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Knowledge and Science.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

Sociological Knowledge and Science Lecture 2 – September 18 th Sociology - Can help us figure out where you fit into society and how you can make society fit you - Babbie: sociology is the study of our rules for living together, what they are, how they arise, and how they change - Recursive quality to human life that makes anything we know tentative Ordinary human inquiry - Uses causal and probabilistic reasoning - Tradition and authority – provide us with starting points, but should not be the end - Errors in inquiry o Inaccurate observations o Overgeneralization o Selective observation o Illogical reasoning - Science if about meticulously controlling for these errors and go beyond tradition and authority Sociology and Common Sense - In the first place sociology, unlike common sense, makes an effort to subordinate itself to the rigorous rules of responsible speech - Second, there us the size of the field from which the material for sociological thinking is drawn - Third, sociology and common sense differ in the way that each makes sense of human reality in terms of how they understand and explain events and circumstances. (intentions –us vs not) - Finally, the power of common sense depends on its self-evident character: that is, not to question its precepts and to be self-confirming in practice Characteristics of a critical thinker - Independence of mind o A commitment and disposition favourable to autonomous thinking i.e. thinking for oneself - Intellectual curiosity o The disposition to winder about the world - Intellectual courage o The willingness to evaluate all ideas, belief, or viewpoints fairly, and the courage to take a position - Intellectual humility o Awareness of the limits of one`s knowledge - Intellectual empathy o Being conscious of the need to put oneself in the place of others to understand them - Intellectual perseverance Sociological Knowledge and Science Lecture 2 – September 18 th o The willingness to pursue intellectual insights and truths in spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations - Reflexive disposition o Awareness of one`s own approach is fallible Sociological research - Sociological research is undertaken with the objective of: o Describing o Understanding, and o influencing or improving the social world in which we live Foundation of Social Science - science is about 1. Logical (theory) 2. Observation (methods) - study of social regularities – social research aims to find patterns of regularity in social life - study of aggregates - language of attributes (characteristics that describe people, cases of things i.e. man or woman) and variables (logical groupings of attributes, i.e. gender) - relationship between attributes and variables lies at the heart of both description and explanation in society Social structure - relatively stable patterns of social relations that affect our thoughts, feelings, actions and identity - are three levels of social structure: 1. microstructures (patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction) 2. macrostructures (patterns of social relations outside and above ones circle of intimates and acquaintances) 3. global structures (patterns of social relations outside and above the nation level) Data and theory - data: are empirical fact, meaningless in and of themselves; they become meaningful when they are presented or considered in relation to a theory - theory: a tentative explanation of some observed regularity Historically: sociology’s four major theoretical traditions 1. functionalism: how is social order supported by macrostructures 2. conflict theory: how is social inequality maintained and challenged Sociological Knowledge and Science Lecture 2 – September 18 th 3. symbolic interactionism – how do people create meaning when they communicate in micro level settings 4. feminism – what are the social sources of patriarchy in both macro and micro settings Functionalism - stresses that human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social relations (social structures) - shows how social structures can either maintain or undermine social stability - suggests social structures are based mainly on shared values or preferences - argues that re-establishing equilibrium is
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