Ideational Epistemology

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 24 September 2016

Ideational Epistemology

This paper talks about ideational epistemology while pondering upon how it affects our social structures due to the inclusion of shared beliefs. The paper also discusses social structures and system of shared beliefs with reference to suicides, crime, divorce, as well as anomie. It presents a critical analysis of the authors relevant to this topic through judging their work in a systematic manner. Introduction Epistemology is the study of knowledge pertaining to how information is sent and received, processed, made meaning of and transferred.

The study of knowledge namely, epistemology is the gist of this paper which reflects upon the nature, institution and limits of knowledge (which usually come under the heading of the knowledge conversion process) while indulging in a conversation or any transfer of meaning. Discussion Ideational Epistemology creates an orderly society through a system of shared beliefs The ethnographic principle states that there are many different types of phenomenon that exist in our society, these being important to the universal relevance to human communities.

However, one very interesting thing about humans is that we tend to indulge in the process of finding out the similarities in things and objects rather than looking for the dissimilarities. Epistemology therefore has a more positivist approach since through the process of finding out the commonalities; one indulges into a process of development of basic categories that guard our culture and in making sense of the wide array of data available to us almost perpetually.

An individual needs to be studied in this science as an entity of its own just like if it were a system – focusing on personal characteristics and code along with skill and knowledge set. A cultural system is important here since it includes the shared system of belief, acts, values and ideology within it just like a person has within him or her, his or her personal characteristics.

Cultural systems include behavior patterns, ideational structures, social systems and expressive cultures. (Whitehead, 2002) Shared ideologies, shared system of beliefs and / or shared morality that exist within a society all include within them certain aspects of the world that when based on the ideational fabric become meaningful instantly. This is due to for instance how behavior is emitted through individual or normative patterns.

Behavior activities that tell us firstly what these behaviors are, where and when are they usually carried out, how are they shown, and by who (which includes the level of participation as well) all come under the heading of factors that eventually lead up to the formation of a system that has shared beliefs based on an ideational element, or idea. (Whitehead, 2002) Ideational structures which include knowledge, systems, values, symbols as well as beliefs are often held responsible for the way the act itself is carried out with a result of a particular level of motivation value that is shown or experienced.

It is within these ideas or ideational epistemology that famous sociologists have pointed out the presence of a source of motivation originating voluntarily or involuntarily. All interpretations hence are framed this way since they become responsible for the provision of meaning to each part of the group’s ecology. This in other words means that the system of shared values – their cultural ecology becomes the basic idea system on which the social structure then is said to stand.

Normative behaviors are important as well for instance in the understanding of scientific theories and frameworks that present information in an objective way. (Whitehead, 2002) Social systems like social networks, groups, organizations, friends, domestic units, patron-client relationships as well as extra-residential groups are the resultant elements that fill in the system of beliefs with properties within them being similar with each other so as to have a shared ideology / ideation in order to provide support for a social structure.

This social structure could be an entire industrial base for a country or its reward systems – all of which have some contribution or another to how systems are run and value is added to the overall entity. Lastly, the expressive culture aspect in the system of shared beliefs also is said to provide elementary support to the structure we call society through the presence of symbols and meaningful representation of information via music, dance, songs, literature, poetry, crafts, language etc. (Whitehead, 2002)

The influence of ideational epistemology on our social structures and thorough analysis of the work of these authors It is important to mention also the way ideational epistemology has come to affect out social structures by introducing trends within social issues like suicide, crime, divorce and the division of labor. Emile Durkheim talked about egoistic suicide when the sociologist mentioned how the belonging to a group can have an effect on the suicide rate for a region. According to Durkheim, egoistic suicides tend to be a lot more common in Protestants than the followers of other groups like Jews.

The reason attributed to this is not the difference between Protestants and Catholics in general rather it has to do with the freedom in inquiry that is a lot more in Protestants that the Catholics. The reason for this thereby has to do with fewer common beliefs and practices in Protestants. (Durkheim, n. d. ) Demerath, (n. d. ) has a lot to say about secularization wherein the philosopher comments that it functions at many different levels in the society and each might not have one or more thing in common with another.

