Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2. Sociology as Science:

2. Sociology as Science:

(a) Science, scientific method and critique.

Science is the use of systematic methods of empirical investigation; the analysis of data, theoretical thinking and the logical assessments of arguments to develop a body of language about a particular subject matter, Sociology is a scientific endeavour, according to this definition. Because it involves systematic methods of empirical investigation, the analysis of data and assessment of theories in the light of evidence and logical argument.

Studying human beings is different from observing the events in the physical world and sociology shouldn’t be seen as directly like a natural science. Unlike objects in nature, humans are self aware beings who confer sense and purpose on what they do. We can’t even describe social life accurately unless we first grasp the concepts that people apply in their behaviour. For instance to describe a death suicide means knowing what the person in question was intending when he died. Suicide can only occur when an actively has self destruction in mind. If he accidently steps in front of a car and is killed, he cannot be said to have committed suicide.

The fact that we can not study human beings is exactly the same way as objects in nature is some ways an advantage to sociology, Sociological researchers profit from being able to pose question to those they study-other human beings. In other respects sociology creates difficulties not encountered by natural scientists. People who are aware that their activities are being scrutinized will not behave in the same manner as they do normally. They may consciously and unconsciously portray themselves in a way that differs from their usual attitudes. They may even try to assist the researcher by giving the responses they believe he/she wants.

Scientific Method- Scientific method is the pursuit of truth as determined by logical considerations. The ideal of science is to achieve a systematic interrelation of facts. Scientific methods attempt to achieve “this ideal by experimentation, observation, logical arguments from accepted postulates and a combination these three in varying proportions” In scientific methods logic aids in formulating propositions explicitly and accurately so that their possible alternatives become clear.

The Scientific method is based on certain basic postulates which can be stated as under.

1.It relies on empirical evidence;

2.It utilises relevant concepts;

3.It is committed to only objective considerations;

4.It results into probabilistic predictions;

5.Its methodology is made known to all concerned for critical scrutiny and for use in testing the conclusions through replication.

(b) Major theoretical strands of research methodology.( Analytical methods of research)

(c) Positivism and its critique.

According to August Comte Positivism(positive philosophy) is the scientific study of social phenomena.

In Cours de philosophie positive, Comte began by asserting that ‘‘the first characteristic of Positive Philosophy is that it regards all phenomena as subject to natural Laws’’ (1830–1842, p. 5).

the goal of positivistic sociology is to ‘‘pursue an accurate discovery of . . . Laws, with a view to reducing them to the smallest possible number,’’ and ‘‘our real business is to analyze accurately the circumstance of phenomena, to connote them by natural relations of succession and resemblance’’ (1830– 1842, p. 6). Comte’s exemplar for this advocacy was Newton’s law of gravitation, an affirmation of his early preference to label sociology as ‘‘social physics.’’ Moreover, such laws were to be used to reconstruct society.

The concept of ‘‘positivism’’ was originally used to denote the scientific study of social phenomena, but today the term positivism has become vague. Most often, it is used as a pejorative smear for certain kinds of intellectual activity in the social sciences, sociology in particular. Most frequently, at least within sociology, positivism is associated with such undesirable states as ‘‘raw empiricism,’’ ‘‘mindless quantification,’’ ‘‘antihumanism,’’ ‘‘legitimation of the status quo,’’ and ‘‘scientific pretentiousness.’’ With few exceptions (e.g., Turner 1985), sociologists are unwilling to label themselves ‘‘positivists.’’ Yet, the titular founder of sociology—Auguste Comte—used this label as a rallying cry for developing formal and abstract theory that could still be used to remake society;

In today’s context it is not possible not possible to reduce the rules of sociology to an abstract principle such is in natural sciences for example Newton’s law of gravitation holds true for the whole of universe.

But in study of society all the phenomena of a single nature can not be abstracted in a single principle such as the meaning of swastika in Indian culture it is considered auspicious and used in the religious ceremonies and rituals but this symbol was used by the Hitler as a Ethnic symbol and to wage war against other races.

(d) Fact value and objectivity(Epistemology).

Epistemology denotes the philosphical theory of knowledge in general: in this sense, it includes themes and problems such as the question of the possibility of valid knowledge, the analysis of the nature of such validity, the foundation of knowledge on reason or on experience and the senses, the analysis of different types of knowledge, and the limits of knowledge.

In respect to social sciences (and sociology, in particular) the fundamental epistemological question becomes: ‘‘Is it possible to acquire any valid knowledge of human social reality? And, if so, by what means?’’ As these questions show, epistemological issues

are inescapably interconnected with methodological problems; however, they cannot be reduced to simple technical procedures and their validity, as a long empiricist tradition among sociologists has tried to do. A full epistemological awareness, from a sociological point of view, should cope with at least four main issues:

1. Is the nature of the object of social sciences (i.e., social reality) fundamentally different from that of the object of natural sciences (i.e., natural reality)?

2. Consequently, what is the most appropriate gnoseological procedure with which to study and understand social reality?

3. Are we sure that the particular knowledge we get by studying a particular social reality can be generalized?

4. What kind of causality can we postulate between social events, if any?

(e) Non- positivist methodologies.

Antipositivism (also non-positivist or interpretive sociology) is the view in social science that academics must necessarily reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of social theory and research.

Antipositivism relates to various historical debates in the philosophy and sociology of science. In modern practice, however, non-positivism may be equated with qualitative research methods, while positivist research is more quantitative. Positivists typically use research methods such as experiments and statistical surveys, while antipositivists use research methods which rely more on unstructured interviews or participant observation. Currently, positivist and non-positivist methods are often combined.


  1. Thank you so much.......and I have a question......
    How do I prepare sociology as an optional for UPSC?

  2. Sir,i am currently pursuing my B.E in Electronics and Communication Branch,I am not sure of which subjects to choose to prepare for the ias exam,the subjects of my interest are much related to my course and also subjects.So kindly suggest me in choosing the subjects.