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Plausibility and Relationships: You Are What Your Friends Believe (Andy Patton, JAN 21, 2022, Still Point)


Peter Berger will be our guide for today’s tour of social plausibility. Berger coined the term “plausibility structure” to refer to the societal contexts of networks of meaning within which these meanings make sense or are made plausible. He is a leading thinker in the field of the “sociology of knowledge,” which, for me, has been a key that unlocks this aspect of the story of modern deconstruction.

Berger lays out his basic perspective in A Rumor Of Angels:

“For better or for worse, [humans] are social beings. Their “sociality” includes what they think, or believe they “know” about the world. Most of what we “know” we have taken on the authority of others, and it is only as others continue to confirm this “knowledge” that it continues to be plausible to us. It is such socially shared, socially taken-for-granted “knowledge” that allows us to move with a measure of confidence through everyday life.”

Berger is saying that our beliefs first come to us through the beliefs of others, and they only remain believable if they continue to be supported and nourished through a believing community that also shares them. In other words, our beliefs become a taken-for-granted part of our paradigm if they are continually confirmed by our social environment. We hold things to be true because people around us also hold them to be true.