Sociology and science

A mind map of what is said in the text book but condensed. i have shorten some of the names and if there are any spelling mistake sorry!! message me and i will try to sort it out :) *** 

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  • Positivism
    • Positivists believe that we should apply the logic and methods of the natural sciences to sociology. This will give true objective knowledge.
    • Patterns, Laws and inductive reasoning
      • Reality is not random, but patterned and we can observe these patterns, we can also discover laws that will explain these patterns, using inductive reasoning.
      • Verificationism, we can use observations to verify a theory, prove it true.
      • positivists seek to find the cause of these patterns, they want to produce general statements about how society works, to predict future events and create policies. They favour structural  explanations.
    • Objective quantitative research
      • Sociologists should use the experimental method and quantitative data to uncover and measure patterns, allowing them to produce accurate statements about relationships
      • Researchers should be objective and detached, not allowing their own feelings to affect the research. But in the natural sciences feeling make no difference (water boiling).
        • To stop contamination they use quantitative methods like structured interviews.
    • E.g. Positivism and suicide
      • Durk believed that he could show a individual act having social causes. Using stats he observed patterns (higher rate among protestants).
        • Thus different levels of integration and regulation produce different levels of suicide, thus sociology can be scientific.
          • These patterns are not the result of motives but social facts, caused by forces acting on members of society. The facts responsible were integration and regulation (catholics better integrate members).
          • However... a close friend of D committed suicide, was this just an attempt to blame his mates death on society??
      • These patterns are not the result of motives but social facts, caused by forces acting on members of society. The facts responsible were integration and regulation (catholics better integrate members).
    • Sociology and Science
      • Interpretivism
        • Interpretivists do not believe that sociology should look to the sciences.
        • The subject matter of sociology
          • The sunject matter of sociology is meaningful action and we can only unserstand it by interpreting the meanings and motives of actors. Not external causes. Science only deals with cause and effect not meanings. There is a big difference between the subject matter of the natural sciences and sociology.
            • Sociology studies people with consciousnesses who construct their world by attaching meanings to it, their actions are understood in terms of those meanings.
            • People are not puppets, but autonomous
          • G.H.Mead, motorist and the red light, stop at a red light, but still have freedom to do something else. How they act depends on the meaning they give the situation.
          • Types of Interpretivism
            • Inter's are divided on whether we can combine their understanding with positivist-style causal explanations.
            • Interactionists we can have causal explanations, but no hypothesis when they begin, allow ideas to emerge from the obs made during the research, they can be used later to make a hypothesis.
            • Phenomenologists + ethnomethodologists - reject the poss of causal explanations, they  take a radical anti-structuralist view. People are not governed by external forces, thus no poss of cause and effect explanations.
        • Verstehen and qualitative research
          • Inter's reject logic and methods of science, we need to see the world from the viewpoint of the actor, usgn empathetic understanding to grasp their meanings.
          • Thus they like qualitative methods + data e.g. participant obs, they produce richer personal data high in validity, showing the actors life-world.
        • E.g. Interpretivism and suicide
          • Douglas - to understand suicide we must uncover its meanings for those involved, not impose out own.
            • We should use qualitative data from case studies as they reveal the actors meanings. Help to show the real rate of suicide.
          • We should use qualitative data from case studies as they reveal the actors meanings. Help to show the real rate of suicide.
          • Atkinson - we can never know the real rate of suicide, as we can never know for sure what meanings the deceased held. We can only study they way the living make sense of death e.g. coroners classifying a death.
        • Postmodernism, Feminism and Scientific Sociology
          • PM's reject scientific sociology, as science is a meta-narrative. It is just a big story of the world and is no more valid then any other. Thus there is no reason why we should adopt science as a model for sociology.
            • Science is dangerous as it claims a monopoly and excludes other points of view. false claims and a form of domination.
              • E.g. Marxism claimed to have discovered scientifically the truth about the ideal society  and used this to justify coercion and oppression.
          • Poststructuralist feminists liek scientific sociology, they argue that the quest for a single scientific feminist theory, is a form of domination as is excludes many groups of women. The scientific methods also cannot capture the reality of of women's experiences.
          • Others argue that science is an undesirable model for sociology cause it has not always led to progress that positive's believed it would. Science has created, nuclear weapons, global warming, things that have a negative impact on the world. It is an inappropriate model.
        • What is Science?
          • Inters do agree that science is how the positives describe. But not everyone accepts this, they have put forward different pictures on science, as seen below.
      • K.Popper : How science grows
        • He was very influential, his views have important implications. Sets out two questions.
          • What is it that distinguishes scientific knowledge from any other kind of knowledge? What makes it unique?
