The propaedeutic delusion: what can 'ethogenic science' add to our pre-theoretic understanding of 'loss of dignity, humiliation and expressive failure'?

History of the Human Sciences 13 (1):108-123 (2000)
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Abstract

This article assembles reasons for holding that the propaedeutic rationale for much of the discourse produced by ‘ethogenic science’ is inadequate. One reason is that the interactional principles that are the pretext for assembling the situational vignettes, which are the staple of ethogenics, are truisms and do not require documentation. Our familiarity with the risks and rewards of social life is already considerable and it is not clear how, or to what end, ethogenic science can augment them. Moreover ethogenic theorists do not explain how a discipline that eschews experiment and causal inquiry can transcend the understanding of the subject and how, if it does not, it can do more than provide perspicuous views of the social facts and practices already known, or at least within reach of unspecialized observation. The programme of uncovering the mechanisms by which we register and evince our social standing is not one of which we are given a coherent account and is, in any case, not to be served by multiplying examples of how respect and contempt are merited or meted out. It is suggested that the need such discourse surreptiously meets is that of an autonomous craving for Wittgensteinian Übersichten - overviews - of the vicissitudes of social existence

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References found in this work

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