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Towards a Theory of Social Practices

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Author:
Andrea Zhok University of Milan

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Abstract

The notion of social practice and a family of notions akin to it play an essential role in contemporary philosophical reflection, with particular reference to the conceptualisation of historical processes. Stephen Turner's book A Social Theory of Practices (1994) has provided a major challenge to this family of notions, and our purpose is to outline a grounding account of the notion of social practice in the form of an answer to Turner's criticisms. We try to answer three questions: first, if it is necessary to grant a tacit dimension to transmittable habits; second, if and how a tacit dimension of "meaning" could be intersubjectively transmitted; third, what is the possible role of rationality in changing social practices. Our discussion moves from Wittgenstein's argument on rule-following; in its wake we try to examine the nature of habits as a basis for rules and discuss their temporal sedimentation, inertia and modes of intersubjective transmission. In conclusion we support the idea that social practices must rely on a tacit dimension, that their tacit dimension does not represent a hindrance to intersubjective transmission, and that the possible dogmatism of social practices is not due to their "hidden" side, but to their explicit quasi-rational side.

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