Methodological and Philosophical Foundations of the Theory of Action
Talcott Parsons’ development of the theory of social action rested upon some specific and explicit methodological and philosophical foundations that were maintained continuously from his early writings to his final works. The Weberian conception of meaningful conduct or action and the Whiteheadian concepts of analytical realism and organicism are the most prominent of these. However, they were later complemented by such additional concepts as function, drawn primarily from biological models, and cybernetic hierarchy of control, a derivation from Norbert Wiener’s mathematical work on cybernetics, in Parsons’ writings of the 1950s and 1960s.
The proposed session will examine these and other methodological commitments of the theory of action to determine:
- How authentically did Parsons take over his basic methodological concepts from predecessors?
- How consistent are the several foundational methodological commitments with one another and to what degree do they constitute an integrated basis for sociological theory?
- How do they compare to other current bodies of theory in sociology?
The goal of the session is to produce new and deeper understanding of foundational aspects of the theory of action and to clarify its relations to some other contemporary theories at the foundational level.
Conveners of the session will make presentations related to the three questions above and accept proposals for presentations from other qualified sociologists.