Dooyeweerd – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Auguste Comte founded modern sociology, the science of social facts, on the nature-motive of the humanistic science ideal. Sociology attempted to define individuals as parts of the whole that is society, while replacing historicism’s “divine providence” with the scientific method of cause and effect. Social science, then, incorporated an inherent dualism: individuals were either scientifically defined bottom-up by elements of most basic composition, or historically defined top-down as parts of an individual whole that is society. These two approaches were irreconcilable. With the inauguration of civil society as distinct from the state (Locke) class conflict emerged. Entrepreneurial freedom altered the system of production resulting in large-scale manufacturing and then mechanized industrialization. Labor was turned into a commodity and class conflicts emerged between the laborer and the entrepreneur. Comte and Saint Simon developed the concept of classes. Economics was seen as the driving force of class struggle, and class divisions explained the structuring of society. But with credence given to economics, sociology betrayed its humanist origin of freedom. Also, if the history of society was defined by class struggle there was no room for a true community and the state would be only an instrument of class domination. Beyond these issues, social science as an objective science had the problem of identifying “objective” social facts. To be scientific, sociology must seek what is, not what out to be. However the application of social norms (oughts) provides the structure that makes social society capable of being studied, though these relationships also function among non-normative aspects. In the 2nd half of the 19th century, sociology defined human society biologically (bottom-up) in accordance with the new evolutionistic movement. They sought to find relation between such scientific-method discoveries and societal values. Yet in the 20th century, with the fallout of natural laws from classical physics, scientific idealism was uprooted and “the process of uprooting humanism began.” It ought to be understood that various aspects of reality (i.e. emotions, economics, biology, history, linguistics, legal theory) maintain their sphere sovereignty and cannot be “subsumed under the same scientific denominator.” These aspects act upon a subject at once as a coalition that may be vaguely observed as cause leading to effect. Causal connection between one aspect of reality and another can only be established so far as these aspects function within the realm of the other. Since sense perception lacked objectivity, attempt was made within social science to structure total reality on generally accepted truths. But even Max Webber expressed that this method operated only by “exaggerating certain traits within “historical reality” and abstracting these from all other traits,” and that such a method would never be true to reality itself. The question remains: how do various aspects manifest themselves in society as unique individual entities? This question, along with others, will continue to be addressed from societies’ own totality structures. For this reason, and for the healthy development of society, society’s ground motives must continually remain under scrutiny from Christian citizens.


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