A2 Sociology & Science


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A2 Sociology & Science

  1. 1. A2 Sociology & Science
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Important questions to ask for this topic: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why is it important to consider if Sociology should be reclassified as a' hard' (natural) science? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why is it difficult to settle the debate on this reclassification? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can and should Sociology be reclassified as a science? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is science and what implications does it have for Sociology? </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. What are the Learning Objectives for this Topic? <ul><li>After we've completed this topic you should be able to: </li></ul><ul><li>Know the difference between positivists & Interpretivists views of whether sociology can be a science and be able to apply this to the issues of suicide. </li></ul><ul><li>Know a range of views on natural science and their implications for sociology as a science. </li></ul><ul><li>Be able to evaluate the arguments for & against the view that sociology can or should be reclassified as a science. </li></ul>
  4. 4. History of Positivism <ul><li>The 19 th century 'Founding Fathers' (FF) were impressed by the ability of science to explain the natural world. </li></ul><ul><li>FF appreciated how science allowed humans to extend their control over nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was one of these founding fathers, coined the term 'sociology' and described himself as a 'positivist'. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Beliefs of Positivists <ul><li>It is possible & desirable to apply logic & methods of natural sciences to study of society. </li></ul><ul><li>Argued it creates true, objective knowledge similar to the that which is found in natural sciences. </li></ul><ul><li>Will provide basis for solving social problems & achieving progress. </li></ul><ul><li>Believed that reality exists outside & independently of the human mind. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Key Features of Positivists <ul><li>Nature is made up of objective, observable physical facts. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examples: Rocks, cells, stars etc... </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The examples exist external to our minds whether we like it or not. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Positivists see society as objective factual reality. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It's a real 'thing' made up of social facts that exist 'out there', independently of individuals, just like the physical world. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Positivists on Patterns <ul><li>Argue reality is not random, but patterned. </li></ul><ul><li>Say this reality can be observed empirically (factually) as patterns or regularities. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>H2O boils at 100 Celsius. Scientists must observe, identify, measure & record these patterns systematically. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preferably though lab experiments & then explain them. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Positivists on Laws <ul><li>Ascribe to the concept described by Durkheim that 'real laws are discoverable' and that they will explain these patterns. </li></ul><ul><li>Physics discovered gravity, and so too (Positivists argue) will sociology will discover laws that determine how society works. </li></ul><ul><li>This method for doing so is known as induction, or inductive reasoning. </li></ul>
  9. 9. What is Induction? <ul><li>Induction involves accumulating data about the world through careful observation & measurements. </li></ul><ul><li>As we discover more about our society, we begin to see an emerging pattern. </li></ul><ul><li>Natural Science patterned example: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We may observe that objects, when dropped, always fall toward the earth at the same rate of accelerations. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This is because gravity remains at a constant. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Verificationism <ul><li>From Verificationism we can develop a theory that explains all our observations to date. </li></ul><ul><li>Once we have completed many more observations which confirm or verify a theory, we can then claim to have discovered the truth in the form of a general law . </li></ul><ul><li>Inductive reasoning claims to verify a theory-- to prove it true, and this is Verificationism at its core . </li></ul><ul><li>Positivists believe patterns we observe in nature or society can all be explained in the same way, by finding the facts that cause them . </li></ul>
  11. 11. Examples of Observed Patterns <ul><li>Physics explains that the apple falls to the ground (one fact) due to gravity (another fact). </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology might explain the fact of educational failure in terms of another social fact such as material deprivation. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Positivist Sociologists... <ul><li>Seek to discover the causes of the patterns they observe. </li></ul><ul><li>Similar to natural scientists as the aim to produce general statement or scientific laws about how society works. </li></ul><ul><li>These statements or scientific laws can be used to predict future events and guide social policies. </li></ul><ul><li>So, how does this play out in practical Sociology according to Positivists? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If we know that material deprivation causes educational failure, we can use this knowledge to develop policies to tackle it. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Are Positivists Similar to any other Approaches? <ul><li>Yes, they favour the 'macro' or structural explanations of social phenomena, much like the Functionalists & Marxists. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Macro theories see society and its structures as social 'facts' that exist outside of us and shape our behaviour patterns. </li></ul></ul>