-Durkhiem- empirical study of social facts
- social facts exercise external constrains on individuals
-they are general and non specific- not particular to individuals- they are shared by all individuals
-sui generis- means of its own kind or unique
-social facts are the values, norms, and structures external to the individual, but can constrain the
-concept of emergence
- the whole is grater than the sum of its parts
Example- Salt or Water
Marathon example- work out better when in a group, perform better
What is meant by this concept is that social facts are external and general. External meaning they have
their own independent reality beyond individuals. Suicide is an example that reveals the great influence
of social facts.. General is that the meaning is shared among all individuals, not only invested in
particular group of individuals. An example, (given in class) is language. Language is a social fact because
it is external to individuals: no particular individual or group of individuals created it. Secondly,
it constrains individual speech: through rules of grammar and syntax. Lastly, it is general (not private):
the meaning of words, phrases and sentences must be generally, not privately understood. Words have
no intrinsic meaning. For example, the word dog does not intrinsically mean four-legged animal that
barks, it is a convention that all speakers of the English language agreed upon.
Durkheim’s main aim was to establish the object of study for sociology - social facts are social and
rooted in group sentiments and values. He distinguishes the study of social facts from philosophy by
noting that the real effects of social facts are "manifested in external indicators of sentiments such
as religious doctrines, laws, moral codes"
He then initiated the study of social facts; empirical (experimental) studies
Social facts apply to general circumstances not individual. Such as a society or “reality sui generis
(unique)” case that cannot be reduced to individuals
Social facts are independent of individual motives and intentions
social facts seen as significant because it promises to make it possible to study the behaviour of
entire societies, rather than just of particular individuals
As individuals who are born and raised in a society, these social facts are learned (through
socialization) and generally accepted, but the individual has nothing to do with establishing these
Ex. Language as a social fact:
o external to individuals: no particular individual or group of individuals created it
o constrains individual speech: through rules of grammar, syntax
o general, not private: meanings of words, sentences, must be generally, not privately
understood; words have NO intrinsic meaning
o unique quality not reducible to individual users of it
Methodological Rule: “The determining cause of a social fact must be sought among
antecedent social facts and not among the states of individual consciousness
Sociology seeks to explain the existence of “social facts” by reference to other “social facts”,
not individual psychology social facts look at social factors that influence people not the
influence individual psychology
Ex. Suicide as a social fact:
o Durkheim studied suicide rates using social facts
o The study of suicide is a private, individual, anti-social act influence by social factors
o Variations in the rates of suicide (social fact) can be explained by reference to other
“social facts” ie. integration or lack of integration of the individual to a social group
o Social fact include empirical studies where there is a dependent and independent
variable; in the case of suicides the independent variable is integration and
regulation within social groups; the dependent variable is the rates of suicide
Topic #2: EGOISTIC VS ALTRUISTIC SUICIDE(firstname.lastname@example.org):
Egoistic suicide occurs in a society where there is excessive individualism, that is, low integration into
society. Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a
cohesive social group. Detachment from society results in detachment from life because society gives
meaning to life. In a society with high integration, high value is given to human existence resulting in low
suicide rates. In a society with low integration, low value is given to human existence resulting in high
suicide rates. Egoistic suicide occurs when an individual has a low level of integration into society, while
fatalistic suicide occurs in a highly regulated, social environment where the individual sees no possible
way to improve his or her life.
According to Durkheim, the self of the person who commits egoistic suicide is characterized by deep
meditation and self-examination, while the self of the person committing anomie suicide is marked with
keen desire and sensuality. Durkheim viewed egoistic suicide as a consequence of the deterioration of
social and familial bonds and linked anomic suicide to disillusionment and disappointment. Durkheim
distinguished between egoistic, anomic, altruistic, and fatalistic suicide, broad classifications that reflect
then-prevailing theories of human behaviour. Durkheim dismissed altruistic and fatalistic suicide as
unimportant. The egoist is unhappy because he sees nothing "real" in the world besides the individual,
the egoist sees no goal to which he might commit himself, and thus feels useless and without purpose.
