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Ethnomethodology, Brandom’s pragmatism and ordinary language philosophy: a reflection on the status of formal-analytic work

Biagi, Scott (2018) Ethnomethodology, Brandom’s pragmatism and ordinary language philosophy: a reflection on the status of formal-analytic work. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between Garfinkel’s initiatives and the motivating insights of ordinary language philosophy, in terms of which it aims to give a coherent and philosophically satisfying account of Garfinkel’s attitude to “formal analysis” in the study of social life. It diagnoses confusion in the reception of ethnomethodology as stemming from a misconstrual of a central practice of ethnomethodological research: indifference to problems that arise for the analyst. On the face of it, there is much in common between Wittgenstein’s critique of philosophy and the idea of a “methodogenesis” (Garfinkel) of problems of formal analysis. Three interpretations suggest themselves: (1) Ethnomethodology relies on ordinary language philosophy for a motivating argument against Durkheimian sociology. (2) Garfinkel’s initiatives situate Wittgenstein’s critique of philosophy in the broader context of an ethnomethodological critique of formal analysis. (3) At the level of motivating insights, ethnomethodology and ordinary language philosophy are one and the same project. This thesis argues for (3). It approaches the interpretative issue in terms of an analogy between Durkheimian sociology and analytic philosophy of language. Both rely on a rule of method on the following lines: things of interest to the analyst (social facts, meanings) are to be regarded as separable from historic actions. Ethnomethodology and ordinary language philosophy deny such separability. The interpretative task is to clarify the role of criticism of formal analysis in reflection on members’ work. This thesis argues that criticism serves to remove formal-analytic obstructions to a member’s understanding of practical actions. Brandom’s pragmatism is considered as an example. In accordance with Garfinkel’s programmatic statements, the project of Making It Explicit is regarded in this thesis both as an obstruction to understanding and as a possible subject matter for ethnomethodological research. The overall aim is to rid this kind of two-sided treatment of formal analysis of the air of a paradox.

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