Is sociology a science?

Authors Avatar
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. It is the study of human social life by any means that are effective. In sociology, statistics are collected and analysed and human behaviour is observed.

Many of the initiators of sociology are convinced that it is conceivable to create a science of society based on the same principles and methods as the natural scientists. This attempt to apply natural science approaches to sociology is called positivism. Positivists, such as Auguste Comte and Karl Popper believe that the same techniques and processes used by scientists can be applied to social sciences. They believe that social facts and the behaviour of humans like the behaviour of matter can be objectively observed, expressed as a quantity and measured. These measurements are vital to explain human behaviour. Positivists also believe that based on objective measurements, observations of behaviour will allow statements of effect and cause to be made. Then theories may be formulated to explain observed behaviour. Positivists criticize those sociologists who study unobservable and subjective mental states.
Join now!

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. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay