This paper was presented at the Current Sociological Theory section meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York, August 31, 1959. Research was supported in part by the Office of Naval Research, Group Psychology Branch, Contract No. SAR/Nonr-609(16). Permission is granted for reproduction, translation, publication, and disposal in whole or in part by or for the U.S. Government. We are indebted to Nuel D. Belnap, Jr., for helpful criticism of an earlier draft.
Version of Record online: 21 APR 2005
The Sociological Quarterly
Volume 1, Issue 4, pages 203–216, October 1960
How to Cite
ANDERSON, A. R. and MOORE, O. K. (1960), Autotelic Folk-Models. The Sociological Quarterly, 1: 203–216. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.1960.tb01474.x
For a precise definition of “model” see Kemeny  or Church . Of course we realize that there are other uses of the term, especially in the behavioral sciences, but we are interested in the distinction rather than in the terminology; and since the distinction is drawn most clearly in mathematical logic, we prefer the terminology of the latter.
However, we need not do so. Wald's treatment of confidence levels  proceeds on the assumption that nature is hostile and that a physicist is involved in a two-player game. His discussion invites the thought that under certain circumstances animism might be rational; i.e., if we are sufficiently ignorant about our environment (having just landed on a new planet, say), a sound conservative strategy might be to treat everything as if it were alive.
In connection with his discussion of “the autonomization of contents” ( pp. 49–50), Simmel writes: “The expression ‘social game’ is significant in the deeper sense to which I have already called attention. All the forms of interaction or sociation among men—the wish to outdo, exchange, the formation of parties, the desire to wrest something from the other, the hazards of accidental meetings and separations, the change between enmity and cooperation, the overpowering by ruse and revenge—in the seriousness of reality, all of these are imbued with purposive contents. In the game, they lead their own lives; they are propelled exclusively by their own attraction. For even where the game involves a monetary stake, it is not the money (after all, it could be acquired in many ways other than gambling) that is the specific characteristic of the game. To the person who really enjoys it, its attraction rather lies in the dynamics and hazards of the sociologically significant forms of activity themselves. The more profound, double sense of ‘social game’ is that not only the game is played in a society (as its external medium) but that, with its help, people actually ‘play’‘society.’
As matters now stand, this must be taken only as a very tentative suggestion, which, however, we support to the best of our ability. Our notion of “aesthetic object” is still in the totally unsatisfactory state of the pre-game-theoretic notion of a “game,” and we may well expect aesthetic objects to require a variety of theories. It may be that some objects classified as aesthetic may turn out to be more in the nature of games or puzzles (murder mysteries, for example?) than we now realize.
Initial research was contained in , and (in more available form) in , , , and . But the results reported there are in a certain sense not as strong as desirable. Better results may be obtained with the help of a recent formal system E due to Anderson and Belnap , about which a number of articles are forthcoming.
We note that a step in this direction has been taken in .
For a film report on one phase of this research see , , and .
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We Call autotelic those cultural products that contain their own goals and sources of motivation: puzzles, games, aesthetic objects; such activities are in a sense cut off from serious and immediate problems of survival and welfare. As a heuristic principle for the application of formal methods in sociology, these products may be viewed as folk-models—i.e., models in the pre-scientific culture, with the help of which members of a society learn about and play at the workings of their society.