karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Wed, 18 Oct 1995 15:49:32 -0600

Pauline Shafer's message Re: 'Thingee' going back at least as far as
Durkheim sent me scurrying to my copy of the Rules... Unfortunately, my
1982 edition is paginated very differently from whatever edition she
quotes from (Durkheim's preface begins on p. 31, and the Introduction on
p. 48) - I'll keep searching.

What is of interest, however, is what Durkheim says about science
(Durkheim 1982:81): [The Rules of Sociological Method. New York: Free Press]

"Since it is through the senses that the external nature of things is
revealed to us, we may therefore sum up as follows: in order to be
objective science must start from sense-perceptions and not from concepts
that have been formed independently from it. It is from observable data
that it should derive directly the elements for its initial definition.
Moreover, it is enough to call to mind what the task of scientific kwork
is to understand that science cannot proceed otherwise. It needs
concepts which express things adequately, as they are, and not as it is
useful in practical living to conceive them. Concepts formed outside
the sphere of science do not meet this criterion. It must therefore
create new concepts and to do so must lay aside common notions and the
words used to express them, returning to observations, the essential
basic material for all concepts. It is from sense experience that all
general ideas arise, whether they be true or false, scientific or
unscientific. The starting point for science or speculative knowledge
cannot therefore be different from that for common or practical
knowledge. It is only beyhond this point, in the way in which this
common subject matter is further elaborated, that divergences will begin
to appear. (3) But sense experience can easily be subjective. Thus it
is a rule in the natural sciences to discard observable data which may
be too personal to the observer, retaining exclusively those data which
present a sufficient degree of objectivity. Thus the physicist
substitutes for the vague impression produced by temperature or
electricity the visual representation afforded by the rise and fall of
the thermometer or the voltmeter. The sociologist must needs observe the
same precautions. The external characteristics whereby he defines the
object of his research must be as objective as possible.
"In principle it may be postulated that social facts are more
liable to be objectively represented the more completely they are
detached from the individual facts by which they are manifested."

Thus the source of the vaunted OBJECTIVITY in the social sciences?

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

Much charitable endeavor is motivated by an unconscious
desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable
to share. . . . . Edward Sapir