Emile Durkheim
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    Separating sociology from philosophy

    Durkheim stated that in order to distinguish sociology from philosophy, it needs to be focused on empirical investigation. This may seem to be a straightforward issue, but the problem was made more complex by Durkheim’s conviction that sociology was also in danger from a philosophical school that was embedded inside sociology itself.

    Criticism of Comte and Spencer

    In his opinion, the two other significant personalities of the era who considered themselves sociologists were Comte and Herbert Spencer. But, unfortunately, both men were considerably more concerned with philosophizing and developing abstract theories than with doing genuine research into the social world. Durkheim believed that if the field proceeded in the route that Comte and Spencer established, it would be nothing more than a philosophical branch if it remained in that manner.

    Because of this, he felt it was essential to criticize both Comte and Spencer for basing their explanations of social phenomena on their preconceived notions rather than researching the real world. Thus, Comte was accused of presuming conceptually that the social world was advancing toward an ever-more-perfect society rather than engaging in the difficult, rigorous, and fundamental task of analyzing the changing character of many societies. In a similar vein, it was said that Spencer assumed there was harmony in society instead of investigating whether or not there truly there was harmony.

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