Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a scientific approach to the study of society.

Essay by RDJames October 2003

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Scientific approach can be defined as the involvement of standards and procedures for demonstrating the empirical warrant of its findings, showing the match or fit between its statements and what is happening or has happened in the world. Scientific approaches to understanding the world can be distinguished from other approaches in two fundamental and irrelevant ways, firstly, an approach that claim to be scientific irrespective of whether or not it originates in the field of natural or human science must demonstrably have empirical relevance to the world. Empirical relevance involves showing that any statements, descriptions and explanations used or derived from this approach can be verified or checked out in the world and secondly, an approach which necessitates the deliberate use of clear procedures which does not only show results were achieved but are also clear enough for other workers in the field to attempt to repeat them, that is, to check them out with the same or other materials and thereby test the results.

These two criteria, empirical relevance and clear procedures are bedrock assumptions built into any scientific approach.

August Comte, a positivist held the view that the study of sociology should be based on principles and procedures similar to those applied to the study of natural sciences. He argued that taking this approach shows that the behaviour of human beings, like the behaviour of matter was governed by invariable laws of cause and effect. Therefore it can be stated that the approach takes as its point that the behaviour of human beings, like the behaviour of matter can be observed and objectively measured; just as the behaviour of matter can be quantified by measures such as weight, temperature and pressure, methods of objective measurement can be devised for human behaviour; such measurement is essential to explain...