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Is sociology a science?

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Introduction

Question: "Within the social sciences there is a debate about whether Sociology is a science or not". Evaluate the major positions in this debate. Science may be defined as a set of key components which can be related to a methodological process. It may also be defined broadly as the accumulation of verifiable knowledge or narrowly as the testing of hypotheses by positivistic methodology. Science is made up of four components which are empirical, theoretical, cumulative and objective. The empirical aspect deals with measurable phenomena, the theoretical aspect seeks to uncover casual relationships between phenomena, the cumulative aspect builds up knowledge, moving towards greater understanding of the world and the objective aspect concerns itself with the objective discovery of the truth. Personal attitudes and bias have no place in science. Sociology may be defined as the study of society and the way in which society influences people's behaviour, beliefs and identity. ...read more.

Middle

One positivist, Auguste Comte (1798-1857) who is one of the founding fathers of sociology believed that the development of society followed 'invariable laws'. He also believed that "the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified."(Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology Themes and Perspectives, 2000) Comte believed that there was a ranking of scientific subjects, with sociology at the top. He also believes that scientific knowledge of society could be gathered together and used to enhance human life. Another positivist Karl Popper also believed that sociology was scientific. He believed that social sciences and sociology could be scientific by following a set of methodological practices. There are also a number of persons who believe that sociology is not a science. These are the physical scientists and the subjectivists' sociologists. The physical scientists base their beliefs on empirical and theoretical grounds. ...read more.

Conclusion

New research would have to be considered, in order for theories to be more accurate and applicable today. Phenomenologists also believe that sociology is not a science. They reject the view that natural science methodology is appropriate to sociology. To phenomenologists, objective observation of the social world is not possible. They believe that it is not possible to collect meaningful statistical data and establish correlations, casual connections and laws. In conclusion the positivists believe that sociology is a science. Marx also believed that his sociology was objective and scientific. They believe that sociologists can use the same procedures and methods as natural scientists do to come up with theories behind human behaviour. The physical scientists and subjectivists' sociologists believe that sociology is not a science. They believe that it is not possible to measure the social world objectively and that it is not possible to find laws of human behaviour. The debate about whether sociology is a science has been existent for quite some time and will continue to exist. ...read more.

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