Donald N. Levine


Donald Nathan Levine (June 16, 1931 – April 4, 2015) was an American sociologist, educator, social theorist and writer. He was a central figure in Ethiopian Studies. Within sociology, he is perhaps best known for his work in sociological theory and his translations and interpretations of Georg Simmel's classical texts into English, which led to a resurgence of interest in Simmel's work in the discipline.

Donald N. Levine, 2013


  • There are benefits to be gained from the ambiguities of scientific discourse. Of the four previously identified functions served by ambiguity, two remain outside the boundaries of scientific work. The function of attaining enlightenment through the intuition of indeterminacy belongs to mysticism, or perhaps to philosophy and poetry, not to the disciplined activity of science. And the protection of one's meanings and intentions through ambiguously opaque utterance, while perhaps useful as a protective ploy in scientific competition, cannot be sanctioned as appropriate conduct for a scientific enquirer. Through its two other functions, however — the evocative representation of complex meanings and the bonding of a community through diffuse symbols — ambiguity has long served and will continue to serve the general objectives of scientific activity. It is useful for scientific formulations to express an abundance of meanings, for these can ignite a cluster of insights that in turn lead to novel explorations.
    • Donald N. Levine (1988), The Flight from Ambiguity: Essays in Social and Cultural Theory. p. 218; Partly cited in: David L. Sills, ‎Robert King Merton (2000), Social Science Quotations: Who Said What, When, and Where. p. 129-130
  • For the early Greek writers Ethiopia was less a geographical location than a state of mind. For Greeks and Romans generally, Ethiopians meant dark-skinned peoples who lived south of Egypt. At times the reference was so vague as to include peoples from West Africa, Arabia, and India. At times it was more localized, referring to the Nubian kingdom of Kush, with its capital first at Napata and later at Meroe. What was constant was that the name Ethiopian denoted a person of dark color — literally, of burnt face — and that it connoted, above all else, remoteness.
    • Donald N. Levine (2014), Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. p. 1

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