Lecture 1 so 211


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  • Here are some definitions found in textbooks on sociology [You do not need to remember these!]:“Scientific study of ‘Society’” [But what is ‘society’?]“systematic study of human groups.”“scientific study of human groups”“scientific study of human behavior, social groups, and society”“systematic study of society and human behavior.”
  • Emile Durkheim said that individualism is (ironically) a social value. He described this focus on individualism as the ‘cult of the individual’.
  • 2. Structural reinterpretation: Given that only one person will receive an A, why did Mary receive it? {vs other students}
  • 2. Structural Reinterpretation: Given that one person will always be without a chair, why was person A the unlucky one? {vs. everyone else}
  • Lecture 1 so 211

    1. 1. Welcome toINTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY(SOC 211)John Bradford, Ph.D.
    2. 2. THIS WEEK’SLEARNING OBJECTIVES1. Define Sociology2. Explanations are comparisons3. Individual vs. Structural Explanations,4. Weak vs Strong Interaction
    4. 4. What is Sociology?• Definition #1: Sociology is the scientific study ofinteractions and relations among human beings (p.3).– Socius (Latin) = ‘associate’; logy (Greek) = ‘study’• Definition #2: Sociology explains the intended andunintended consequences of human influence.
    5. 5. What is Sociology?• Sociology studies the PATTERNS that peoplegenerate as they interact, influence, and relate toone another.• In short:THINK PATTERNS, NOT PEOPLE!(at least not individual people)
    7. 7. What is an explanation?• An Explanation of anything is always:1. An answer some Why-question, and2. A comparison (or contrast)– “Why is the sky blue and not orange?”– “Why does social inequality exist, instead of notexisting?”• Often this comparison is not stated explicitly– {NOTE: In English we can express this contrast in a variety ofways. For example: Why A rather than B? Why A, as opposed toB? Why A instead of, or in contrast to B? }
    8. 8. What is an explanation?Additional Vocabulary:• Explanandum (Latin) = the object ofexplanation; whatever it is you are trying toexplain• Explanans (Latin) = the explanation; the thingthat explains the explanandum.
    9. 9. What is an explanation?• Example: “Why is it 85 degrees?”• Explanandum = 85 degrees.• Possible Explanations:a) “Because we use the Fahrenheit scale instead ofCelsius.”b) “Because of our approximate distance from thesun.”c) “Because it is summer time.”d) “Because the air conditioner is not working.”
    10. 10. What is an explanation?• The explanandum is really not an object atall, but a comparison!• Example: “Why is it 85 degrees?”• Each explanation (explanans) of ‘85 degrees’addresses a different explanandum:a) 85 degrees (Fahrenheit, rather than Celsius)b) 85 degrees (on earth, as opposed to another planetor without the sun)c) 85 degrees (in summer, in comparison totemperatures in other seasons)d) 85 degrees (inside, instead of 72 in most buildings)
    11. 11. What is an explanation?• Why-Question: “Why do you rob banks?”• Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where themoney is!”
    12. 12. What is an explanation?• Intended Explanandum: The priest meant by hisquestion: ‘Why do you rob banks {vs not rob banks}?’• Reinterpreted Explanandum: ‘Why do you rob banks{vs. rob some other place}?
    13. 13. What is an explanation?• Question: “Why do ducks fly south for thewinter? “• Answer: “Because its too far to walk.”– Intended explanandum: Why do ducks fly south forthe winter {vs not migrate south for the winter}?– Reinterpreted explanandum: Why do ducks fly {vswalk} south for the winter?
    14. 14. What is an explanation?• Detective asks the suspect:“Why did the man die?”• Suspect answers: “Well, hehad to go sometime!”– Intended explanandum: Whydid the victim die now {vs. dieat some other time}?– Reinterpreted explanandum:Why did the victim die at all{vs. live forever}?
    15. 15. What is an explanation?• Making different comparisons has ledto scientific revolutions...• Physics:– pre-Newtonian: Why does an object{move/not move}?– Newton: Why does an object have a{given acceleration/ some otheracceleration}?• Biology:– Aristotle: Why does {this species/ someother species} exist?– Darwin: Why did this species{survive/become extinct}?
    16. 16. What is an explanation?• In a nutshell, “Thinking withoutcomparison is unthinkable.” (Swanson1971: 145).
