Dissertation Abstract




Agency And Power:

Towards The Formal Pragmatics Of Social Process


Blasco Noronha Sobrinho


Degree:           PH.D.

Year:             1990

Pages:           326

Institution:      UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH; 0178

Advisor:          Roland Robertson


Source:           DAI, 51, no. 11A, (1990): 3924


Pragmatist validation of Aristotle's modal logic--by which every manifest action implies a latent structure of potency--enables the framing of sociology's generalized problems of action and order in a deductively rigorous, formal system. The observed phenomena of voluntaristic action--manifested in agents' semantic interpretations of their behavior--imply the subsisting reality of communicative order. But the "co-operative principle" that H. Paul Grice's pragmatics sees informing such order, corresponds to Talcott Parsons' definition of collective power. The semantics of agency therefore entails the pragmatics of power.

          This dissertation unfolds the theoretical logic from observed agency to inferred power by successively deconstructing the quotidian connotations of sociology's key-concepts of meaning, power and self, respectively. The traditionally sanctioned intuitions, constraining the theoretical use of these concepts, are traced to quotidian observation of individual agency; a surface phenomenon that is really empowered by underlying deep-structures of cooperative-social forms--as inferred by the pragmatist logic of C. S. Peirce and G. H. Mead. The historical flow of social process is thereby shown to be structured by such forms--i.e. pragmatic codes--that construct the selectivity-mechanisms of cognitive habits. Peirce's triadic phenomenology of signs informs my outline of three such codes structuring stages in sociocultural evolution: "Familism" in pre-modern icons, "Exchange" in modern indices, and "Global Identity" in post-modern symbols. The cognitive theories of Niklas Luhmann's autopoietic paradoxes of self-reference and Jean Piaget's object-permanence are adapted to forge a formal system of necessary and sufficient conditions regulating transitions between evolutionary code-stages.

          This attempt to free the theory of sociocultural evolution from the functionalist metaphors of nineteenth-century biology, results in a universalist semiotic, actually comparable--in its vision of long historical stages broken by transition crises--to the contemporary biological theory of punctuationist equilibria of Ernst Mayr and Stephen Gould.






(Sociocultural Evolution, Theoretical Logic)

Accession No:     AAG9109442

Provider:        OCLC

Database:         Dissertations