《社会学方法的准则》的笔记-The Rules of Sociological method
- 章节名：The Rules of Sociological method
- 2013-12-04 05:11:05
In the author’s introduction of The Rules of Sociological method, Durkheim incisively pointed out the long-standing problem sociological researches confronted that “Until the present, sociologists have given little thought to describing and defining the method they employ in the study of social facts…the precautions to be taken in the observation of facts, the manner in which the principal problems should be formulated, the direction research should take, the specific methods of work which may enable it to reach its conclusions-all these remained completely undermined.” (lix-lx) Hence, conducting a method that is “more precise and more exactly adapted to the distinctive characteristics of social phenomena” (lx) is the urgent need for all the sociologists and is also the mission of Durkheim for this book.Durkheim’s discussion started from the clarification and redefinition of “social facts”. He noted that there was a tendency of generalization when using the concept “social”. To him, generally speaking, “a social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations.” (13) From this definition, we can observe at least three characteristics of Durkheim’s “social facts”. Firstly, social facts are not the same with its display on individual level and can control and impose external coercions on individuals. Even if the pressure coming from “social facts” is sometimes hard to feel, it still exists and will manifest itself once it is violated. Secondly, “social facts” root in the society as a whole rather than in any particular person. Collectivity and universality is accentuated here. Finally, “social fact” transmits itself through rigid forms as moral rules and to a large extent molds individual’s thoughts and behaviors while individual’s will cannot change it a little bit.In Durkheim’s sense, real sociological researches should definitely be based on “social facts” and take “consider social facts as things” (14) as their fundamental and most important rule. For so long there had been a confusion between “ideas” and “realities”, according to Durkheim, and it was almost our human nature that we always tended to substitute ideas for facts and treated the former as the subjects for sociological studies, which is completely misleading as Durkheim stated. Authentic scientific studies can never be built up upon ideas/concepts. Therefore, as was said by Durkheim, “our method should, then, require our avoidance of all use of these concepts so long as they have not been scientifically established.” (22) In other words, it is best to be overly cautious when we need to deal with pre-assumptions. How to consider social facts as things then? The first step is to eradicate all preconceptions. (31) Then one needs to make clear definitions for his/her subjects. As we has already eradiated all forethoughts, what lays before us are only “things”. Definitions can only be obtained by virtue of carefully observation and generalization of the obvious characters of the “thing”. The corollary for definition is “the subject matter of every sociological study should comprise a group of phenomena defined in advance by certain common external characteristics, and all phenomena so defined should be included within this group.” (35) However, our grasp of the external characteristics are merely based on sensations, which is extremely subjective. Thus, we “must endeavor to consider them (social facts) from an aspect that is independent of their individual manifestations.”(45) Only by doing so can we establish sociological research on a solid ground. Generally speaking, I very much agree with Durkheim’s “veil” metaphor when he was talking about the role concepts/ideas played between we human beings and social realities. It is extremely true that limited by our own knowledge and technologies, we can never reach the “facts” behind all appearances and concepts can sometimes be really misleading. For this reason, Durkheim suggested we not use concepts haven’t been scientifically established. However, what does “scientifically established” mean? Is there a sign informing us when a concept is established in this way? If we cannot use these terms, what should we do if we need to talk about them? Also, when we try to make definitions, Durkheim require us to “seek among the more external characteristics” (35). The question is, if we need to define “crime” through “punishment”, do we need to define “punishment” first? Then what other terms should be utilized to define “punishment”? Isn’t this an infinite regress? At last, in order to make social facts more conceivable, we need to be objective enough and to get rid of the subjective sensations. Are we really able to do that?
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