Socrates, skinner, and aristotle: Three ways of thinking about culture in action


Journal Article

The cultural turn has been one of the major shifts in sociology over the last two decades. Though nearly everyone now agrees that culture matters, how it matters is not terribly clear. What, exactly, is culture supposed to do? In this essay, I articulate two ideal-typical - though often implicit - ways most sociologists have thought about culture's role in action. Although no single sociologist or piece of research fully embodies either ideal type, I believe they are real tendencies in the field that have real consequences for how research is designed, undertaken, and understood. After outlining these approaches, I subject them to an engagement with cognitive science. This is not out a desire for reductionism but, as I will show, because a crucial difference between these perspectives is their implicit model of how human beings perceive, acquire, store, retrieve, and act on the symbolic information that surrounds them every day. This exercise will lead to the conclusion that both perspectives are incomplete and will point toward a synthetic approach that can shed new light on how culture matters for action. © 2008 Eastern Sociological Society.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vaisey, S

Published Date

  • September 1, 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 603 - 613

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-8971

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1573-7861.2008.00079.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus