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SozSys 4 (1998), H.1

Across the Great (and Small) Divides - Stephan Fuchs/Douglas A. Marshall

(1) Hume taught us suspicion about causation. Causation is observer-dependent and variable – when seen as a cultural construct and accomplishment, not as the natural order of things in their true being. Saying that universality is a possible result, not cause, of order is also observer-dependent. This observer is sociology observing social structure. For those involved in such a "universal" order, the arrow of causation reverses, and their order’s universality simply is. When we talk about causes, we keep in mind that different observers assign causality in different ways, and interrupt causal regresses at different points. The more sciences are being done, the more observers perceive different causalities. Sometimes, we use "covariation," instead of "causation," to reaffirm this Humean caution about causation.

(2) Ceteris paribus is important here, since there are many more causes than can be accomodated by a linear argument. Causes work together, at the same time, while a text can introduce causes only one after another.

(3) We use "postism" here to combine various skeptical and revisionist movements, including postpositivism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, post-enlightenment, etc.

(4) We should add that Latour’s postism does not make the move toward idealism, as some other textualist approaches in science studies do.

(5)Actor-network philosophers love to invent new words. To prove that we can do this, too, we shall sometimes call them "persings," a hybrid of persons and things.

(6) In quotation marks because actor-network actants don’t really like or want theory.

(7) See note 4.

(8) The next question, then, is why they aren’t part of a moral community. One possible answer is: because they are bacteria!, but sociology cannot be satisfied by such referential or realist explanations. For sociology, as indeed for any science that replaces substances by elements, and essences by relations, nothing is what it is because of its natural or intrinsic characteristics.

(9) Jennifer Lehmann from the University of Nebraska.


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