Recently in [3-19] Micro-Sociology I: Schutz and Berger & Luckmann Category

1. What are some of the ambiguities of "understanding of the other self"? How do you think Schutz' observations and thoughts on "understanding of the other self" leads to his theory of the phenomenological descriptions of the formal structures of the social world?

As specified by Schutz, some of the ambiguities of "understanding of the other self" refers to a subjective experience in which we put ourselves in the place of the actor (other person) and to identify our lived experience with theirs. If we have already have a genuine understanding of the other person as the observer, we would have a better comprehension of the meanings the "actor" is trying to imply. Schutz uses Weber's model example of the "woodcutter's mind". With this model Schutz thought that without communications or comprehensions we observe the woodcutter's actions and with these actions we interpret them as signs, those signs subject our own perceptions to the interpretation of what we know of a human being cutting wood. " We place ourselves in the woodcutters mind and project that person's goal and where his train of thinking is going through his own perception. But we know with certainty that the other person's subjective experience of his own actions is in principle different from our own imagined picture of what we would do in the same situation (pg. 33)." What he is basically trying to point out is the "intended meaning of an action is always in principle subjective and accessible only to the actor (pg. 33)." The person who observes the woodcutter would have a lot of assumptions running through their mind about the woodcutter while cutting woods. They would probably assume that maybe it's his job? possibly a hobby of his? or maybe he physically exercising? It's the subject's actions that give off signs to the observer in which the signs are interpreted into ones to create their own perception that reaches to a conclusion.

2. Are there similarities between Schutz' phenomenology and Weber's verstehen? Elaborate please.

From my understanding I think there are similarities between verstehen and phenomenology because verstehen refers to understanding the meaning and actions from the actors point of view meaning by entering into the shoes of the other and adopting and organizing their own understanding of it and giving it meaning in which it is seen more as a subject. Verstehen is a deeper understanding of meanings. It is used to analyze important element of culture and society. Therefore we can understand human action by penetrating to the subjective meanings that actors attach to their own behavior and to the behaviors of others. Phenomenology is seen more as an object because it appears as an act of consciousness in which sees things as objects, it is an act as intentional consciousness. Phenomenology tends to recognize the role of description. I think that the similarities they both may have are the mental consciousness that they develop in order to be in the other person's shoes. Overall a deeper understanding of things. Even though I see that the subjects and objects are taken in different approaches'.

Blog Post #3: Schutz and Berger & Luckmann

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1. What are some of the ambiguities of "understanding of the other self"? How do you think Schutz' observations and thoughts on "understanding of the other self" leads to his theory of the phenomenological descriptions of the formal structures of the social world?

Some ambiguities of "understanding of the other self" as specified by Schutz are subjective experiences of the person trying to understand the other, the interpretation of signs by the other person, the understanding of the sign and the significance of the fact that the sign is being used in the context that it is being applied in. To understand the other person, the observer can apply his own experience and interpret signs. Schutz uses Weber's model of the woodcutter as an example to demonstrate how the interpreter interprets woodcutting through using his own perception. We can actually apply our own experience of woodcutting to put ourselves in the place of the woodcutter. Schutz is saying that this way of understanding the other is uncertain and says that the "intended meaning of an action is always in principles subjective and accessible only to the actor" (33) meaning that the significance of an act from someone is personal to them and only they know the reasons for acting a certain way. Schutz goes to say that the observer can reach a conclusion about his subject only if he knows about his past or knows why the other is acting a certain way. For example, why is the subject cutting wood? Maybe it is his job, or maybe it is a hobby. The interpreter puts himself in the place of the other and imagines himself being the other. Through his theory of phenomenology, I believe Schutz is saying that understanding of the other self is based on subjective and objective knowledge of the other through communication and interaction.

2. B&L stresses the importance of "language" for the creation of social meaning and social order. Why is language so important?

According to Berger and Luckmann, language provides the rationality behind the institutionalized world. Language is an instrument of knowledge that is institutionalized because it has been passed down from past generations and it is a custom of society. Language was a 'habitualized' thing until it became a social norm and became an institution of knowledge about how things function and should function in society. It was created by humans and will still exist after humanity ceases to exist. Language in this case is a product of humanity and becomes a product of reality after it has come to be applied by many. If one does not speak a language, he is seen as deviant, ignorant, or mentally diseased. He is not considered part of reality.

Mee Pha Blog 1: Schutz and Berger and Luckmann

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Schutz, Berger and Luckmann, were micro-sociologists. They found importance in social interactions between humans, meanings, and lived experiences. These sociologists approached sociology in a very Weberian way. They saw the importance of the individual and how he can act on society.

At the beginning of The Phenomenology of the Social World, Schutz outlines a few ambiguities for understanding another person: intentional acts, one's subjective experience, motivation-contexts, and understanding signs. Shutz looked from the individual to the bigger social world when he created his phenomenology. By looking at how individuals understand others' social actions, it is a way to study our social world. Schutz draws from Weber's theories. The two theorists emphasized understanding and context of situations, because those two things can change the whole situation. Schutz gives the example of a wood cutter. By simply observing the wood cutter, a person can assume that he is "cutting wood." However "why" he is cutting wood is not as obvious. Schutz posits two ways of interpreting this action without actually talking with the wood cutter, by putting yourself in the other person's shoes or by drawing from personal experience. Verstehen tells the person to do the same thing. Both theories look at the meaning as well as the individual's experience . Schutz goes further from just understanding motives and separates subjective and objective meanings in his example of the wood cutter.

