•  287
    The subject of this chapter is the complex and confusing course of the discussion of cause and teleology before and during the period of Mill and Comte, and its aftermath up to the early years of the twentieth century in the thinking of several of the major founding figures of disciplinary social science. The discussion focused on the problem of the sufficiency of causal explanations, and particularly the question of whether some particular fact could be explained without appeal to purpose. In r…Read more
  •  152
    Normal Accidents of Expertise
    Minerva 48 (3): 239-258. 2010.
    Charles Perrow used the term normal accidents to characterize a type of catastrophic failure that resulted when complex, tightly coupled production systems encountered a certain kind of anomalous event. These were events in which systems failures interacted with one another in a way that could not be anticipated, and could not be easily understood and corrected. Systems of the production of expert knowledge are increasingly becoming tightly coupled. Unlike classical science, which operated with …Read more
  •  147
    Handbook of Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology (edited book)
    with Mark W. Risjord
    Elsevier. 2006.
    This volume concerns philosophical issues that arise from the practice of anthropology and sociology. The essays cover a wide range of issues, including traditional questions in the philosophy of social science as well as those specific to these disciplines. Authors attend to the historical development of the current debates and set the stage for future work.
  •  116
    Explaining normativity
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (1): 57-73. 2007.
    In this reply, I raise some questions about the account of "normativity" given by Joseph Rouse. I discuss the historical form of disputes over normativity in such thinkers as Kelsen and show that the standard issue with these accounts is over the question of whether there is anything added to the normal stream of explanation by the problem of normativity. I suggest that Rouse’s attempt to avoid the issues that arise with substantive explanatory theories of practices of the kind criticized in The…Read more
  •  104
    Polanyian in Spirit
    Tradition and Discovery 25 (1): 12-20. 1998.
    Walter Gulick criticizes The Social Theory of Practices for its non-Polanyian views of the problem of the objective character of tacit knowledge, its insistence that there should be plausible causal mechanisms that correspond to claims about tacit knowledge and its “social” transmission, and its denial of the social, telic character of practices. In this reply it is asserted that the demand for causally plausible mechanisms is not scientistic or for that matter non-Polanyian, that the book has a…Read more
  •  85
    Responses to 'in defense of relativism'
    with Robert Ackermann, Brian Baigrie, Harold I. Brown, Michael Cavanaugh, Paul Fox-Strangways, Gonzalo Munevar, Stephen David Ross, Philip Pettit, Paul Roth, Frederick Schmitt, Stephen Turner, and Charles Wallis
    Social Epistemology 2 (3). 1988.
    No abstract
  •  80
    Relativism hot and cold
    History of the Human Sciences 7 (1): 109-115. 1994.
  •  71
    Making the Tacit Explicit
    Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 42 (4): 385-402. 2012.
    Tacit knowledge is both a ubiquitous and puzzling notion, related to the idea of hidden assumptions. The puzzle is partly a result of the conflict between the idea that assumptions are in the mind and the apparent audience-relativity of the "fact" of possessing an assumption or of the tacit knowledge that is articulated. If we think of making the tacit explicit as constructing a certain kind of inference repairing explanation for a particular audience "on the fly" we come closer to an explanatio…Read more
  •  70
    Social constructionism and social theory
    Sociological Theory 9 (1): 22-33. 1991.
    The major emphasis of the "sociology of scientific knowledge" has been on the natural sciences. Recently, however, the field has taken a reflexive turn. I examine the relation between this kind of reflexivity and that in the history of the sociology of knowledge generally with an eye to assessing its place in social theory. Although reflexive adequacy, like other criteria for choice of theory, is not an absolute and overriding cognitive good, reflexive considerations often are critical in assess…Read more
  •  64
    Obituary for Edward Shils
    Tradition and Discovery 22 (2): 5-9. 1995.
    Michael Polanyi and Edward Shils shared a great many views, and in their long mutual relationship influenced one another. This memorial note examines the relationship and some of the respects in which Shils presented a Polanyian social theory organized around the notion of tradition
  •  64
    The Disappearance of Tradition in Weber
    with Regis A. Factor
    Midwest Studies in Philosophy 15 (1): 400-24. 1990.
    In this essay we will consider another basic topic: the problem of the nature of the distinctions between Sitte, Brauch, Wert, Mode, and Recht, on which Weber's discussion relies. These discussions typically involved the untranslatable concept of Sitte, which marks a contrast between practices or customs with normative force and “mere practice.” There is a close parallel to this distinction in American social thought in W. G. Sumner's latinate distinction between the mores and folkways of a soci…Read more
  •  63
    The concept of "practices"--whether of representation, of political or scientific traditions, or of organizational culture--is central to social theory. In this book, Stephen Turner presents the first analysis and critique of the idea of practice as it has developed in the various theoretical traditions of the social sciences and the humanities. Understood broadly as a tacit understanding "shared" by a group, the concept of a practice has a fatal difficulty, Turner argues: there is no plausible …Read more
  •  62
    Social Theory of Practices
    Human Studies 20 (3): 315-323. 1994.
