The Influence of Felix Kaufmann’s Methodology on Harold Garfinkel’s Ethnomethodology

Hammersley, Martyn (2020). The Influence of Felix Kaufmann’s Methodology on Harold Garfinkel’s Ethnomethodology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 50(1) pp. 23–44.



This paper examines the “methodology,” or philosophy of social science, developed by Felix Kaufmann in the second quarter of the 20th century, with the aim of determining its influence on the early work of the sociologist Harold Garfinkel. Kaufmann’s two methodology books are discussed, one written before, the other after, his migration from Austria to the United States. It is argued that Garfinkel took over Kaufmann’s conception of scientific practice: as a set of procedural rules or methods that determine whether or not new propositions will be accepted into the corpus of scientific knowledge, and whether previously accepted propositions should be retained or abandoned. However, Garfinkel deployed this methodology not so much as a model for sociological inquiry, but rather for the processes by which the lifeworld is constituted—an area of investigation that is epistemologically prior to the focus of most social science, and one which had been opened up in the writings of Edmund Husserl and (especially) Alfred Schutz. It is suggested that Kaufmann’s “methodology” was an important complement to the work of these other two philosophers in their influence on Garfinkel.

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