File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1998/bourdieu.9804, message 30

Date: Sat, 11 Apr 1998 12:13:31 -0700
Subject: Re: The logic of practice (Reflexive vs Conscious Behavior)

At 01:47 AM 4/6/98 +0200, you wrote:
>We are a group of five danish graduate students using bourdieu in our
>report on ways of changing attitudes and behaviour. 
>We are discussing how to understand the concept: "logic of practice".
>1. How reflexsive is our "practical sense"?

I'm a little unclear what you mean by reflexive - I'll take that too mean
'to what degree is the behavior intentional?'

In my view of the level of conscious intentionality associated with
behavior lies on a continuum with one end signifying unconscious behavioral
schemas - patterns of acting which would be very difficult if not
impossible to make conscious or articulate - and, at the other end, the
conscious application of internalized behavior - keeping in mind that
behavior proper is rarely if every entirely conscious.

>2. Confronted with a new innovation: 
>	a) are we then forced into a reflexsive mode of behaviour? 

	With that in mind, intentional action always emerges out of a system of
internalized non-intentional or semi-intentional action. Therefore, I would
not think exposure to innovation/crisis (any setting to which one's
acquired behavioral schemes to not adapt well) forces one back to a level
of reflexive groping, but rather that the new situation is foreign enough
that the subject does not know how to apply his or her set of learned
behavioral responses to the new setting. The new situation may bring to
light the fact that one has a setting in which his or her acquired behavior
works, and that this new condition is different enough to cause a breakdown
in that relationship. My point is that our 'conscious sense' is always
nested in a common or "practical sense."

>	b) does the practical sense guide us on af preconcious level?

	I think we learn a repertoire of behavioral schemes (a la Piaget) such as
walking, grasping, etc. which, due to the natural and social environment
with which we interact, take on a local character. When we act
intentionally, we apply those schemas to our current situation. In that
sense, those patterns of action guide us in that they constitute the array
of possible actions we can consciously employ. I think it is important to
recognize that the relationship between preconscious and conscious action
is very dynamic. We are constantly devising new combinations of old
patterns of action to suit new situations or to better adapt to existing
situations. Therefore, reflexive behavior is not synonymous with static or
sedimentary behavior. However, there are limits to the set of actions we
draw upon, however innovative our approach. 
	Its also worth pointing out that thinking is a behavioral scheme too.
Consequently, the manner in which we have learned to represent our
circumstances and our approach to analysis have preconscious features of
their own.

>3. If 2a) is true does the adopted behaviour after internalised move to a
>preconcious level?

	Again, to try and be clear - yes and no. Yes, because generally one's
conscious focus rises above the level of the behavior associated with it.
So once one learns how to drive a stick shift, its possible to ignore that
pattern of behavior and pay attention to a variety of other issues while
driving. No, because that doesn't mean manipulating a stick shift slips
into some sort of dark non-conscious hole in our head. If someone says,
"Say, I'd like to learn to drive a stick shift, can you teach me?" we don't
reply, "Gosh, I'd love to help you but that activity is entirely
pre-conscious now - I can't even comprehend what I am doing anymore."
(Actually, people do say that, but they are exaggerating).
	There are behaviors which are preconscious - probably because they were
built upon imitation. The way westerners walk, sit, etc. is subtly
different from the manner in which peoples in the rest of the world walk
and sit. I don't think that kind of adaptation was ever "conscious," that
is, I don't think children contemplated the range of possible ways of
walking and settled in on the western way. Instead, the ubiquitous nature
of socially articulated solutions to behavioral choices makes choosing and
imitating the way everyone else does it virtually automatic. In that sense,
if someone asks, "Say, I like to learn how to walk like you do, can you
teach me?" we'd be hard pressed to say "Sure, you just lift your foot like
this and add this sway to your hips like so...etc.," because we really
don't know what went into learning our localized version of walking.

Hagen Finley



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