Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pro et Contra: Sociology

Pro:

1. Critical thinking - the discipline directs attention toward overlooked details and questions about society. Sociology encourages going beyond face value and I enjoy that aspect of it (this is also why I take a liking to philosophy). This world is very far from God, and so I think that it's useful to be able to able to look past the "normal" mechanisms by which it operates. The devil will do whatever he can to make you numb and blind to his scandals.

2. Theory - unlike the more popular social science, psychology, sociology makes use of different theories; at the very least, sociologists actually seem to be aware of the biased framework(s) that they operate from and will admit that they are biased. Psychology seems to espouse the arrogant attitude of "this is objective science - don't question it" and this attitude is rather annoying.

3. Variety - sociology has a number of interesting focuses: deviance, religion, crime, sports, the arts, and so forth. I doubt that some of the hard sciences have as much variety as sociology, but then again, I don't study real science, so who am I to make that assumption?

Contra:

1. Atheistic bias - contrary to a discipline like philosophy where so many God-fearing intellectuals have been involved, very few renowned sociologists are practicing religious people (especially Christians). Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, and W.E.B. Du Bois were all atheists.* Only a few religious sociologists come to mind, like Tony Campolo, Peter Berger, and Steve Bruce.**

2. Limited theory - the main sociological perspectives are structural-functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism (some would add feminist theory to the list). Why must the study of society be filtered through these perspectives? Though they are all interesting theories, they simply do not give a complete account. Now perhaps they can adequately address issues pertaining strictly to the human world, but they will surely miss the spiritual implications that are so abundant in human life. Then again, the point of sociology is not to include those spiritual implications - but it could include those, n'est-ce pas?

3. Relativism - with gender and the family being sub-fields of sociology, it's no doubt that relativism tends to peek its ugly head every so often (or, a lot). But as philosopher Peter Kreeft eloquently states: "...almost the only reason anyone in our society ever believes and teaches a philosophy of moral relativism is to justify sexual immorality. All the controversial issues in the culture war are sexual. How often have you heard arguments for moral relativism to justify nuclear war, or insider trading, or child abuse, or genocide, or racism, or even environmental pollution?" (2003).

Steve Bruce adds to the discussion: "...ask if relativists act consistently on their avowed philosophical position. Clearly they do not. Postmodernists write books and lecture; the try to communicate their claims to others. They do so because they believe that they are right and others are wrong" (2000:98).

Though Kreeft is focusing on moral relativism and Bruce on cultural relativism, very little investigation is required to ascertain that sociology is brimming with this sour philosophy of no absolutes or objective truth. Thankfully, some sociologists like Bruce reject it, though I wish I saw such refutations more often.

* Weber might have leaned more toward agnosticism, though I'm not certain.

** Also unsure about Bruce here. Based on the one book I've read from him, and the concepts of some of his other work, I would guess that he is religious.


Works Cited

Bruce, Steve. Sociology: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. 2000. Book.

Kreeft, Peter. The Liberal Arts and Sexual Morality. 2003. Article.
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/liberal-arts_sexual-morality.htm


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