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Why-questions and Motivational Mechanisms
Theoretical writing is usually intended to answer its author's "why-question" (e.g., "Why isn't there a war of all-against-all?"  "Why do people cooperate?"  "Why do social policies have unintended consequences?").  Theorists nearly always base their answers to these questions on an assumption (or premise) about human nature (e.g., "People are basically selfish."  "People seek approval."  "People avoid danger.")  When synthesizing theorists' ideas, be sure to mention both their why-questions and the motivational mechanisms they presume people to have.

Synthetic notes for first seminar on theorists:
  • What is the theorist's why-question?
  • What motivates human behavior according to the theorist?
  • What are the theorist's key concepts?
  • How are these concepts defined?
  • A theory is like a machine.  Sketch a picture (or construct a table) of this machine and give labels that show how (i.e., the grammar according to which) all its conceptual parts are interrelated.
Comparison/contrast notes for second seminar on theorists:
  • What conceptual similarities are there among the three theorists?
  • What conceptual dissimilarities (a.k.a. "pivotal concepts") are there among the three theorists?
  • How do the theorists build on other theorists' arguments?
  • What (in)consistencies are there between each theorist's position and those of other theorists that we have discussed previously?


January 12  Introduction January 14-21  language and sensory experience

January 26-28  Conflict (the follower)

February 2-4  Function (the collaborator)

February 9-11  Rational Choice (the agent)
February 16-18  Dramaturgy (the persona)

February 23-25  Anti-essentialism (persona subversion)

March 2-9  Critical Theory (agent subversion)

March 9-13

  • Student-instructor meetings.

March 23-25  Risk (collaborator subversion)

March 30-April 1  deconstructionism (follower subversion)

April 6-8  restricted relativisms (universalism subversion)

April 13-15

April 20-22

April 27-29

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