Sociology And Philosophy Durkheim Pdf

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January , Sociology of Emile Durkheim.

Journal of the History of Philosophy

Along with Karl Marx and Max Weber, he is credited as being one of the principal founders of modern sociology. Chief among his claims is that society is a sui generis reality, or a reality unique to itself and irreducible to its composing parts. It is created when individual consciences interact and fuse together to create a synthetic reality that is completely new and greater than the sum of its parts. This reality can only be understood in sociological terms, and cannot be reduced to biological or psychological explanations.

Using this method, he published influential works on a number of topics. However, Durkheim also published a voluminous number of articles and reviews, and has had several of his lecture courses published posthumously. When Durkheim began writing, sociology was not recognized as an independent field of study. As part of the campaign to change this he went to great lengths to separate sociology from all other disciplines, especially philosophy.

Nevertheless, Durkheim maintained that sociology and philosophy are in many ways complementary, going so far as to say that sociology has an advantage over philosophy, since his sociological method provides the means to study philosophical questions empirically, rather than metaphysically or theoretically.

As a result, Durkheim often used sociology to approach topics that have traditionally been reserved for philosophical investigation. These fall largely in the realms of the philosophy of religion , social theory, the philosophy of social science , hermeneutics, the philosophy of language , morality, metaethics , political theory, and epistemology.

His family was devoutly Jewish, and his father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all rabbis. He graduated in and began teaching the subject in France. In he was appointed to teach Social Sciences and Pedagogy at the University of Bordeaux, allowing him to teach the first ever official sociology courses in France.

Also in , Durkheim married Louise Dreyfus, with whom he would eventually have two children. In , Durkheim was finally given a promotion in the form of the chair of the Science of Education at the Sorbonne. In he became a full professor and in , his position was changed to formally include sociology. Henceforth he was chair of the Science of Education and Sociology. Here he gave lectures on a number of subjects and published a number of important essays as well as his final, and most important, major work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life , Forms.

The outbreak of World War I would prove to have disastrous consequences for Durkheim. From this Durkheim would never recover and in November he died of a stroke, leaving his last great work, La Morale Morality , with only a preliminary introduction. During his lifetime, Durkheim was politically engaged, yet kept these engagements rather discrete. Nevertheless, he supported a number of socialist reforms, and had a number of important socialist friends, but never committed himself to a political party and did not make political issues a primary concern.

Despite his muted political engagement, Durkheim was an ardent patriot of France. He hoped to use his sociology as a way to help a French society suffering under the strains of modernity, and during World War I he took up a position writing anti-German propaganda pamphlets, which in part use his sociological theories to help explain the fervent nationalism found in Germany. Durkheim was not the first thinker to attempt to make sociology a science.

Auguste Comte, who wished to extend the scientific method to the social sciences, and Herbert Spencer , who developed an evolutionary utilitarian approach that he applied to different areas in the social sciences, made notable attempts and their work had a formative influence on Durkheim.

However, Durkheim was critical of these attempts at sociology and felt that neither had sufficiently divorced their analyses from metaphysical assumptions. While Durkheim incorporated elements of evolutionary theory into his own, he did so in a critical way, and was not interested in developing a grand theory of society as much as developing a perspective and a method that could be applied in diverse ways.

With Emile Boutroux, Durkheim read Comte and got the idea that sociology could have its own unique subject matter that was not reducible to any other field of study.

Gabriel Monod and Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, both historians, introduced Durkheim to systematic empirical and comparative methods that could be applied to history and the social sciences.

Charles Renouvier, a neo-Kantian philosopher, also had a large impact on Durkheim. Between and , Durkheim spent an academic year visiting universities in Germany. What Durkheim found there impressed him deeply. Importantly these scholars were relating morality to other social institutions such as economics or the law, and in the process were emphasizing the social nature of morality. Arguably the most important of these thinkers for Durkheim was Wundt, who rejected methodological individualism and argued that morality was a sui generis social phenomenon that could not be reduced to individuals acting in isolation.

Early in his career Durkheim wrote dissertations about Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu, both of whom he cited as precursors to sociology. The most important of these, arguably, is Immanuel Kant , whose moral and epistemological theories were of great influence. Durkheim remains a fundamental and prominent figure for sociology and social theory in general. This can be partly explained by the fact that the Durkheimian school of thought was greatly reduced when many of his most promising students were killed in WWI, that Durkheim went to such great lengths to divorce sociology from philosophy, or by the fact that his thought has been, and continues to be, simplified, misunderstood, or ignored.

