Theorizing, Bounded Rationality, and Expertise: Cognitive Sociology and the Quasi-Realism of Problem-Solving as a Course of Activity
The question facing sociology is whether it is a field or a discipline. If it is a field, then there is no need for theorizing. However, if sociology is a discipline, then problem-solving cannot be disentangled from theorizing without a loss of intelligibility – the inability to explain the social as the concept of the discipline. Through the quasi-realism of problem-solving as a course of activity, this chapter presents cognitive sociology as a paradigm appropriate to the concept of the social understood as an ongoing course of activity. In doing so, it is shown how bounded rationality and expertise play a crucial role in how communication interacts with the division of cognitive labor, especially through the idea of representational representationality. Representational representationality is an idea that reveals how the degree of clarity among language, meaning, and thought is relative to the issues of audience and ignorance. Representational representationality is significant because it demonstrates how the relationship among meaning, language, and thought is subject to communicative errors – errors arising from a predicament of intelligibility and not merely arising from issues of computational skill, as described by Herbert Simon’s model of bounded rationality and expertise in human problem-solving. The argument that follows from this shows how the means for adapting to ambiguity amounts to the difference between Simon’s model and a quasi-real model in terms of its principle of rationality, principle of efficiency, and its cognitive style of problem-solving for deliberate practice. These dimensions are shown to effect what “examples” are good for in the problem-solving process, thereby revealing the politics of expertise. The politics of expertise demonstrates how the conflicts in sociological explanations of strategy are not merely conflicts that can be set aside as a pluralism of values. Rather, the conflicting explanations of theory and theorizing can only be resolved when the situational rationality of sociology as a discipline realizes the quasi-realism of problem-solving as a course of activity.
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This work was originally published in The Centrality of Sociality (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 39), edited by Jeffrey A. Halley and Harry F. Dahms.