level to the macro level in empirical social science. Rather, when considering that social macro entities and properties are micro manifest rather than macro manifest, it becomes clear that the micro-macro move in empirical social science is purely conceptual or (...)
  5. The Structure of Causal Chains.Neil Gross - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (4):343-367.
    Sociologists are increasingly attentive to the mechanisms responsible for cause-and-effect relationships in the social world. But an aspect of mechanistic causality has not been sufficiently considered. It is well recognized that most phenomena of interest to social science result from multiple mechanisms operating in sequence. However, causal chains—sequentially linked mechanisms and their enabling background conditions—vary not just substantively, by the kind of causal work they do, but also structurally, by their formal properties. In this article, the author examines the nature (...)
  6. Against Teleology in the Study of Race: Toward the Abolition of the Progress Paradigm.Louise Seamster & Victor Ray - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (4):315-342.
    We argue that claims of racial progress rest upon untenable teleological assumptions founded in Enlightenment discourse. We examine the theoretical and methodological focus on progress and its historical roots. We argue research should examine the concrete mechanisms that produce racial stability and change, and we offer three alternative frameworks for interpreting longitudinal racial data and phenomena. The first sees racism as a “fundamental cause,” arguing that race remains a “master category” of social differentiation. The second builds on Glenn’s “settler colonialism (...)
  7. Du Bois’ Democratic Defence of the Value Free Ideal.Liam Bright - 2018 - Synthese 195 (5):2227-2245.
    Philosophers of science debate the proper role of non-epistemic value judgements in scientific reasoning. Many modern authors oppose the value free ideal, claiming that we should not even try to get scientists to eliminate all such non-epistemic value judgements from their reasoning. W. E. B. Du Bois, on the other hand, has a defence of the value free ideal in science that is rooted in a conception of the proper place of science in a democracy. In particular, Du Bois argues (...)
  8. The Emergence of Statistical Objectivity: Changing Ideas of Epistemic Vice and Virtue in Science.Jeremy Freese & David Peterson - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (3):289-313.
    The meaning of objectivity in any specific setting reflects historically situated understandings of both science and self. Recently, various scientific fields have confronted growing mistrust about the replicability of findings, and statistical techniques have been deployed to articulate a “crisis of false positives.” In response, epistemic activists have invoked a decidedly economic understanding of scientists’ selves. This has prompted a scientific social movement of proposed reforms, including regulating disclosure of “backstage” research details and enhancing incentives for replication. We theorize that (...)
  9. Schemas and Frames.Michael Lee Wood, Dustin S. Stoltz, Justin Van Ness & Marshall A. Taylor - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (3):244-261.
    A perennial concern in frame analysis is explaining how frames structure perception and persuade audiences. In this article, we suggest that the distinction between personal culture and public culture offers a productive way forward. We propose an approach centered on an analytic contrast between schemas, which we define as a form of personal culture, and frames, which we define as a form of public culture. We develop an “evocation model” of the structure and function of frames. In the model, frames (...)
  10. A Guiding Framework for Micro-Social Doxastic-Intentional Dynamics.Jonathan Mize - manuscript
    Analytical sociology has provided the social sciences with a fresh, new perspective. But there are still many lacunae left to fill within sociological thought. In this paper I will address one of these gaps; I believe that sociology is missing a framework with which to adequately address the intersubjective, intentional nature of micro-social dynamics. I will introduce a rough outline of a formal system of intentionality—as it pertains to the micro-social—that observes the overall methodology and principles of analytical sociology. Moreover, (...)
  11. The Structure of Comparison in the Study of Revolution.Colin J. Beck - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (2):134-161.
    The social scientific study of revolution has been deviled by a lack of progress in recent years, divided between competing views on the universality of patterns in revolution. This study examines the origins of these epistemologies. Drawing on an insight that different modes of comparison yield different types of knowledge, I argue that the network structure of how cases are compared constrains or enables the development of a field’s theoretical sensibilities. Analysis of comparative studies of revolution published from 1970 to (...)