For instance, in a society there could secularization where religion (in political science) is taken into perspective but it would not really apply to personal capacity or individual adherents. (Demerath, n. d. ) Durkheim defined anomie as a state of being wherein social and / or moral norms are said to be vague and have a confused positioning in a person’s mind. According to Durkheim hence, due to a lack of norms that anomie brings with it, behaviors are limited in a sense that they could even result into deviance in thought and action patterns.

The lack of regulation that anomie brings with it can also be seen in the writings of Tiryakian, E. (1981) when the sociologist extends the perspective of sexual characteristics to this breakdown of norms and naming it sexual anomie, which according to Tiryakian is also a basic component of our social structure. Robert Merton presents a perspective relevant to social structures, where he regards it as something that has an influence on the people of our society to engage in behavior that does not conform to the accepted behavior and rules set by society.

Social structure and anomie result into individuals resting their emotions onto the social structures that exist by giving particular dependency on the culturally acclaimed ends. This results into high dependency on technical aspects of our society and hindering of flexibility in thought patterns. Collective consciousness seems relevant here when we say that ideational epistemology influences social structures since involuntarily social changes through actions can be seen through the same moving away from norms and indulging in ‘anomie’.

I would agree with what Demerath has mentioned with reference to how societies; systems diminish and how religious decline in them occurs. It is an understandable phenomenon to have some sort of a gradual declination of religious thought, and not pure conversion from the religious to the faithless. This, I believe also owes to the propagation of religious cults and sects which eventually leads to the lessening of the essence of a religious system and its ideologies in a society. (Demerath, n. d. )

Suicide, according to Durkheim is voluntarily indulging into fatal behavior before the happening of which the victim knows the consequences of those actions. He proposed four types of suicides that have their differences in the disintegration of social integration and moral regulation. These four types namely egoistic suicide – because of very less social integration, altruistic suicide – because of too much of social integration, and anomic suicide because of low moral regulation and lastly one occurring from relatively more moral regulation.

I agree with the four types since people for instance when are isolated and do not belong to particular social structures, there can be a lot of disparity resulting into their committing suicides or even indulging in other crimes. This can be connected the fact that when people start feeling too dependent on social structures, it again can result into them losing their individuality and others treating them with minimal importance because of which self-sacrifice (altruistic) occurs.

However, anomic suicide can have its disagreements with other authors since if a person cannot fulfill basic needs it does not generally result into suicidal behavior or divorces between couples. Rather, it is the feeling of inability behind this condition that is the main cause. I believe hee in this case anomie can be regarded a more basic causal factor since moral disintegration occurs in the mind and it is the way a person handles his or her poor living conditions and not what physical state really he lives in which forms the basis of his non-suicidal or suicidal behavior.

Therefore, I regard this aspect as somewhat objectionable because it undermines the importance of the human mind. Another aspect of the work of these authors that I feel I disagree with is the sexual anomie concept worked on by Tiryakian wherein a lot of emphasis on the sexual aspects can be regarded as more animal than human therefore undermining the power of the human values structure in our society. Regarding sex and sexual behavior as the cause of suicides or of crime rate being high is too low for a society to accept.

This can hence be deemed controversial as it does not even gel in with many cultures around the world with regard to how their ideational epistemology is. Conclusion Epistemology is the study of knowledge pertaining to how information is sent and received, processed, made meaning of and transferred. The work of Durkheim does contribute a lot to the explanation of how the crime rates for instance correlate with levels of moral and social integration.

Similarly, Demerath’s claim of a gradual declination in religious thought and Merton’s explanation of social structure all add to the shared beliefs system on which the structure of society stands. Unless we do not have reasoning and answers for the occurrences in our society, an ‘order’ cannot be reached owing to the fact that the correct direction of things will never be known hence. The work of these sociologists hence caters very well to the enrichment of social structure theories with explanation of how social order is defined in each context – negative or positive.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 24 September 2016

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