Nevertheless, his ideas had, and continue to have, a strong impact in the social sciences, especially in sociology and anthropology. These thinkers, however, never discuss Durkheim at length, or acknowledge any intellectual debt to him.

According to Durkheim, all elements of society, including morality and religion, are part of the natural world and can be studied scientifically.

In particular, Durkheim sees his sociology as the science of institutions, which refer to collective ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. A fundamental element of this science is the sociological method, which Durkheim formulated specifically for this purpose. According to Durkheim, social facts have an objective reality that sociologists can study in a way similar to how other scientists, such as physicists, study the physical world.

An important corollary to the above definition is that social facts are also internal to individuals, and it is only through individuals that social facts are able to exist. In this sense, externality means interior to individuals other than the individual subject. In order to fully grasp how social facts are created and operate, it must be understood that for Durkheim, a society is not merely a group of individuals living in one particular geographical location.

Rather, a society is an ensemble of ideas, beliefs, and sentiments of all sorts that are realized through individuals; it indicates a reality that is produced when individuals interact with one another, resulting in the fusion of individual consciences. This fusion of individual consciences is a sui generis reality. This means that the social fact, much as water is the product of the combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, is a wholly new entity with distinct properties, irreducible to its composing parts, and unable to be understood by any means other than those proper to it.

In other words, society is greater than the sum of its parts; it supercedes in complexity, depth, and richness, the existence of any one particular individual. This psychic reality is sometimes although especially in Division referred to by Durkheim with the term conscience collective , which can alternately be translated into English as collective conscience or collective consciousness. What is more, society and social phenomena can only be explained in sociological terms, as the fusion of individual consciences that, once created, follows its own laws.

Society cannot be explained, for example, in biological or psychological terms. Social facts are key, since they are what constitute and express the psychic reality that is society. Through them individuals acquire particular traits, such as a language, a monetary system, values, religious beliefs, tendencies for suicide, or technologies, that they would never have had living in total isolation.

Durkheim identifies different kinds of social facts with constraint remaining a key feature of each. In these cases it is easy to see how society imposes itself onto the individual from the outside through the establishment of social norms and values to which conformity is either expected or encouraged. Currents of opinion, or social phenomena that express themselves through individual cases, are also social facts. Examples include rates of marriage, birth, or suicide. In these cases, the operation of society on the individual is not so obvious.

Nevertheless, these phenomena can be studied with the use of statistics, which accumulate individual cases into an aggregate and express a certain state of the collective mind. There are also social facts of a morphological, or structural, order, including the demographic and material conditions of life such as the number, nature, and relation of the composing parts of a society, their geographical distribution, their means of communication and so forth.

While perhaps not as evident, these types of social facts are also influenced by collective ways of thinking, acting, or feeling and have the same characteristics of externality and constraint as the other types. Durkheim thus identifies a broad range of social facts that correspond roughly with his intellectual development: in his early work he focuses on social morphology, he then wrote a book on suicide, while his late work concentrates on social norms and values seen especially in morality and religion.

In his early work constraint has more of a repressive or obligatory nature, whereas in his later works he highlights the attracting or devotional aspects of social facts, or how individuals are drawn voluntarily to particular symbols, norms, or beliefs.

Important to point out also is that social facts operate at varying degrees of formality and complexity. Durkheim provides a set of rules for studying social facts. While he lists a number of rules, the most fundamental come from Chapter 2 of Rules. The first and most important rule is to treat social facts as things. What Durkheim means by this is that social facts have an existence independent of the knowing subject and that they impose themselves on the observer.

Social facts can be recognized by the sign that they resist the action of individual will upon them; as products of the collectivity, changing social facts require laborious effort. The next rule for studying social facts is that the sociologist must clearly delimit and define the group of phenomena being researched.

This structures the research and provides the object of study a condition of verifiability. The sociologist must also strive to be as objective towards the facts they are working on as possible and remove any subjective bias or attachment to what they are investigating. Similarly, the sociologist must systematically discard any and all preconceptions and closely examine the facts before saying anything about them. Durkheim applies these rules to empirical evidence he draws primarily from statistics, ethnography, and history.

Durkheim treats this data in a rational way, which is to say that he applies the law of causality to it. At this, Durkheim introduces an important rationalist component to his sociological method, namely the idea that by using his rules human behavior can be explained through observable cause and effect relationships.

