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EIGHT Addams and the Settlement Movement Implicit in much of the preceding discussion is a distinction between several kinds of action. In one sense, we act in order to perceive, and in another sense, we perceive in order to act. In the one case, we act in order to be informed about the world around us. In the other case, given such information, we are in a position to reform the world around us. In yet another sense, for that matter, the thinking and research that goes into exploring possible avenues of reform based on available information by itself encompasses a range of distinct kinds of activity. The first two kinds of activity are what we want to highlight in the present chapter. They are key to distinguishing empiricism and pragmatism. On one hand, to be capable of being informed about the world around us, we should be able (in the interest of greater clarity, etc.) to “operationalize” our concepts and terminology in terms of low-order routine abilities that reflect our embeddedness in the world (this is operationalist pragmatism). In science, this includes the kinds of abilities exercised in the laboratory or otherwise in settings of controlled experimentation and observation. Many ordinary everyday concepts should in this way be explicable in terms of the affordances of the objects that fall under those very concepts. The manner in which we act in order to determine the affordances of a given environment is the manner in which we act in order to perceive. On the other hand, the activities of daily living cannot be limited to the exercising of such automatic routines. At some level, particularly in unusual circumstances , we attend to evolving conditions in the world that may call for deliberate modification. Our daily lives are typically a succession of decisions and choices that are not merely the results of automatic routines (though the machinations of habit and instinct are perhaps more ubiquitous than we might be inclined to notice ). In the sense of inferentialist pragmatism, what we mean by certain beliefs couched in certain conceptual terms is determined by the instrumentality of those beliefs in promoting such deliberate modifications—determined by how such beliefs work systematically (inferentially) to help implement such changes. Ample doses of perceptual content will contribute information essential to acting rationally and effectively in this way—this being the sense in which we perceive in order to act. 116 ADDAMS AND THE SETTLEMENT MOVEMENT / 117 This distinction between acting as a way of becoming better informed about current circumstances and acting as a way of purposefully modifying those circumstances is well illustrated in the work of Jane Addams and others involved in the “settlement movement” at the end of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century. In 1906, Simkhovitch proposed an analysis of settlement house methods as part of an explanation of what the settlement movement was and how it worked. Because of her emphasis on interpretation and action, and because of the very nature of the settlement movement as a concrete social reform effort with vitally important consequences for everyone directly or indirectly involved, it might be thought that her analysis would be pragmatist in character. But what is a “pragmatist ” analysis supposed to look like? I argue in this chapter that her analysis is decidedly empiricist, not pragmatist, and offer an alternative pragmatist sketch of settlement house methodology. The point of this exercise is to show by way of an example what pragmatism is, that is, in the sense(s) originally proposed by Peirce and James. An operationalist reading of the pragmatic maxim emphasizes the possibility of observational evidence as a necessary component of the constitution of our concepts of things in the world. But it is not enough to focus just on evidence. Evidence is what it is depending not only on its inferential role as such but also essentially on how it is acquired. In particular, as indicated in previous chapters, observation is active—indeed, it is interactive (participatory, etc.). The following illustration makes this point in terms pertaining specifically to the social sciences. What is peculiar about this example is that various attempts so far to explain it have failed to convey its value as an illustration of operationalist pragmatism, given that all of the interactional, operationalist trappings of operationalist pragmatism are so obviously present. As we have seen in chapter 6, any number of examples from anthropology or other social sciences could be used to illustrate operationalist pragmatism...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253009623
Related ISBN
9780253009548
MARC Record
OCLC
1080549827
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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