August Comte Contibutions to Sociology
"The most important thing to determine was the natural order in which the sciences stand â not how they can be made to stand, but how they must stand, irrespective of the wishes of any one....This Comte accomplished by taking as the criterion of the position of each the degree of what he called "positivity," which is simply the degree to which the phenomena can be exactly determined. This, as may be readily seen, is also a measure of their relative complexity, since the exactness of a science is in inverse proportion to its complexity. The degree of exactness or positivity is, moreover, that to which it can be subjected to mathematical demonstration, and therefore mathematics, which is not itself a concrete science, is the general gauge by which the position of every science is to be determined. Generalizing thus, Comte found that there were five great groups of phenomena of equal classificatory value but of successively decreasing positivity. To these he gave the names astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology."
â Lester F. Ward, The Outlines of Sociology (1898),
Comte saw sociology, as the last and greatest of all sciences, one which would include all other sciences and integrate and relate their findings into a cohesive whole.
Throughout his career, Durkheim was concerned primarily with three goals. First, to establish sociology as a new academic discipline. Second, to analyze how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed; to that end he wrote much about the effect of laws, religion, education and similar forces on the society and social integration.Lastly, Durkheim was concerned with the practical implications of scientific knowledge.The importance of social integration is expressed throughout Durkheim's work:
For if society lacks the unity that derives from the fact that the relationships between its parts are exactly regulated, that unity resulting from the harmonious articulation of its various functions assured by effective discipline and if, in addition, society lacks the unity based upon the commitment of men's wills to a common objective, then it is no more than a pile of sand that the least jolt or the slightest puff will suffice to scatter.
- Emile Durkheim
Early on, during his university studies at the Ecole, Durkheim was influenced by two neo-Kantian scholars, Charles Bernard Renouvier and Ãmile Boutroux. The principles Durkheim absorbed from the included rationalism, scientific study of morality, anti-utilitarianism and secular education. His methodology was influenced by Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, a supporter of the scientific method.
A fundamental influence on Durkheim's thought was the sociological positivism of Auguste Comte, who effectively sought to extend and apply the scientific method found in the natural sciences to the social sciences. According to Comte, a true social science should stress for empirical facts, as well as induce general scientific laws from the relationship among these facts. There were many points on which Durkheim agreed with the positivist thesis. First, he accepted that the study of society was to be founded on an examination of facts. Second, like Comte, he acknowledged that the only valid guide to objective knowledge was the scientific method. Third, he agreed with Comte that the social sciences could become scientific only when they were stripped of their metaphysical abstractions and philosophical speculation. At the same time, Durkheim believed that Comte was still too philosophical in his outlook.
A second influence on Durkheim's view of society beyond Comte's positivism was the epistemological outlook called social realism. Although he never explicitly exposed it, Durkheim adopted a realist perspective in order to demonstrate the existence of social realities outside the individual and to show that these realities existed in the form of the objective relations of society. As an epistemology of science, realism can be defined as a perspective which takes as its central point of departure the view that external social realities exist in the outer world and that these realities are independent of the individual's perception of them. This view opposes other predominant philosophical perspectives such as empiricism and positivism. Empiricists such as David Hume had argued that all realities in the outside world are products of human sense perception. According to empiricists, all realities are thus merely perceived: they do not exist independently of our perceptions, and have no causal power in themselves. Comte's positivism went a step further by claiming that scientific laws could be deduced from empirical observations. Going beyond this, Durkheim claimed that sociology would not only discover "apparent" laws, but would be able to discover the inherent nature of society.
Scholars also debate the exact influence of Jewish thought on Durkheim's work. The answer remains uncertain; some scholars have argued that Durkheim's thought is a form of secularized Jewish thought, while others argue that proving the existence of a direct influence of Jewish thought on Durkheim's achievements is difficult or impossible.
Durkheim authored some of the most programmatic statements on what sociology is and how it should be practiced. His concern was to establish sociology as a science. Arguing for a place for sociology among other sciences he wrote:
Sociology is, then, not an auxiliary of any other science; it is itself a distinct and autonomous science.
- Emile Durkheim
To give sociology a place in the academic world and to ensure that it is a legitimate science, it must have an object that is clear and distinct from philosophy or psychology, and its own methodology. He argued:
There is in every society a certain group of phenomena which may be differentiated from those studied by the other natural sciences.
- Emile Durkheim
A fundamental aim of sociology is to discover structural "social facts".
Establishment of sociology as an independent, recognized academic discipline is amongst Durkheim's largest and most lasting egacies. Within sociology, his work has significantly influenced the structuralism or structural functionalism.
Comte is often credited with being the founder of sociology because he was the first to suggest that the scientific method be applied to the study of the social world
Durkheim was responsible for getting sociology recognized as a separate discipline. He was interested in studying how social forces shape individual behavior. 13 April 2011Comment