Renaissance and enlightenment played a principal role in providing intellectual background for the development of modern Europe. These intellectual factors and the French revolution and industrial revolution played a pivotal role in establishing sociology as a separate social science.
Early sociology emphasized enlightenment and counter-enlightenment ideas. Enlightenment placed significance in reason and empiricism instead of tradition and religion. The individual is primary in enlightenment, whereas counter-enlightenment proponents place society as a fundamental unit.
According to Morris Ginsberg, the intellectual antecedents that led to the emergence of sociology are:-
Political Philosophy– It enquired into factors like the evolution of state and nature and growth of state authority.
Philosophy of History– The founders of this social thinking are Abbe de Saint Pierre and Giambattista. According to this philosophy, society must have progressed through gradual transition steps from simple to complex stage.
Biological Theories of Evolution– Charles Darwin’s idea about organic evolution influenced social thinkers like Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim to analyze the stages of social evolution.
Movements for social and political reforms– These movements made it essential to undertake a social survey of social problems like poverty which arose in the industrial societies of Western Europe. Social Survey has become one of the principal methods of sociological enquiry.
German idealism in the 1700s, feminist theory, western marxism and structural-functionalism of the 1900s are also considered some of the fundamental intellectual forces that led to the emergence of sociology.
Morris Ginsberg (1947). Reason and unreason in society: essays in sociology and social philosophy. Harvard University Press.
T. B. Bottomore ( 2014). Sociology – a guide to problems and literature. G.B. Books India Edition