Alfred Schutz

Alfred Schutz was influenced by Husserl’s phenomenology. He also criticizes Weber. He says that Weber simply assumes that actors share subjective meanings. Schutz asks, “Why and how do actors come to acquire common subjective states in a situation? How do they create a common view of the world? This problem of intersubjectivity is central to Schutz’s intellectual scheme. My presentation is on construction of thought objects by the social sciences. It begins with the understanding of Weber’s rational action.

Schutz says that when the actors are acting in a particular situation they act on the basis of “stock of knowledge” at hand and this “stock of knowledge” is taken for granted by the in-group to which the person belongs. Schutz also says that the actor also has a stock of knowledge which he uses subjectively at the time of carrying out an action. For Example: A student as a member of the student community has to read for exam may be two months before the exam or 3 months.

The stock of knowledge a student have as a member of student community requires him to prepare for exam but a student as an individual has to decide subjectively whether to study one month before or one day. So a student has his own stock of knowledge at his personal. * Schutz identifies there is a difference of biographical situation between the observer and observed. Therefore what appears rational to the observed may not be necessarily rational in terms of observer’s understanding.

They also have different stock of knowledge and they do not have the reciprocity of perspectives , which makes something appear rational from the perspective of the actor and irrelevant from the perspective of the observer. * Schutz also says no action is unreasonable from the perspective of an actor because both past actions and future actions of an actor refer to the stock of knowledge at hand. Even if the action fails, the actor claims that there has been some error in the judgement in asserting the prevailing circumstances.

Schutz takes from idea regarding the choice of action from John Dewey. Dewey argues that the actor must have a clear knowledge of the action so that he can exercise his choice and make action rational. An actor needs distinct knowledge. * Dewy talks about three factors which determine rational action.

1. 1st is determined by the biographical situation of the actor in the socio-cultural-physical environment. 2. The actor should know the ends which he is aspiring for and he should also be aware threat the ends are arranged in a hierarchal order, therefore he should have knowledge to ascertain that fulfilment of which ends are important than others and that the fulfilment of one or two ends may not lead to fulfilment of the others. 3. Compatibility of the means used to attain the ends. Using such means Dewey’s idea is based on actor’s point of view. that the probability of attain the ends would increase. Example: Birthday…

I need shoes and Racket… I may ask my parents to gift me now instead of on my birthday. * Now Schutz says suppose the actor has to carry out an action along with a consociate, now the problem what this man points out is action, rational for the actor may not be rational for the consociate. To make the actions and motives of the actor and the consociate to converge, both must have sufficient knowledge what the other wants. Therefore Schutz emphasizes on the idea of mutual knowledge as an ideal condition for rational action.

It is the “we” relation which is the prerequisite for moral action. We may determine the rationality of human action if they confirm to socially accepted rules of conduct. * In this regard finally Schutz says, the action which is unquestionable and very typical of particular setting, which are expected of us in courses of action and also the means and ends taken for granted is called “common sense concept of rationality” and it deals with everyday life. Now coming to construct of thought objects, Schutz argues that thought objects constructed by the social scientists are different from commonsensical thinking. Social sciences avoid referring to unique situation. Scientists develop a model consisting of only those events that are important for the scientists in terms of his research problem where as the other events are considered irrelevant. * Aim of social science is to study the subjective meaning structure using the objective methods and the attitude of social scientist should be of a disinterested observer.

Two things Schutz says about the problem. 1. Dealing with science and scientific matter within the social world. 2. Specific scientific attitude which the scientist has to adopt toward his objects. Common sense, commonsensical knowledge or interpretation of social world is based on biographical situation and the system of relevance related to that. It is difficult to achieve objectivity and disinterested scholarship. To achieve this 1st to do is detach from biographical situation. 2nd you have to enter the scientific situation, which is a preorganised world.

Taking about differences between common sense and scientific construct of action pattern Schutz says that common sense constructs are ‘formed here within the world which determines the reciprocity of the perspectives. They take the socially derived stock of knowledge for granted. The social scientists consider his position within social world irrelevant to scientific understanding. Both observed and observer from their common sense based on their biographical situation but the social scientist, while studying the problem takes the stock of knowledge that is based on the corpus of his science.

But the scientific stock of knowledge is quite difficult to acquire and is difficult from the knowledge of everyday life. * Concept of rationality doesn’t refer to action within the common sense experience of everyday life in the social world: it is expression for a particular type of constructs of certain specific models of the social world made by the social scientists for certain specific methodological purposes. The social scientists cannot enter into an interaction situation as an actor without temporarily abandoning his scientific attitude.

The system of relevancies will be different when the social scientists enter into the interaction situation as an actor. * Scientific models or scientific attitudes don’t take the biographical situations into consideration. They create categories for research purposes and these categories what he calls “homunculus” doesn’t share the existential conditions of human beings. These creations are rigid and flexibility is limited to the alternatives provided by the social scientists. When the scientists try to detach himself, everything becomes a construct of scientific observer.

The difficulty with the social scientists is to study subjective meanings in an objective method. Schutz says scientific model of human action must be constructed in a way so that we can understand the life world of the individual actor. Conclusion: Schultz mainly emphasizes on the difficulty of social scientist who has to take a disinterested stand in spite of being a member of a social group and having unique biographical situation to look objectively at the subjective meaning.

I may conclude this by putting some comparisons like: Durkheim argues about objective study of objects that is social facts, while postmodernists are against the objectivity they argue for subjective study of subject, i. e. narrative. Weber says human actors input subjective meanings to their action. But Schultz argues that Weber avoids from focusing on the composition of this subjective meaning, Schultz emphasizes on stock of knowledge, Biographical situation and system of relevancies in this regard.