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Intellectual / Social

The sociology of mind is not a theory of how intellectuals are affected by “non-intellectual motives.” To frame the question in this way is to assume that thinking normally takes place independently, in a pristine realm driven by nothing but itself. But thinking would not be possible at all if we were not social; we would have no words, no abstract ideas, and no energy for anything outside of immediate sensuality… Thinking consists in making “coalitions in the mind,” internalized from social networks, motivated by the emotional energies of social interactions. My concern is not with “non-intellectual motives” but to show what intellectual motives are. (Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies, p.7)

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"The world of thought is generally regarded as a vast territory. So it is; but it may not be so fantastic as it is touted to be. We have a prejudice that thought is free, untrammeled, infinitely open, unapproachable from the outside. And yet—if thought is an internalization of rituals from social life, further developed by decomposition and recombination of its symbolic elements, in the train of impulses to externalize them again—how strange can it be?"

— Randall Collins, Interaction Ritual Chains p220

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"Inner lives have varying degrees of privacy. But the forms that privacy takes are not necessarily unique. The devices that we use to entrain our thoughts, to get ourselves together, may be largely imported from standard models available in external social life. Verbal incantations—traditionally, in the form of prayers or magic; contemporarily in the form of pep talks or curses—are just some of the devices with which external rituals are taken into the self. No doubt there are other such inner rituals to be discovered."

— Randall Collins, Interaction Ritual Chains p220

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Saying “I think…” is not just describing an inner state

Even if we take as half-way houses, say, ‘I hold that…’ as said by a non-juryman, or ‘I expect that…’, it seems absurd to suppose that all they describe or state is something about the speaker’s beliefs or expectations. To suppose this is rather the sort of Alice-in-Wonderland over-sharpness of taking ‘I think that p' as a statement about yourself which could be answered: 'That is just a fact about you.' ('I don't think…' began Alice: 'then you should not talk' said the Caterpillar, or whoever it was).

- J.L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words, p89-90

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Human thought is consummately social

“Human thought is consummately social,” Geertz writes, “social in its origins, social in its functions, social in its forms, social in its applications. At base, thinking is a public activity—its natural habitat is the houseyard, the marketplace, and the town square.” Individual “subjectivity” and “experience” appear on the scene only after long processes of acculturation and practice.

- J.A. Springs, “What Cultural Theorists of Religion Have to Learn from Wittgenstein; Or, How to Read Geertz as a Practice Theorist” (Geertz quoted from The Interpretation of Cultures).

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"Not only the evident connection between breathing and emotion already urged, but also the belief that thoughts are words and words are breath—ἒττεα ἀέρια as Sappho seems to have called them—would lead to the belief that the organs of breath, the lungs, are the organs of mind. This conception of words would be natural, inevitable among men unfamiliar with writing. These words or thoughts are kept in the lungs."

— R.B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought, p67

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"Havelock (1982) and Snell (l960) noted the ways that notions like *idea*, *mind*, and *word* developed and the ways in which words from the common vocabulary suddenly became the subject of analysis and reflection in classical Greek culture. Whereas for the Homeric Greeks notions like *justice* and *courage* were exemplified in the deeds of gods and hero, for the literate Greeks they became philosophical concepts. The writing system, Havelock argued, was partly responsible."

— David Olson, “How Writing Represents Speech”

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"Writing systems provide the concepts and categories for thinking about the structure of speech rather than the reverse. Awareness of linguistic structure is a product of a writing system, not a precondition for its development. If that is so it will not do to explain the evolution of writing as the attempt to represent linguistic structures such as sentences, words or phonemes for the simple reason that pre-writers had no such concepts… Writing systems are developed for mnemonic and communicative purposes but because they are ‘read’ they provide a model for language and thought. We introspect on language and mind in terms of the categories prescribed by our writing systems."

— David Olson, “How Writing Represents Speech”

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"Pace Fodor, finding out how the brain works will not help us find out how the mind works. For the mind is not a representational apparatus, but rather a set of norm-governed social practices."

— Rorty, “Naturalism and Quietism” p158

Tags: rorty fodor mind
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"What is wrong with this view of a representable world and a representing mind, in mutual interaction? One thing which is wrong is that the social and cultural dimension of mind seems to be shortchanged by it. All the interactions between minds, and all the influence of custom, convention, and tradition is left out."

— Annette Baier, Postures of the Mind, p3