Friday, March 11, 2005


First, a couple of thoughts on independent learning in general. I may have mentioned that one way to do it is to take a top-down type of approach, working from the general to the more specific. Since I like to get an overview of a subject before plunging into the details, this works for me. However, an equally appropriate approach is to start from yourself and work outward. If I were working with individuals, I would probably recommend such an approach. However, an individual-outward approach has to be tailored to the needs of each individual, so instead I'm presenting a survey of the broad areas, with details to be discussed later. If anyone has a comment or question, I'm willing to take that into account.

Sociologists have identified five major institutions that are present, to some extent, in every human society. These include
1) Religion
2) Government
3) Economics
4) Education
5) Family

In many cases, these are not clearly distinct, and they are never entirely separate. A person may be a worshipper, citizen, consumer, student, or family member; sometimes more than one of them at once.

There are connections of each of these with science and nature, and they depend ultimately both on individuals and on groups of people. Generally speaking, these are social, rather than solitary activities. They each are associated with language, literature, and ideas, with customs and patterns of behavior, and objects or artifacts. These institutions take on a variety of different forms and relationships among different communities, peoples, and cultures, and they each have a historical development.

As an exercise, I suggest describing your particular affiliation with each of these: It may be present or past.

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