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SOCI 1002
Kathleen Moss

SOCI 1002 E Foundations of Sociology What is Sociology? • It is the study of the “social” and its enabling and constraining influence. Philosophical Foundations • Sociology emerges from a branch of Philosophy. • Ontology: what is real? • Epistemology: How do we know what we know? (observing, seeing, hearing, touching, etc) • Thomas Hobbes’s assertion that government’s appropriate role lies in preserving peace while allowing individuals to pursue their self-interests. • John Locke’s belief in individual freedom and autonomy. • Charles de Montesquieu’s comparative methodology and his appreciation for cultural diversity. • Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s analysis of the social contract and his belief in individual autonomy. Sociology and Common Sense • Unlike common sense, sociology subordinates itself to the precise rules of responsible speech (we define the terms we use to be exact). • Size of the field where material for sociological thinking is drawn. • Each makes sense of human reality in terms of how they understand and explain events and circumstances. • Power of common sense depends of its self-evident character: doesn’t question its precepts and to be self-confirming in practice (unwritten rules). Sociological Explanation of Suicide • Durkheim demonstrated suicide rates were strongly influenced by social factors. • Suicide often regarded as a supremely antisocial and non-social act (common sense theory of suicide: due to a psychological disorder). • Hidden social causes of suicide include social solidarity that Durkheim researched in France. • Concluded suicide was not due to psychological disorders. • Social solidarity: the degree to which people share beliefs and values (close interactions with the society around you). Medium level of social solidarity, the least likely to commit suicide. • Mechanical (similar characteristics: same jobs, same values, same religious beliefs) versus • organic (based on everyone depending on one another to an extent) forms of social solidarity. Egoistic suicide: lack of attachment (lonely, depression). Low social solidarity. Altruistic suicide: Ready to give their live for a higher cause (honour, religion, justice, sacrifice). High social solidarity. • Far more men than women commit suicide. Different age groups affect the amount of the number of suicides. Social Structure • Social structure: stable patterns of social relations that affect our thoughts, feelings, actions, and identity. There are three levels of social structure: o Microstructure: patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction. o Macrostructure: patterns of social relations outside one’s circle of intimates and acquaintances. (inside one society) o Global structures: patterns of social relations outside the national level. Theory, Research and Values • Auguste Comte (1798-1857): Sought to understand the social world using scientific method of research. Coined the term “sociology”. Had the vision of ideal society but never conducted any research • Herbert Spencer (1820-1903): Made claim for discovering scientific laws governing operation of society. Never conducted research. • Tension between belief in importance of science and vision of ideal society. Reflected in works of important figures in sociology and continues today. • Theory: Tentative explanation of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related. After theories, they conduct research. • Research: process of carefully observing social reality, often to “test” a theory or assess its validity. • Off-style information: contradicts or disagrees with the explanation that you have, change
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