Winch and His Modes

"The distinction between a general category of action—a mode of social life—and a particular sort of act falling within such a category, is of central importance to the distinction between non-logical and illogical behaviour. An illogical act presumably involves a mistake in logic; but to call something non-logical should be to deny that criteria of logic apply to it at all. That is, it does not make sense to say of non-logical conduct that it is either logical or illogical, just as it does not make sense to say of something non-spatial (such as virtue) that it is either big or small. But Pareto does not follow through the implications of this. For instance, he tries to use the term ‘non-logical’ in a logically pejorative sense, which is like concluding from the fact that virtue is not big that it must be small. A large part of the trouble here arises from the fact that he has not seen the point around which the main argument of this monograph revolves: that criteria of logic are not a direct gift of God, but arise out of, and are only intelligible in the context of, ways of living or modes of social life. It follows that one cannot apply criteria of logic to modes of social life as such. For instance, science is one such mode and religion is another; and each has criteria of intelligibility peculiar to itself. So within science or religion actions can be logical or illogical: in science, for example, it would be illogical to refuse to be bound by the results of a properly carried out experiment; in religion it would be illogical to suppose that one could pit one’s own strength against God’s; and so on. But we cannot sensibly say that either the practice of science itself or that of religion is either illogical or logical; both are non-logical." -- The Idea of a Social Science, p. 94

This bears an obvious similarity to Oakeshott's discussion of modality in Experience and Its Modes.


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