Durkheim rules for the observation of social facts

Critical Remarks What is a Social Fact? The reader of The Division of Labor in Society would have understood that "sociology" is a science which, like biology, studies the phenomena of the natural world and, like psychology, studies human actions, thoughts, and feelings. What he might not have understood was that Durkheim conceived of sociology as the scientific study of a reality sui generis, a clearly defined group of phenomena different from those studied by all other sciences, biology and psychology included. It was for these phenomena that Durkheim reserved the term social facts, i.

Durkheim rules for the observation of social facts

How can the crude cults of the Australian aborigines tell us anything about religions far more advanced in value, dignity, and truth? These questions were important, for Durkheim recognized that scholars frequently focused on primitive religions in order to discredit their modern counterparts, and he rejected this "Voltairean" hostility to religion for two reasons.

First, alluding to the second chapter of The Rules, Durkheim insisted that such hostility was unscientific; it prejudges the results of the investigation, and renders its outcome suspect. Second, and more important, he considered it unsociological; for it is an essential postulate of sociology that no human institution can rest on an error or a lie.

If an institution is not based on "the nature of things," Durkheim insisted, it encounters a resistance in nature which destroys it; the very existence of primitive religions, therefore, assures us that they "hold to reality and express it. The reasons with which the faithful justify them may be, and generally are, erroneous; but the true reasons," Durkheim concluded, "do not cease to exist" and it is the duty of science to discover them.

Briefly, he did so for three "methodological" reasons.

Durkheim rules for the observation of social facts

First, Durkheim argued that we cannot understand more advanced religions except by analyzing the way they have been progressively constituted throughout history; for only by placing each of the constituent elements of modern religions in the context within which it emerged can we hope to discover the cause which gave rise to it.

Just as biological evolution has been differently conceived since the empirical discovery of monocellular beings, therefore, religious evolution is differently conceived depending upon what concrete system of belief and action is placed at its origin.

Second, Durkheim suggested that the scientific study of religion itself presupposed that the various religions we compare are all species of the same class, and thus possess certain elements in common: These are the permanent elements which constitute that which is permanent and human in religion; they form all the objective contents of the idea which is expressed when one speaks of religion in general.

That which is accessory or secondary All is reduced to that which is indispensable to that without which there could be no religion.

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But that which is indispensable is also that which is essential, that is to say, that which we must know before all else. But if this simplicity of primitive religions helps us to understand its nature, it also helps us to understand its causes.

In fact, as religious thought evolved through history, its initial causes became overlaid with a vast scheme of methodological and theological interpretation which made those origins virtually imperceptible.

The study of primitive religion, Durkheim thus suggested, is a new way of taking up the old problem of the "origin of religion" itself -- not in the sense of some specific point in time and space when religion began to exist no such point existsbut in the sense of discovering "the ever-present causes upon which the most essential forms of religious thought and practice depend.

At the base of all our judgments, Durkheim began, there are a certain number of ideas which philosophers since Aristotle have called "the categories of the understanding" -- time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, and so on.

They are like the solid frame which encloses all thought; this does not seem to be able to liberate itself from them without destroying itself, for it seems that we cannot think of objects that are not in time and space, which have no number, etc.

When primitive religious beliefs are analyzed, Durkheim observed, these "categories" are found, suggesting that they are the product of religious thought; but religious thought itself is composed of collective representations, the products of real social groups.

Durkheim rules for the observation of social facts

These observations suggested to Durkheim that the "problem of knowledge" might be posed in new, sociological terms. Previous efforts to solve this problem, he began, represent one of two philosophical doctrines: The difficulty for the empirical thesis, Durkheim then observed, is that it deprives the categories of their most distinctive properties -- universality they are the most general concepts we have, are applicable to all that is real, and are independent of every particular object and necessity we literally cannot think without them ; for it is in the very nature of empirical data that they be both particular and contingent.

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The a priorist thesis, by contrast, has more respect for these properties of universality and necessity; but by asserting that the categories simply "inhere" in the nature of the intellect, it begs what is surely the most interesting and important question of all: Having planted these allegedly formidable obstacles in the paths of his philosophical adversaries, Durkheim then offered his frustrated reader an attractive via media: First, the basic proposition of the a priorist thesis is that knowledge is composed of two elements -- perceptions mediated by our senses, and the categories of the understanding -- neither of which can be reduced to the other.

By viewing the first as individual representations and the second as their collective counterparts, Durkheim insisted, this proposition is left intact:Introduction. Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

In , my family migrated from a small village Shahzadpur, Ambala District, Haryana to Ambala City.

Durkheim Rules For The Observation Of Social Facts. Stacey Seddon 10 January Social Theory (SOCI ) Module Coordinator: Paul Jones Essay Question: Why is the concept of social facts so significant for Durkheim’s work?

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Illustrate your answer with reference to at least one of his studies. A "general statement" "intended to develop a unified conceptual scheme for theory and research in the social sciences" was published by nine USA social scientists in Theory was to be based on a "theory of action" in which "the point of reference of all terms is the action of an individual actor or collective of actors".

(f) The observation and the study of social facts should be definitive as far as possible. Rule No. 2: Rules for distinguishing between ‘Normal’ and “Pathological” Social facts: Durkheim classified social facts into Normal and Pathological social facts.

Before beginning the search for the method appropriate to the study of social facts it is importantto know what are the facts termed 'social'. The question is all the more necessary because the term is used without much precision.

Introduction to Sociology. Concerts, sports games, and political rallies can have very large crowds. When you attend one of these events, .

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Rules of Sociological Methods According to Durkheim