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07-01-2020 | Profile | Issue 1/2020

Society 1/2020

Peter Berger on Religion as Choice Rather than Fate

Journal:
Society > Issue 1/2020
Author:
Samuel Heilman
Important notes

Publisher’s Note

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Abstract

Is there a connection between biography and sociology for Peter Berger? The short answer, as demonstrated by his own memoir, Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist, is “yes.” But in his book, he traces this connection to his own arrival and training at the Graduate Faculty of the New School. I would like to suggest that the process begins earlier in his life. Known for his work on the sociology of knowledge, the examination of how “society influences thought,” I suggest an examination of how one’s biography influences thought, the environment in which Berger grew played a major role in his self-awareness, adjustment, human development, and identity. The paper applies this approach, along with Berger’s concept of the sociology of knowledge to sketch a possible understanding of his ideas and work that emerge as a product of his life experiences. The idea here is that people’s lives help frame and explain their own thinking and the way they see the world. Who one is, where and how one has lived and those with whom one has interacted create not only one’s personality and identity but also epigenetically the blueprint of one’s way of perceiving reality and shaping ideas. The intersection of the social and biographical facts of one’s life create the person and his ideas, both the objective and subjective structures of meaning.

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