Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture

Oxford University Press
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What kind of animals are human beings? And how do our visions of the human shape our theories of social action and institutions? In Moral, Believing Animals, Christian Smith advances a creative theory of human persons and culture that offers innovative, challenging answers to these and other fundamental questions in sociological, cultural, and religious theory. Smith suggests that human beings have a peculiar set of capacities and proclivities that distinguishes them significantly from other animals on this planet. Despite the vast differences in humanity between cultures and across history, no matter how differently people narrate their lives and histories, there remains an underlying structure of human personhood that helps to order human culture, history, and narration. Drawing on important recent insights in moral philosophy, epistemology, and narrative studies, Smith argues that humans are animals who have an inescapable moral and spiritual dimension. They cannot avoid a fundamental moral orientation in life and this, says Smith, has profound consequences for how sociology must study human beings.
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About the author

William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jul 10, 2003
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780195347531
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Religion / Psychology of Religion
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Counter to popular perceptions, contemporary American sociology is and promotes a profoundly sacred project at heart. Sociology today is in fact animated by sacred impulses, driven by sacred commitments, and serves a sacred project. Sociology appears on the surface to be a secular, scientific enterprise--its founding fathers were mostly atheists. Its basic operating premises are secular and naturalistic. Sociologists today are disproportionately not religious, compared to all Americans, and often irreligious. The Sacred Project of American Sociology shows, counter-intuitively, that the secular enterprise that everyday sociology appears to be pursuing is actually not what is really going on at sociology's deepest level. Christian Smith conducts a self-reflexive, tables-turning, cultural and institutional sociology of the profession of American sociology itself, showing that this allegedly secular discipline ironically expresses Emile Durkheim's inescapable sacred, exemplifies its own versions of Marxist false consciousness, and generates a spirited reaction against Max Weber's melancholically observed disenchantment of the world. American sociology does not escape the analytical net that it casts over the rest of the ordinary world. Sociology itself is a part of that very human, very social, often very sacred and spiritual world. And sociology's ironic mis-recognition of its own sacred project leads to a variety of arguably self-destructive and distorting tendencies. This book re-asserts a vision for what sociology is most important for, in contrast with its current commitments, and calls sociologists back to a more honest, fair, and healthy vision of its purpose.
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