The melancholy of the egoist is one of incurable weariness and sad depression.
The term 'altruism' was used by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to describe a suicide committed for the
benefit of others or for the community. This would include self-sacrifice for military objectives in
wartime. Altruistic suicides reflect a courageous indifference to the loss of one's life. Altruism is a social
behaviour and value orientation in which the individual gives primary consideration to the interests and
welfare of other individuals, members of groups or the community as a whole. In altruistic regard for
others is the principle of action. Sociologists argue that altruistic behaviour has its roots in self-interest,
the unconscious desire to protect one's genetic heritage. Critics of sociology respond that altruism is
evident between individuals and in social situations where people are completely unrelated genetically
and claim that human conduct and motivations cannot be explained without reference to the values
and norms of culture. The altruist looks to a goal beyond this world, and believes this world to be an
obstacle and burden to him. The altruistic suicide springs from hope and faith. Contemporary
sociologists have used this analysis to explain Kamikaze pilots, the cult of the suicide bomber, people
who saw the social world as meaningless and would sacrifice themselves for a greater ideal. The altruist
who commits suicide based on altruism dies because they believe that their death can bring about a
benefit to the society. In other words, when an individual is too heavily integrated into the society, they
will commit suicide regardless of their own hesitation if the society's norms ask for the person's death.
Altruism is a state opposite to egoism, in which the individual is extremely attached to the society and
thus has no life of his/her own. Altruism is at the heart of the mystical traditions propagated by both of
the great Asian religions - Hinduism and Buddhism.
Topic 2: Egoistic v. Altruistic Suicide(email@example.com )
1. For example, unmarried people particularly males who did not have bind or connection with
another person in a stable environment with norms and goals had a higher rate of committing
suicide than those who were married.
1. A soldier may sacrifice its life for the life of another member of its group.
2. A high integration with the church or with a social group, leads to high levels of suicide rate.
3. Durkheim found out that:Suicide rates are higher for those widowed, single and divorced than
married. Marriage develops a sense of belonging which makes seperation difficult.Suicide rates
are higher for persons without children than with children.
4. Among Catholics and Jews there is normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low
Egoistic versus Altruistic Suicide(firstname.lastname@example.org)
5. Egoistic suicide reflects a prolonged sense of not belonging, of not being integrated in a
community, an experience, of not having a bind, an absence that can give rise to
meaninglessness, apathy, and depression. It is the result of a weakening of the bonds that
normally integrate individuals into the collectivity: in other words a breakdown or decrease
of social integration. Durkheim refers to this type of suicide as the result of
"excessive individuation", meaning that the individual becomes increasingly detached from
other members of his community. Those individuals who were not sufficiently bound to social
groups were left with little social support or guidance, and therefore tended to commit suicide
on an increased basis. Single males committed egoistic suicide more often than married males.
On the other hand, altruistic suicide is characterized by a sense of being overwhelmed by a
group's goals and beliefs. It occurs in societies with high integration, where individual needs are
seen as less important than the society's needs as a whole. They therefore occur on the
opposite integration scale as egoistic suicide. Durkheim stated that in altruistic suicides, people
often committed suicides when they were expected to kill themselves on behalf of society – a
primary example being the soldier in military service. They commit suicide for the hope of
“greater good”. Another example of altruistic suicide is when students in Japan are applying for
universities and they fail to get in. Japanese students commit suicide because they think that
they have let their family/friends down sense of shame, etc.
Social facts exercise external constrains on individuals. They are general and non specific- not particular to individuals- they are shared by all individuals. Sui generis- means of its own kind or unique. Social facts are the values, norms, and structures external to the individual, but can constrain the individual. The whole is grater than the sum of its parts. Marathon example- work out better when in a group, perform better. What is meant by this concept is that social facts are external and general. External meaning they have their own independent reality beyond individuals. Suicide is an example that reveals the great influence of social facts general is that the meaning is shared among all individuals, not only invested in particular group of individuals. Language is a social fact because it is external to individuals: no particular individual or group of individuals created it. Secondly, it constrains individual speech: through rules of grammar and syntax.