Durkheim said 'explain one social fact by another'. Did he in his study of suicide

Essay by zashleywickenx May 2004

download word file, 9 pages 4.0 1 reviews

Downloaded 91 times

"Durkheim conceived of sociology as the scientific study of a reality sui generis, a clearly defined group of phenomena different from those studied by all other sciences, biology and psychology included." The term "social fact" used often by Durkheim means "a category of facts which present very special characteristics: they consist of manners of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him." It was from this base that Durkheim undertook his study of Suicide.

Durkheim sees social facts as absolutely objective "things" that can be analyzed and evaluated in a scientific way. From this notion of objective social facts he deduced that "one social fact could be used to explain another." This principle is commonly found amongst other scientific disciplines, for example the theory of gravity which was used to explain the solar system used this same principle but in the field of Physics.

Durkheim applied the idea that one can "explain one social fact by another" in his book "suicide" Concluding that, "suicide varies inversely with the degree of social integration." In other word the "facts" of "social integration" can be used to explain the phenomena of suicide. In this essay I will investigate how Durkheim arrived at this conclusion and how valid his research methods and subsequent conclusions are.

In his book "The Rules of Sociological Method" Durkheim set down the order under which an explanation of a social fact can be found. Working backwards from the explanation he found that explanation requires, "comparison; comparison requires classification; classification requires the definition of those facts"

The first step in his investigation of suicide is therefore to define the subject matter "suicide". The definition must display "common qualities objective enough to be...