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Should Sociology Be Scientific?

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Introduction

Should Sociology Be Scientific? In sociology there are two main contrasting views to how the subject of sociology should be approached and studied, as a science or not. In this essay I will be explaining the arguments of each side of the discussion fully, and aim to show the positive and negative points of either approach to studying sociology. The first argument I will analyse is Positivism. Positivists support the view that sociology should be studied as a science, arguing that society and the activities of the individuals in society as a whole hold main similarities and attributes to the physical or natural world. Positivists believe that social factors are largely involved in determining human behaviour, an example being that positivists think that people wish to seek partners in order to allow them to marry and produce children, letting them fulfil societies expectations of them. Positivists use scientific methodology, which means that their procedures resemble methods of collecting data that are usually seen in practice in natural sciences. Examples of some of these methods are questionnaires, structured interviews or statistics. Using scientific procedures in the Positivists view means that more accurate results will be collected, they hold the view that it is possible to see society in an objective way. An example of this is Durkheim, who believed the social facts of society could be considered in the same way as objects and events of the natural world. ...read more.

Middle

elderly Eskimo's will kill themselves for the sake of their society, where as a someone in a western society may kill themselves because they are depressed. Also, in Durkheim's research into suicide, J.D Douglas criticized him saying that the statistics used weren't valid, as the decision to if the sudden death was a suicide is made by the coroner, who in turn is influenced by the family and friends of the victim. This creates the possibility of there being systematic bias in the decision, having the consequence of not very reliable statistics to base his conclusions on. Another weakness of scientific methodology is it can result in generalisations in the conclusions, where the researcher will split the data collected into different categories, as Durkheim carried out in his study into suicide, which can be too reductionist, missing out important factors in the issue being researched such as the background of the suicides etc. Another method used in sociological research is observation, which positivists believe that the social world can be objectively observed and classified. Observation is not only used by positivists, but is also used by many anti-positivist sociologists who have observed situations in connection with subjects like education and suicide, where Atkinson observed the processes involved in the decisions made by coroners in the coroners courts. One problem with using observation is that it is restrictive in the type of situations it can be used in, such as in the study of the subject of politics, sociologists are prohibited from observing the British Cabinet. ...read more.

Conclusion

An example of this is if a person is fishing, are they doing it because its their hobby, or maybe because they are hungry. One process supported by Weber was verstehen, which is where the sociologist imagines himself or herself as the person or in the position of the person whose being studied. Weber thought that the motives behind an action are just as important as the actions themselves for coming to the truth behind a subject. There third perspective involved in the debate is Post Modernism, which believe in the grand narrative, or that there is no such thing as just having one dominant theory. Post Modernists believe the best results and theories are academic pick and mix's, where conclusions are drawn from many different perspectives and theories to get an all round finding that includes all the different points of view involved. Post Modernists also think that there is no such thing as one objective truth, and that no one method or way of looking at sociology can arrive at true conclusions as in reality, society is always changing as is the norms and values within society. One post modernist who believes that there is no one technique that can find the truth (a belief held by epistemology) is Lyotard, who sees all epistemology as being based on more the researchers opinions instead of being based on objective knowledge. This is known as being a metanarrative. Alison Howard - Sociology ...read more.

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