Is Sociology a Science?

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Is Sociology a Science?

Does sociology embody the critical characteristics to justify its classification as a science and is such a classification acceptable? Since the beginning of the study of sociology in the 19th century, this has been a fundamental conflict within the field of sociology. Opinion is generally divided into two camps; those who believe that Sociology should be considered as equal in stature to the Natural Sciences and those who disagree.

Sociology, according to Ackroyd and Hughes is the “… social science that is concerned with the explanation of human behavior.” A Science, according to the Oxford dictionary is a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systemized observation of and experiment with phenomenon. (This definition is usually accorded exclusively to the natural sciences, for example Physics)

The main proponents of this argument are the positivists. Many of the founding fathers of Sociology subscribed to this school of thought. They believed that social facts could be observed objectively, measured and quantified in the way matter is quantified in terms of temperature, volume and pressure.

 In Chemistry, proven theories make it possible to predict the behavior of elements. Auguste Comte transferred this to sociology, suggesting that the concept of “cause and effect” in human behavior makes it possible to formulate general laws of social development and thus predict the behavior of social agents. He theorised that the social world was made up of objective facts, independent of individuals, just waiting to be discovered. He supported the use of scientific methods of analysis to produce accurate, quantified data. (He is noted as having likened the new “scientific sociologist” to a secular priest.)

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 Similarly, the French social scholar C.H. Saint Simon shared the view that through the application of scientific positivism it is possible to discover the laws of social change and organization. The common thread in both lines of thought is the belief that within the study of human societies as with the natural sciences, ultimate truths exist.  This however is seen as a fallacy by many interpretists, as the achievement of an absolute truth in sociology is impossible; as much as it is impossible to replicate precise conditions of previous experiments; a key pillar of science. This thus inhibits the ability ...

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