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Toll stations, Greece
Ontology & epistemology
• Ontology: a specification of a conceptualization1
o E.g., What is society? What do we mean when we invoke “society”? Who
does it contain? What are its boundaries?
o Generally understood as a theory of what is, of being, existence
• Epistemology: the study of knowledge and justified
belief 2
o What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are
its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits?
o How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified
beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind?
o Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with
the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry
1.T. R. Gruber. A translation approach to portable ontologies. Knowledge Acquisition, 5(2):199-220, 1993.
2. Steup, Matthias, "Epistemology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition),
Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.
Metatheoretical Map
commodity festishism
surplus value
class conflict
class interests
labor exploitation
forces & relations of production
Metatheoretical Map
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
There can be no society which does not
feel the need of upholding and reaffirming
at regular intervals the collective sentiments
and the collective ideas which makes its unity
and personality. Now this moral remaking
cannot be achieved except by the means of
reunions, assemblies and meetings where the
individuals, being closely united to one another,
reaffirm in common their common sentiments.
(Durkheim 1912/1995: 474-75)
Intellectual influences
• Auguste Comte (1798-1857), founder of French
positivism, coined the term “sociology”
o Through systematic collection, the patterns behind and within individual
behavior can be uncovered
o positivism: the idea that the study of social phenomena should employ the
same scientific techniques used in the natural sciences
o Comte saw "social physics" or sociology as a means to combat anarchy in the
wake of the French Revolution
o Society is sui generis (an objective reality that is irreducible to the individuals
that compose it) and amenable to scientific investigation
• Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), British philosopher,
shared organic view of society
o as social organism grows, it becomes more complex, due to differentiation
o differentiation: in essence, any change that increases the variety of social
forms having durable connections to each other 3
• can take the form of industrialization, urbanization, immigration of people
from alien cultures, and any number of other changes
• the myriad variations among people based on selected social
characteristics such as age, sex, race, educational attainment, occupational
status, etc. is an example of differentiation
3 Tilly,
Big Structures, p. 50
Influences and core ideas
• Sense of moral crisis in turn of the century France
ED defended Captain Alfred Dreyfus (center of "Dreyfus Affair"), a young Jewish artillery
officer who was falsely charged w/treason, as the result of rampant anti-Semitism
ED considered anti-Semitism a "moral sickness of society”
• ED was a reformist, not a revolutionary
o described Marxism as a “disputable set of outdated hypotheses“
o ED did not support agitation, feared and hated social disorder, but did not
believe social disorder was inherent in capitalism or a necessary part of
modern world
o Disorder could be reduced through social reforms
• Critique of individualism
society, not the individual, is primary
ED was critical of utilitarian individualism, economism
Core ideas in Durkheim’s early work
• role of ideals & moral unity in the continuity of society
• individual as active agent & passive recipient of social
• society is more than sum of its parts
• society as an organism, which can be healthy or
• change from traditional to modern society likened to
biological processes involving differentiation of cells
Metatheoretical Map
Du Bois
Metatheoretical Map
collective conscience
collective representations
sacred & profane
social solidarity
mechanical solidarity
organic solidarity
division of labor
The Division of
Labor in Society
Key concepts
• social facts: conditions and circumstances external
to the individual that, nevertheless, determine the
individual’s course of action
• social solidarity: the cohesion of social groups
• collective conscience: “the totality of beliefs and
sentiments common to average citizens of the
same society” that “forms a determinate system
which has its own life”
The modern division of labor –
Marx vs. Durkheim
• Marx claimed the division of labor (or economic
specialization) in capitalism inevitably resulted in
• Durkheim, by contrast, argued that economic
specialization was not necessarily bad for the
individual or society
o It depends on the conditions, whether voluntary and spontaneous
Division of labor & social solidarity
• The Division of Labor in Society challenged claim that
modern society was headed towards disintegration
• Despite declining significance of traditional moral
beliefs (rooted in religion), a new system of moral
regulation could be found in the differentiated DOL
o Not based on formal contracts, as utilitarians suggest
o Social norms upholding contracts give them force - "noncontractual basis of
contemporary society still has a moral order!
A new type of solidarity
• In modern societies, mechanical solidarity is
supplanted by a new type of social cohesion:
organic solidarity
 contemporary society still has a moral order!
There are two types of positive
solidarity: mechanical & organic
• mechanical solidarity, links the individual to society
without any intermediary
o Society is organized collectively and is composed
of beliefs common to all members of the group
o The individual consciousness depends on the
collective consciousness
Mechanical vs. organic solidarity
• Where mechanical solidarity is the main basis of
societal cohesion, collective conscience completely
envelops the individual conscience and therefore
presumes an identity between individuals in their
beliefs and actions
• With organic solidarity, society is a system of different
functions united by definite relationships, which bring
about the DoL
DoL & social solidarity
• In modern DoL, each individual must have a sphere of
action and a personality which is his own
• Individuality grows at the same time as the parts of
o Society becomes more effective at moving in concert though at the same time
each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own
• Solidarity stems not simply from acceptance of common
set of beliefs but from functional interdependence in DoL
• The growth of organic solidarity and the expansion of the
DOL are associated with increasing individualism
• The progress of organic solidarity is depends on the
declining significance of the collective conscience
The Rules of the
A science of morality
• ED sought to treat the facts of moral life according
to the method of the positive sciences
o vs. the moral philosophers who began with a priori postulates about
essential human nature
o & vs. psychology, where propositions are applied through a process of
logical deduction
• ED sets out not to extract ethics from science, but to
establish a science of morality
o moral rules develop in society and are bound up with the conditions of
social life pertaining in a given time and place
o science of moral phenomena thus sets out to analyze how changing
forms of society effect transformations in the character of moral norms
and to observe and classify these
Sociology is the study of
social facts
(1) Sociology is a distinct field of study
(2) Although the social sciences are distinct from the
natural sciences, the methods of the latter can be
applied to the former
(3) The social field is also distinct from the
psychological realm
Crime is normal
• Crime is present in all societies of all types
• Its form changes
o acts thus characterized are not the same everywhere but everywhere
and always there have been people whose behavior draws punishment
• Crime is not only inevitable, it is necessary - an
integral part of all healthy societies
What is crime?
• Crime consists of an act that offends certain very
strong collective sentiments
• It is not the intrinsic quality of a given act that makes
it a crime, but the definition which the “collective
conscience” of society gives it
Crime plays role in social evolution
• Where crime exists, collective sentiments are
sufficiently flexible to take on a new form,
and crime sometimes helps determine the
form they will take
o Socrates’ crime, independence of thought,
provided a service not only to humanity but to his
country, preparing the ground for a new morality
& faith in Athens, since traditions were no longer
in harmony with current conditions
• his violation was a crime, but it was useful as a prelude
to necessary reforms
Crime has a social function
• Crime must no longer be conceived as an evil to be
• Instead, we should attempt to discern its social
function, the purpose it serves for society