    The concept of "practices"—whether of representation, of political or scientific traditions, or of organizational culture—is central to social theory. In this book, Stephen Turner presents the first analysis and critique of the idea of practice as it has developed in the various theoretical traditions of the social sciences and the humanities. Understood broadly as a tacit understanding "shared" by a group, the concept of a practice has a fatal difficulty, Turner argues: there is no plausible me…Read more
  •  59
    In what follows I propose to bring out certain methodological properties of projects of modelling the tacit realm that bear on the kinds of modelling done in connection with scientific cognition by computer as well as by ethnomethodological sociologists, both of whom must make some claims about the tacit in the course of their efforts to model cognition. The same issues, I will suggest, bear on the project of a cognitive psychology of science as well.
  •  58
    Searle's social reality
    History and Theory 38 (2). 1999.
    In The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle expends an argument left undeveloped in Speech Acts about the nature of the rules which underlie and constitute social life. It is argued in this review that one problem for this account was its apparent incompatibility with connectionism. They cannot be rules shared in the head, so to speak. He now understands our relation to these rules not as one of simple internalization but of skillful accustoming. But this makes appeal to rules unnecessary…Read more
  •  53
    Tradition and cognitive science: Oakeshott’s undoing of the Kantian mind
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (1): 53-76. 2003.
    In this discussion, the author asks the question if Oakeshott’s famous depiction of a practice might be understood in relation to contemporary cognitive science, in particular connectionism (the contemporary cognitive science approach concerned with the problem of skills and skilled knowing) and in terms of the now conventional view of "normativity" in Anglo-American philosophy. The author suggests that Oakeshott meant to contrast practices to an alternative "Kantian" model of a shared tacit men…Read more
  •  50
    Bad practices: A reply (review)
    Human Studies 20 (3): 345-356. 1997.
  •  50
    Meaning without Theory
    Journal of the Philosophy of History 5 (3): 352-369. 2011.
    There is a core conflict between conventional ideas about “meaning“ and the phenomenon of meaning and meaning change in history. Conventional accounts are either atemporal or appeal to something fixed that bestows meaning, such as a rule or a convention. This produces familiar problems over change. Notions of rule and convention are metaphors for something tacit. They are unhelpful in accounting for change: there are no rule-givers or convenings in history. Meanings are in flux, and are part of …Read more
  •  49
    Habermas meets science Content Type Journal Article Category Essay Review Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9560-2 Authors Stephen Turner, Department of Philosophy, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796
  •  47
    Collingwood and Weber vs. Mink: History after the Cognitive Turn
    Journal of the Philosophy of History 5 (2): 230-260. 2011.
    Louis Mink wrote a classic study of R. G. Collingwood that led to his most important contribution to the philosophy of history, his account of narrative. Central to this account was the non-detachability thesis, that facts became historical facts through incorporation into narratives, and the thesis that narratives were not comparable to the facts or to one another. His book on Collingwood was critical of Collingwood's idea that there were facts in history that we get through self-knowledge but …Read more
  •  43
    Many approaches, but few arrivals: Merton and the columbia model of theory construction
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (2): 174-211. 2009.
    Robert Merton's essays on theories of the middle range and his essays on functional explanation and the structural approach are among the most influential in the history of sociology. But their import is a puzzle. He explicitly allied himself with some of the most extreme scientistic formalists and contributed to and endorsed the Columbia model of theory construction. But Merton never responded to criticisms by Ernest Nagel of his arguments or acknowledged the rivalry between Lazarsfeld and Herb…Read more
  •  42
    Starting with tacit knowledge, ending with Durkheim? (review)
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (3): 472-476. 2011.
  •  42
    The four volume work of which this book is a part has been praised as one of the great monuments of theoretical scholarship in sociology of the century. The praise has come largely from the older generation of students of Parsons and Merton. A great deal of dispraise has come from Alexander's own generation. Alan Sica's (1983) brilliant, biting review of Volume I speaks for many of Alexander's peers. Volume II is likely to be even more controversial. This volume begins the substantive task of th…Read more
  •  42
    Mirror neurons and practices: A response to Lizardo
    Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (3). 2007.
    Lizardo argues that The Social Theory of Practices is refuted by the discovery of mirror neurons. The book argues that the kind of sameness of tacit mental content assumed by practice theorists such as Bourdieu is fictional, because there is no actual process by which the same mental content can be transmitted. Mirror neurons, Lizardo claims, provide such a mechanism, as they imply that bodily automatisms, which can be understood as the basis of habitus and concepts, can be shared and copied fro…Read more
  •  41
    Was Sellars an error theorist?
    with Peter Olen
    Synthese 193 (7): 2053-2075. 2016.
    Wilfrid Sellars described the moral syllogism that supports the inference “I ought to do x” from “Everyone ought to do x” as a “syntactical disguise” which embodies a “mistake.” He nevertheless regarded this form of reasoning as constitutive of the moral point of view. Durkheim was the source of much of this reasoning, and this context illuminates Sellars’ unusual philosophical reconstruction of the moral point of view in terms of the collective intentions of an ideal community of rational membe…Read more
  •  40