a philosophy cheat sheet for social theory

As I’ve been preparing to teach, for the first time, an Advanced Social Theory graduate seminar this fall, I’ve realized that it would be helpful to have a “cheat sheet” of philosophical terms useful for social theory. I am going to put one together and distribute it the first day of class. I ask you, O Scatterbrains, what terms ought to be included thereupon. Below is what I’ve thought of thus far. Let the suggestions begin; I will post the sheet when I complete it.

  • Ontology
  • Epistemology
  • Emergence
  • Metaphysics
  • Phenomenology
  • Positivism
  • Realism
  • Analytic

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

21 thoughts on “a philosophy cheat sheet for social theory”

  1. Truth.
    Inference to the Best Explanation.

    But rather than write all this stuff up yourself, I strongly recommend you point your students at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is a terrific resource. As a rule, the entries are clearly written, up-to-date, and reliable discussions of most of the terms that have come up so far. If you care about getting this stuff right — especially with terms like “realism”, “positivism”, “reduction”, “emergence” and so on — I wouldn’t rely on any other online source.


    1. Supervenience? There’s one down the street from my house. Bad beer selection, but it’s open all night.


  2. Wow, y’all are amazing -thanks! And thanks for the reference to the Stanford Encyclopedia, which is a great resource. (Although its Adorno entry is pretty weak.)

    The McSweeney’s thing was strange, I guess just anti-intellectual–maybe I’m not in the mood to get that today?

    And the Bingo card might be a keeper :)


    1. McSweeney’s? Anti-intellectual? McSweeney’s can be accused of many things, but being anti-intellectual isn’t one of them. The reason that the list is even on there is because many of them probably already went to grad school for English. Hence, the joke.


  3. You know, your co-author (Jeff Olick) handed out a list of terms to us in Contemporary Theory years ago. You might see if he has it still. I found it to be invaluable, especially since I remember knowing…oh…10% of the terms on the list at the start of the semester, and made a point of knowing them all by the end.


  4. Andy — For my 2 cents, almost none of this is social theory… It’s metatheory or philosophy of science…. social theory is about something substantive, like stratification, socialization, group dynamics, etc. But what do I know?


    1. Well, he did say he was putting together a list of specifically philosophical terms that you might run across in the course of doing/reading/thinking about social theory proper.


      1. Exactly – thanks Kieran. Claude, I agree these are not social theory, they’re concepts that are helpful to know, on top of which social theory is (sometimes) built.


  5. Just read the McSweeny’s list. Once had a prof in another department (non-Sociology) circle the word “problematize” in a paper I wrote and say, “not a word.”


  6. Perhaps “theory” itself? The scientific explanation, vs. the commonly mis-understood definition of theory as a hypothesis? And the distinction between a “theory” and “metatheory?”


  7. structure


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