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Lecture 3

SOAN 2111 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Empiricism, Critical Theory


Department
Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2111
Professor
Linda Hunter
Lecture
3

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IV EXPANSION ON THE THEORETICL FRAMEOWRKS: KEY CONCEPTS AND
THERMINOLOGY
POSITIVISM
-Requires a commitment to
oDeterminism
oEmpiricism
-Determinism – cause-effect relations
-Empiricism (emperia - Greek for experience) empirical knowledge about the external
world is ground in what we learn from our sense perception
oTreats raw data as if it consists of things that can be seen, or smelt, or tasted
oWhere we use statistical correlations between determinism and empiricism
-Positivism is big on correlations
-Uses knowledge that is out there in the world/what we learn from our sense perceptions
-Still, the meaning of such info has to be interpreted
-Empiricism refers to the attempt at explanation of social phenomena, the search for
regularities and as much as possible, the search for causa relations that determine them
-Probability
oWe have knowledge to understand social behaviours, but something can always
happen to change how people feel
oWe can’t say something is proven, like we can in the hard sciences
oCertainty is not obtainable, everything must be hypothetical
-Objectivity is a goal – never fully achieved
oWe have biases
-Subjective views guide the choice of research questions
Positivistic analysis contains several levels of description: including:
1. Abstract theory
2. Particular concepts
3. Operational definitions – measurement/what do you mean?
4. Description of sense impressions – how we interpret data
Some argue all positivists, in a sense, are hermeneutists too (interpretive theory). The positivists
have the learn to interpret
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF POSITIVISM – particularly by critical theorists
-Critical theorists – prefer to focus on human activity
-Habarnas – positivism loses sight of the actors
-It is inherently conservative, incapable of challenging the existing system
-Critics ask: how can we assume that society has a “natural” order?
LIMITIATIONS OF POSITIVISM
1. Human behaviour is tooqa1 complex for prediction
a. Historical, situational
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