  12. Insurgencies as Networks of Event Orderings.Ronald L. Breiger & Julia Grace Smith - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (2):201-209.
    Progress in theorizing networks and events requires formulating a greater diversity of networks and, in particular, enabling network analysis to exploit relations between events and the attributes, actions, and variables that characterize them. We advance this line of inquiry in dialogue with a recent approach to the systematic study of violent conflicts among state actors and groups of people who refuse to accept their governments’ power. One productive way to analyze an insurgency is to view it as a network of (...)
  13. How Group Events Can Shape Network Processes.Emily Erikson - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (2):187-193.
    Social network analysis has trouble distinguishing between group processes in which several people interact concurrently and sequentially unfolding dyadic interactions. This article suggests that there are substantial differences between these two types of interactions and that the concept of events can help distinguish between the two. Examples drawn from economic sociology and collective action demonstrate the different effects that may result from group events versus aggregated dyadic interactions. -/- .
  14. Getting Off the Cartesian Clothesline.John Levi Martin - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (2):194-200.
    Most attempts to examine the relation between networks and events begin with what we should question—that it invariably helps us to imagine that our units fall neatly into “events” that occupy distinct points in Cartesian time. I show that the core insights that inspired contemporary network analysis come from a structuralist conception which is both far more theoretically generative than the Cartesian vision and does less violence to the nature of the sorts of empirical material that we usually have before (...)
  15. Between Situations: Anticipation, Rhythms, and the Theory of Interaction.Iddo Tavory - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (2):117-133.
    This article pushes interactionist sociology forward. It does so by drawing out the implications of a simple idea, that to understand the situation—the mise en scene of interactionist theory—we must understand it in relation not only to past-induced habits of thought and action but to future situations anticipated in interaction. Focusing especially on the rhythmic nature of situations, the paper then argues that such a recalibration both unsettles core tenets of interactionism and helps solve some problems in the sociology of (...)
  16. Zur Emergenz des Sozialen bei Niklas Luhmann.Simon Lohse - 2011 - Zeitschrift für Soziologie 40:190-207.
    Der Artikel diskutiert Niklas Luhmanns Konzeption von Kommunikation als emergentem Phänomen. Erstens soll gezeigt werden, dass sich Luhmann, entgegen jüngster Einwände, in der Tat als sozialer Emergentist rekonstruieren und als solcher in die aktuelle Debatte um Reduktion und Emergenz des Sozialen einordnen lässt. Zweitens soll dadurch Licht auf die generellen Probleme und Voraussetzungen einer emergentistischen Soziologie geworfen werden. Um diese Ziele zu erreichen, wird zunächst geklärt, welche Positionen sich in der Soziologie grundsätzlich gegenüber stehen und auf welcher Grundlage Luhmann als (...)
  17. Die Multiparadigmatik der Soziologie als Erklärungsgegenstand einer integrierten Wissenschaftsforschung.Simon Lohse - 2017 - Zeitschrift Für Theoretische Soziologie 6 (2):237-246.
    Mein Kommentar wird sich aus einer Meta-Perspektive mit drei Fragen und gängigen Antworten auf diese beschäftigen. (1) Warum ist die Soziologie multiparadigmatisch? (2) Wie ist das zu bewerten? (3) Was tun? Im Anschluss werde ich den soziologieinternen Antwortvorschlägen auf diese Fragen – insbesondere auf die erste Frage – das grundlegende Problem der ungenügenden Evidenzbasis diagnostizieren, welches auch auf den Beitrag von Schülein durchschlägt, sich allerdings durch die kritische Erforschung der multiparadigmatischen Verfasstheit der Soziologie mittels einer integrierten Wissenschaftsforschung angehen ließe. Der (...)
  18. Europe as a Political Society: Emile Durkheim, the Federalist Principle and the Ideal of a Cosmopolitan Justice.Francesco Callegaro & Nicola Marcucci - 2018 - Constellations 25 (4):1-14.
  19. Going Out: A Sociology of Public Outings.Michael DeLand & David Trouille - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (1):27-47.
