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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

Pierre Bourdieu's Outline of a Theory of Practice begins by positing that:

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The practical privilege in which all scientific activity arises never more subtly governs that activity (insofar as science presupposes not only an epistemological break but also a social separation) than when, unrecognised as privilege, it leads to an implicit theory of practice which is the corollary of neglect of the social conditions in which science is possible.

What this means in plainer English is that, first, the pursuit of knowledge is constrained by historical conditions, and secondly, since the seventeenth century, the natural sciences (and by extension, the social sciences which mimic them) have pretended that the practices of science (experimentation, intellectual exchange, and even scientific writing) are governed not by historical social conditions but by ahistorical norms of objectivity.

Bourdieu, in this statement, is saying that science is never quite so dominated by social and historical conditions as when it pretends that it is immune to such conditions. He argues that claims to scientific objectivity themselves arise in historical context; early modern natural scientists had to carve out "objectivity" to differentiate themselves from non-scientists.

Bourdieu further claims that:

The slow evolution "from religion to philosophy", as Cornford and the Cambridge school put it, that is, from analogy as a practical scheme of ritual action to analogy as an object of reflection and a rational method of thought, is correlative with a transformation of the function which the groups concerned confer on myth and rite in their practice.

This means, for instance, that the analogy between heaven and earth posited in scriptural contexts and embodied in church...

(The entire section contains 427 words.)

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