Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a scientific approach to the study of society.

Topics: Scientific method, Sociology, Science Pages: 5 (1619 words) Published: October 23, 2003
Scientific approach can be defined as the involvement of standards and procedures for demonstrating the empirical warrant of its findings, showing the match or fit between its statements and what is happening or has happened in the world. Scientific approaches to understanding the world can be distinguished from other approaches in two fundamental and irrelevant ways, firstly, an approach that claim to be scientific irrespective of whether or not it originates in the field of natural or human science must demonstrably have empirical relevance to the world. Empirical relevance involves showing that any statements, descriptions and explanations used or derived from this approach can be verified or checked out in the world and secondly, an approach which necessitates the deliberate use of clear procedures which does not only show results were achieved but are also clear enough for other workers in the field to attempt to repeat them, that is, to check them out with the same or other materials and thereby test the results. These two criteria, empirical relevance and clear procedures are bedrock assumptions built into any scientific approach.

August Comte, a positivist held the view that the study of sociology should be based on principles and procedures similar to those applied to the study of natural sciences. He argued that taking this approach shows that the behaviour of human beings, like the behaviour of matter was governed by invariable laws of cause and effect. Therefore it can be stated that the approach takes as its point that the behaviour of human beings, like the behaviour of matter can be observed and objectively measured; just as the behaviour of matter can be quantified by measures such as weight, temperature and pressure, methods of objective measurement can be devised for human behaviour; such measurement is essential to explain behaviour. For example, in order to explain the reaction of a particular chemical to heat, it is necessary to provide exact measurements of temperature, weight and so on and from a positivist point of view such methods and assumptions are applicable to human behaviour.

Natural scientists do not inquire into the meanings and purposes of matter for the obvious reason of their absence. Thus if heat, an external stimulus, is applied to matter, that matter will react but positivist approach to human behaviour applies a similar approach that people react to external stimuli and their behaviour can be explained in terms of this reaction for example they enter into marriage and produce children in response to the demands of society; society requires such behaviour for its survival and its members simply respond to this requirement.

Positivism discredits any perspective that seeks to explore factors that are not directly observable, for example meanings and feelings. For example, if the majority of adult members of society enter into marriage and produce children, these factors can be observed and quantified. Therefore they form reliable data. However, the range of meanings that members of society give to these activities, their purposes for marriage and procreation, are not directly observable. One person may believe they entered marriage because of loneliness another because they were in love and a third because it was the thing to do and the fourth one because they wish to produce an offspring. Reliance on this type of data for explanation assumes that individuals know the reasons for marriage and this can obscure the real cause of their behaviour.

Positivist also agrees that sociology is empirical, it is based on observation and reasoning, not on imagination or revelation and its results are not speculative. It is theoretical, meaning it attempts to summarize complex observations in abstract, logically related principles, which will explain casual relationships in the subject matter. Sociology is cummulative, this means that sociological theories build one on the other. New...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Essay on Advantages of the Scientific Approach in Psychology
  • Databse Approach Advantages and Disadvantages Essay
  • Advantages of the Scientific Method Essay
  • Discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages Essay
  • Discuss the Advantage and Disadvantage of Sfa Research Paper
  • Discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of Partnerships Essay
  • Essay on Discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of Advertisements.
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the purposive approach. Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free