RE: another view of Panofsky: what is "habitus"?

From: Cunningham, Donald J. (
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 15:42:26 PDT

A number of folks in semiotics also employ Jacob von Uexull's concept of
Umwelt, defined as something like one's personal world or world as
lived. The Umwelt of a dog is different from the Umwelt of a bird even
though both live in the same environment. Closer still is probably the
Lebenswelt, or human Umwelt, because it includes the cultural
constructions made possible, in large part, by language and other
semiotic systems.



-----Original Message-----
From: IRAJ IMAM []
Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 4:39 PM
Subject: RE: another view of Panofsky: what is "habitus"?



Steve asked: I am struggling with the concept of "habitus."


I do not know much about it either. But I found this link comparing

Bourdieu's 'habitus' with Peirce's 'habit.'


"Peirce defines 'habit' through linking the concepts of 'habit' and

'belief'. This is made explicit through Peirce's statement that "belief

of the nature of a habit" 3. What Peirce means by this is that our

are based on the "habit[s] of mind" we adopt 4. Peirce points out that
we do

not require proof, in any rigorous, philosophical sense, that our

are true. Instead, we are content to base our beliefs on our habits of

provided these habits yield beliefs which we think are true 5"


"Bourdieu defines the 'habitus' in terms of structures, such as

and motivating principles and procedures to follow 6, which are

by the subject 7 and which then come to generate and organise social

practices and representations 8. The subject's habitual patterns of

are determined by the 'habitus'. As on Peirce's model, these habitual

patterns of thought cannot claim the status of 'objective truths'. The

habitus is constituted through the past experiences, both individual and

collective, of subjects within the world. Therefore, the habitual modes

thought licensed by the habitus are based upon experiences of social

practices and not upon an inquiry into what is true. Yet, it is these

of thought which give rise to belief."


"Peirce's model entails that habits of thought are based on some sort of

consensual reality and not upon truth in an objective sense. Similarly,

there is no fixed point or ground in Bourdieu's model. Habits of thought

action are determined by the habitus. However, the habitus is formed

nothing other than structures arising out of "the arbitrariness of a

culture" 15. The habitus resembles an infinite series of contexts which

embedded in one another but are not anchored to any fixed point or

In this way, the 'habitus' is similar to Foucault's model of discursive

structures and disciplinary knowledges. Yet, although both Peirce and

Bourdieu's models are ungrounded, neither entirely abandons reference to

external reality. Peirce defends the notion that there is "some external

permanency - something upon which our thinking has no effect" 16 and

Bourdieu's concept of 'the field' entails that human beings interact

objective structures in the external world."



iraj imam

The Center for Applied Local Research



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