Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

Philosophy in Everyday Life

As I say to my students when we discuss the History of Social Thought, everyone already has both an ontology (theory of being) and epistemology (theory of knowledge), it is just that these are normally implicit rather than explicit. One of the things that studying Social Thought should do is to alert students to their own ontological and epistemological views and assumptions. This should help them examine what they they think about the world and how to study it.


These underlying philosophical views inform such social views as the following:

-What is human nature?

-What is the nature of society and social life?

-What is social justice?

-Why is there social inequality? (Gender, wealth, social class, ethnicity, etc.).


They also inform many religious and philosophical questions, including:

-What is the purpose of human life?

-Are our lives determined by fate, chance, and/or freely willed action?

-Is there a spiritual world as well as material one? (and v.v.).

-Is there life after death?

-Are there spiritual and/or other supernatural beings (God, gods, spirits, ghosts, etc.), and if there are how can we contact them?

-Are there ‘special’ magical forces that can be harnessed by human beings?

-Do some individuals have special powers — whether because they are holy men/women, spirit mediums, magicians, or witches?

-Does human suffering have any purpose or meaning, and if so, what is it?

-What should the practical corollaries of these views be?


Sociologists have long been interested in the practical consequences of such beliefs: as with the famous Protestant Ethic Hypothesis of Max Weber.

Secular thinkers (who predominate in the Social Sciences) often neglect the importance of other people’s religious beliefs in terms of their life activities (see a recent reminder:


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This entry was posted on November 2, 2013 by in Philosophy and tagged , , .
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