Sociology As A Science Essay

1622 words - 6 pages

Sociology emerged in the eighteenth century after a period of intense
cultural, social and economic changes. As people began to try to
understand these changes, there came a period called the
Enlightenment. This is also considered by Hamilton (1992) to be a
“time characterised by the development of distinctively modern forms
of thought about society and the realm of the social.” The
Enlightenment encouraged a new way of thinking marked by application
of reason, experience and experiment to the natural and social world.
Sociologists approached the study of society and change by using
scientific means as they were inspired by the recognition of the value
of scientific principles and procedures.

Science is a systematic, rigorous, controlled discipline aimed at
understanding, gathering knowledge about and predicting occurrences
within the natural world. If a research method has these
characteristics it can be considered ‘scientific’. Science is a body
of knowledge associated with a particular style of research, that is,
one characterised by the use of certain methods in specific
circumstances and shaped by an underlying rationale. The purest
example of the scientific method is the experiment. In the mid
eighteenth century science became, as Hamilton (1992) would say it,
“for the intellectuals of the Enlightenment, the epitome of
enlightened reason.” Science was perceived as knowledge that people
could trust and that would be true for all circumstances, hence,
science became a powerful force in society and assumed a new status as
a superior form of understanding. This belief in science led two
strands of sociologists being formed, Positivists by Comte and
anti-Positivist by Mead.

Positivists want sociology to be regarded as a science as they believe
that it did not develop independently of science. They believe that
sociology is a science as it is based on the principles advocated by
the early scientists and shares common assumptions. Positivist
strongly believe that only science can provide an objective truth or
facts, and a good example of this is Durkheim’s study of suicide, in
which he proved that sociology can relate to scientific topics. The
metanarrative of science which existed in the past, to a certain
extent shows how it was used by early sociologists as a conceptual
framework for their work, therefore adopting science as it was
considered to offer more scope than religion. Auguste Comte is
considered the founding figure of positivism, and was inspired by the
need to make sense of the rapid social change brought about by the
industrial, agricultural and political revolutions taking place across
Europe. As they believe that human behaviour is determined by social
constructions beyond their control such as laws and social facts,
positivists claim these are a product...

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