Can you do social research without an opinion on what human life is all about?

Yesterday evening Hage made it clear that Bourdieu views human life as being about the accumulation of ‘being’. I think Bourdieu’s subscription to the principle of autonomy, that scientific activity is capable of being an end in itself, is completely understandable when you view the purpose of human life as augmenting and accumulating being. If the matter of ultimate concern is to accumulate being, this is rather different to other life projects that may be more action focused. Psychoanalysis in the clinical sphere is underpinned by the idea that more insight will make you better. Things that are repressed may be difficult to unpack, but they are hurting the patient. If you extend this to the social realm it is easy to see how social research is always valuable simply for extending understanding.

So, what happens to a researcher if they cannot settle on any background assumption as to what human life is all about?

Note: Bourdieu is my current hammer. My bedside table book at the moment is Bourdieu and Wacquant’s An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology and yesterday was the first lecture in Ghassan Hage’s series on Bourdieu.


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