Essay on Relationship Between Sociology and Philosophy

The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from Greek language and it literally means ‘love of wisdom’. Philosophy is concerned with the task of acquiring knowledge regarding the causes and laws of all things.

Sociology can be said to have originated with some philosophical ambitions- to provide an account of the course of human history, to explain the social crisis of the (European) 19th century, to seek out the avenues for social welfare and social reform.

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As Bottomore has pointed out whether the philosophical ambitions or aims of sociology are still alive or died out, one could find connections between sociology and philosophy in three respects which are explained below.

Three Connections between the Two Sciences:

1. Philosophy of Sociology:

Any science has a philosophy of its own in the sense it is commit­ted to acquire knowledge relevant to its field in its own legitimate ways. Sociology is ever vigilant in its examination of the methods, concepts and arguments. This philosophical scrutiny is more ur­gently felt in sociology than in the natural sciences because of the very nature of sociology.

2. Sociology entertains Philosophical Thoughts:

More than any other social science, socio­logy raises to a greater extent philosophical problems in its studies. Hence a sociologist at studies is bound to consider the philosophical issues which are always in the background of sociological problem only a sociological theory but also a “Philosophical world view” and a “revolutionary doctrine”.

“Both Durkheim and Manheim seemed to claim that sociology can make a direct contribution to philosophy, in the sense of settling philosophical questions. Durkheim, for instance, wrote- “I believe that sociology, more than any other science, has a contribution to make to the renewal of philosophical questions.

Sociological reflection is bound to prolong itself by a natural progress in the form of philosophical reflection”. In his own study of religion Durkheim trans­gressed the field of sociological thought and stepped into epistemological discussion.

3. Intimate relationship between Sociology and Social Philosophy:

Social Philosophy seems to be the meeting point of sociology and philosophy. Its role in the social sciences is “the study of the fundamental principles and concepts of social life in their epistemological and axiological aspects…”

The epistemological aspect is concerned with the question of knowledge; and the axiological aspect deals with the questions of value. The former deals with the fundamental principles and concepts of social life such as man, society, justice, happiness, etc. It also delves deep into the validity of the assumptions, principles and inferences of the social sciences.

It also tries to synthesise its results with those of the other sciences that deal with man. The latter (i.e., the axiological aspect) deals with the ultimate values of social life and the means of attaining them. It thus tries to interpret and esti­mate the social phenomena in terms of ethical principles. The object of social philosophy is, there­fore, the attainment of social good itself.

The study of society is inextricably mixed up with moral values. Because the subject-matter of sociology is human behaviour which is directed and guided by values on the one hand and impulses and interests, on the other.

Thus the sociologist is bound to study values and human valuations, as facts. To do this, he must have some knowledge of values in their own context, that is, in moral and social philosophy.

For example, he must know the role and influence of ‘dharma’ in the making of Indian institutions, and that of individualism and liberalism in the making of American institutions.

Here the concepts such as ‘dharma’, individualism and liberalism are mostly ethical in nature, but they are studied as objects of knowledge. Only a sociologist who is capable of distinguishing between questions of fact and value questions, can make such studies more objective.

As Bottomore writes, “Only by some training in social philosophy can the sociologist become competent to distin­guish the different issues, and at the same time to see their relationships to each other”.

In conclusion, we can say that a philosopher who is well acquainted with the social sciences and a sociologist who is sufficiently grounded in philosophy could become, more competent in their respective fields. As Vierkandt says, “Sociology is productive only when it has a philosophical basis”.

In the absence of such a basis sociology can pile together facts and investigations and achieve no final meaning or end. Social sciences may deal with means, but social philosophy deals with ends without disregarding the means. As Ginsberg says, “Social philosophy is bound to be the golden crown of the social sciences.”


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