This post is part of the series Knowledge
Sociology uses principles from the higher sciences of philosophy, natural science and psychology. Sociology is the science of artifacts – both material and immaterial. Material artifacts are such things as roads, computers and boats while immaterial artifacts include language, governments and laws.
Sociology is distinct from the various productive sciences because the aim of this science is understanding rather than a particular artifact. If someone claimed to understand computers, their understanding would be complete with the knowledge of how to produce computers. But sociology does not deal with artifacts that happen to be produced by people, but those artifacts that are necessarily produced by people. Since some of these artifacts are produced of necessity, understanding the artifacts will help us understand a natural part of the world. Sociology ends up discussing our tendency to produce artifacts such as computers, but not actual computers themselves.
Sociology is distinct from history. While the invention of computers is a matter of history, the tendency to invent computers and what is required to do such a thing as invent computers are not matters of history. History deals in particulars, and sociology is too general to be history. Sociology deals in what necessarily or natural arises, history makes no such distinctions.
Sociology is also distinct from psychology. Psychology is the study of rational activity. But rational activity sometimes has predictable results in specific situations. Since the results do not come from the rational activity on its own, they are not a part of psychology. For example, it might be true that social mobility makes revolutions less likely. But that is not a principle of psychology because rational activity does not even require societies to exist! A hermit on an island is still a rational being, even though he is a part of no society at all.
This is enough to make sociology its own science. But how does this relate the modern discipline called sociology? The modern discipline is about the study of society and individual influence in that society. Since the connection with artifacts is not made, the discipline is treated as if it were an amalgam of psychology and natural science – which could not be further from the truth.
Sociology includes part of economics, cultural and linguistic anthropology and social psychology as sub-fields. Insofar as economics does not deal with what ought to be it is a sociological science – otherwise it is an active science and a part of ethics. Insofar as anthropology deals with cultural, religious and social standards and how those change society or language, it is a part of sociology too. The rest of anthropology is a part of natural science or an active science.
Next, I will discuss the science of mathematics.
Continue reading this series:
The Science of History