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Sociology as a science

hi !! i'm finding it quite difficult to answer this sociology as a science 20 marker which is in the revision guide. I've made a brief plan, but i'm finding the evaluations quite difficult. Can someone let me know what they'd evaluate these points with?

Point 1: Positivists think sociology is a science & Durkheim's study of suicide
Point 2: Interpretivists think sociology isn't a science & instead look at human behaviour and meaning
Point 3: Karl Popper & falsifiability
Point 4: Kuhn & paradigm

Here is the Item :smile:

Applying material from Item A and your knowledge, evaluate the claim that whether sociology can be a science depends on what we mean by science in the first place [20 marks]

Item A

Positivists believe that sociology can be a science by following the logic and methods of the natural sciences. In the view of positivists, this involves gathering objective quantitative data to verify or prove hypotheses and discover causal laws. While accepting the positivist’ view of science, interpretivists reject the claim that we can study human beings in this way.

However, positivism is just one view of what constitutes to science. For example, Popper argues that science involves seeking to falsify hypotheses, while Kuhn argues that a scientific subject is one that has unified paradigm.

I'd be grateful for any help! thank u

This is a tricky question so don't worry if you are struggling with it at the moment. In an actual exam, I suspect the wording would be a bit more straightforward.

Im not sure your plan is the right way of going about answering the question at the moment. As a starting point for thinking about positivism, you should write about Auguste Comte. He was the (sort of) first person to say that the social sciences should try and study things in the same way that the natural sciences did. (Natural sciences being chemistry, biology and physics etc.) Durkheim carried on this and suggested that there was a real-world that could be studied. So if we take science to be a way of studying the world through the gaining of empirical facts, then yes Sociology is a science as this is what positivists are trying to achieve. Positivists are trying to gain empirical information about the world. If you want to use Durkheim's study of suicide at this point go ahead but it isn't necessary (in my opinion) for this question.

Then refer to what Kuhn says about paradigms, this is a nice segway into interpretivism. Sociology does not have one central paradigm, so if we take Kuhn's view of what science is then Sociology cannot be a science. Interpretivist rejects the idea that the social world can be studied in the same way that the natural world can be studied. This is for lots of different reasons

1. The researcher cannot separate themselves from the social world, this is because they are a product of the social world.

as a way of explaining this, a chemist has no preconceptions or biases toward Metal, because metal exists in the natural world rather than the social world. Interpretivism rejects the idea that you can be truly objective in your study of the human world.

2. The scientific method is not suited to studying the social world.

I would frame this point as being simply that interpretivists do not care if Sociology is a science, as the scientific method is not suited to studying society anyway. They take the view that the world is something that is constructed socially, in the minds and interactions of the individual. Meaning it does not objectively exist as the natural world does. So trying to apply the scientific method to something that does not objectively exist is not appropriate.

Popper and falsifiability does not neatly fit into what I have just said, so I'm not sure how it fits into the structure.

I hope this helps a little, any other questions then let me know.
Reply 2
thank u so much! science
I'd put falsification and Popper in between the positivist and interpretivist view because of the idea that at one point sociology COULD be a science however at the moment it is impossible to falsify due to theories such as Marx's revolution being unfalsifiable until it happens.

Also a quick note for the paradigms evaluation: sociology in the future MAY have an established paradigm HOWEVER it just hasn't been around as long as the natural sciences. BUT you could also mention the contradicting ideas on marxism, functionalism and feminisms view on society e.g patriarchy, capitalism and social harmony and how there is a strong possibility this will never happen so sociology COULD be a science in the very distant future

Hope this helps slightly :smile:
(edited 1 month ago)

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