          • Why has scientific knowledge been able to grow so spectacularly in just a few centuries?
          • The fallacy of Induction - there is an error in inductive reasoning, e.g. all swans are white, we cant verify as we cannot literally go out and look at all the swans in the world.
          • Falsificationism - a scientific statement is one that can be proven wrong. A good theory, is falsifiable but stands up 2 attempts to disprove, and claims to explain a great deal (big generalisations).
          • Truth - 'all knowledge is temporary, capable of refutation at any moment', there can never be proof that any knowledge is true.
          • Criticism and he open society - To be falsified it must be open to criticism from others, thus science is a public activity, thus flaws are exposed quickly, science thrives in 'open' or liberal societies. In closed that ruling religion or belief system, they conflict with science.
        • Implications for Sociology
          • Sociology is unscientific because it contains theories that cannot be put to the test. But Pop believes that sociology can be scientific, as it can produce hypotheses that can be falsified.
          • Furthermore untestable (like Marxism), are not worthless, they may be testable at a later date, and we can still examine them for clarity and logical consistency.
      • T.Kuhn : scientific paradigms
        • The paradigm - a paradigm is shared by members of a given scientific community and defines what their science is. It provides a basic framework of assumptions, principles and  methods within which that community work.
          • It is a worldview that tells scientists what nature is like, which bits are worth studying, what methods to use, what questions to ask, and even the kind of answers they can expect.
            • Science cannot exist without a shared paradigm, until there is a consensus on a single paradigm there will only be rivalry between schools of thought not sciences as such.
        • In normal science, they solve puzzles. they are not discovering or creating simply trying to put the pieces together.
          • But not all puzzle solving is successful, sometimes scientists find things that are contrary to the paradigm as the anomalies mount up the paradigm declines and it is reformulated.
            • Science is now crisis, its taken-for-granted foundations are not in question. Rival paradigms are formed, eventually one will win and be accepted by the scientific community.
            • scientists are conformists who unquestioningly accept they key ideas of the paradigm, only during a revolution does this change. Even them scientists have no rational means of choosing one paradigm rather than another.
        • Implications for sociology - currently sociology is re-paradigmatic and pre-scientific, divided in to differen perspectives, there is no shared paradigm. Sociology could become a science is differences were resolved, but we dont know if this is possible.
          • PM's might argue that a paradigm would nto be desireable in sociology, it sounds like a meta-narrative, a dominating view of reality.
      • Realism, Science and Sociology
        • Keat and Urry - open and closed systems
          • Closed systems - those where the researcher can control and measure all the relevant variables, and make precise predictions, e.g labatory experiments.
          • Open systems - where the researcher cannot control + measure all of the variables, so cannot make precise predictions, e.g. predicting the weather.
          • Sociologists study open systems where the processes are too complex to make accurate predictions, e.g. predicting the crime rate accurately.
            • Open systems - where the researcher cannot control + measure all of the variables, so cannot make precise predictions, e.g. predicting the weather.
        • Realists reject the view that science is only concerned with observable phenomena, unobservable too (atoms), thsi also means that interpretivists are wrong in their assumption that sociology cannot be scientific. Can study unobservable phenomena such as meanings for an actor.
        • Both the natural and social sciences attempt to explain the causes of events in terms of underlying structures and processes. Thus sociology is scientific. There is little difference between sociology and the natural sciences.
        • Conclusion
          • positivists favor the natural sciences as a model, Interpretivists reject the view that sociology can be scientific. The division comes from disagreements about the nature of sociology and is subject matter.
            • Positivists see sociology can the study of individuals that cause them to behave as they do. In their view this is the same approach as the natural sciences, to discover the cause of the patterns they observe.
            • Interpretivist see sociology as the study of meaningful social action, the internal meaning that lead actors to choose their course of action. Human actions are not governed by external causes, thus they cannot be studied in the same way as natural phenomena.
          • Popper - rejects verification in favor of falsification, as the defining feature of sciences and argues that on this definition much sociology is unscientific, but that a scientific sociology is possible in principle.
          • Kuhn - argues that sociology can only become a science once all sociologists adopt a single shared paradigm.
      • Summary
        • Positivists argue that sociology can only be a science by modelling itself on the natural sciences, using quantitative methods and induction or verification to establish observable patterns in behavior and develop causal laws.
          • Interpretivists argue that sociology cannot be scientific, because human conduct is not governed by external causes by by internal meanings. The tasks of sociology is to use qualitative methods to uncover these meanings through  verstehen.
            • Others argue that natural science differs from what positivists and interpretivists imagine it to be. Popper argues that science is based on falsificationism not verificationism.
              • Kuhn argues that a shared paradigm is the hallmark of a science, while realists argue that science studies unobservable structures for whether or not we regard sociology as a science.

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