Showing posts from March, 2022

Niklas Luhmann’s apples-to-oranges category error impairs his theory of society

I have read and reread Niklas Luhmann’s books for several years, initially in puzzlement, later with excitement about the possibilities offered, and finally with disappointment that is nonetheless tempered by gratitude for all that can be learned from his expertly-conceived high-risk journey to imaginary societies that probably never will nor can exist. Discovery, after all, is the essence of social science. Even in a well-intentioned, ambitious, systematic and arduous voyage across the seas which at the end discovers nothing of substance, some smaller, wonderful and indispensable discoveries will have been made along the way. I will try to balance the good against the bad. In retrospect I now see why Luhmann cannot be considered of equal stature to Weber and Parsons in the pantheon of social theorists, though the conceptual lineages between these three are clear to see. It was for the concepts and that lineage that I first read Luhmann, and this was worth while. Furthermore, since Luh

Book Files: Leibniz on the Art of Discovery in a distinction between synthesis and analysis

  Leibniz wrote: Synthesis is achieved when we begin from principles and run through truths in good order, thus discovering certain progressions and setting up tables, or sometimes general formulas, in which the answers to emerging questions can later be discovered. Analysis goes back to the principles in order to solve the given problems only, just as if neither we nor others had discovered anything before. It is more important to establish syntheses, because this work is of permanent value, while we often do work that has already been done in beginning the analysis of a particular problem.  But it is a lesser art to use syntheses already set up by others and theorems already discovered, than to achieve everything through one's own work, by carrying out analyses, especially since we do not always remember or have at hand the truths which we ourselves or others have already discovered. Analysis is of two kinds. The common type advances by leaps and is used in algebra. The other is