33 Marker – Finlay Peacock
Sociologists such as Auguste Comte (1798) are impressed by science in explaining the natural world. These sociologists are called positivists. Positivists believe it’s possible to apply methods of natural sciences in study of society and by doing so we gain true and objective knowledge of the same type found in natural sciences. This provides a basis for progress and solving social problems. Positivists argue reality exists outside and independently of the human mind. They argue nature is made up of objective, observable, physical facts that are external to our minds. Similarly society is an objective reality – a real thing made up of social facts out there and independent to individuals.
Positivists argue reality is not random but patterned and can be observed empirically. It’s the job of the sociologist to observe, identify, measure and record patterns and then to explain them. Durkheim argues laws are discoverable and will explain patterns. Sociologists can discover laws that determine how society works; this is called induction or inductive reasoning. This involves accumulating data about the world through observation and measurement. As knowledge grows we begin to see patterns.
From this we can develop a theory that explains observations. After more observations verify the theory we can claim to have discovered the truth in the form of a general law. This approach is called verificationism. Positivists argue the patterns we observe, in nature and society can be explained in the same way by finding facts that caused them. Positivist sociologists thus seek to discover causes of patterns they observe. Like natural scientists they aim to produce general statements or scientific laws about how society works which can be used to predict the future and advise social policy. Positivists favour structural explanations such as functionalism and Marxism as they see society and its structures as social facts existing outside us and shape...