Berger and Luckmann also believed that the individual experience and interaction was important in forming our society. In the reading they talk about institutions and how they came to be. Berger and Luckmann wrote that our realties are socially constructed. Therefore different realities exist depending on where and how one is socialized. Warring states is an example of multiple realities. In war, there are two sides, each who think they are in the right. Depending on where you live, your reality is different. One example of this is the "war on terrorism." The September 11th attacks on the United States was a devastating event to American citizens. For Al Qaeda, it was a victory. Here, good and evil is blurred. Depending on which side you were on, September 11th had a different meaning to you. The realities of the people involved were also different. Neither side is "wrong" in how they viewed their position because of their histories. The United State's reality is that terrorists are evil and should be eliminated before they commit more wrong doings. For Al Qaeda, they are preserving and spreading the rule of Islam. There are even more realities beyond the scope of these two actors in this place and time. Given this model, Schutz phenomenology proves to be important in analyzing each society to understand the motives and relationships that have led to each social world.

Berger and Luckmann believed language was important because it is a tool for socialization and habitualization. It facilitates the interaction of people in a way that both people understand and can comprehend. Language makes it easier to pass down traditions and beliefs to new generations, which makes it easier to institutionalize things. Schutz also believed that language was important in his work. Language is an important sign however it can also be interpreted in a lot of ways so, knowing a person personally makes it easier to understand the language of that other person. All forms of communication are open to interpretation especially when seeking to fully understand the social world.

Jaimie Berger Blog Post #2- Berger & Luckmann

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Berger and Luckmann write about "different spheres of reality" or "multiple realities", what do B&L mean by those terms? Can you think of examples from your experience for "multiple realities" or "different spheres of reality"?

-I think what B&L mean by "multiple realities" is the fact that society can be understood by what knowledge is objective and what is subjective. Basically, we live our lives based on what "everyone already knows", and what seems to be a natural reality even though they theorize that society and it's institutionalizations are socially constructed. It's as if the way we live our lives in society is 'common sense', but where does it come from? B&L theorize that when we attempt to change an existing way of life, we can. When a new generation of children come along, what they have learned from their predecessors becomes a sort of fixed 'thing' and is reinforced by generations to come. These foundations on ways of living seem natural, like it's how is always been. The truth is, life is socially created and we can constantly change existing ways of life. This is when a more subjective reality comes into play, but changing a way of life i.e. norms, values, morals that are collectively accepted would be difficult. This is because everyone in society have culturally accepted ways of living and if you dare go against them you might be shunned away from everyone else. Perhaps looking at the world from the reality that all of society is socially created, not just accepting it as 'natural' can be a way to spark social change. A small scale example I might use to illustrate this concept might be how more and more teenage girls are having children before they are married. It seems that especially in our society, it just seems like the 'right' way to live your life by getting married, securing a home, and then having children. However, more and more girls are unmarried teenage mothers in this day in age. Many times, the children of these teenage mothers have children young and before marriage as well. Many still look at this as 'wrong' based on religious/cultural beliefs, but it is becoming more accepted in society. This example would describe how one reality that seemed to be just how you were supposed to live is challenged by different realities. Then these existing realities become strengthened or reinforced by the way they saw generations before living their lives.

B&L stresses the importance of "language" for the creation of social meaning and social order. Why is language so important?

-Language is so important because it is passed down from generation to generation. It is an objective 'thing' that already exists and it is strengthened through transmission from parents to children. Language will always exist, whether one likes it or not. It was already in existence when you were born, and it will continue to exist after everyone dies. Most importantly, language is a social creation, a human product. This creates a special relationship, a dialectical one, between the producer and his product. Language can be compared to a socially created institution, which helps society function harmoniously. It is used to help one understand society and how it works externally as well as internally. Language is the way we transmit knowledge, which is what becomes 'what everyone knows', so we all understand what is institutionally appropriate in society.

Discussion Questions Schutz and Berger and Luckmann

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What are some of the ambiguities of "understanding of the other self"? How do you think Schutz' observations and thoughts on "understanding of the other self" leads to his theory of the phenomenological descriptions of the formal structures of the social world?


Are there similarities between Schutz' phenomenology and Weber's verstehen? Elaborate please.


Berger and Luckmann writes about "different spheres of reality" or "multiple realities", what do B&L mean by those terms? Can you think of examples from your experience for "multiple realities" or "different spheres of reality"?

B&L stresses the importance of "language" for the creation of social meaning and social order. Why is language so important?



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This page is an archive of recent entries in the [3-19] Micro-Sociology I: Schutz and Berger & Luckmann category.

[3-05] Critical Theory: Mannheim, Horkheimer & Adorno, Marcuse is the previous category.

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