Sociology Essay

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Positivism is based on the idea that sociology should be based upon the guidelines of the natural sciences. It argues that the methods of the natural sciences are applicable to sociology. They believe that reality is a separate thing existing outside of the mind, so society can be studied objectively as factual reality. A positivist sociologist would use scientific methods such as observations to study the patterns of society, in order to discover the laws that determine how society works. These cause and effect laws can then be used to predict future events and guide social policies made as a result of these predictions and past events. An example of one such study is the one Durkheim carried out on ‘Suicide as a Social Fact’ in which he used official statistics to investigate what causes a person to commit suicide. He believed that if he could show that there were social patterns and causes applicable to suicide; he would be able to prove sociology as having a scientific guideline. However, Interpretivists would challenge this view as they do not believe that the methods of the natural sciences can be applied to sociology as the studies of people is different; the natural sciences deal with matters that have no consciousness, therefore its behaviour and any effects on it is an automatic reaction to external forces. Whereas that is not the case for people. Interpretivists focus on meanings, therefore believing that people have their own internal reactions given to certain situations. Douglas rejected Durkheim’s view that suicide is a social fact. He believes that it depends on the internal meanings that would lead to the eventual result of a person committing suicide because it is something that can never be found out as it is impossible to define an exact reason why a person would choose to end their life. Atkinson also agrees with this view. Suicide is a social

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