    18. 18. Individual vs. Structural ExplanationsTwo Types of Explanations:1. Individual explanation– Explanandum = some characteristic or behaviorof an individual person.– Why does person A have property X?2. Structural explanation:– Explanandum = an overallpattern, distribution, or ‘structure.’– Why does this structure (pattern) of propertiesexist instead of some other?
    19. 19. Individual vs. Structural Explanations• Individual explanations often presuppose thatthe properties of individuals being explained areisolated and independent of otherindividuals, when in fact they exist only in relationto (or ‘relative to’) other individuals.• Very often what we think of as individualproperties (e.g. whether you are employed, yourGPA, etc.) are actually properties of socialrelationships.
    20. 20. Individual vs. Structural ExplanationsAdditional Vocabulary:• Structure = overall pattern (of non-independent events)• Independence = no influence; one persondoing something does not increase ordecrease the chance that someone else will.
    21. 21. Individualist Bias• This assumption of independence called theindividualist bias in your book.• Individualist bias: our tendency to think thatour own situations and circumstances areentirely a result of our own behavior.
    22. 22. Individualist BiasGRADING ON A CURVE:one’s grade is relative to the performance of othersIndividual question: Why did Mary receive an A?{vs. B, C, D, or F}• Possible answer: S/he wrote a very thoughtfulessay.
    23. 23. Individualist Bias• Question: suppose everyone wrote a thoughtfulessay, would everyone receive an A? -NO- WHYNOT?• Mary’s grade (an A) is actually not a characteristicof Mary in isolation, but a characteristic describinga relation Mary has to other students!
    24. 24. Individualist Bias• In other words, we cannot explain why Mary receives thegrade that she does without taking into account everyoneelse in the class! Focusing on individual factors alone isinadequate. Context Matters!• The question should be worded more clearly to avoidconfusion: “Why, given that only one person (will earn anA) it was this person rather than another?”
    25. 25. Individualist Bias• RULE OF THUMB: To know whether any givencharacteristic (X) of an individual is reallyindependent of social context or not, ask:• Is it possible for everyone to have X? Or• Does my having X alter the chances of yougetting X?
    26. 26. Individualist Bias• Example: Musical Chairs. Suppose everyone wasvery fast, would everyone get a chair? -NO-WHY NOT?• Your chances of finding a seat are alwaysdependent on whether other people find a seat!
    28. 28. HumanattributesNon-SocialSocialWeak SocialInteraction(e.g. Golf)Strong SocialInteraction(e.g. Tennis)
    29. 29. Weak vs Strong InteractionGOLF TENNISCompare two games: GOLF and TENNIS. How would youexplain the winner of a golf or tennis tournament?
    30. 30. Weak vs Strong Interaction• Example: ‘Why did Tigerwin the golf tournament (asopposed to somebodyelse?)’• More precisely stated:“Given that only one personcan win the golftournament, why was itTiger?”
    31. 31. Weak vs Strong Interaction• Notice that we cannot explainwhy Tiger woods wins atournament withoutpresupposing a socialcontext, namely, thetournament. Tiger Woodscannot win a ‘tournament’without other peopleparticipating in thetournament, playing by therules, sponsoring the event, etc.• Nor did Tiger Woods inventgolf…
    32. 32. What does social science explain?• The individual property of ‘being agolf champion’ is actually a socialrelationship, i.e. an individualproperty relative to others:– Tiger trained harder (than others)– Tiger is specially talented (more so thanothers).• Given this socialcontext, however, we can treat theirgolf scores as independent of (i.e. notinfluencing) each other.– My getting a hole in one does notprevent you from getting a hole in one.
    33. 33. Weak vs Strong Interaction• Compare this to tennis…• Does it make sense to explainwhy Serena Williams won thetennis match without talkingabout the performance of heropponent? -NO!-• For these types of games, wecannot treat their scores asindependent of one another.– My scoring on you necessarilymeans you are not scoring on me!
    34. 34. Weak vs Strong InteractionGOLF= ‘WEAK SOCIALINTERACTION’TENNIS= STRONG SOCIALINTERACTION’vsNote: both types of games involve social interaction.
    35. 35. Individual and Society• In this class, we will emphasize that SOCIETYAND THE INDIVIDUAL ARE INSEPARABLE, liketwo sides of the same coin.
    36. 36. “Men make their ownhistory, but they do not make itas they please; they do notmake it under self-selectedcircumstances, but undercircumstances existingalready, given and transmittedfrom the past. The tradition ofall dead generations weighs likea nightmare on the brains ofthe living.”Karl Marx(1818-1883)