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Sociology 2206A/B
Donna Maynard

January 12, 2014 Epistemological Positions Epistemology: - what is knowledge? - how do we come to ‘know’ something. If you think God exists, going to find a lot of reasons for why he exists. In the social sciences: - What kind of knowledge is appropriate to seek? - How may we best seek it? - 2 positions: Positivism and Interpretation Positivism - knowledge in the social sciences should be gathered in the same way as the natural sciences. So science is the way that we should find out about people. - Empirical (based on the senses) – have to be able to put it on a chart. - There are social laws and principles just like natural ones. Would look like the law of gravity except it would be for human beings. - We can use deduction to find support for these laws. - Less often, we can use induction to discover new laws Ex. Comte’s Law of 3 stages All human societies go through 3 stages – theological, rd metaphysical then the 3 positive stage – finally grown up, hit the enlightenment. Thought that all societies would go through these stages in a progressive manner Marx’s Historical Materialism – peoples relationship to material resources. As this changes, society changes too. Also thought we would move through stages. - social science can (and should be) value-free Objectivity - people coming at same phenomenom from diff pts of view should be able to look at the value and know what’s happening... or something. Intersubjectivity - Between us, we agree - Normative Statements are not scientific Are certain acts or social conditions morally acceptable? - place of religion or philosophy to say - can’t be empirically tested Can’t be empirically tested. Interpretivism Studyiiing people and social life is fundamentally different than subject matter in the natural sciences. - People act based on their own interpretations of the symbolic meaning of a situation - Thomas’ theorem: Situations perceived as real become real in their consequences – doesn’t matter what the situation is, just how we think and react to it. Fire alarm goes off and people are screaming, we jump out window – we react to our perceptions not the situation - Theorists – Mead, Weber – empathetic understanding and ‘symbolic interactionism’ Social scientists should be attempting to: - understand the meaning people attach to their environment and their actions - see things from the POV of the people involved Ex. Goffman and ‘dramaturgy’ people have different roles – front stage, backstage. Way of categorizing ppl based on the way ppl fill roles for themselves. Epistemological Positions What is knowledge? - positivism: explanation of social behaviour - interpretivism: empathetic understanding (Verstehen) of social behaviour Critique of Positivism - can social science really discover social laws? Social sciences moving away from the idea that social laws can be discovered. Most researchers more of a middle range. - Can it be value free? Can you step out of your positions to ask scientific questions about social life? A lot of scientists don’t think this is possible - Is positivism still dominant in the natural sciences? That’s an I don’t know Critique of Interpretivism - social scientist’s interpretation of the actor’s interpretation - The actors involved are subject to forces they don’t identify or know about – forces that we don’t necessarily identify. Men don’t know gender forces but women more aware. People a lot less aware of the social forces. Researcher has that knowledge, people being studied don’t Ontological Positions Ontology: what is the nature of being? Of reality? Of existence? WHAT IS SOCIAL REALITY MADE OUT OF In social sciences - what is social reality? What is its nature - 2 major debates WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SOCIAL REALITY WHAT WE MEAN IS SOCIAL FACTS. THE INSITIUTIONS OF SOCIETY – NORMS AND VALUES. SOME VALUES THAT ALL OF SOCIETY HAS. Debate #1: - Do social phenomena have an objective reality dependent of our perceptions? - is social reality merely a set of metal constructions? BASIC SOCIAL PHENOM. PPL HAVING LUNCH IN RESTAURANT – SITTING TOGETHER AT SAME RESTAURANT. SAME WAITER, FOOD, LISTENING TO SAME THING. YOU ARE PERCEIVING AN
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