    In this article we propose a framework for description and analysis of public life by treating “outings” as a unit of sociological analysis. Studying outings requires bracketing a concern with bounded places and isolated encounters. Instead, descriptions of outings track people as they organize trips “out,” including their preparations, turning points, and post hoc reflections. We emphasize how people understand and contextualize their time in public by linking situated moments of public life to the outing’s unfolding trajectory and to people’s (...)
  20. The Love of Neuroscience: A Sociological Account.Gabriel Abend - 2018 - Sociological Theory 36 (1):88-116.
    I make a contribution to the sociology of epistemologies by examining the neuroscience literature on love from 2000 to 2016. I find that researchers make consequential assumptions concerning the production or generation of love, its temporality, its individual character, and appropriate control conditions. Next, I consider how to account for these assumptions’ being common in the literature. More generally, I’m interested in the ways in which epistemic communities construe, conceive of, and publicly represent and work with their objects of inquiry—and (...)
  21. The Role of Imagination in Social Scientific Discovery: Why Machine Discoverers Will Need Imagination Algorithms.Michael T. Stuart - forthcoming - In Mark Addis, Fernand Gobet & Peter Sozou (eds.), Scientific Discovery in the Social Sciences. Springer.
    When philosophers discuss the possibility of machines making scientific discoveries, they typically focus on discoveries in physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics. Observing the rapid increase of computer-use in science, however, it becomes natural to ask whether there are any scientific domains out of reach for machine discovery. For example, could machines also make discoveries in qualitative social science? Is there something about humans that makes us uniquely suited to studying humans? Is there something about machines that would bar them from (...)
  22. An Evolutionary Psychology Model of Ego, Risk, and Cognitive Dissonance.Baruch Feldman - manuscript
    I propose a novel model of the human ego (which I define as the tendency to measure one’s value based on extrinsic success rather than intrinsic aptitude or ability). I further propose the conjecture that ego so defined both is a non-adaptive by-product of evolutionary pressures, and has some evolutionary value as an adaptation (protecting self-interest). I explore ramifications of this model, including how it mediates individuals’ reactions to perceived and actual limits of their power, their ability to cope with (...)
  23. Enchanting Self-Discipline: Methodical Reflexivity and the Search for the Supernatural in Charismatic Christian Testimonial Practice.Graham Hill - 2017 - Sociological Theory 35 (4):288-311.
    Social science has long operated under the assumption that enchantment, seeking out this-worldly manifestations of the supernatural, impedes the cultivation of self-discipline. How, then, to account for a Christian brotherhood whose testimonial practice is at once enchanting and disciplining of the self? In this article, I define self-discipline in terms of its distinctly reflexive (self-aimed and self-governed) and methodical (systematic and auto-regenerative) character, and in doing so, I disentangle the concept from rational calculation as one (among other possible) means of (...)
  24. Placing Collaborative Circles in Strategic Action Fields: Explaining Differences Between Highly Creative Groups.John N. Parker & Ugo Corte - 2017 - Sociological Theory 35 (4):261-287.
    Collaborative circles theory explains how innovative small groups develop and win acceptance of their creative work but assumes a single type of circle and would benefit from considering how circles are affected by the strategic action fields in which they operate. We do so by synthesizing research on art, science, philosophy, and social movements to identify five field characteristics that influence circles and their creative potentials (i.e., attention space, consensus, social control, resources, and organizational and geographical contexts). We then use (...)
  25. Modeling Economic Systems as Locally-Constructive Sequential Games.Leigh Tesfatsion - 2017 - Journal of Economic Methodology 24 (4):1-26.
    Real-world economies are open-ended dynamic systems consisting of heterogeneous interacting participants. Human participants are decision-makers who strategically take into account the past actions and potential future actions of other participants. All participants are forced to be locally constructive, meaning their actions at any given time must be based on their local states; and participant actions at any given time affect future local states. Taken together, these essential properties imply real-world economies are locally-constructive sequential games. This paper discusses a modeling approach, (...)