Accordingly, he often uses a comparative-historical approach, which he sees as the core of the sociological method, to eliminate extraneous causes and find commonalities between different societies and their social facts. In so doing, he strives to find general laws that are universally applicable. Durkheim also argues that social facts can only be understood in relation to other social facts. As an example, he explains suicide rates not in reference to psychological factors, but rather to different social institutions and the way they integrate and regulate individuals within a group.

In his work Durkheim also follows the historical development of political, educational, religious, economic, and moral institutions, particularly those of Western society, and makes a strict difference between historical analysis and sociology: whereas the historical method strives only to describe what happened in the past, sociology strives to explain the past. In other words, sociology searches for the causes and functions of social facts as they change over time.

Within this realist position there are two important claims. First, Durkheim makes an ontological claim concerning the sui generis reality of social facts. Hence, Durkheim is arguing that social facts have particular properties of being and that they can be discovered and analyzed when the sociologist treats them in the proper, scientific way.

Durkheim strongly refutes such accusations. In response to the first critique, it must be remembered that social facts are both exterior and interior to individuals, with externality in this case meaning interior to individuals other than the individual subject.

As Durkheim argues, social facts exist in a special substratum of the individual mind. His position then ultimately is that while the social fact is unmistakably a sui generis product of social interaction, it is produced and resides exclusively in this special substratum of the individual mind.

To say that social facts exist independent of all individuals is an absurd position that Durkheim does not advocate. Only on a methodological level, in order to study social facts from the outside as they present themselves to individuals, does the sociologist abstract social facts from the individual consciences in which they are present. In response to the second critique, Durkheim maintains that social facts, as products of the psyche, are wholly ideational and do not have a material substratum.

They can only be observed through the more or less systematized phenomenal reality to be analyzed as empirical data that expresses them. His most definitive statement on the subject can be found in Forms , a book dedicated not only to studying religion, but also to understanding how logical thought arises out of society.

Émile Durkheim

He is widely regarded as the founder of the French school of sociology. In he moved to the Sorbonne , where he was appointed professor of education in and professor of education and sociology in Durkheim was born into a Jewish family of very modest means, and it was taken for granted that he would become a rabbi , like his father. The death of his father before Durkheim was 20, however, burdened him with heavy responsibilities. As early as his late teens Durkheim became convinced that effort and even sorrow are more conducive to the spiritual progress of the individual than pleasure or joy.

Along with Karl Marx and Max Weber, he is credited as being one of the principal founders of modern sociology. Chief among his claims is that society is a sui generis reality, or a reality unique to itself and irreducible to its composing parts. It is created when individual consciences interact and fuse together to create a synthetic reality that is completely new and greater than the sum of its parts. This reality can only be understood in sociological terms, and cannot be reduced to biological or psychological explanations. Using this method, he published influential works on a number of topics. However, Durkheim also published a voluminous number of articles and reviews, and has had several of his lecture courses published posthumously.


PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. THE SOCIOLOGICAL METHOD OF DURKHEIM. EMILE DURKHEIM is not merely a writer of yesterday. He is a force to be reckoned.


Émile Durkheim (1858—1917)

He was a famous French philosopher and sociologist known as the father of the French school of sociology for his methodology combining empirical research with sociological theory. The following outlines his life and career and his published works. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been rabbis, and it was assumed that he would follow their lead when they enrolled him in a rabbinical school. However, at an early age, he decided not to follow in his family's footsteps and switched schools after realizing that he preferred to study religion from an agnostic standpoint as opposed to being indoctrinated. Durkheim became interested in a scientific approach to society very early on in his career, which meant the first of many conflicts with the French academic system—which had no social science curriculum at the time.

He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and—with Max Weber —is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science. From his lifetime, much of Durkheim's work would be concerned with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity , an era in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, and in which new social institutions have come into being. Durkheim would also be deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism originally set forth by Auguste Comte , promoting what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism , as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For Durkheim, sociology was the science of institutions , understanding the term in its broader meaning as the "beliefs and modes of behaviour instituted by the collectivity," [6] with its aim being to discover structural social facts.

Access options available:. By Dominick La Capra. And yet neither Durkheim nor Weber seems to have been aware of the other's work.

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Sociology and Philosophy

Access options available:. Journal of the History of Philosophy Rethinking Durkheim and His Tradition.

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The Rules of Sociological Method

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4 Response
  1. Eddie C.

    his Emile Durkheim: Sociologist and Philosopher, Ithaca, Cornell Univer-. sity Press, [31] London, New Left Books, Two readings of.

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    philosophy (omitted from the introduction to The Elementary. Forms) reveals the outer limits of Durkheim's sociological im- perialism. The sociologist offers the.

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