The Science of Sociology
Auguste Comte (1789-1857)
The name "sociology" coined by Auguste Comte (1789 - 1857), is used to describe the scientific study of the human society and their social interaction.1 Comte, being one of the most influential philosophers of his time, though an in-depth study of human society and their interaction with each other would allow them to better understand the changes in the society. At that time, they were feeling the aftereffects of Napoleon's reign.
THE LAW OF THREE STAGES
Comte observed the changes in society and concluded that societies evolve through three stages. They are the Theological Stage, the Metaphysical or Philosophical Stage, and the Positive or Scientific Stage.
Fetishism: The belief that all inanimate objects have souls.
Polytheism: The belief that a different god (ex. God of fire, god of wind) controlled all natural elements.
Monotheism: The belief that there is only one god that controls all.
The Theological Stage
The Theological Stage refers to the period in which deities were used as an explanation for things that happened. This stage was subdivided into three categories: Fetishism, Polytheism, and Monotheism.
The Metaphysical or Philosophical Stage
In this stage, supernatural beings are no longer accepted as the reason behind the happenings of the world. Instead, mysterious and abstract forces are thought to have the upper hand (ex. Karma, nature).
The Positive or Scientific Stage
This stage is simply the understanding that all areas of life are a science first. It is the belief that everything happens for a reason because of cause and effect. Everything can be discovered and explained through thorough scientific research and analysis.
There are many ways to study and assess the different changes in society. This can be done by scientific methods such as the distribution and collection of questionnaires or by observation. There are however, many other methods used by sociologists to gain information.
The Observation Method
The Observation Method takes on two different forms: The Participant Observation and the Non-Participant Observation.
The Participant Observation Method
In this method, the researcher becomes a part of the group being studied. He partakes in all the group's activities and adapts their lifestyle. In this way, he is able to fully understand and assess the group. He will gain more information from the group than he would if he were not a member. He will be able to study practices of the group that may be hidden from an outsider.
This method has its drawbacks, however. By being part of the group, the researcher must keep in mind that he is there for research purposes. If he loses himself in his study group and begin thinking and the way they think, it might prove a bias on his results, especially if the group is being compared to a control group.
The Non-Participant Observation Method
The researcher may also choose to go about his research by means of a Non-Participant Observation Method. By using this method, the researcher distances himself from the sample. For example, while a researcher using the participant observation method would join his sample at the factory and engage in the same work they do. One using a Non-Participant Observation Method would merely observe and assess the factory workers. This method is not entirely reliable, as the sample would behave differently while an outsider is in their presence.
Many sociologists, while not disapproving of the Participant and the Non-Participant Observation Methods, prefer the use of scientific methods when doing a research. This natural science method of research suggests that all data collected and analyzed be subjected to a structured and unbiased view. Positivists, for example, see the society as merely going through a cause and effect cycle. They think human behavior can be measured and weighed in the same way as matter.
Some sociologists use resources such as questionnaires and structured interviews to gain reliable information that can be assessed and analyzed in a scientific way.
1Henry L. Tishler, (2004)
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