  26. Analytical Sociology and Agent-Based Modeling: Is Generative Sufficiency Sufficient?Francisco J. León-Medina - 2017 - Sociological Theory 35 (3):157-178.
    Building mechanisms-based, black box–free explanations is the main goal of analytical sociology. In this article, I offer some reasons to question whether some of the conceptual and methodological developments of the analytical community really serve this goal. Specifically, I argue that grounding our computer modeling practices in the current definition of mechanisms posits a serious risk of defining an ideal-typical research path that neglects the role that the understanding of the generative process must have for a black box–free explanation to (...)
  27. Putting the World in Orders: Plurality in Organizational Evaluation.Christof Brandtner - 2017 - Sociological Theory 35 (3):200-227.
    Sociologists have shown that external evaluation stimulates convergent organizational behavior, yet many evaluative practices are superficial or susceptible to manipulation. When does external evaluation lead to convergence in organizational fields? Organizations regularly and increasingly experience fragmented social orders based on orthogonal notions of value, or so-called plurality. I propose that the plurality of evaluative landscapes, that is, the universe of rankings, ratings, and awards in an organizational field, compromises the potential homogenizing influence of any single evaluative practice. Plurality in the (...)
  28. Über Zivilisationen und die Goldenen Regeln.Reinhard Matern - 2017 - Duisburg: AutorenVerlag Matern.
    Die Erörterung über Zivilisationen und die Goldenen Regeln ist zentral ein sprachliches Projekt, das dazu dienen soll, eine angemessene Bedeutung und mittels dieser einen möglichen Bezug zu finden. Reinhard Matern sucht und entwickelt ein Kriterium, um zivilisierte von unzivilisierten Gesellschaften zu differenzieren und nutzt dabei die weltweit entstandenen Goldenen Regeln, die er im Plural anführt, weil sich die überlieferten Formulierungen konkret unterscheiden. Es sind jedoch nicht die Unterschiede, sondern es ist das Gemeinsame, das ihn auf dem Weg zu einem allgemeinen (...)
  29. The New Politics of Community.Patricia Hill Collins - 2010 - American Sociological Review 75 (1):7-30.
    Ideas about community are especially prominent in late-twentieth-century U.S. society. The term community resonates throughout social policy, scholarship, popular culture, and every day social interactions. It holds significance for different populations with competing political agendas (e.g., political groups of the right and the left invoke ideas of community yet have very different ideas in mind). No longer seen as naturally occurring, apolitical spaces to which one retreats to escape the pressures of modern life, communities of all sorts now constitute sites (...)
  30. Social Capital.John Field - 2017 - New York, NY: Routledge.
    The term ‘social capital’ is a way of defining the intangible resources of community, shared values and trust upon which we draw in daily life. It has achieved considerable international currency across the social sciences through the very different work of Pierre Bourdieu in France and James Coleman and Robert Putnam in the United States, and has been widely taken up within politics and sociology as an explanation for the decline in social cohesion and community values in western societies. It (...)
  31. Social Identity.Richard Jenkins - 2014 - Hoboken, NJ: Routledge.
    Social Identity explains how identification, seen as a social process, works: individually, interactionally and institutionally. Building on the international success of previous editions, this fourth edition offers a concise, comprehensive and readable critical introduction to social science theories of identity for advanced undergraduates and postgraduates. All the chapters have been updated, and extra new material has been added where relevant, integrating the most recent critical publications in the field.
  32. Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory.Jan E. Stets & Peter J. Burke - 2000 - Social Psychology Quarterly 63 (3):224-237.
    In social psychology, we need to establish a general theory of the self, which can attend to both macro and micro processes, and which avoids the redundancies of separate theories on different aspects of the self. For this purpose, we present core components of identity theory and social identity theory and argue that although differences exist between the two theories, they are more differences in emphasis than in kind, and that linking the two theories can establish a more fully integrated (...)
  33. How is Society Possible?Georg Simmel - 1910 - American Journal of Sociology 16 (3):372-391.
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